Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was an undeniable and unforgettable genius whose talent can possibly never be matched again. He wrote some of the most important artistic works ever to be created by man. Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756 to Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl. His father who was the choirmaster for the archbishop of Salzburg, was an able and shrewd educator, and taught his son, not only theory of notable stature (his Method for the study of violin was in use until the beginning of our century) but also knew how to intelligently manage the prodigious talent of Amadeus.
The first few years of Mozart's life are unclear. It is certain, however, that he came into contact with music very early on in life: in fact, when his sister Marianna, known as Nannerl, at the age of six, was being given private harpsichord lessons, little Wolfgang, who was only three at the time, was already spending hours banging away on the keyboard showing a marked inclination for music. Before learning to read or write, little Mozart revealed prodigious musical talent, to the extent that at the age of four he was already playing the clavichord and at five he was composing minuets.
After having given a profound musical education, Leopold Mozart thought about investing in the precocious artistic qualities of his children: as early as January 1762 all of the family went to the court of the Elector of Munich, where the two young musicians gave a concert, resulting in amazement and admiration. The event immediately caused a stir and, in September of the same year, the Empress Maria Teresa invited the two prodigious children to perform in the presence of the imperial family. As a harpsichordist Wolfgang was appreciated not only for his compositions, but also for his ability to execute the pieces. He also quickly learned to play the violin and the organ. In 1763 the Mozarts went on tour to give concerts. They visited Munich, Augusta, Ulm, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Cologne, followed by visits to Aquisgrana and Brussels and then to Paris. The Parisian trip lasted six months, during which the baron Melchior Grimm took the two children under his protection, introducing them into the artistic and musical society of the time (Diderot, d'Alembert, Helvétius, the painter Van Loo, the musicians J. Shobert, E.R. Duni, P. Gaviniès, Mme Pampadour) and the court.
In April 1764 in London, Johann Christian Bach, choirmaster of the court, welcomed the young Mozart as a colleague and played with him. Here Wolfgang met C.F. Abel, from whom he learnt the technique for playing the clarinet, an instrument which was, at that time, still very seldom used in the orchestra, and also the famous opera composer G. Manzuoli who taught him the belcanto technique. The influence of J. Ch. Bach was crucial to the style in which Mozart wrote the K.16 and K.19 Symphonies in London, as well as many sonatas for the harpsichord and for other instruments. In London, where George III and Queen Charlotte didn't get tired of listening to his improvisations on the tambourine, the young boy also had his first contact with Italian melodrama, attending performances by Piccinni, Galuppi, Gerrandini, Giardini and others.
When Mozart was once again back in Salzburg, the archbishop commissioned him in 1767 to compose the oratorio Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebots; in the same year the young musician also wrote a cantata, an Offertory, a prologue and a tragedy. From this moment on, aged only eleven, the intense and fruitful structural activity of Mozart began which didn't stop until his death, amounting to (according to the chronological catalogue completed in 1862 by Ludwig Köchel) at least 626 opus numbers.
Mozart was continuously called on by the nobles, who often competed against each other for his presence and therefore the composer spent a lot of time in Vienna: in 1768 he composed, commissioned by the emperor, La finta semplice, opera buffa in three acts, which, due to the envy the young genius already provoked in the musical circles, wasn't performed in Vienna but only the following year in Salzburg. Instead, the German operetta Bastien und Bastienne was performed privately at Doctor Mesmer's house. In the capital Mozart had the opportunity of listening to Gluck's Alceste, he also got to know and began studying in depth, operas from the major symphonists from the Viennese style (Joseph and Michael Haydn, Dittersdorf, Vañhal, Wagenseil, Gassmann). He also began relations with Hasse.
Intense periods of studying, composing and concert activities caused exhaustion and frequent illnesses, but Leopold decided to embark on a trip to Italy. They left in December 1769, stopped in Rovereto, Verona and Mantova, where Mozart conducted one of his symphonies, read and performed a concert and sonata at first sight, and improvised an aria based on a text proposed by the audience. In Rome Mozart listened to Il Miserere by Gregorio Allegri in the Sistine Chapel - whose score was jealously guarded - and he rewrote it outright from memory after only hearing it twice; the Pope, astonished, gave it the title of cavaliere dello Speron d'oro. In Bologna, Mozart took lessons from Father Martini and was subjected to the compulsory test of the Accademia Filarmonica, which he passed and was nominated and became an official member of the Accademia. In Milan he met G.B. Sammartini and N. Piccinni and composed on commission, as well as four symphonies, the opera Mitridate re di Ponto, performed on December 26th, 1770. Following the success of the opera, he had the task of writing a celebration piece for the Archduke Fernando's wedding to Maria Beatrice of Modena.
When Mozart returned to Salzburg in March 1771, he began composing the opera, a 'theatrical evening' in two acts, entitled Ascanio in Alba, based on a text by the abbot Giuseppe Parini. Nevertheless, he obtained the authorization to go on a third trip to Italy to perform the opera Lucio Silla in Milan (December 1772), which he did reluctantly and the opera, in fact, was unsuccessful; on this occasion he met Giovanni Paisiello.
