Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (January 27, 1756 — December 5, 1791) was a composer of Classical Music
, whose works are considered the pinnacle of the era. Along with Johann Sebastian Bach
, Johannes Brahms
and Richard Wagner
, is probably one of the best known composers of classical music. Birth Name: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart
Mozart's talent became evident at an early age
, and he was on the road as a touring musician by the age of six. He spent time living and composing in various European cities, always seeking patronage but not always finding it, and generally spending more money than he actually had (which is saying something, because he actually made a fair amount). He died at the young age of 35, survived by his wife Constanze and two children. Basically, anything Michael Jackson
did, Mozart did first, up to and including the Man Child
Mozart's works are known for their perfection of form and clarity, although they could also be quite fiery and emotional at times. In the public mind, his Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
IS classical music, as measured in "number of people who have it as their ringtone." Allegedly, Mozart was once able to smuggle state secrets out of the Vatican, in the form of Gregorio Allegri's Miserere (Psalm 51)
which, at the time, was by order of the Pope not performed anywhere
except the Sistine Chapel. ...Until Mozart heard it, carried it out in his head, and transcribed it almost perfectly from memory. Finally, he is famed for his operas
, including The Magic Flute
, which is frequently referred to in other texts, including an inevitable parody on The Simpsons
Mozart was very fond of Toilet Humor
, and even wrote a canon titled "Leck mich im Arsch", which translates as "Lick me in the arse" (or, perhaps more idiomatically, "kiss my arse"). Supposedly, he was also still playing with toy soldiers well into his thirties (mind you, this was long
before tabletop War Gaming
was a thing)note
and he died at 35. During those years he composed well over six hundred
separate pieces. note
Mozart's last days were fictionalised in the Peter Shaffer
play and 1984 film Amadeus
. It is worth noting, however, that due to a mix of Artistic License
and Rule of Drama Amadeus
is often regarded as hardly an accurate portrayal of the composer's life. In particular, many object to his "rivalry" Salieri really more of a respectful co-existence, and possibly an actual friendship.note
The story of the rivalry was made up wholesale by Alexandr Pushkin in his 1830 play Mozart i Salyeri
—written just 5 years after the death of Salieri. For what it is worth, the movie did get a few things completely right, though - by all accounts, Mozart's laugh was supposed to be just as annoying as it was on screen
, and (again) he was just as much of a boorish man-child as portrayed in the film. Adding to the mystique is the fact that Mozart was composing a Requiem funeral mass
at the time of his death, with some legends claiming that he passed away while attempting to scribble down the 9th measure of the Lacrimosa
(0:53 in this recording). Constanze chose a student of his, Franz Xaver Sussmayr [sic], to step in and finish what Mozart started
, and people are still arguing over how much of the work is Mozart's, Sussmayr's or a third party's, and whether Mozart would have agreed with the completed work. A few ambitious composers have even provided their own completions. Sussmayr's is by far the most famous, though, due to the simple expedient of having got there first. (It's his version you've heard movements of in movies, as it provides several Standard Snippets
and much of the Ominous Latin Chanting
in the Public Domain Soundtrack
catalogue, the most famous being the "Dies Irae
Mozart is one of the cultural bones of contention between Austrians and Germans, each regarding him as one of their own. Mozart was born in Salzburg, which is now part of Austria, but then was a state of its own in the Holy Roman Empire
. The Mozart family is from Swabia, Mozart's father specifically from Augsburg (now in Bavaria) and he ensured that his son held citizenship of that Free City. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart mostly worked in Salzburg and Vienna, but also in other cities such as Mannheim and Munich, and toured all over Europe. Apparently he particularly liked Prague, as the audience there was the most enthusiastic about his operas.
Is the main character of the French Rock Opera Mozart L'Opera Rock
Works of Mozart on this wiki include:
Mozart's life and music provide examples of:
- Ain't Too Proud to Beg: He sent repeated letters begging his friend Michael von Puchberg, asking for various amounts of money when times were bad for him. To his credit, Puchberg did give him money whenever he asked and was paid back in full after Mozart died by his wife, Constanze.
- All Love Is Unrequited: For Marie Antoinette. Not to mention Aloysia Weber, later his sister-in-law.
- Annoying Laugh: That hyena-like cackle that actor Tom Hulce adopted when portraying Mozart in the film Amadeus? Yeah, that was based on the composer's actual laugh. His friends stated that Mozart's laugh was like "grating a cobblestone down a piano's string".
- Awesome McCoolname: Wolfgang may sound pretty awesome to English speakers, but it's a quite common name among older Germans.
- Bags of Letters: The whole Mozart family were prolific letter writers, with modern collected editions spanning several volumes, in which they talked about everything. Naturally, Mozart's biographers are very pleased about this.
