Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
The youngest child of Leopold Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus was born in Salzburg in 1756. He showed early
success both as a keyboard-player and violinist, and soon turned his hand to composition.
His gifts were developed under his father's tutelage, with those of his elder sister, and the family. Mozart was able to travel abroad, specifically, between 1763 and 1766, to Paris and to London. A series of other journeys followed, with important operatic commissions in Italy between 1771 and 1773.
The following period proved disappointing to both father and son, as there was a lack of opportunity and lack of appreciation of his gifts in Salzburg.
A visit to Munich, Mannheim and Paris in 1777 and 1778 brought no other employment and by early 1779 Mozart was reinstated in Salzburg, now as court organist.
In 1781 he had a commissioned opera, Idomeneo, staged in Munich for the Elector of Bavaria.
Mozart spent the last ten years of his life in independence in Vienna. His material situation was not improved by a marriage imprudent for one in his circumstances.
Initial success with German and then Italian opera and series of subscription concerts were followed by financial difficulties.
In 1791 things seemed to have taken a turn for the better, in spite of the lack of interest of the successor to the Emperor Joseph II, who had died in 1790.
Mozart became seriously ill and died in the small hours of 5th December.
Mozart's compositions were catalogued in the 19th century by Kochel.
Mozart was essentially an operatic composer, although Salzburg offered him no real opportunity to exercise his talents in this direction.
The greater stage works belong to the last decade of his life, starting with Idomeneo in Munich in January 1781.
In Vienna his first success came with the German opera Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail
a work on a Turkish theme, staged at the Burgtheater in 1782.
Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), an Italian opera by Lorenzo da Ponte based on the controversial play by Beaumarchais, was staged at the same theatre in 1786 and Don Giovanni, with a libretto again by da Ponte, in Prague in 1787.
Cosi fan tutte (All Women Behave Alike) was staged briefly in Vienna in 1790 (then the Emperor died).
La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus) was written for the coronation of the new Emperor in Prague in 1791.
His last stage work was Die Zauberflote (The Magic Flute), mounted at the end of September at the Theater auf der Wieden.
Mozart was joined by his friends to sing through parts of a work that he left unfinished. This was his setting of the Requiem Mass, commissioned by an anonymous man, who had intended to pass the work off as his own.
The Requiem was later completed by Mozart's pupil Sussmayer, to whom it was entrusted.
Mozart composed other church music, primarily for use in Salzburg.
Settings of the Mass include the Coronation Mass of 1779.
Mozart wrote a number of shorter works for church use. These include the well known Exsultate, jubilate, written for the castrato Rauzzini in Milan in 1773 and the simple four-part setting of the Ave verum, written to oblige a priest in Baden in June 1791.
Composed in Salzburg during a period from 1772 until 1780, the sonatas are generally scored for two violins, bass instrument and organ.
Vocal and Choral Music
Mozart wrote concert arias and scenes, some of them for insertion into operas by others. Songs, with piano accompaniment, include a setting of Goethe's Das Veilchen (The Violet).
Mozart wrote his first symphony in London in 1764/5 and his last in Vienna in August 1788. The last three symphonies were all written during the summer of 1788.
Here is a list of symphonies: The Jupiter symphony, Symphony no. 29, Paris Symphony,
no. 31, written in 1778, the Haffner, the Linz and the Prague, no's. 35, 36 and 38.
The so-called Salzburg Symphonies, in three movements, on the Italian model.
They are more generally known in English as Divertimenti, K. 136, 137 and 138.
The symphonies are not numbered absolutely in chronological order of composition, but
no's. 35 to 41 were written in Vienna in the 1780's and no's. 14 to 30 in Salzburg in the
The best known Serenade of all is Eine kleine Nachtmusik.
It was written in the summer of 1787, the year of the opera Don Giovanni and of the death of the composer's father.
The Serenata notturna was written in 1776 in Salzburg.
The Divertimento K. 247, the Lodron Night-Music, dating from the same year, served a social purpose during evening entertainments in Salzburg.
