The Who’s Who
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, better known as Mozart, was one of the most prolific composers of all time. He invented the piano concerto, and pushed the known boundries of music. His works are still revered by scholars and composers worldwide.
A child genius, who grew up to be a superlative musician, and redefined the scope of music, Mozart's name is synonymous with classical music.
Early Days and Career
Mozart was born on January 27, 1751 in Salzburg (mordern-day Austria). While his father was himself a renowned musician, his mother hailed form a nobel family. Mozart started playing the clavier under his father's tutelage at a very young age. By the age of 5, Mozart started composing his own pieces, which were penned down by his father.
Growing up, Mozart travelled to various places around Europe with his family. During these travels, he was exposed to various musicians of the time, including Johann Christian Bach, who was a big influence. He also started writing operas and dramas.
Count Hieronymus von Colloredo the ruler of Salzburg appointed a 22-year-old Mozart as his court musician. During this period, he composed his popular violin concerto series. However, due to relatively low pay, Mozart was forced to look for better opportunities around Europe in 1777.
He travelled to Paris, Manheim and Munich looking for better opportunities. During this trip, he wrote the famous Paris Symphony. Unfortunately, his luck ran out and he had to return to Salzburg. However, his father had managed to get him the job of court organist and concertmaster in the Salzburg court.
In 1781, on back of the success of the opera Idomeneo, Mozart decided to pursue an independent career in Vienna. His decision was also fuelled by his tiff with Archbishop Colloredo, who was his employer at the time. Mozart thrived in Vienna, and soon became the most sought-after musician there.
During this time, he was reintroduced to the likes of Bach, and he even played with Joseph Haydn. And later on, he even returned to writing operas. This is when he wrote famous pieces like Don Giovanni and The Marriage of Figaro.
Mozart was married to Constanze Weber with whom he had six children. Mozart met her in Vienna, and there are reports that their courtship had briefly ended due to pressure from his father. However, they eventually married in 1782, before his father's consent letter would reach him.
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.”
“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
“I pay no attention whatever to anybody's praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.”
“When I am ..... completely myself, entirely alone... or during the night when I cannot sleep, it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly. Whence and how these ideas come I know not nor can I force them.”
“Our riches, being in our brains, die with us... Unless of course someone chops off our head, in which case, we won't need them anyway.”
“I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness.”
“To talk well and eloquently is a very great art, but that an equally great one is to know the right moment to stop.”
Death and Legacy
Mozart fell ill at the premier of his opera La clemenza di Tito in Prague in September 1791. Despite a dip in his health, he managed to conduct the premier of his next opera The Magic Flute. But his illness progressively worsened, and he was bedridden during his final days. Finally, on December 5, 1791, at the tender age of 35, Mozart died of an unexplained illness, which caused swelling, pain and vomiting.
Although Mozart's long gone, the 600 plus works he created are a constant reminder of his genius. Popular pieces like Symphony No. 40 (in G minor) and Piano Concerto No. 21 are a right-of-passage for every classical music enthusiast.
While it's difficult—and perhaps, unfair—to sum up this great composer's life, many have tried through books, movies and documentaries. Even Hollywood's homage to Mozart called Amadeus tried to encapsulate his life—albeit through the voice of (supposed) rival Antonio Salieri.
But the fact remains, the closest one can ever come to uncovering the enigma of Mozart is through his own works.