Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 1756 - 1791

portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Circa 1780, from an oil by Johann Nepomuk della Croce
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart signature

Born: 27 January 1756, Salzburg, Archbishopric of Salzburg, Holy Roman Empire
Died: 5 December 1791, Vienna, Austria

His full baptismal name, Latinized of course, was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. His father Leopold was deputy Kapellmeister at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg at a time when Salzburg was an independent jurisdiction in the Holy Roman Empire. Mozart first composed piano pieces, still taught to beginning pianists, at age five, and traveled with his sister "Nannerl" to perform at age six. Wolfi and his father were very close, and Leopold soon realized he had been eclipsed and stopped composing himself, dedicating much of his life to promoting his son. From 1773 to 1777 Mozart was employed by the archbishop as a court musician and was very popular there. His operas and other compositions were gaining popularity around Europe so he went to Paris and several German cities, performing and composing some works by commission but not finding the employment he looked for. He returned to Salzburg and took a position at court, reluctantly, parted company with the archbishop and left for Vienna in 1781. He performed as a pianist and impressed the Emperor, and roomed with the Webers, a family he had known in Salzburg. He married their third daughter, Constanze. Shortly after this he first encountered the works of Bach and Händel and became close friends with Joseph Haydn, twenty-five years his senior and then the most celebrated composer in Europe. He dedicated six string quartets to Haydn. It was during this period that Mozart mounted concerts several times each season, the piano concerti he performed were hits but he and Constanze immediately established a lifestyle that required every pfennig. At the end of the 1780s the Mozarts moved to larger quarters further from town, he cut back on appearances and his income shrank. His letters from this period suggest depression and he sank into debt despite traveling extensively in search of income. His last year saw a great deal of new work, his finances began to improve, but he fell ill, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting, probably acute rheumatic fever. As depicted in Amadeus, he was buried in a mass grave and few were in attendance, but this does not mean he was no longer popular, it was merely the funerary custom of the day. Large, well-attended memorial services were held for him at Vienna and Prague.

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