Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Biography

Famous even in his own day for his symphonies and operas, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is remembered as a great musician.

There has probably never been a child born into the world of music with such genius as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Acclaimed as a composer of symphonies and operas, he is remembered as a man of magnificent talent. Those are the well-known facts. But did you know that in his short lifetime, Mozart composed fifty symphonies, the first one at age ten? Did you know that he was knighted by the Pope or that he performed for the King and Queen of England? Did you know that Mozart was famous in all of Europe but was buried in a pauper's grave?

As a three-year-old boy, Mozart played the clavier and composed his first piece for the instrument at the age of five. Nicknamed the "Golden Hope of Austria," Mozart was famous by the time he was six, giving public concerts to the masses.

Mozart's innate ability as a musician became increasingly apparent as he grew older. He was gifted with "perfect pitch." This meant that without the aid of a musical instrument or pitch pipe, he could sing any note on command. Other natural musical abilities were equally as compelling. For instance, it was not uncommon for the boy to pick up an instrument and play it without a single lesson. The violin and the clarinet were among his favorites.

Mozart's concert tours were nothing short of brilliant. He soon left Austria and performed in other European countries. Mozart's older sister Nannerl often traveled with him, singing as he played. They traveled to Munich, Paris, and London. In London, they performed for the King and Queen of England. When Mozart was thirteen, he traveled to Rome. The Pope conferred knighthood on the boy as a tribute to his genius.

At the age of twenty-five, Mozart married and settled in his homeland, Austria. The young couple struggled to clothe and feed themselves, and later their two children, although Mozart was for some time employed by Emperor Joseph of Austria.

Musicians in the 1700's were not well paid, even famous ones. Despite Mozart's notoriety and his employer's means, the income Mozart earned in the Emperor's employ was meager. Ironically, the Emperor clothed Mozart in fine apparel and bestowed upon him the gift of a large ring to be worn during performances.

Mozart lamented his inability to provide for his family. Although there were no formal income tax accountings in Austria in the eighteenth century, people were occasionally asked to report their income, job description, and employer. The story is told that Mozart balked at the form, especially the line on which he was to write his salary. Knitting his brows and chewing his pen, Mozart wrote "Eight hundred gulden." This was less than $400. Under special remarks, the great composer wrote simply, "Too much for what I accomplish, and too little for what I could accomplish."

Mozart composed masterpieces in every genre of music known to him, including symphonies, concertos, chamber music, church music, operas, and operettas - most of which are still famous today. Among his most acclaimed works are the operas "Don Giovanni," "The Magic Flute," and "Figaro."

Although Mozart died at the age of thirty-five, his legacy of music is incredible - not just in number but in diversity. His works span a wide gamut from the gay and lively to tender and gentle. His pieces are moving and sometimes sad.

The eerie mystique of Requiem, and Mozart's preoccupation with its creation, is said by some to have been the cause of the composer's death. Other music scholars have attributed the great maestro's demise to poisoning by his rival, Antonio Salieri. Another interesting supposition is that Mozart was inadvertently poisoned by his doctor when he was treated with mercury for rheumatic fever, a practice no longer used because of the metal's toxicity. Other theories support diagnoses of streptococcal fever and typhus.

Whatever the cause of Mozart's death, his untimely passing was the world's loss. Despite his fame and notoriety, despite his brilliance as a composer, and despite his position in the Emperor's court, Mozart was buried in a pauper's grave.

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