Wolfgang Wazart


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in Austria, the son of
Leopold, Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop of
Salzburg. By the age of three he could play the piano, and he was
composing by the time he was five; minuets from this period
show remarkable understanding of form. Mozart's elder sister Maria Anna
(best known as Nannerl) was also a gifted keyboard
player, and in 1762 their father took the two prodigies on a short
performing tour, of the courts at Vienna and Munich.
Encouraged by their reception, they embarked the next year on a longer
tour, including two weeks at Versailles, where the
children enchanted Louis XV. In 1764 they arrived in London. Here
Mozart wrote his first three symphonies, under the
influence of Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian, who
lived in the city. After their return to Salzburg there
followed three trips to Italy between 1769 and 1773. In Rome Mozart
heard a performance of Allegri's Misere; the score of
this work was closely guarded, but Mozart managed to transcribe the music
almost perfectly from memory. On Mozart's first
visit to Milan, his opera Mitridate, r? di Ponto was successfully produced,
followed on a subsequent visit by Lucia Silla. The
latter showed signs of the rich, full orchestration that characterizes his later
operas.
A trip to Vienna in 1773 failed to produce the court appointment that both
Mozart and his father wished for him, but did
introduce Mozart to the influence of Haydn, whose Sturm und Drang string
quartets (Opus 20) had recently been published.
The influence is clear in Mozart's six string quartets, K168-173, and in his
Symphony in G minor, K183. Another trip in search
of patronage ended less happily. Accompanied by his mother, Mozart left
Salzburg in 1777, travelling through Mannheim to
Paris. But in July 1778 his mother died. Nor was the trip a professional
success: no longer able to pass for a prodigy, Mozart's
reception there was muted and hopes of a job came nothing.
Back in Salzburg Mozart worked for two years as a church organist for the
new archbishop. His employer was less kindly
disposed to the Mozart family than his predecessor had been, but the
composer nonetheless produced some of his earliest
masterpieces. The famous Sinfonia concertante for violin, violo and
orchestra was written in 1780, and the following year
Mozart's first great stage work, the opera Idomeneo, was produced in
Munich, where Mozart also wrote his Serenade for 13
wind instruments, K361. On his return from Munich, however, the hostility
brewing between him and the archbishop came to a
head, and Mozart resigned. On delivering his resignation he was verbally
abused and eventually, physically ejected from the
archbishop's residence.
Without patronage, Mozart was forced to confront the perils of a freelance
existence. Initially his efforts met with some success.
He took up residence in Vienna and in 1782 his opera Die Entf?hrung aus
dem Serail (The abdication from the Seraglio) was
produced in the city and rapturously received. The same year in Vienna's St
Stephen's Cathedral Mozart married Constanze
Weber. Soon afterwards he initiated a series of subscription concerts at
which he performed his piano concertos and
improvised at the keyboard. Most of Mozart's great piano concertos were
written for these concerts, including those in C,
K467, A, K488 and C minor, K491. In these concertos Mozart brought to
the genre a unity and diversity it had not had
before, combining bold symphonic richness with passages of subtle
delicacy.
In 1758 Mozart dedicated to Haydn the six string quartets that now bear
Haydn's name. Including in this group are the quartets
known as the Hunt, which make use of hunting calls, and the Dissonance,
which opens with an eerie succession of dissonant
chords. Overwhelmed by their quality, Haydn confessed to Leopold
Mozart, 'Before God and as an honest man I tell you that
your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by
name.' The pieces are matched in excellence in Mozart's
chamber music output only by his String Quintets, outstanding among which
are those in C, K515, G minor, K516 and D,
K593.
Also in 178 Mozart and Lorenzo da Ponte collaborated on the first of a
series of operatic masterpieces. Le nozze di Figaro
(The Marriage of Figaro) was begun that year and performed in 1786 to an
enthusiastic audience in Vienna and even greater
acclaim later in Prague. In 1787 Prague?s National Theatre saw the
premiere of Don Giovanni, a moralizing version of the Don
Juan legend in which the licentious nobleman receives his comeuppance and
descends into the fiery regions of hell. The third
and last da Ponte opera was Cos? fan