Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an Austrian composer. He wrote prolifically in nearly all the musical genres of his day, including operas, concertos, symphonies (and other types of instrumental pieces), string quartets and other works for chamber ensembles of various instrumental combinations, sacred and secular vocal music, dance music, and solo keyboard pieces. Many of his most significant works continue to be frequently performed in today’s opera houses and concert halls. Beautiful melodies, elegant formal structures, and rich textures and harmonies combined with a rhetorical manner highly influenced by Italian opera are hallmarks of his mature style.
Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg. His father Leopold, a violinist and composer, recognized early on that his son had musical talent and devoted himself to his (and Wolfgang’s sister Nannerl’s) education in music and other subjects. Over the next decade, Leopold took them both on extensive tours across Europe, during which the young Mozart gave performances (including of his own music) on the harpsichord and violin in the homes of the nobility and at public concerts. After three years as “honorary” Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court, Mozart moved into paid employment status in 1772. In this position, he initially fulfilled his duties of providing music for the church and court eagerly; however, over time, his enthusiasm for the latter waned due the restrictions his employer, the Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo, had placed on the performance of instrumental music. Undeterred, he continued to compose instrumental and secular vocal music for private patrons. In 1777, Mozart petitioned Colloredo for release from employment but was instead dismissed by the archbishop, though he returned in 1779 as court organist, when he was unable to secure a permanent position elsewhere.
In June 1781, while in Vienna at Colloredo’s request, Mozart got his wish to be formally released from the archbishop’s service. He began to pursue a freelance career in the city as a teacher, keyboard performer, and composer. In August 1782, he married Constanze Weber; they went on to have six children, though four died in infancy. The period between 1784 and 1788 became the most productive and fruitful years of his life, during which he conducted performances; was in demand as a keyboard player for public and private concerts; created some of his most notable works (among them, 12 piano concertos, six string quartets dedicated to Haydn, the operas Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, and what would be his final three symphonies); and his music was widely published and performed. Despite this success, Mozart was later troubled by financial woes, due, in part, to the cost of maintaining his social status in Viennese society. In the last years of his life, he completed works such as the Clarinet Quintet, and the operas Die Zauberflöte and La clemenza di Tito. Mozart was working on a Requiem under secret commission by Count Walsegg-Stuppach, which he left incomplete when he succumbed to his final illness on December 5, 1791, in Vienna.
By Dr. Hannah Chan-Hartley