Close your eyes and picture that you are sitting in a grand concert hall. The year is the 1762 and the hall is a large and beautiful hall in Europe. It is full of wealthy people dressed in beautiful and fancy clothes. On the stage is a large orchestra of musicians, playing the most beautiful music you have ever heard.
You can’t believe how beautiful the music is. After the orchestra is finished, everyone jumps to their feet and claps with loud applause, including you. It is a magnificent show! Then, to your surprise, the composer of the music comes on stage. He is a young teenager and is only twelve years old! His name is Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Wolfgang Mozart was an Austrian composer who wrote many operas, concertos, symphonies and sonatas that shaped classical music in a very significant way. He was one of the most talented and productive musical composers of all time.
Wolfgang was born in the year 1756. He was very gifted and was able to play a number of different instruments from a very young age. Wolfgang’s father Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concert-master. Wolfgang’s father introduced him and his older sister Nannerl to music at an early age. When Wolfgang was three, he watched his seven year old sister learn piano. He started to copy her playing and at a very young age, he started to show that he understood music and could play himself.
Wolfgang’s father started teaching both his children how to play, even though Wolfgang was so young. However, Wolfgang and his sister practiced a lot and worked on perfecting their playing. Wolfgang soon showed signs of excelling beyond his father’s teachings. He wrote his first piece of music at age five and learned how to play the harpsichord, the violin, the piano, organ and the viola.
When Wolfgang was young, Europe was divided into many small city-states which were run by the wealthy aristocrats. Aristocrats means someone who is related to the king or queen of a country and is usually rich. The aristocrats were so wealthy that they would pay artists and musicians to entertain and inspire them and their guests. When Wolfgang was six, his father took him and his sister across Europe to play music in these different cities for the aristocrats who paid to hear them play. Wolfgang’s first show was for the court of Bavaria in Munich. He was only six years old!
The Mozarts travelled to many cities and played in Paris, London, the Hague and Zurich. These trips were long and difficult. They rode in vehicles like wagons and it was very uncomfortable. Many times Wolfgang and other members of his family became very sick. However, there were many good things about the time that Wolfgang spent touring as a child. During the many tours his father took him on, Wolfgang met many musicians and got to know their music. This included Johann Christian Bach in London, who had a big influence on Wolfgang.
When Wolfgang was thirteen, he traveled from Salzburg to Italy where he lived with his father. On this trip, Wolfgang’s sister stayed home with their mother, as she was at the age that she was supposed to get married. The custom of the time was that when a girl was at the age to get married, she was not allowed to perform music in public anymore. A custom is a traditional way of doing something.
Wolfgang and his father travelled to many cities and put on many shows during their time in Italy. They were there for two years because they were trying to build the largest audience they could for Wolfgang’s talents. One time, when Wolfgang was in Rome, he visited the Sistine Chapel and heard a song/concert called Miserere composed by Gregorio Allegri. He later wrote out the entire score from memory and only had to go back and make a few small edits. A score is the written version of music.
During the time that Mozart was in Italy, he also wrote a new opera, Mitreidate, re di Ponto for the court of Milan. It was so beautiful that other aristocrats in Italy hired Wolfgang to write other operas. He wrote two more during that trip: Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772). He was only a teenager at the time.
In March 1773, Mozart and his father returned home. When they got there, Mozart was appointed assistant concertmaster of the church and he was paid a small salary. A salary is an amount of money that someone gets paid regularly for doing a job. During this time, Mozart worked with many different types of music and wrote many amazing symphonies before he was even 21 years old.
Even though he was successful in writing a lot of music, Mozart started feeling like he wanted to leave his hometown of Salzburg and do something greater. He believed he could do that better somewhere else. Wolfgang traveled with his sister to Mannheim, Paris, and Munich, three large cities in Europe at the time. Unfortunately while they were on the trip, the got word that their mom had died and they returned home.
Wolfgang took on another job and continued writing a lot of music. He also taught music and played several concerts. Around this time, Mozart met a young woman named Constanze Weber and they fell in love. They got married and later had six children. However, it was not a healthy time in history and only two of their children survived being babies.
Wolfgang admired the works of other famous composers Johannes Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel and became obsessed with their music. Around this time, Mozart also met another famous composer named Joseph Haydn and the two composers became friends. When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes performed impromptu concerts with string quartets. Between 1782 and 1785 Mozart wrote six quartets dedicated to Haydn.
Mozart was making a lot of money from his concerts and music and he was becoming even more famous throughout Europe. He and Constanze had a very expensive lifestyle. However, because they spent so much money, they eventually found themselves poor again. Mozart decided that he wanted to get the job of court appointed musician, as it would pay him well. However there were others that wanted this job, including his rival Antonio Salieri.
Mozart wrote two operas during this time, one called The Marriage of Figaro in 1786 and one called Don Giovanni in 1787. They were both very popular and they helped him to get the job he was seeking. In December, 1787, Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang as his “chamber composer”.
Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at age 35. He had gotten sick with rheumatic fever and did not recover. Wolfgang died very young, even for that time period. At the time of his death, Mozart was considered one of the greatest composers of all time already. His music continues to be popular and his work has influenced many great composers that followed, most notably Beethoven.
Mozart may have been gifted, but it was his love of music and dedication to it that made him improve as a composer and musician. Mozart’s love of music shines through his pieces, which are still loved around the world today.
We can also learn from Mozart about the power of persistence. He exercised persistence throughout his life and did not give up as he worked to build his fame and later to support his family through his music.
Mozart’s life also teaches us about the importance of prudence. Mozart became very wealthy but did not take good care of his money and so he soon found himself poor again. If you work hard to achieve something in life, make sure that you take care of it. Be careful to save money and not spend too much so that you can enjoy your money throughout your life.
But most importantly, Mozart demonstrates the power of loving an art form like music and dedicating your time and energy into something that you love. Is there something that you love as much as Mozart loved music?