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Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

born: 27 January 1756
died: 5 December 1791
country: Austria

Born in Salzburg on 27 January 1756, Mozart began to pick out tunes on his father’s keyboard before his fourth birthday. His first compositions, an Andante and Allegro for keyboard, were written down in the early months of 1761; later that year, the boy performed in public for the first time at the University of Salzburg. Mozart’s ambitious father, Leopold, court composer and Vice-Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg, recognised the money-making potential of his precocious son and pupil, embarking on a series of tours to the major courts and capital cities of Europe. In 1777 Wolfgang, now 21 and frustrated with life as a musician-in-service at Salzburg, left home, visiting the court at Mannheim on the way to Paris.

The Parisian public gave the former child prodigy a lukewarm reception, and he struggled to make money by teaching and composing new pieces for wealthy patrons. A failed love affair and the death of his mother prompted Mozart to return to Salzburg, where he accepted the post of Court and Cathedral Organist. In 1780 he was commissioned to write an opera, Idomeneo, for the Bavarian court in Munich, where he was treated with great respect. The servility demanded by his Salzburg employer finally provoked Mozart to resign in 1781 and move to Vienna in search of a more suitable position, fame and fortune. In the last decade of his life, he produced a series of masterpieces in all the principal genres of music, including the operas The Marriage of Figaro (1785), Don Giovanni (1787), Così fan tutte and The Magic Flute, the Symphonies Nos 40 and 41 (‘Jupiter’), a series of sublime piano concerti, a clarinet quintet and the Requiem, left incomplete at his death on 5 December 1791.

from notes by Andrew Stewart © 2007

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