Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Biography of a Genius
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, called Wolferl, was born on 27th January of 1756 in Salzburg. His birthplace, a 3-bedroom apartment in the Getreidegasse is now a museum, frequented by thousands of visitors every year. His father was the court composer and vice-provost of the orchestra Leopold Mozart, his mother Anna Maria Pertl was from St. Gilgen in the Salzkammergut. Mozart was baptised to the names Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus.
Leopold Mozart started to instruct his daughter Maria Anna, called Nannerl, who was five years older than her brother and Wolfgang at the age of only four years in music - violin, piano and composition. Two years later, Wolfgang started to perform in the public - at the age of six, playing his own compositions. After this early debut Wolfgang and Nannerl soon started to travel with their father and - occasionally - their mother to perform in front of the astonished nobility.
After successful concerts in Munich and Vienna, the family started an extensive tour across Western Europe, which lasted three and a half years until they eventually returned to Salzburg on the 28th November of 1766.
Mozart′s first tours
Munich, Augsburg, Heidelberg, Mainz, Frankfurt, Cologne, Brussels, Paris, London, The Haag, Amsterdam, Paris, Bern, Zurich - a demanding trip for its time, during which little Wolferl turned into an early superstar. During this journey, Mozart composed among other things his first sonatas for violin and piano.
After the return to Salzburg, Mozart, then ten years old, composes the Opera "Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes" together with the much older Salzburg court-musicians Anton Cajetan Adlgasser and Michael Haydn. In September of the same year, the Mozarts travel to Vienna for the second time. From Vienna, they flee to Bohemia to escape from a smallpox epidemic. The children fall ill anyway and cannot return to Vienna until January 1768. At this time, Mozart keeps composing masterpieces such as "Bastien and Bastienne" or "La finta semplice" on order of Emperor Franz I.
After 15 months in Vienna, the Mozarts return to Salzburg once again. In October, Mozart gets employed at the Duke Archbishop′s court orchestra, even though the job is unpaid. In December 1769, Wolfgang and his father depart to Italy, to the first of three highly successful tours. Mozart travels for three more years, plays for nobles, receives high honours from Pope Clemens XIV. In a legendary move, Mozart listens to a highly complex composition by Gregorio Allegri and writes down its notation without a single mistake from his memory - a notation that the Vatican had held strictly secret.
Employment in Salzburg
Mozart studies for a while with Padre Giovanni Battista Martini and becomes a member of the prestigious Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, through which he meets some of the most important musicians of his time. In the following months, several operas by Mozart are played in Milan. However, after Mozart′s hope for an employment in Italy was not fulfilled, he and his father return to Salzburg in December 1771.
In 1772, Hieronymus Franz Josef von Colloredo-Mannsfeld von Schrattenbach becomes the new Prince Archbishop of Salzburg - and employs Mozart as a provost of Salzburg′s court orchestra. This position means a tight schedule for Mozart, from which he tries to escape by continuing tours and journeys: a third tour in Italy lasts until 1773, followed by longer stays in Vienna and a number of other international commitments in the successive years. In 1777, Mozart′s request for further suspensions is rejected and as a consequence, he gives up his position at the court and leaves in company of his mother to look for an alternative employment.
He stays briefly in Munich, Augsburg and Mannheim in Germany. There Mozart meets Aloysia Weber, a singer with whom he falls in love. He moves on to Paris, where he arrives in March 1778. Shortly after his mother dies in Paris, Mozart is offered a position back in Salzburg as a court organist. Reluctant he accepts the offer, still looking for alternatives whilst the tours to Salzburg across Europe.
Tensions between Mozart and the Prince Archbishop dominate the following moths: Mozart is not allowed to contribute to concerts in Vienna. In 1781 his opera "Idomeneo" is staged for the first time, for which he goes to Munich. From there, the Prince Archbishop orders Mozart to Vienna, where the two get into an argument after which Mozart gives up his position in Salzburg.
Freelance composer in Vienna (1781 - 1791)
Staying in Vienna, Mozart earns a meagre living through concerts and as a music teacher. At this time, Mozart writes some of his greatest operas: "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" in 1782, "La nozze di Figaro" in 1786, "Don Giovanni" in 1787, "Cosi fan tutte" in 1790, and "La clemenza di Tito" in 1791. In the same year, his masterpiece "Die Zauberflöte" ("The magic flute") is staged in Vienna.
Mozart′s work of this period is strongly influenced by the Baroque composers Johann Sebastian Bach and Georg Friedrich Händel. On the private side, Mozart marries Constanze Weber in 1782 - the sister of his former love Aloysia. The Mozarts have six children (Raimund Leopold in 1783, Karl Thomas in 1784, Johann Leopold in 1786, Theresia in 1787, Anna in 1789 and Franz Xaver Wolfgang in 1791). Four of them die during their childhood, only Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver survive. In 1787, Mozart′s father Leopold dies in Salzburg.
In 1784, Mozart joins the freemasons in the loge "Zur Wohltätigkeit" ("To Charity"). Socially critical tones nourished by Masonic thought can be seen in "Die Zauberflöte" and "La nozze di figaro". His later operas are highly demanding to the audience and Mozart′s success fades. Since he still spends his money like he did in his better years, his financial situation deteriorates - despite the fact that he gets hired as a court musician for the Imperial Court of Emperor Joseph II.
Mozart′s death: Syphilis or Poison?
In an attempt to spark his popularity once again, Mozart travels across Europe again on several occasions between 1787 and 1790. However, his fall seems to be unavoidable. Only his final opera "Die Zauberflöte" proves to become a late success. A few weeks after the staging of his masterpiece, Mozart becomes too ill to leave his room. On the 5th of December 1791, Mozart dies at the age of 35, only a few weeks before his 36th birthday. The circumstances of his death are unclear and controversial.
Mozart had mentioned to Constanze few weeks before his death that he fears to be poisoned. After he dies, rumours go through Vienna, often pointing towards his competitor Antonio Salieri. However, syphilis, heart issues and the brutal medical treatments of the time might be more realistic causes for the death of Mozart. Mozart is buried in a mass grave at the St. Marx cemetery. The grave is later determined - as good as possible - and some remains are transferred to a musician′s honour grave and memorial in the Vienna central cemetery.
Mozart was possibly the world′s first superstar in a modern sense - hiring him for a concert was at least 1000 gulden; whilst he paid his maid one gulden a month. Regardless of his enormous earnings, he frequently got into financial difficulties due to his excessive lifestyle.
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