Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756- 1792)
To many people the most distinguished figure in the history of music, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the Getreidegasse in Salzburg in January 1756. His actual name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart, it was the music industry of the 19th century that later made him a "Wolfgang Amadeus".
Mozart's father was chair musician at the court of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg and the family was a decent middle-class environment, in which Mozart and his sister Nannerl spent a happy childhood. The talent of little Wolfie soon became obvious, his first compositions - probably made under the supervision of his father Leopold - were written in 1760. In 1762, Leopold started tours to Munich and Vienna.
This is where his two children performed in front of aristocrats as "Wunderkind" or prodigy. More tours across Europe follow: France, England, the Netherlands and other destinations expose Mozart to the musical traditions of various European countries.
Mozart returns to Salzburg
After years of a nomadic life, Mozart returns to Salzburg in 1769 initially to settle. He takes up a post at the Prince Archbishop's court, still a boy. Three further tours all across the principalities of Italy in the following years have two results: Mozart turns into a superstar in this region, too, and learns a great deal about the musical tradition of Italy and particularly opera.
In 1770, Mozart is knighted by the Pope and attends lessons in the theory of music with Padre Martini in Bologna. Between 1773 and 1777, tensions between Mozart and the Prince Archbishop grow: Mozart is treated almost like a servant and looks for alternative employments. The Mozart family moves to Mannheim and later tours Europe again until 1779, when they return to Salzburg. Mozart′s mother had died the year before in Paris.
On the occasion of the coronation ceremony of Emperor Joseph II, the Prince Archbishop travels to Vienna and his orchestra is meant to perform. Mozart insists on leading the concert and starts an argument. As a result, he is fired and a high official of the Prince Archbishop's court, Count Arco, kicks Mozart's butt - you can visit the site where this happened in Vienna, it's at the entrance area of the church of the Ordo Teutonico or German Order.
The Master from Salzburg goes to Vienna
From now on, Mozart is a freelancer and depends on teaching and his compositions. He also falls in love with Konstanze Weber, the sister of his former love. On request of Emperor Joseph II, Mozart writes the "Singspiel", something like an opera with occasional speaking, in 1782 - in German, which was quite revolutionary at a time when almost all opera was in Italian.
In the following years, Mozart generates a significant income by teaching and composing. He makes friends with Joseph Haydn, writes "Le nozze de figaro" in 1786, tours Prague, where "Don Giovanni" is first performed, writes concertos and symphonies. Despite of his high income, he has financial difficulties due to excessive spending. In 1790, Mozart writes "Cosi fan tutte", which is reasonably successful.
The legendary actor and producer Emanuel Schikaneder meets him and hires him for an opera - Mozart writes the "Magic Flute" or "Zauberflöte", which is first performed in 1791 and a huge success. Count Franz Walsegg zu Stuppach hires Mozart for composing a requiem - his last work which remains incomplete.
Mozart's Death & Musical Afterlife
Mozart dies on the 5th of December, quite likely from syphilis or its side-effects. According to legend, he had a pauper's funeral with nobody attending the ceremony; his body is often said to having been dumped in a mass grave. This is not quite true: Around this time it was common practice to attend a service, but not the actual funeral; Mozart's friends and parts of his family did attend the service in St. Stephan's cathedral in Vienna.
"Rock me Amadeus" by Falco - the 1980ies video on YouTube.
The funeral did take place in a mass grave, but not due to Mozart's supposed poverty (which wasn't all that drastic), but rather because Emperor Joseph II had released laws on plain funerals around that time. These didn't survive very long, though, and from around 1800, the funeral and cemetery culture of Austria developed.
As a result, Mozart soon got a fake tomb in the cemetery of St Marx and later on a second fake tomb in the Zentralfriedhof, the national cemetery. Soon after his death, he was glorified and in 1842, the Mozart memorial in Salzburg was formally opened - with his widow and his two sons around.
Back to "background"
Arnold Schoenberg & the Second Viennese School
Composers of the Viennese Classic: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven
The Viennese Classic - Wiener Klassik