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Mozart: Composer for the Ages
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756 in Salzburg. His full name as recorded on his Baptismal certificate is (in Latin) Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilis Amadeus Mozart. Though seven children were born in the family only Wolfgang and his elder sister survived infancy. Both were instructed in the ways of music by their father. Wolfgang showed early signs of being a prodigy.
His father Leopold was a music teacher and composer and passed on his love of music to his son, encouraging both of his children to perform. Mozart surprised his father at an early age by drafting his own composition, without encouragement (Deutsch, 1965).
Leopold took the children on extensive tours of Europe, having them perform in the Bavarian, Vienna, and Prague Courts. The duo was the equivalent of today's child-stars. Their touring led Mozart to meet important musicians like J.C. Bach. In Rome, Mozart heard Allegri's Miserere and when he went home he wrote the work in compositional form, wholly from memory (Gutman, 2000). His musical genius was beyond a doubt.
In 1770, the boy's first opera was performed. For Mozart, there was no greater joy than writing operas, which were the premiere productions of the times -- like today's Hollywood blockbusters.
Three years later, Mozart obtained a position in the court of Salzburg. The prodigious Mozart went immediately to work, writing a number of violin concertos and piano concertos. However, Mozart looked to return to writing operas and Mozart sought openings on the stage where he might gain the opportunity.
Desiring to be independent of his patron in Salzburg, Mozart fled to Vienna after a search throughout Europe, performing on the piano and writing operas. There he married and fathered six children -- but, as with his own siblings -- only two lived.
In 1784, Mozart met Haydn, who told Leopold that Wolfgang was "the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition" (Mozart, Mozart, 1966, p. 1331). At the time, Haydn was considered to be the greatest composer. Mozart gave many concerts and composed his Mass in C minor, while enjoying something of a lavish lifestyle thanks to his new income through performing. At this time, Mozart was it the height of his popularity -- giving the audience what they wanted and providing an outlet for his genius (Solomon, 1995).
The same year he met Haydn, Mozart joined the secret society of Freemasonry, which was then very popular all throughout Europe. Although the Church had already condemned Freemasonry in 1738, the decree was not promulgated in Austria until 1792, one year after Mozart's death. In fact, Mozart joined the Lodge because of its "shared devotion to Catholic tradition" (Gutman, 2000, p. 645). Thus, there was no sense of rebelling against the Church in Mozart's joining the Lodge. His respect for the Brotherhood would be made evident in his opera The Magic Flute. It has been said that Mozart respected the Church though he was at times impatient with its clerics and its practices.
But it was now that Mozart turned his attention to composing operas, debuting The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and The Magic Flute in succession. His creative output was happily fueled by his collaboration with a wonderful librettist.
But unfortunately Mozart's career was not destined to go on. He fell ill at the height of his creativity and his health rapidly declined. As he lay dying in 1791, he attempted to put the finishing touches on his Requiem Mass, which essentially became his own -- and his final masterpiece.
Mozart's musical output was stellar. He composed more than 600 pieces of music, in every popular genre of the day, from symphonies to sonatas to concertos, masses and operas. His skill was admired by the greatest living composer of the day, Joseph Haydn.
One of Mozart's famous works is his Symphony no. 40, which greatly illustrates the power he wielded as a composer of supreme command.
The first movement of Mozart's Symphony no. 40 begins with the gentle introduction of violins and the main theme of the composition. The theme carries a rhythmic motif that continues on through the first movement and is carried on and repeated by the orchestra in full with all the instruments participating in what the violins initiated. The return of the strings for minor accompaniment provide a polyphony of sound, which lures the listener's attention to separate lines of…[continue]
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