Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was baptized in Salzburg Cathedral on the day after his birth as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. The first and last given names come from his godfather Joannes Theophilus Pergmayr, although Mozart preferred the Latin form of this last name, Amadeus, more often Amade, or the Italiano Amadeo. Whatever the case may be, he rarely-if ever-used Theophilus in his signature. The name Chrysostomus originates from St. John Chrysostom, whose feast falls on the 27th of January. The name Wolfgang was given to him in honor of his maternal grandfather, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl.
He was the seventh and last child born to musical author, composer and violinist, Leopold Mozart and his wife Anna Maria Pertl. Only Wolfgang and Maria Anna (whose nickname was ‘Nannerl’) survived infancy. He was born in a house in the Hagenauersches Haus in Salzburg, Austria, on the 27th of January, 1756.
The paternal ancestry of the family has been traced back with some degree of certainty to Fndris Motzhart, who lived in the Augsburg area in 1486; the name is first recorded, for a Heinrich Motxhart in Fischach, in 1331, and appears in other villages south-west of Augsburg, notably Heimberg, from 14th century.
The surname was spelled in variety of forms, including Moxarth, Mozhrd and Mozer. His mother’s family came mainly from the Salzburg region, but one branch may be traced to Krems-Stein and Wien. They mostly followed lower middle-class occupations; some were gardeners.
Though Mozart did not walk until he was three years old, he displayed musical gifts at extremely early age. At the age of four, he could reproduce on the piano a melody played to him; at five, he could play violin with perfect intonation. According to Norbert Elias, it took all of thirty minutes for Mozart to master his first musical composition. The work , a scherzo by Georg Christoph Wagenseiil, had been copied by his father into Nannerl’s notebook. Below it Leopold jotted: “This piece was learned by Walfgangerl on 24 January 1791, 3 days before his 5th birthday, between 9 and 9:30 in the evening”. (68)
Mozart and his sister never attended school because their father dedicatedly and instructed them at home. Besides music, he taught them German, Italian, Latin, history science, mathematics and law. According to Ruth Halliwell, recognizing his children’s special abilities, Leopold began to devote extra effort to their education-with an emphasis on musical instruction. He became a loving, but exacting, taskmaster. Some time later, he would somewhat ruefully describe to correspondent how from a very early age Nannerl and Wolfgang had learned to wear the “iron shirt” of discipline. The children themselves probably never relaxed that life could be any different. Wolfgang, no doubt, enjoyed the extra attention and found great pleasure in learning-and in pleasing his father. It was the start of relationship that he would never quite break free of, and the beginning of a career that would consume him altogether.(38}
When the six-year-old Wolfgang had provided his extraordinary talents at the keyboard, Leopold was keen to exhibit those talents along with those of his gifted pianists’ daughter, Nannerl. Thus Leopold undertook a four month tour to Vienna and the
surrounding area, visiting every noble house and palace he could find, taking the entire family with him. Mozart’s first know public appearance was at Salzburg University in September of 1761, when he took part in theatrical performance with music by Eberlin. Like other parents of this time, Leopold Mozart saw nothing wrong in exhibiting, or in exploiting, his son’s God-given genius for music. He took Walfgang and Nannerl to Munchen, for about three weeks from January 12th, 1762, where they played the harpsichord before the Elector of Bavaria. No documentation survived for that journey. Later ones are better served-Leopold was a prolific correspondent and also kept travel diaries. The next started on September 18th, 1762, when the entire family set off for Wein; they paused at Passau and Linz where the young Wolfgang gave his firs public recital at The Trinity Inn, Linz, on October 1st, 1762. Soon afterwards, he amazed the Empress at Schonbrunn Castel and all her royal guests with fascinating keyboard tricks; playing with the keys covered with a cloth, with his hands behind his back, and so on. (Anderson 120). There is also one funny statistic about Mozart , while in Vienna age the age of six, Mozart appeared before the Empress Theresa. When he slipped on the floor, the empress’s daughter Marie Antoinette, who was only two month older then Mozart, helped him up, whereupon he immediately proposed to marry her. She apparently waited for better offer.
As young Mozart’s reputation grew, his father realized the financial opportunities then could arise from increased exposure of his son’s talents. From than time on, Wolfgang and his sister spent much of their childhood traveling through Europe. The
rulers of Europe and England were astounded by Wolfgang’s abilities of composition, improvisations, and sight reading. During a large European concert tour (1763-66) the Mozart children displayed their talents to audiences in Germany, in Paris, at court in Versailles, and in London (where Wolfgang wrote his first symphonies and was befriend by Johann Christian Bach, whose musical influence on Wolfgang was profound). In Paris, Wolfgang published his first works, four sonatas for clavier with accompanying violin (1764). In 1768 he composed his first opera, La finta semplice, for Vienna, but intrigues prevented its performance, and it was first presented a year later at Salzburg.