From March 1773 to the summer of 1777 Mozart didn't move from Salzburg, apart from a couple of brief trips to Vienna, where he became one of Haydn's disciples and he became deeply interested in counterpoint, writing some expert quartets finishing with fugues of different subjects. In 1775 (January 13th), his new opera, La Finta Giardiniera, was performed in Munich and provoked great enthusiasm; and in 1776, in Salzburg, Il re pastore. But the shabby atmosphere of his native city, and the continuous oppressions which the archbishop Colleredo subjected him to, pushed Mozart to resign from the post of Konzertmeister, which was also badly paid.
In August 1777 the composer left Salzburg, accompanied by his mother, and went to Munich; then he went to Augusta and finally to Mannheim, where he began once again to listen to and study the symphonists of that group. To earn money he gave lessons and composed to order. He met Aloysia Weber (daughter of Fridolin, uncle of Carl von Weber) and he fell in love. On July 3rd, 1778 his mother died: broken-hearted, notwithstanding the eulogies gathered from his Symphony in D major called "Parigina" (K297), he returned to Salzburg, where he was proposed the post of organist for the court and for the cathedral.
The clamorous success obtained in Munich with his new opera Idomeneo re di Creta (1781) inspired him to finish completely with Salzburg to try out his fortune in the international atmosphere of Vienna, where he settled, notwithstanding the opposition he met with from his father and sister, and having been refused by Aloysia Weber, he married her sister Constanze in 1782. In the same year he received the task of writing an opera for the Emperor Giuseppe II. Mozart chose a German Singspiel based on a text by Gottlob Stephanie, Belmonte und Constanze oder Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the first masterpiece in Mozart's opera repertoire and the first step towards the development of a German musical theatre. After the performance of this opera (July 16th, 1782), for four years Mozart seems to have distanced himself from the theatre.
He became a member of the Vienna freemasonry, and wrote a lot of instrumental, symphonic and chamber music, concerts for pianoforte, quartets and trios. In Vienna he began a very close friendship with Lorenzo Da Ponte and Emanuel Schikaneder, who became his librettists. After having composed a short opera entitled Der Schauspiel Direktor (Impresario), performed in the court of Schönbrunn, he wrote one of his best masterpieces, Le nozze di Figaro, based on a libretto by Da Ponte which was inspired by the famous comedy by Beaumarchais especially requested by Mozart. From the first performance (May 1st, 1786), the success was phenomenal, provoking envy in the traditional opera composers (among them Antonio Salieri), who, in vain, tried to pull all the strings to sabotage Mozart. The opera was repeated the following January in Prague, where the Italian Theatre asked him to write a new opera. This was Don Giovanni, once again based on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, and it was staged on October 29th, 1787. It was destined to build inexhaustible themes of literary and philosophical reflections, from the romantics to Kirkegaard, to Nietzsche, to nowadays.
After the triumph of Don Giovanni in Prague, Mozart returned to Vienna, where he was called to occupy the post of Kammermusicus for the Emperor, vacant due to the death of Gluck. However, the musician's economic situation was precarious; the modest salary, private lessons and the compositions of every type which he had been commissioned to do, were not enough to sustain his heavy family expenses. Mozart isolated himself more and more, not finding even his wife to be a comfort in his loneliness. Another perturbation he suffered was the death of his father on May 28th, 1787. In 1789 he went to Berlin with Prince Lichnowsky. The Emperor Federico Guglielmo II, after having heard him play at Potsdam, offered him the position of Kappelmeister, with an annual salary of three thousand thalers, but Mozart refused, preferring to remain loyal to the Austrian Emperor, his protector, for whom he wrote the new opera, Così fan tutte, ossia La scuola degli amanti, again with the libretto by Da Ponte, performed in Vienna on January 26th, 1790 but was more or less coldly received.
When Joseph II died, his successor, Leopold II showed no interest for music; to celebrate the coronation Mozart nevertheless wrote La clemenza di Tito, with the libretto by Metastasio and it was performed in Prague on September 6th, 1791. Already suffering from health problems, Mozart returned to Vienna, convinced he had only a short time more to live. To augment the imminent sense of death, a mysterious customer, so the story goes, ordered a Requiem Mass. As well as that, he accepted the task of composing another German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The magic flute), based on the text by Schikaneder. The opera was performed in the small Theater auf der Wieden on September 30th, 1791 and was the last theatrical masterpiece by Mozart. He began once again to work feverishly on The Requiem. It remained unfinished however, due to his sudden death. It was finally completed by his student Franz Süssmayr.
The creative activity by Mozart ranged from chamber music to concerts for solo instruments, from religious music to symphonies to operas. A first complete edition of his operas was published in Leipzig from 1877 to 1905. A new critical edition was completed by the editors Bärenreiter, Kassel, 1955-93.
Mozart is a unique entity in the history of music, a new world began for musical expression which made him into one of the most important symbols in modern culture.
On December 5th, 1791 (dies irae) at one in the morning one of the most important figures in art (musical but not only) of all times died. Due to the lack of funds, his remains were buried in a common grave in Saint Mark's Cemetery in Vienna and were never found again. The cause of his death remained a mystery, and a legend started (originating from poets and cultured and learned people, among these Puskin, in the romantic period) which stated that Mozart was poisoned by Antonio Salieri.