Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, the son of composer, musical author,
and violinist, Leopold Mozart and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. His given names
were Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus, the last of which is Gottlieb in
German, and Amadeus in Latin. He used Wolfgang and Amadeus in his signature,
so he is generally known by these two names.
He displayed marked musical gifts very early, playing the keyboard confidently
when aged four, composing his first pieces for it aged five, and quickly mastering
the violin. Leopold was keen to exhibit his son's extraordinary talents, along
with those of his gifted pianist-daughter, Maria-Anna (called Nannerl) (1751--1829),
and he undertook a series of tours across Europe with them when Mozart was
just six years old.
In 1767 the family went for five months to Vienna, where Mozart wrote an opera
buffa (comic opera) for the Emperor, La finta semplice (trans, the Pretend
Simpleton); and a Singspiel (a German-language opera with some spoken dialogue),
Bastien und Bastienne (1769), commissioned by Dr Franz Anton Mesmer. However,
in Vienna the Italian musicians at court, including the composer Antonio Salieri,
made it difficult for him to produce his operas. He returned to Salzburg, and
was appointed honorary Konzertmeister to Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach.
There followed three extended visits by father and son to Italy (1770--2).
Musical experience gained on these tours helped mould Mozart's style, especially
in dramatic music. He was prolific, writing sacred vocal pieces and instrumental
works too. By 1772 he had written about 25 symphonies (some are lost), and
his first quartets. Further quartets and symphonies followed during and after
a visit to Vienna in 1773, when he came into contact with Haydn's music. Between
1775--6 he composed two operas: La finta giardiniera (trans The Lady Who Disguised
Herself as a Gardener) and Il re pastore (The Shepherd King); five violin concertos;
the Haffner Serenade, and masses for the Salzburg Court Chapel. Bach, Haydn,
Handel, and the Italian composers were all major influences on him at the time.
Unhappy with the austere and unmusical Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, who
was appointed at the death of Sigismund, Mozart left his service in 1777 and,
traveling with his mother, sought employment elsewhere. They stayed at Mannheim,
where he composed some piano concertos and flute quartets, and fell in love
with a coloratura soprano, Aloysia Weber. In 1778 his mother died in Paris.
He composed the Paris symphony the same year. His father then persuaded him
to return to Salzburg. Mozart visited the Webers on his way back to find that
Aloysia seemed to have forgotten him entirely.
Back in Salzburg, Mozart reluctantly accepted the post of court organist (1779).
At this time he composed the Coronation Mass (1779), the Sinfonia Concertante
in E Flat Major for Violin, Viola and Orchestra, and the Serenade in D Major.
In 1780 he received an important commission from Munich, the opera seria (serious
opera) Idomeneo . In 1781 Colloredo summoned Mozart to Vienna for the coronation
of Emperor Joseph II. Again, he left the archbishop's service, this time after
a stormy scene, but remained in Vienna, which became his home for the rest
of his short, full life.
Aloysia Weber had married a court actor and Mozart had turned his attentions
to her sister Constanze, whom he married in 1782 - the year of his Singspiel
, Die Entfhrung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Harem). Married life
was humorous and happy, but financially insecure. Mozart eked out his income
by teaching. They had six children, two of whom survived. He became a Freemason
in 1784, and in the same year he produced six piano concertos. In 1785 he composed
a further three, and in 1786 three more. These marked the rich flowering of
his maturity, along with the six quartets dedicated to Haydn; the Linz and
Prague symphonies; and the three Italian comic masterpieces composed to libretti
by Lorenzo da Ponte: Le Nozze di Figaro (1786, The Marriage of Figaro, after
Beaumarchais), Don Giovanni (first performed in Prague, 1787), and CosÏ fan
tutte (1790, trans Thus All Women). The string quintets in C major and G minor
(1787), the last three symphonies (1788) - including his masterpiece of counterpoint,
the Symphony no.41 in C Major, the Jupiter - the quartets for the King of Prussia,
and a clarinet quintet mark the peak of his instrumental powers.
The letters to fellow Masons in his last three years make sad reading, reflecting
his countless anxieties about finance or health. He hoped for new commissions
or a court post on the accession of Emperor Leopold II, but nothing was forthcoming.
In 1791 he applied unsuccessfully for the post of Kapellmeister of St Stephen's
Cathedral. His last complete works were the masonic Singspiel , Die Zauberflote
(1791, The Magic Flute); an opera seria, La clemenze di Tito (1791, The mercy
of Tito), and a clarinet concerto for Leopold's coronation. Commissioned by
an unknown stranger to compose the Requiem Mass, Mozart became obsessed with
the idea that it was for his own death, and he died before the work was finished
after a three-week fever. No convincing evidence about the cause of death has
come to light, although there has been much speculation about it. Deeply in
debt at the time of his death, Mozart did not live long enough to enjoy the
financial rewards from the success of The Magic Flute , and was buried in a