8 facts about the classical music composer Mozart


Barbara Krafft, Posthumous Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1819 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Few composers are as renowned as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791). Alongside Beethoven, he is one of the most influential musicians of the classical period, which dominated Europe between 1730 and 1820. His prodigious talent, which began in early adolescence, quickly blossomed through his musical family, and he embarked on a prolific creative career, creating over 600 works in his brief 35 years.

Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. He spent most of his childhood composing and playing music for many members of the royal family, including Prince Elector Maximilian III of Bavaria and Archduke Ferdinand. He continued to travel throughout adulthood, performing for the European aristocracy and continuing to create sonatas, symphonies and operas. After his death, his friend and fellow composer Joseph Haydn said: “Posterity will not see such talent in 100 years”.

Scroll down to find out 8 facts about Mozart.

Learn 8 facts about classical music composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

Mozart’s father and sister were also musicians.

Painting of the Mozart family in performance

Louis Carrogis Carmontelle, “The Mozart Family on Tour: Leopold, Wolfgang and Nannerl”, 1793 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Mozart and his older sister Maria Anna (nicknamed “Nannerl”) were the only surviving children of their parents, Leopold and Anna Maria Mozart. Leopold was a former musician and composer, who was appointed fourth violin to the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He began teaching the music of Nannerl at age 7 and Mozart at age 3, both of which showed an affinity for different instruments.

Later, between 1763 and 1766, Leopold, Nannerl and Mozart on a tour across Europe, performing for members of the royal family like Empress Maria Theresa. During this time, Mozart’s reputation as a child prodigy grew tremendously.

He began to write his own compositions at the age of 5.

Portrait of Mozart at 7

Anonymous (sometimes attributed to Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, “Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Age of Seven”, 1763 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

When Mozart was about 5 years old, he began to create his own compositions which his father wrote and collected in the Nannerl Notenbuch. Andante in C, K. 1a was most likely his first piece, a short composition intended to be played on the harpsichord. He was quickly followed by Allegro in C, K. 1b and Allegro in F, K. 1c.

Mozart met Marie-Antoinette.

Portrait of Marie-Antoinette

Jean-Étienne Liotard, “Portrait of Archduchess Marie-Antoinette of Austria, future Queen of France, at the age of seven”, 1762 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

During the European tour of Mozart and his family, he was invited to play at the royal court of Marie-Thérèse, empress of the Holy Empire. There, the biographer Eric Blom describes a meeting between Mozart, 7, and the young Marie-Antoinette, two months his senior. Supposedly, Mozart slipped on waxed floor and Marie-Antoinette helped him up. Subsequently, Mozart would have proposed to the future queen of France.

Mozart wrote his first opera at age 11.

Mozart portrait

Attributed to Giambettino Cignaroli, “Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at the Age of 13-14 Years”, c. 1770 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

In 1767, at the age of 11, Mozart completed his first real opera, Apollo and Hyacinthus. Divided into three acts, it is based on the myth of Hyacinth and Apollo, in which Apollo accidentally kills his lover by throwing a disc. It was commissioned by the Benedictine University of Salzburg and was only performed once during his lifetime.

He was very fashionable.

Mozart playing spruce paint

Stephan Sedlaczek, “The Young Mozart with the Spruce”, 1936 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

Mozart was known to have many indulgences, especially sartorial. His tenor Michael Kelly described his appearance: “[He] was on stage with his crimson pelisse and his bicornuate with gold braid, giving the time of the music to the orchestra.

Despite his great success and numerous commissions, Mozart’s purchasing vice caused considerable financial pressure throughout his life.

Mozart created more than 600 compositions during his life.

Pianoforte Mozart

Pianoforte played by Mozart in 1787, Czech Museum of Music, Prague (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Mozart was incredibly prolific during his lifetime and kept to a busy schedule. He often split his writing sessions into one block in the morning, afternoon, and then worked all evening. At the end of his life, he wrote more than 600 works, including symphonies, operas and concertos.

He has not finished his last composition.

Mozart Requiem

A one-page section of the manuscript of WA Mozart’s Requiem, K 626, 1791 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

At the age of 35, Mozart showed signs of serious illness but continued to work for months. During this time he completed one of his most acclaimed pieces as The magic flute, and started working on his Requiem.

He died on December 5, 1791, without having completed its final composition.

His death was probably not caused by poison.

Lithograph of Mozart's last days

Franz Schramm, “Moment of Mozart’s Last Days”, 1857 (Photo: Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0)

Due to Mozart’s untimely death and his obscure symptoms, there are many theories as to what caused it. For a time it was believed that one of Mozart’s rivals, Antonio Salieri, may have poisoned him. Apparently Mozart himself claimed he was poisoned while on his deathbed.

Today, most historians agree that Mozart was probably not poisoned and instead died from some sort of illness, like strep, flu, or even mercury poisoning.

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