Other Side Drive: Wednesday Segments
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a name most of the western world
recognizes. The man behind this name is one of the most cherished
musicians in history. January 27th marked Mozart’s two-hundred and fifty-
seventh birthday. Born in Salzburg, Austria to a successful violinist and
composer, Leopold Mozart; Mozart was pushed into music at an early age
by his father. He began at three by mimicking his sister as she practiced.
His father soon began to teach him and soon it was obvious that Mozart
had a gift, even with his father’s guidance; that devoted a lot of time to the
education of his children. By age six Mozart began performing all over
Europe as a child prodigy with his sister. During his trips he was exposed
to many members of high society and other great musicians; one of which
was Sebastian Bach whom would become a heavy musical influence
throughout Mozart’s life.
The performances and exposure to such great artists were helping
build Mozart into the great composer he would become. By the time he was
21 he had already composed a number of: symphonies, string quartets,
sonatas, serenades and operas. He would then go onto compose the Piano
Concerto Number 9 in E flat major. At this point Mozart was the assistant
concert master in Salzburg but he was then summoned to Vienna by the
Archbishop. He was becoming discontent with his position in Salzburg but
he did not receive the attention he hoped for when he arrived in Vienna.
The Archbishops hospitality was a bit cold. He was treated more as a
servant than a guest and so after a dispute Mozart offered to resign and
the Archbishop at first refused but then had immediately removed. Without
work Mozart decided to stay in Vienna and began taking on pupils, writing
music, and playing a few concerts.
In 1782 Mozart married Constanze Weber. His father greatly
disapproved of their union but eventually gave his blessing. They had six
kids but only two sons survived infancy. Mozart found European fame with
the composition of the opera Die Entfuhrung. He began to make
considerable money from performances and the publication of his music
and his family now enjoyed a very comfortable lifestyle. With more
freedom Mozart began focusing on performing self-produced concerts as a
soloist; he would organize a number of performances sometimes in
unconventional places such as large rooms of apartment buildings and
ballrooms of expensive restaurants. The success would not last for too
long and Mozart would begin to fall on financial problems again. Until his
collaboration with Lorenzo Da Ponte the Venetian composer and poet; with
him Mozart would compose two of his most important works The Marriage of
Figaro and Don Giovanni. Both are some of the most recognizable operatic
works. They were hailed for their complexity and focus on ensemble.
Mozart went on never fully reaching his initial fame. He published
many more works but they did not see the same success. Mozart died at
the age of 35. This was young, even for the time. It is unclear what exactly
the cause of death was but many historians believe it was acute rheumatic
fever; which he suffered from throughout his life. He was not given a public
memorial and was buried in a commoner’s grave. This was the Viennese
custom at the time. Only nobility and aristocrats were given public
memorials and marked graves.
Mozart was highly regarded as a musician and composer during his
lifetime; but he did not receive the great deal of praise or claim until after
his death. It was not until he had become a permanent fixture in history that
we were able to look upon the mantle of his work and appreciate his true
genius. Mozart was a devoted artist putting so much of his life into his work
even when it did not mean a great deal of fame or money was guaranteed.
His influence has reached far beyond classical music and into the musical
consciousness of even today. Mozart has become as much a part of music
as he has history.