Leopold Mozart, professional musician, teacher, and composer in 18th century Salzburg, Austria, had seven children, only two of whom survived infancy. He began teaching the older, a girl called Nannerl, on clavier when she was seven, with little Wolfgang (January 27, 1756—December 5, 1791), aged three, watching. Soon the little boy was picking out tunes on the keyboard, and his father played little musical games with him, encouraging him to imitate what he played.
By the time he was five, Wolfgang was composing his own pieces, written down by Leopold.
Young Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The Mozarts on Tour
The Mozart family: Nannerl, Wolfgang, and Leopold (mother’s portrait on wall)
When he was six and Nannerl was ten, the family began touring Europe, with the children playing at royal courts in Munich, Vienna, Prague, Mannheim, Paris, London, and Zurich. The children became well-known throughout Europe.
Mozart’s first major position was as a court musician in Salzburg from 1773-1776. Later, he was court composer for the wealthy Archbishop Colloredo, a job he did not relish and was eventually dismissed from. From then on, he freelanced as a composer and a performer, supporting himself with commissions from patrons.
On August 4, 1782, he married Constanze Weber. They lived an extravagant lifestyle which they could not really afford.
Well versed in the classical style of Josef Haydn, he took it to its zenith with surprising harmonies and cadences. In all, he wrote over 600 compositions, including 41symphonies (the first written when he was eight), 22 operas, 15 Masses, 25 piano concertos, 12 violin concertos, 17 piano sonatas, and 26 string quartets.
Some of his most beloved works:
Eine kleine Nachtmusik:
Symphony #25 (you may have to manually restart the clip at the beginning; sorry, some of the embed codes are wonky):
Symphony #40 (you may have to manually restart the clip at the beginning):
From The Magic Flute, The Queen of the Night’s aria:
In September of 1791, Mozart fell ill. Sensing his imminent demise, he drove himself to finish some projects in order to provide support for his wife and their two sons. His symptoms of pain, weakness, and vomiting grew worse. His continued his final work, a Requiem paid for by a wealthy patron, on his deathbed, dictating portions to his student, Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who subsequently completed it. Mozart was only thirty-five years old when he died.
Mozart’s life was fictionalized in the 1982 movie of the play Amadeus. It dwelt on a supposed rivalry between Mozart and his popular contemporary, Antonio Salieri. In the movie, Mozart dictated a portion of his Requiem to Salieri: