The Mozarts (Leopold, Wolfgang, & Nannerl) on tour, circa 1763. (watercolor by Carmontelle)
Mozart in Verona (dalla Rosa Oil Saverio, 1770)
In 1770, when Mozart was 14, his family traveled to Rome. There, they went to the Sistine Chapel to hear the Allegri Miserere, a work considered so sacred that the singers were forbidden to carry any piece of the score out of the chapel on threat of excommunication. After hearing the piece, Mozart went back to their rooms and wrote down the whole work from memory. When the story leaked out, Mozart was summoned to the Chapel where the score was confirmed as being correct. Instead of being excommunicated, Mozart received from the Pope the Order of the Golden Spur, and the title Signor Cavaliere.
Mozart and his wife, Constanze, had six children, but only two - Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver Wolfgang - lived past infancy. Franz also was a composer, but not to the same degree of proficiency as his father.
I was first introduced to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart* (1756-1791) when I was in Kindergarten at the age of five. It was usually during nap time that my teacher would put on classical music. When the teacher wasn't playing Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite, she was usually playing some heavenly music of Mozart. Even though I was a rambunctious child, listening to Mozart filled me with a quiet, peaceful feeling while trying to nap.
Throughout the rest of my childhood I was exposed to a great variety of Mozart's music and I never tired of it. I was amazed at the incredible musical output of this composer. I remember thinking that Mozart must have lived to be quite an old man in order to create all this great music. I am still amazed today that Mozart was only 35 years old when he died.
He was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756. Wolfgang Mozart's childhood was spent as the greatest music prodigy the world has ever known. His genius for music was discovered by the time he was three years old. Mozart began studying music with his father, Leopold, himself a renowned violinist and composer. By the age of six Mozart was composing and giving concerts on the harpsichord and violin. Wolfgang Mozart's sister, Nannerl, four and a half years older than him, was also a musicially gifted prodigy in the family.
In 1763, when Wolfgang was seven and Nannerl was eleven, the Mozart family (the two children along with father, Leopold and mother, Anna Maria) embarked on a three and a half year concert tour of Europe to showcase (and also to cash in on) the talents of the two "wunderkinder".
A Mozart Concert Advertisement in London, circa 1764
Editorial Note: Mozart lived in London from April 23, 1764 until July 30, 1765 He would have been an eight-year-old for this performance on Thursday, May 17, 1764. So did this advertisement lie about Mozart's age to drum up more business?
From that prodigious childhood Mozart steadily evolved into one of the greatest composers the world has ever known. During his short lifetime, Mozart produced more than 600 compositions. These works included symphonies, concertos, quartets, sonatas, instrumental pieces, operas, masses and other sacred works — many of which rank among the finest of their kind.
Now sit back and enjoy a short Mozart biography with pictures and music via YouTube.
Editorial Note: Corrections to two factual errors in the video:
1. Mozart's life span was 1756-1791not 1756-1792.
2. Mozart died on December 5, 1791not November 5, 1791.
Also, there are several spelling errors in the video.
The Master Composer of Instrumental Music
Many think of Mozart as a great opera composer but he equally excelled in writing instrumental works with 41 symphonies, 27 piano concertos, and numerous concertos for most other instruments such as violin, flute, clarinet, oboe, bassoon, and horn. Add in quartets, trios, duets, sonatas, serenades and divertimenti, etc. and Mozart was an extraordinary music making machine cranking out music day and night. And he still found time to write operas, masses and other sacred works.
Three of his greatest symphonies were his last three: Nos. 39, 40, and 41 written during summer 1788. What is kind of sad in a sense is that Mozart may have not heard them be performed before his death in 1791. Listen to an excerpt from Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K.550: I. Molto Allegro.
W.A. Mozart Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, K.550: I. — sample
I especially enjoy listening to Mozart's piano concertos with my favorites being Nos. 19, 20, 21, 23, and 24. When Beethoven heard a performance of Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491 his reaction to a friend was "we shall never be able to do anything like that!" Listen to an excerpt from No. 24.
W.A. Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K.491, 3rd mvt, Allegretto — sample
"Alleluia" from Exsultate Jubilate
Mozart was not only great as a composer for instruments but he was very adept at putting words to music. Listen to "Alleluia" from Exsultate Jubilate. The Lyric is just one word "Alleluia" repeated over and over throughout the piece. Try to name another one word lyric song where the composer gets as much milage as this! Mozart got more milage from this one word lyric than many composers would in setting Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address" to music.
Here is a video of Renée Fleming singing the "Alleluia" from Exsultate Jubilate. I get goosebumps when I listen to this.