Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(27 January 1756, Salzburg - 5 December 1791, Vienna)
Baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, he was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. Having proved his prodigious ability from his earliest childhood, by the age of 5 he composed and performed before European royalty (already competent on keyboard and violin).
Having first studied music under his father, little Mozart was well familiarized with the classical spirit due to the fact that often in his home he was exposed to the gallant style. He was also exposed to popular German songs that, in his first improvisations you could hear the elegance of the gallant style as much as the accents of popular German songs and dances. Mozart's father, Leopold Mozart was a minor composer and an experienced teacher, first occupying the position as fourth violinist (1743) in the musical establishment of Count Leopold Anton von Firmian and then the orchestra's deputy Kapellmeister (1763).
During his early trips (1762-1773), Mozart met a number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, who revealed the luminous and melodic style of the Italian instrumental music to him. Arrived at Stuttgart, Mozart played in public concerts alongside with Pietro Nardini, at that time one of the most renowned Italian violinists. In Paris he came in contact with the works of Egidio Romualdo Duni (Italian composer who played a key role in the development of the Comédie mêlée d'ariettes (an early form of the comic opera), François-André Danican Philidor (French composer who contributed to the early development of the comic opera), Pierre-Alexandre Monsigny (French composer who is considered alongside André Grétry and François-André Danican Philidor to have been the founder of a new musical genre, the comic opera). At the same time he was also exposed to some popular melodies and to the well respected harpsichordists of that time: Johann Christian Schobert (1720-1767) and Johann Gottfried Eckardt (1735-1789).
At an age at which other children were playing childish games, Mozart was receiving commissions of opera, composing symphonies, concerts and serenades. In 1769, in Vienna, his first opera buffa is being played: La Finta Semplice (The Fake Innocent, after Carlo Goldoni). In Milan 1770, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus), which was performed with success. This led to further opera commissions. He returned with his father later twice to Milan (August–December 1771; October 1772 – March 1773) for the composition and premieres of Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772).
After returning with his father from Italy on 13 March 1773, the young Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg, Prince Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo with which he had conflicts. Being a big fan of the gallant style, Mozart had no choice but to compose in this particular style for him. The influence of the gallant style can be easily noticed in his 5 concertos for violin and orchestra (1775) and in his pastorale Il Re Pastore (The Shepherd King, 1775). Due to Colloredo's hostile attitude towards Mozart and his obligations which he hated, young Wolfgang chooses to travel to Paris.
On his way to the capital of France he stops for 4 months in Mannheim (1777), this period played an important role in his life and music, here is where he gets acquainted with the orchestral performances and works of the Mannheim composers. His youthful momentum is felt in the arias written for Aloysia Weber (a talented singer for whom he fell heavily in love).
Arrived in Paris (1778), baron Grimm to which he was recommended, didn't take interest in the young composer. Mozart doesn't receive any commission for operas, as he wished and is forced to give lessons. This trip was a financial and moral failure but although his Parisienne stay wasn't very fruitful in meeting his wishes, regarding the stylistic influences, it was useful. In this period he gets well acquainted with the works of French opera composers.
Freed from constrains that came with the jobs he had, now settles in Vienna (1781) as a free musician where his period of artistic maturity begins. At that time, the Italian buffa and seria opera had primacy. In his latter years, his genius materialized in masterpieces of the dramatic genre like: ”The Abduction from Seraglio” -1782, ”The Marriage of Figaro” -1786, ”Don Giovanni” -1787, ”The Magic Flute” -1791, in which he integrated Italian and French opera influences.
In the course of 1782 and 1783, Mozart became intimately acquainted with the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel as a result of the influence of Gottfried van Swieten, who owned many manuscripts of the Baroque masters. Mozart's study of these scores inspired compositions in Baroque style, and later influenced his personal musical language, for example in fugal passages in Die Zauberflöte ("The Magic Flute") and the finale of Symphony No. 41.
His encounter with Joseph Haydn in Vienna (1784) was most fruitful, he learned how to explore the expressive ways of the symphonic form and of the string quartet as well. Shortly after their meet, Mozart and Haydn became friends, so close that Mozart dedicated his six quartets to Haydn (K. 387, K. 421, K. 428, K. 458, K. 464 and K. 465) that date from the period of 1782 to 1785. In this same period Mozart mounted concerts with himself as soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. Since space in the theaters was scarce, he booked unconventional venues: a large room in the Trattnerhof (an apartment building), and the ballroom of the Mehlgrube (a restaurant). The concerts were very popular, and the concertos he premiered at them are still firm fixtures in the repertoire.
In the last year of his life he writes two of his most representative works: The Magic Flute opera and his Requiem, first played in November 15, 1791. His last composition, the Requiem, was finished by his student, Franz Xaver Süssmayer, in which Mozart's own drama is expressed.
Gifted with intuition and an unprecedented creative inspiration, with his personality being affirmed even from an early age, Mozart shares with his contemporary colleagues and future generations a simple ideal, found easily in his every musical masterpiece: music has to please through beauty. This feature illustrates, in fact, the fundamental trait of Mozart's entire legacy, which manages too keep its radiance and value over the years .
In his short life, Mozart composed an enormous number of musical works, most of them unequaled in beauty or depth. He's the author of 41 symphonies, 27 concerts for piano and orchestra, 7 concerts for violin and orchestra, concerts for clarinet, harp, flute, horn and orchestra, and more. As far as his noteworthy chamber music goes, he composed 6 string quartets, piano sonatas, violin and piano sonatas, trios for violin, cello and piano, etc. Also passionate by opera he composed 17, of which his most popular are: The Abduction from Seraglio, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, Cosi fan tutte, The Magic Flute. He also composed 19 masses, cantatas, motets for soprano and orchestra, ”The Obligation of the First and Foremost Commandment” oratorio and, last but not least, his Requiem in D minor.
Here you can find a complete list of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's works.