Family and childhood
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 to Leopold Mozart (1719–1787) and Anna Maria, née Pertl (1720–1778), at Getreidegasse in Salzburg. He was the youngest of seven children, five of whom died in infancy. His elder sister was Maria Anna (1751–1829), nicknamed "Nannerl". Mozart was baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart the day after his birth at St. Rupert's Cathedral. He generally called himself "Wolfgang Amadè Mozart"as an adult, but his name had many variants.
Appearance and character
Mozart's physical appearance was described by tenor Michael Kelly, in his Reminiscences: "a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain". His early biographer Niemetschek wrote, "there was nothing special about [his] physique. [...] He was small and his countenance, except for his large intense eyes, gave no signs of his genius." His facial complexion was pitted, a reminder of his childhood case of smallpox. He loved elegant clothing. Kelly remembered him at a rehearsal: "[He] was on the stage with his crimson pelisse and gold-laced cocked hat, giving the time of the music to the orchestra." Of his voice his wife later wrote that it "was a tenor, rather soft in speaking and delicate in singing, but when anything excited him, or it became necessary to exert it, it was both powerful and energetic".Mozart usually worked long and hard, finishing compositions at a tremendous pace as deadlines approached. He often made sketches and drafts; unlike Beethoven's these are mostly not preserved, as his wife sought to destroy them after his death
He was raised a Catholic and remained a loyal member of the Church throughout his life.
Mozart lived at the center of the Viennese musical world, and knew a great number and variety of people: fellow musicians, theatrical performers, fellow Salzburgers, and aristocrats, including some acquaintance with the Emperor Joseph II. Solomon considers his three closest friends to have been Gottfried von Jacquin, Count August Hatzfeld, and Sigmund Barisani; others included his older colleagueJoseph Haydn, singers Franz Xaver Gerl and Benedikt Schack, and the horn player Joseph Leutgeb. Leutgeb and Mozart carried on a curious kind of friendly mockery, often with Leutgeb as the butt of Mozart's practical jokes. He enjoyed billiards and dancing, and kept pets: a canary, a starling, a dog, and a horse for recreational riding. He had a startling fondness for scatological humor, which is preserved in his surviving letters, notably those written to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart around 1777–1778, and in his correspondence with his sister and parents. Mozart also wrote scatological music, a series of canons that he sang with his friends. Mozart showed prodigious ability from his earliest childhood. Already competent on keyboard and violin, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty.
Mozart wrote his first symphony when he was eight years old. It is probable that his father transcribed most of it for him.
During this trip, Mozart met a number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, whom Mozart visited in London in 1764 and 1765. The family again went to Vienna in late 1767 and remained there until December 1768.
After one year in Salzburg, Leopold and Mozart set off for Italy, leaving Mozart's mother and sister at home. This travel lasted from December 1769 to March 1771. As with earlier journeys, Leopold wanted to display his son's abilities as a performer and a rapidly maturing composer. Mozart met Josef Mysliveček and Giovanni Battista Martini in Bologna and was accepted as a member of the famous Accademia Filarmonica. In Rome, he heard Gregorio Allegri's Miserere twice in performance in the Sistine Chapel and wrote it out from memory, thus producing the first unauthorized copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican. In Milan, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), which was performed with success. This led to further opera commissions. He returned with his father later twice to Milan (August–December 1771; October 1772 – March 1773) for the composition and premieres of Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772). Leopold hoped these visits would result in a professional appointment for his son in Italy, but these hopes were never realized. Toward the end of the final Italian journey, Mozart wrote the first of his works to be still widely performed today, the solo motet Exsultate, jubilate,K. 165.
1773–77: Employment at the Salzburg court
After finally returning with his father from Italy on 13 March 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. The composer had a great number of friends and admirers in Salzburg and had the opportunity to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and a few minor operas. Between April and December 1775, Mozart developed an enthusiasm for violin concertos, producing a series of five (the only ones he ever wrote), which steadily increased in their musical sophistication. The last three—K. 216, K. 218, K. 219—are now staples of the repertoire. In 1776 he turned his efforts to piano concertos, culminating in the E-flat concerto K. 271 of early 1777, considered by critics to be a breakthrough work.
Despite these artistic successes, Mozart grew increasingly discontented with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find a position elsewhere. One reason was his low salary, 150 florins a year; Mozart longed to compose operas, and Salzburg provided only rare occasions for these. The situation worsened in 1775 when the court theater was closed, especially since the other theater in Salzburg was largely reserved for visiting troupes.
Two long expeditions in search of work interrupted this long Salzburg stay: Mozart and his father visited Vienna from 14 July to 26 September 1773, and Munich from 6 December 1774 to March 1775. Neither visit was successful, though the Munich journey resulted in a popular success with the premiere of Mozart's opera La finta giardiniera
1777–82: Journey to Paris & Departure
Among the better known works which Mozart wrote on the Paris journey are the A minor piano sonata, K. 310/300d and the "Paris" Symphony(No. 31), which were performed in Paris on 12 and 18 June 1778
1786–87: Return to opera
Toward the end of the decade, Mozart's circumstances worsened. Around 1786 he had ceased to appear frequently in public concerts, and his income shrank. This was a difficult time for musicians in Vienna because of the Austro-Turkish War: both the general level of prosperity and the ability of the aristocracy to support music had declined
Around this time, Mozart made long journeys hoping to improve his fortunes: to Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin in the spring of 1789, and to Frankfurt, Mannheim, and other German cities in 1790. The trips produced only isolated success and did not relieve the family's financial distress
1788-1791 Later years and death
Mozart's last year was, until his final illness struck, a time of great productivity—and by some accounts, one of personal recovery. He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works: the opera The Magic Flute; the final piano concerto (K. 595 in B-flat); the Clarinet Concerto K. 622; the last in his great series of string quintets (K. 614 in E-flat); the motet Ave verum corpus K. 618; and the unfinished Requiem K. 626.
Mozart was nursed in his final illness by his wife and her youngest sister, and was attended by the family doctor, Thomas Franz Closset. He was mentally occupied with the task of finishing his Requiem, but the evidence that he actually dictated passages to his student Franz Xaver Süssmayris minimal.
Mozart died in his home on 5 December 1791 (aged 35) at 1:00 am
Mozart was interred in a common grave, in accordance with contemporary Viennese custom, at the St. Marx Cemetery outside the city on 7 December.
He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers, and his influence on subsequent Western art music is profound.Ludwig van Beethoven composed his own early works in the shadow of Mozart, and Joseph Haydn wrote that "posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years".