Wolfgang Amadeus MozartWolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in Austria, the son ofLeopold, Kapellmeister to the Prince-Archbishop ofSalzburg.
By the age of three he could play the piano, and he wascomposing by the time he was five; minuets from this periodshow remarkable understanding of form. Mozart’s elder sister Maria Anna(best known as Nannerl) was also a gifted keyboardplayer, and in 1762 their father took the two prodigies on a shortperforming tour, of the courts at Vienna and Munich.Encouraged by their reception, they embarked the next year on a longertour, including two weeks at Versailles, where thechildren enchanted Louis XV. In 1764 they arrived in London. HereMozart wrote his first three symphonies, under theinfluence of Johann Christian Bach, youngest son of Johann Sebastian, wholived in the city. After their return to Salzburg therefollowed three trips to Italy between 1769 and 1773.
In Rome Mozartheard a performance of Allegri’s Misere; the score ofthis work was closely guarded, but Mozart managed to transcribe the musicalmost perfectly from memory. On Mozart’s firstvisit to Milan, his opera Mitridate, r di Ponto was successfully produced,followed on a subsequent visit by Lucia Silla. Thelatter showed signs of the rich, full orchestration that characterizes his laterA trip to Vienna in 1773 failed to produce the court appointment that bothMozart and his father wished for him, but didintroduce Mozart to the influence of Haydn, whose Sturm und Drang stringquartets (Opus 20) had recently been published.
The influence is clear in Mozart’s six string quartets, K168-173, and in hisSymphony in G minor, K183. Another trip in searchof patronage ended less happily. Accompanied by his mother, Mozart leftSalzburg in 1777, travelling through Mannheim toParis. But in July 1778 his mother died. Nor was the trip a professionalsuccess: no longer able to pass for a prodigy, Mozart’sreception there was muted and hopes of a job came nothing.
Back in Salzburg Mozart worked for two years as a church organist for thenew archbishop. His employer was less kindlydisposed to the Mozart family than his predecessor had been, but thecomposer nonetheless produced some of his earliestmasterpieces. The famous Sinfonia concertante for violin, violo andorchestra was written in 1780, and the following yearMozart’s first great stage work, the opera Idomeneo, was produced inMunich, where Mozart also wrote his Serenade for 13wind instruments, K361. On his return from Munich, however, the hostilitybrewing between him and the archbishop came to ahead, and Mozart resigned. On delivering his resignation he was verballyabused and eventually, physically ejected from thearchbishop’s residence. Without patronage, Mozart was forced to confront the perils of a freelanceexistence. Initially his efforts met with some success.
He took up residence in Vienna and in 1782 his opera Die Entfhrung ausdem Serail (The abdication from the Seraglio) wasproduced in the city and rapturously received. The same year in Vienna’s StStephen’s Cathedral Mozart married ConstanzeWeber. Soon afterwards he initiated a series of subscription concerts atwhich he performed his piano concertos andimprovised at the keyboard. Most of Mozart’s great piano concertos werewritten for these concerts, including those in C,K467, A, K488 and C minor, K491.
In these concertos Mozart brought tothe genre a unity and diversity it had not hadbefore, combining bold symphonic richness with passages of subtleIn 1758 Mozart dedicated to Haydn the six string quartets that now bearHaydn’s name. Including in this group are the quartetsknown as the Hunt, which make use of hunting calls, and the Dissonance,which opens with an eerie succession of dissonantchords. Overwhelmed by their quality, Haydn confessed to LeopoldMozart, ‘Before God and as an honest man I tell you thatyour son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or byname.’ The pieces are matched in excellence in Mozart’schamber music output only by his String Quintets, outstanding among whichare those in C, K515, G minor, K516 and D,Also in 178