Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus

1756-1791

One of the greatest composers the world has yet known; born at Salzburg, Austria, 1756. His father, Leopold Mozart, was a man of fine education and profound religious feeling and a thorough musician. Of seven children there grew up only Wolfgang and an elder sister, Maria Anna, who early showed great musical ability and as a child, traveled with her brother on his concert tours. When only three years old Mozart took deep interest in his sister's music lessons and learned to pick out thirds on the piano. When only four he began learning little pieces and when five he dictated to his father some minuets and composed a concerto so difficult that no one could play it. In 1762 the family made their first concert tour, playing at Munich, where the Elector received them kindly; at Linz and at Vienna. Here at court they made a most favorable impression, especially Wolfgang, whose remarkable talent and childish naturalness charmed the Emperor and, Empress. After appearing in several concerts the family journeyed to Presburg, returning to Salzburg early 'in 1763. The first tour had proved so successful that early in June, 1763, they started again, with Paris as their goal. In 1764 they went to London and played three times at court. Mozart also played the organ and, during an illness of his father, wrote his first symphony. His father had six of his sonatas for harpsichord and violin engraved and dedicated them to the Queen, and in 1765 he presented to the British Museum copies of all his printed compositions and an engraving from the Carmontelle picture. They left England to play at the Court of Holland. After playing the organ at Ghent and Harlem they went to Paris, where Mozart played several times at court. On the way home they stopped at Munich, where the Elector was much pleased with Wolfgang's progress. They reached Salzburg in November.

During all the time of their travels Leopold Mozart had educated his children most carefully and on their return to Salzburg guided his son in a careful study of Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. The archbishop gave Wolfgang the first part of a sacred cantata to compose and during this period he also wrote a Passions-cantate; his first piano concerto; and a Latin comedy, Apollo et Hyacinthus. In September, attracted by the approaching betrothal of Archduchess Josepha, the family went to Vienna, but when smallpox broke out fled to Olmütz, where both children were ill of the disease. They did not return to Vienna until 1768, when they were well received at court.

In December, 1769, with his father, Mozart started for Italy. In Verona he performed one of his symphonies, composing and singing an air to words that were given him; in Milan after playing in concert he was commissioned to write an opera for the next stagione. At Bologna he met Padre Martini, who delighted in him, instructing him and giving him fugues to work out, which he did to the great critic's satisfaction At Florence he was graciously received by Archduke Leopold and played at court, accompanying Nardini, the great violinist, and solving hard musical problems set before him by Marquis des Ligniville, director of Court music and a thorough contrapuntist. Reaching Rome on Wednesday of Holy Week he heard Allegri's famous Miserere in the Sistine Chapel and wrote out the entire composition from memory. On his return to Rome in June the Pope granted him the Order of the Golden Spur, with which he had also honored Gluck. When Mozart reached Bologna he was elected a member of the Accademia Filarmonica, of which he became maestro di cappella in 1771, and he received from Padre Martini a formal testimonial. He wrote a Miserere which shows the impression made on him by one he had heard in Rome. Returning to Milan he set to work on his opera, Mitridate, Re di Ponto, which after a deal of trouble with singers and musical rivals he brought out very successfully in December, 1770. After stopping at Vicenza and Verona, he returned to Milan in August to compose the opera, Ascanio in Alba, which he had been commissioned to write for the carnival. He reached Salzburg in 1771 and was soon working on an opera, II Sogno di Scipione, which was performed in 1772. The next year he went again to Milan to work on the opera, Lucio  Silla, produced most successfully in December. During this year he also composed the important litany, De Venerabile. 

He returned to Salzburg in 1773 and devoted himself to composing, going that summer to Vienna, where he first became familiar with Haydn's quartets, compositions by which he was strongly influenced. His position at Salzburg in time became so distasteful to him that after the Archbishop had refused his father permission to go with him on a concert tour, he applied for his discharge, which was angrily granted, and determined to set out in company with his mother.