Cassations had occasional use, sometimes as a street serenade, as in the case of Mozart's three surviving works of this title, designed to mark end of year university celebrations. Generally music of this kind consisted of several short movements.
Other examples of the form by Mozart include the so-called Posthorn Serenade, K. 320, which uses the
post horn itself during its course and the Haffner Serenade, designed to celebrate an event in the Haffner family in Salzburg.
The Serenade K. 361, known as the Gran Partita, was written during the
composer's first years of independence in Vienna.
Mozart wrote some 30 keyboard concertos.
In 1772 Mozart arranged three sonatas by the youngest son of J.S.
Bach, Johann Christian, to form keyboard concertos.
Mozart wrote six keyboard concertos during his years in Salzburg.
The more important compositions in this form, designed clearly for the fortepiano, an instrument smaller than the modern pianoforte and with a more delicately incisive tone, were written in Vienna between 1782 and 1791.
Of the 27 numbered concertos, we the Concertos in C minor and D minor, no's. 24 and 20, K. 491 and 466.
Mozart completed his last piano concerto no. 27, K. 595 in B flat major, in January 1791. Mozart wrote a series of five concertos for solo violin one in 1773 and four in 1775 in 1775 at a time when he was concertmaster of the court orchestra in Salzburg.
Of these the last three, K. 216 in G major, K. 218 in D major and K. 219 in A major are the best known, together with the Sinfonia concertante of 1779.
The Concertone for two solo violins, written in 1774, is less frequently heard.
Mozart's concertos for solo wind instruments include a concerto for bassoon, two concertos for solo flute and a concerto for solo oboe, with a final concerto for clarinet written in October 1791.
Mozart wrote four concertos for French horn, principally for the use of his friend, the horn-player Ignaz Leutgeb and a Sinfonia concertante for solo wind instruments, designed for performance by Mannheim friends in Paris. During his stay in France in 1778 he also wrote a fine concerto for flute and harp.
He accepted a commission in Mannheim for a series of quartets for flute and string trio, two of which he completed during his stay there in 1777/8.
A third flute quartet was completed in Vienna in 1787, followed by an oboe quartet in Munich in 1781, a quintet the following year for French horn, violin, two violas and cello and finally, in 1789, a clarinet quintet, the wind part for his friend Anton Stadler, a virtuoso performer on the newly developed clarinet and on the basset-clarinet, an instrument of extended range of his own invention.
Mozart's work for string instruments includes a group of string quintets, written in Vienna in 1787 and 23 string quartets.
The later quartets, are dedicated to and influenced by Joseph Haydn and three final quartets, the so-called Prussian Quartets, intended for the cello-playing King of Prussia, Friedrich Wilhelm II.
The serious intention may be added as Ein musikalische Spass, for two horns and solo strings, written in 1787.
The music is a re-creation of a work played for and presumably composed by village musicians, including formal solecisms and other deliberate mistakes of structure and harmony.
There are other chamber music compositions, principally written during the last ten years of Mozart's life in Vienna.
These later compositions include six completed piano trios, two piano quartets, and a work that Mozart claimed to consider his best, a quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, bassoon and French horn.
Mozart added considerably to the violin and piano sonata repertoire, writing his first sonatas for these instruments between the ages of six and eight and his last in 1788, making up a total of some thirty compositions.
Mozart's sonatas for the fortepiano cover a period from 1766 to 1791, written during the years in Vienna. The sonatas
include much fine music.
In addition to his sonatas he wrote a number of sets of variations.
The published works include operatic variations as well as a set of variations on the theme Ah, vous dirai-je, maman, known in English as Twinkle, twinkle, little star.
There is very little organ music by Mozart.
Mozart's organ music includes a few compositions for mechanical organ, one improvisation, transcribed from memory by a priest who heard most of it, and a number of smaller compositions perhaps intended for organ, written in his childhood.
Mozart's last appointment in Salzburg was as court organist, and there are significant organ parts in some of the church sonatas he wrote during that brief period.