Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Mozart, who himself signed many letters as Wolfgang Amadé Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (ᛉ 27 January 1756 in Salzburg, Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg, Bavarian Imperial Circle,[1] Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation; ᛣ 5 December 1791 in Wien, Archduchy of Austria, HRR), was a prolific and influential German composer of the Classical era.


His more than 600 compositions include works widely acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music, and he is among the most enduringly popular of classical composers. During his compositional career, Mozart wrote German opera from the age of twelve until three months before his death. Die Entfhrung aus dem Serail[2] and Die Zauberflöte were two of Mozart’s greatest theatrical successes.


Mozart was born in Salzburg, into a musical family, and at a very early age began to show indications of prodigious abilities. When he was five years old he could both read and write music, and had precocious skills as a player of keyboard and violin. Much of his childhood and adolescence was taken up with tours which included performances before many of the royal courts of Europe.

In 1773, aged 17, he accepted a post as a court musician in Salzburg, but was unhappy with his low pay and limited opportunities. Over the next eight years, he frequently traveled in search of a better position, and composed abundantly. This situation continued until his dismissal from Salzburg in 1781 by his employer, the Prince-Archbishop, and his subsequent departure for Vienna.

His Viennese years, which lasted until his death, were crowded, bringing him relative fame, though his finances remained precarious, with periods of prosperity and of penury. In 1782 he married Constanze Weber, against the wishes of his family; six children were born of whom two survived infancy. Musically this was a period of outstanding creativity which saw the production of many of his best known symphonic, concertante and operatic works, and his final, incomplete Requiem. The circumstances of his death, aged 35, have been much mythologized, but were most likely commonplace.

In his youth, Mozart had used his gifts of imitation and mimicry to learn from the works of others. From these lessons, in maturity he fashioned a style that ranged in mood from the light and pleasant to the dark and violent, from a vision of humanity "redeemed through art, forgiven, and reconciled with nature and the absolute".

His influence on all subsequent classical music has been profound; Beethoven wrote much of his early music in Mozart's shadow. Joseph Haydn, sometime mentor and later friend and admirer, wrote: "Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years"; others claim that, more than two centuries after his death, that talent remains unsurpassed.


  • “The most stimulating and encouraging thought is that you, dearest father, and my dear sister, are well, that I am an honest German, and that if I am not always permitted to talk I can think what I please, but that is all.”[3]
  • "I serve no monarch in the world with more favor than the Emperor—but I don't want to beg for any duty. I believe I am capable of bringing honor to any court—and if Germany, my beloved Fatherland, of which, as you know, I am proud, will not take me up—well, let France or England, in God's name become the richer by another talented German—and that to the disgrace of the German nation!"[4] – Mozart in a letter to his father Leopold (Vienna, 17 August 1782)
  • "How popular I would be if I were to lift the national German stage to recognition in music! And this would surely happen for I was already full of desire to write when I heard the German Singspiel."[5]


  1. The Bavarian Circle (German: Bayerischer Reichskreis) was an Imperial Circle of the Holy Roman Empire. The most significant state by far in the circle was the Duchy of Bavaria (raised to an Electorate by Emperor Ferdinand II in 1623) with the Upper Palatinate territories. Other Imperial Estates like the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg, the Prince-Bishoprics of Freising, Passau and Regensburg as well as the Imperial city of Regensburg, seat of the Imperial Diet from 1663, had a secondary importance. The elector of Bavaria and the archbishop of Salzburg acted as the circle's directors.
  2. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe immediately recognised the quality of the piece, declaring "it knocked us all sideways".
  3. Letter to Leopold Mozart (Paris, 29 April 1778), from Mozart: The Man and the Artist, as Revealed in his own Words by Friedrich Kerst, trans. Henry Edward Krehbiel (1906)
  4. Letter of 17 August 1782, quoted from Mersman (1972). The original reads: "Keinem Monarchen in der Welt diene ich lieber als dem Kayser – aber erbetteln will ich keinen Dienst. Ich glaube so viel im Stande zu seyn, daß ich jedem Hofe Ehre machen werde. Will mich Teutschland, mein geliebtes Vaterland, worauf ich (wie Sie wissen) stolz bin, nicht aufnehmen, so muß in Gottes Namen Frankreich oder England wieder um einen geschickten Teutschen mehr reich werden, – und das zur Schande der teutschen Nation." (taken from Hermann Abert's Mozart biography, available on line in German ([1])
  5. Mozart took the simple, popular genre of Singspiel and turned it into something far more sophisticated. Beethoven followed his example with the idealistic Fidelio; and with Der Freischütz of 1821.