(Born Salzburg, 27 January 1756; died Vienna, 5 December 1791). Son of Leopold
He showed musical gifts at a very early age, composing when he was five and when he was six playing before the Bavarian elector and the Austrian empress. Leopold felt that it was proper, and might also be profitable, to exhibit his children’s God-given genius (Maria Anna, ‘Nannerl’, 1751-1829, was a gifted keyboard player): so in mid-1763 the family set out on a tour that took tthem to Paris and London, visiting numerous courts en route. Mozart astonished his audiences with his precocious skills; he played to the French and English royal families, had his first music published and wrote his earliest symphonies. The family arrived home late in 1766; nine months later they were off again, to Vienna, where hopes of having an opera by Mozart performed were frustrated by intrigues.
They spent 1769 in Salzburg; 1770-73 saw three visits to Italy, where Mozart wrote ttwo operas (Mitridate, Lucio Silla) and a serenata for performance in Milan, and acquainted himself with Italian styles. Summer 1773 saw a further visit to Vienna, probably in the hope of securing a post; there Mozart wrote a set of sstring quartets and, on his return, wrote a group of symphonies including his two earliest, nos.25 in g Minor and 29 in A, in the regular repertory. Apart from a joumey to Munich for the premiere of his opera La finta giardiniera early in 1775, the period from 1774 to mid-1777 was spent in Salzburg, where Mozart worked as Konzertmeister at the Prince- Archbishop’s court; his works of these years include masses, symphonies, all his violin concertos, six piano sonatas, several serenades and divertimentos and his first great piano concerto.
In 1777 the Mozarts, seeing limited opportunity in Salzburg for a composer so hugely gifted, resolved to seek a post elsewhere for Wolfgang. He was sent, with his mother, to MMunich and to Mannheim, but was offered no position (though he stayed over four months at Mannheim, composing for piano and flute and falling in love with Aloysia Weber). His father then dispatched him to Paris: there he had minor successes, notably with his Paris Symphony, no.31, deftly designed for the local taste. But prospects there were poor and Leopold ordered him home, where a superior post had been arranged at the court. He returned slowly and alone; his mother hhad died in Paris. The years 1779-80 was spent in Salzburg, playing in the cathedral and at court, composing sacred works, symphonies, concertos, serenades and dramatic music. But opera remained at the centre of his ambitions, and an opportunity came with a commission for a serious opera for Munich. He went there to compose it late in 1780; his correspondence with Leopold (through whom he communicated with the librettist, in Salzburg) is richly informative about his approach to musical drama. The work, Idomeneo, was a success. In it Mozart depicted serious, heroic emotion with a richness unparalleled elsewhere in his works, with vivid orchestral writing and an abundance of profoundly expressive orchestral recitative.
Mozart was then summoned from Munich to Vienna, where the Salzburg court was in residence on the accession of a new emperor. Fresh from his success, he found himself placed between the valets and the cooks; his resentment towards his employer, exacerbated by the Prince-Archbishop’s refusal to let him perform at events the emperor was attending, soon led to conflict, and in May 1781 he resigned, or was kicked out of, his job. He wanted a post at the Imperial court in Vienna, but was content to ddo freelance work in a city that apparently offered golden opportunities. He made his living over the ensuing years by teaching, by publishing his music, by playing at patrons’ houses or in public, by composing to commission (particularly operas); in 1787 he obtained a minor court post as Kammermusicus, which gave him a reasonable salary and required nothing beyond the writing of dance music for court balls. He always earned, by musicians’ standards, a good income, and had a carriage and servants; through lavish spending and poor management he suffered times of financial difficulty and had to borrow. In 1782 he married Constanze Weber, Aloysia’s younger sister.
In his early years in Vienna, Mozart built up his reputation by publishing (sonatas for piano, some with violin), by playing the piano and, in 1782, by having an opera performed: Die Entführung aus dem Serail, a German Singspiel which went far beyond the usual limits of the tradition with its long, elaborately written songs (hence ...
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