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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Born: January 27    Primary Instrument: Composer/conductor

Probably the greatest genius in Western musical history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 27, 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg court.

Wolfgang began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9. When he was 6, he and his older sister, Maria Anna (who was nicknamed “Nannerl”), performed a series of concerts to Europe's courts and major cities. Both children played the keyboard, but Wolfgang became a violin virtuoso as well.

In 1762 the Mozart children played at court in Vienna; the Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Francis I, received them. From 1763 - 66, the Mozart children displayed their talents to audiences in Germany, Paris, at court in Versailles, and London (where Wolfgang wrote his first symphonies and began a friendship with Johann Christian Bach, whose became a great musical influence on Wolfgang). In Paris, the young Mozart published his first works, four sonatas for clavier with accompanying violin (1764). In 1768 he composed his first opera, La Finta Semplice, which had its premiere in Salzburg. In 1769-70, Leopold and Wolfgang undertook a tour through Italy. This first Italian trip culminated in a new opera, Mitridate, re di Ponto, composed for Milan. In two further Italian journeys he wrote two more operas for Milan, Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772)....
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, in full Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (b. Jan. 27, 1756, Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg [Austria]—d. Dec. 5, 1791, Vienna), Austrian composer, widely recognized as one of the greatest composers in the history of Western music. With Haydn and Beethoven he brought to its height the achievement of the Viennese Classical school. Unlike any other composer in musical history, he wrote in all the musical genres of his day and excelled in every one. His taste, his command of form, and his range of expression have made him seem the most universal of all composers; yet, it may also be said that his music was written to accommodate the specific tastes of particular audiences. Son of the violinist and composer Leopold Mozart (1719–87), he was born the year of the publication of Leopold’s best-selling treatise on violin playing. He and his older sister, Maria Anna (1751–1829), were prodigies; at age five he began to compose and gave his first public performance. From 1763 Leopold toured throughout Europe with his children, showing off the “miracle that God allowed to be born in Salzburg.” The first round of touring (1763–69) took them as far as France and England, where Wolfgang met Johann Christian Bach and wrote his first symphonies (1764). Tours of Italy followed (1769–73); there he first saw the string quartets of Joseph Haydn and wrote his own first Italian opera. In 1775–77 he composed his violin concertos and his first piano sonatas. His mother died in 1778. He returned to Salzburg as cathedral organist and in 1781 wrote his opera seria Idomeneo. Chafing under the archbishop’s rule, he was released from his position in 1781; he moved in with his friends the Weber family and began his independent career in Vienna. He married Constanze Weber, gave piano lessons, and wrote The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782) and many of his great piano concertos. The later 1780s were the height of his success, with the string quartets dedicated to Haydn (who called Mozart the greatest living composer), the three great operas on Lorenzo Da Ponte’s librettos—The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), and Così fan tutte (1790)—and his superb late symphonies. In his last year he composed the opera The Magic Flute and his great Requiem (left unfinished). Despite his success, he always lacked money (possibly because of gambling debts and a fondness for fine clothes) and had to borrow heavily from friends. His death at age 35 may have resulted from a number of illnesses; among those that have been suggested are miliary fever, rheumatic fever, and Schönlein-Henoch syndrome. No other composer left such an extraordinary legacy in so short a lifetime.

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Featured recording “Mozart - Requiem”

Mozart - Requiem
Decca Music Group (1992)

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