WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART
Born: January 27, 1756. Salzburg, Austria
Died: December 15, 1791. Vienna, Austria
In his own words...
"People make a mistake who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over."
Austrian composer. One of the leading composers of the Classical era, and a master in all genres.
Our picture of Mozart depends upon where we focus. Was he a brilliant, successful composer or a child prodigy who never grew up? Was he a facile composer who created nothing original or a composer of great emotional depth? He was all of these and more. For many of us, our focus is guided by our exposure to Mozart's personality in the film Amadeus, but is that an accurate picture?
Mozart's life remains a complicated puzzle. As a child, he seemed gifted beyond all measure, playing at age six before the empress, and composing at an even earlier age. By twelve he had written an opera, and his talents seemed to know no bounds. From this auspicious beginning, one would have predicted a future filled with prestigious royal appointments, the brilliant composer and performer constantly sought out by emperors and kings. But his career, which ended tragically with his death at age thirty-five, was a constant disappointment. When once asked about a meager court appointment he held, Mozart replied: "I get paid far too much for what I do, and far too little for what I could do." His music did not always please those in power: "Too many notes," Emperor Joseph II was reported to have said. And Mozart himself, who always felt that his talents were never adequately recognized, was often difficult.
The difficulties of Mozart the man, however, are eclipsed by the enormous power of Mozart the musician. His music was often joyous and almost raucous, and yet he could also write melodies of simple and haunting beauty. Like Haydn and Beethoven, Mozart was just as comfortable writing simple, direct melodies as he was writing complicated contrapuntal works. There seems to have been no genre in which he was not comfortable, and we can rightly point to his best work in any of them as the epitome of that genre.
- Orchestral music, including some 40 symphonies (late symphonies: No.35 "Haffner", 1782; No.36 "Linz", 1783; No.38 "Prague", 1786; Nos.39, 40 and 41 "Jupiter", all from 1788); cassations, divertimentos, serenades, marches and dances
- Concertos, including 27 for piano, 5 for violin, concertos for clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, flute, and flute and harp
- Operas, including Idomeneo (1781), The Abduction from the Seraglio (Die Entführung aus dem Serail, 1782), The Marriage of Figaro (Le nozze di Figaro, 1786), Don Giovanni (1787), Women are Like That (Cosí fan tutte, 1790) and The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte, 1791)
- Choral music, including 18 Masses, the Requiem K.626 (incomplete, 1791), and other liturgical music
- Chamber music, including 23 string quartets, string quintets, clarinet quintet, oboe quartet, flute quartet, piano trios and quartets, sonatas for violin and piano, and divertimentos and serenades (Eine kleine Nachtmusik K.525, 1787)
- Keyboard music, including 17 piano sonatas and Fantasia in C minor K.475 (1785)
- Secular vocal music
Books on Mozart