The California Conservatory of Music’s
Composer of the month:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
What better way to welcome the new year than to kick off our Composer of the Month series with Mozart?
Who is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart?
Widely considered the greatest composer of the classical period, Mozart:
Hailed from Austria and lived throughout Europe
Was considered to be a child prodigy
Composed music in ever form, from operas to symphonies
Serves as the archetype of classical style
Popularized the piano concerto
Was never rich and tended to spend the little money he actually made
Never finished his final work (Requiem)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wasn’t actually the name of famous classical composer. Johannes Chrystostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. (We’ll get into how the name “Amadeus” took hold later.) He was born to Anna Maria and Leopold, who was an accomplished violinist and budding composer himself. At the tender age of three, little Mozart would observe his older sister Nannerl practice the piano. Evidently, he absorbed the gist of the instruction since he began playing the harpsichord and violin and even began composing his own music at the age most other children begin attending kindergarten!
Mozart spent most of childhood on tour with his family. The Mozarts stayed on the road, if you will, for years and performed for royalty and nobility in Germany, Austria, and Czechoslovakia. During this time, Mozart met two esteemed composers (Myslivecek and Giovanni Battista Martin), who helped him become a member of the renowned Accademia Filarmonica in Italy.
Many musicians find both inspiration and musical education in the church, and Mozart was no different. A devout Catholic, Mozart wrote his first mass (Mass in G, or Misa Brevis in G) when he was twelve years old. Most scholars believe that was around the same time that Mozart transcribed the entire score to Gregorio Allegri’s Miserere after hearing it performed at the Sistine Chapel. In other words, the kid was able to remember the piece note for note and write it all out the next day. He penned his first opera Mitridate Re di Ponto, in 1770 when he was just fourteen. All of these achievements at an early age established Mozart as a wunderkind, or child prodigy.
Upon his return to Salzburg in 1773, the Prince appointed Mozart to be a musician in his court.
Adult life and critical acclaim
In 1782, Mozart married Constanze Weber; they had six children, but only two survived. In brighter news, Mozart wrote an astonishing nine piano concertos in a two-year timeframe (1784-1786). He premiered Don Giovanni, his second opera, in 1787—the same year that a young man by the name of Beethoven came to Vienna in hopes of spending two weeks with Mozart for music lessons.
As Mozart entered his thirties, he began having health problems, which in turn slowed down his work pace. He completed his final opera in at the age of 35 and began work on the infamous Requiem; unfortunately, he was never able to finish the piece. He died just a few weeks before his 36th birthday.
Most well-known pieces
Here are a few of Mozart’s most famous pieces you. Can you recognize these melodies?
The Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
'Eine kleine Nachtmusik: Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G major, K. 525 'Eine kleine Nachtmusik' I. A
Romanze Andante also from Serenade No. 13)
The Piano Sonata No 16 in C major
Piano Concerto No.21 in C, K.467
Rumors have been floating around for years about how Mozart really died (syphilis, mercury poisoning, renal failure), but it wasn’t until 2009 that researchers believe the most likely cause of Mozart’s death was from none other than a strep infection.
Mozart was a Freemason
In 2006, every church bell in Salzburg was rung at the same on Mozart’s 250th birthday
Köchel cataloged Mozart’s compositions, which is why you’ll see a “K.” numbering his pieces
Mozart began his musical journey at a young age, so whether you’re young or just young at heart, contact the California Conservatory of Music to enroll in piano lessons, guitar lessons, violin lessons, or cello lessons. We can’t wait to hear from you!