Toward the close of 1769, the Mozarts made their first journey to Italy by horse carriage, a journey crowned with glory and partly financed by Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. In Mantua, they attended a concert of the Philharmonic orchestra, which performed a few of Wolfgang’s compositions in his honor. In Milano, Wolfgang was commissioned to compose an opera seria for the following year. Their next stop, Bologna brought Mozart into contact with the great Martini, who welcomed the young genius with open arms of admiration and respect. Martini gave the young boy lessons in counterpoint and he also becomes a member of the Society Academia Philharmonic. In Roma, there took place that phenomenal proof of Mozart’s genius, which has frequently been quoted. Young Mozart attended a performance of the celebrated Miserere of Allegri, which could be heard only in Roma during Holy Week performed by the papal choir. By papal decree it was forbidden to sing the work elsewhere, and its only existing copy was guarded slavishly by the papal choir. Any attempt to copy the song or reproduce it in any form
was punishable by excommunication. Mozart, however, had heard the work only ones when, returning home, he reproduced it in its entirety upon paper (this pies is long and extremely complex, with double-orchestra, organ and conflicting choral parts.) No one has ever been able to dream of duplicating this feat, even on a much smaller scale. This incomparable feat soon became the subject of awed whispers in Roma. The Pope summoned Mozart, but instead of punishing the young genius, he showed praise upon him and gave him handsome gift. A few months later, Pope Clemens XIV bestowed upon Mozart the Cross of the Order of the Golden Spur. Although he achieved much fame and even become honorary conductor in Verona, his father’s efforts for employment in Italy fail. (Schenk 189). Also, during his tour in Italy Mozart met an English boy Thomas Linley, they were much alike and felt like brothers. Thomas too was prodigy, whose father manage his and his older sister’s music career. Thomas and Walfgang become very closed. They were very famous in Italy and called “The young Geniuses of the Age”. Thomas played the violin so brilliant that Wolfgang often dreamed of them touring together as adults. Tragically, Wolfgang’s friend drowned in a boating accident when he was only fourteen years old.
After returning home for a short stay, Mozart were back in Italy to fulfill his commission for Milano and bring to complete his opera seria, Mitridate, re di Ponte. At the performance of Mitridate, re di Ponte on Christmas day of 1770, the work was a phenomenal success. According to Otto Erich Deutsch, one of the soprano arias, contrary to all precedent, was encored. Cheers greeted the diminutive composer as he reached the
stage. The newspapers commented upon then “rarest musical grace” and that “studied beauty” which seemed to be Wolfgang’s intuitive idiom. (44).
Except for two brief intermissions, Mozart remained in Salzburg whose limited intellectual world chafed him considerably. The political and social changes resulting from the installation of the new Archbishop of Salzburg forced Mozart to lead a highly restricted life, which in turn generated friction between the young compositor and the strict Archbishop. Moreover, his musical labor at the Court of the Archbishop was an endless humiliation. He was the principal composer and virtuoso at the Court, but his salary was so meager and his work so unappreciated that each day was a test of his patience and willingness to tolerate insult. His fellow musicians at the Court were dissolute scoundrels, whose musical tastes were vulgar and whose interests centered upon gambling and drink.
Mozart traveled for third time to Italy, mainly because of the premier of the opera “Lucio Silla” in Milan. During the carnival of 1773 the work was performed a staggering 26 times. After this the family returned to Vienna, as the Mozart still could not obtain a secure position at court. Disappointed and downtrodden, the Mozart return home to Salzburg, where he wrote countless symphonies, serenades, divertimento, five concertos for violin, “II Re pastor”, as well as part of “Idomeneo”. (Zaslaw 281)
In the fall of 1774 Mozart composed the opera buffa “La finita giardiniera”. The work was premiered in Munich on January 13, 1775 under Mozart’s baton: however, there were only two more performances. It was, therefore, with a yearning heart that
Wolfgang dream of escaping from Salzburg. A new extensive tour was planned for Mozart in 1776, but the music world was this time not so easily conquered by Mozart. He was now twenty years old-child prodigy no longer. The music world had in the past lavished its adoration upon a little pug-nosed child who could achieve miraculous musical feast and dazzle them with specially crafted parlor ticket. Now that child had entered manhood, he had lost his great apparel.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest composers the world has ever see. Mozart is much in evidence today. His music is heard in TV commercials and he has entered our pop mythology as the crass innocent of Peter Schaeffer’s Amadeus. His music is reputed to make one smarter.
Anderson, Emily, ed. The Letters of Mozart and His Family. New York, 1985
Deutsch, Otto Erich. Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford, 1965
Elias, Norbert. Mozart: Portrait of a Genius. Berkeley, 1993
Halliwell, Ruth. The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context. Oxford, 1998
Schenk, Erich. Mozart and His Times. New York, 1959
Zaslaw, Neal. Mozart’s Symphonies. Oxford, 1989
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