Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Biography

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 - December 5, 1791) is one of the most popular classical composers of all time. Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria and christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, after his grandfather on his mother's side and after the Saint on his date of birth, Johannes Chrysostomus. Later, his father shortened 'Wolfgangus' to 'Wolfgang'; translated 'Theophilus' to 'Amadeus' (love of God); and dropped off 'Johannes Chrysostomus.'

A child prodigy from a musical family, he began composing at the age of five and was showcased as a wonder-boy in the courts of Europe. His father Leopold Mozart was also a composer, and some of the piano pieces of W.A. Mozart, especially the duets and pieces for two pianos, he wrote to play together with his sister Nannerl. Mozart lived much of his life in Salzburg but traveled Europe extensively and spent his final years in Vienna.

As a man, he became a Freemason, and worked fervently and successfully to convert his father before his death. The Magic Flute is widely believed to contain Masonic themes or meanings. He was in the same masonic lodge as Joseph Haydn.

Beethoven, one of the best known classical composers, was greatly in Mozart's debt, and wrote cadenzas to some of Mozart's works that lacked them, most notably the Concerto No. 20 (K. 466). Mozart often composed only sketches for his own parts, so great was his musical memory. He could also write an entire work on the day of its first performance. Tchaikovsky greatly loved and admired Mozart, and expressed his love by writing Mozartiana, in the Mozart style.

Despite his brilliance, Mozart had a difficult life. Often he received no payment for his work, and the substantial sums he received on other occasions were soon consumed by his extravagant lifestyle. Gradually, his health declined. In popular legend, Mozart died penniless and forgotten, to be buried in a pauper's grave. In fact, although he was no longer as fashionable in Vienna as he had once been, he continued to receive rich commissions from more distant parts of Europe, Prague in particular. Many of his begging letters survive, but they are evidence not of poverty but of his ability to always spend more than he earned.

Mozart lived just a little over half of Beethoven's life span, yet was amazingly prolific from early childhood until his death in 1791. He left a rich body of chamber and orchestral music, and a series of operas which is generally regarded as the finest ever written. Although he made smaller contributions to the development of new musical forms than Bach, Beethoven, and perhaps Haydn, the perfection of his execution is such that he is usually ranked alongside them as one of the greatest composers of all time.

In the decades following Mozart's death there were several attempts to inventory his compositions, but it was only in 1862 that Ludwig von Köchel, a Viennese botanist, mineralogist, and educator, succeeded in this enterprise. Köchel's stout book of 551 pages was entitled "Chronological-Thematic Catalogue of the Complete Musical Works of WOLFGANG AMADE MOZART". Köchel is the source of the ubiquitous "K" (or KV) prefix on the numbers given to Mozart's works instead of the more usual "Opus".

The rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri is the subject of Aleksandr Pushkin's play Mozart and Salieri, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov's opera Mozart et Salieri and Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus, later made into a film.

Popular works

· Eine kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade for String Quartet & Bass K.525)

· Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra in A major (K.622)

· Piano Sonata, K. 331, the last movement of which is the famous Rondo alla Turca

· Elvira Madigan (Concerto for Piano No. 21 K.467)

· Symphony No. 25 (K.183)

· Symphony No. 40 (K.550)

· The opera Don Giovanni (K.527)

· The opera Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro) (K.492)

· The opera The Magic Flute (K.620)

· The opera The Abduction from the Seraglio (K.384)

· The opera Cosi fan tutte (K.588)

· The Requiem (K. 626)

Mozart's operas

· Die Schuldigkeit des erstes Gebotes, K. 35 (1767)

· Apollo et Hyacinthus, K. 38 (1767)

· Bastien et Bastienne, K. 50 (1768)

· La finta semplice, K. 51 (1768)

· Mitridate, K. 87 (1770)

· Ruggiero (1771)

· Ascanio in Alba, K. 111 (1771)

· Betulia Liberata, K. 118 (1771), on the subject of Judith and Holofernes

· Il sogno di Scipione, K. 126 (1772)

· Lucio Silla, K. 135 (1772)

· Thamos, König in Ägypten (1773, 1775)

· La finta giardiniera, K. 196 (1774)

· Il rè pastore, K. 208 (1775)

· Zaide, K. 344 (1779)

· Idomeneo, K. 366 (1780)

· Die Entführung aus dem Serail, K. 384 (1782)

· L'oca del Cairo, K. 422

· Lo sposo deluso, K. 430

· Der Schauspieldirektor, K. 486

· Le nozze di Figaro, K. 492 (1786)

· Don Giovanni, K. 527 (1787)

· Così fan tutte, K. 588 (1789)

· Die Zauberflöte, K. 620 (1791), about freemasonry

· La clemenza di Tito, K. 621 (1791)

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