- Basso Profundo: Osmin from The Abduction from the Seraglio.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Mozart was a freemason, which led to conspiracy theories such as the one which has him murdered by the freemasons for divulging their secrets in The Magic Flute. Mozart wrote songs for masonic ceremonies; the melody of one of them, Brüder, reicht die Hand zum Bunde later became that of the national anthem of the Federal Republic of Austria.
- Child Prodigy: Mozart is famous for starting the piano at age 3, composing at 5, and writing his first symphony at 8. note
- Clown-Car Grave: Despite the fact that Mozart was quite wealthy at the time of his death, at that point in Vienna, only aristocrats were buried individually in a crypt. Everyone else had to make do with being buried in a common mass grave. Debate still rages as to whether this, that, or the other exhumed skull was Mozart's.
- Common Time: Unsurprisingly for his time, most of his music is in either 4/4, 3/4 (usually if it's a minuet) or 6/8. One surprising aversion is the last thing he probably ever wrote, the 'Lacrimosa' from his Requiem, which is in 12/8.
- Creepy Child: As a kid he was unusually small, thin, deathly pale, and behaved in a very serious and adult manner, intimidating many adults. note
- Embarrassing Nickname: Not for him, but he used to affectionately call his sister Nannerl "horse face".
- Epic Instrumental Opener: The aria "Martern Aller Arten" from The Abduction from the Seraglio has almost two minutes of fanfare and concertante-style orchestral solos before Konstanze starts singing.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: Go ahead, guess the plot of The Abduction from the Seraglio. The female lead is trapped in a seraglio. She has to be abducted from it. You guessed it!
- Excrement Statement: Of Salzburg and the Archbishop of it, he once wrote to his father "I care very little for [them]: I shit on both of them".
- Fiery Redhead: You'll never see it in his portraits, but under the powdered wigs, he apparently had light red hair. Go to the right museum and you can even see a lock of it for yourself.
- I Have Many Names: Baptised Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart. Went by Wolfgang Amadè Mozart in France, Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart in Germany and Wolfgango Amadeo Mozart in Italy. He seemed to prefer Amadè, and "Amadeus" only became popular after his death. For details see The Other Wiki, which has an article only for his name.
- Improv: He was a gifted improviser, so much so that when he wrote the scores for his piano concertos, he often didn't bother writing out the cadenzas, preferring to make them up on the spot (as he usually gave their first performance).
- Insufferable Genius: Would often start conversations with himself as he believed he was more interesting than the people around him.
- Kissing Cousins: He is rumoured to have had a sexual relationship with his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (or "Bäsle" as her nickname was). Given the amount of letters he sent her with toilet humour and sexual humour, it is probably true.
- Literal Ass Kicking: Reportedly, he got one from Archbishop Colloredo while being fired.
- Lonely Piano Piece: Applies to any minor movement of his piano sonatas, really.
- The second movement of his Piano Concerto No 23 in A. Especially the opening solo part (in F# minor, the only time Mozart used this key).
- Meaningful Name: Amadeus means "God's beloved". It is a Latinization of the Theophilus in his birth name. During his time, it was considered fashionable to use a Latin version of one's name. Mozart also used Gottlieb, a German version of the name, alluding to his German heritage.
- Melismatic Vocals: Mozart was very fond of melismatic lines (or 'coloratura', to use its technical name) in his operas, usually given to the soprano but on occasion to the tenor (eg the original version of 'Fuor del Mar' in Idomeneo, Re di Creta) or bass (The Abduction from the Seraglio). The more famous examples include:
- Music of Note: Damn near all of it. If you don't know Mozart, you don't know Classical Music.
- Odd Friendship: That the loud, brash, partyloving manchild Mozart would get along with a quiet nature-loving family man like Joseph Haydn seems fairly unlikely, but the two were friends and showed a great deal of admiration for the others' work.
- Overly Long Name: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, repeated three times in this page. Let's deconstruct:
- Johannes Chrysostomus: from St. John Chrysostom ("golden mouth"). Mozart was born on his feast day, January 27. Back then it was custom to name newborns from the saint who celebrates a feast day on his date of birth.
- Wolfgang: named from his musician Grandpa, who isn't much of a genius like him, though.
- Theophilus: meaning "God's beloved." It is often Latinized into Amadeus and occasionally translated into the German Gottlieb.
- Mozart: Could be considered to mean "Dumb Muscle." An ancestor of Mozart was apparently an idiot and got nicknamed "Motz," with the connotation of "fool" or "dirt for brains." Faced with inheriting an embarrassing surname, the fool's descendants classed it up by adding the suffix "-hart," which means "hard" or "tough." Hundreds of years worth of spelling variations resulted in "Mozart." Others have speculated that it's a place-name that became a surname.
- Raised Catholic: And he was for the rest of his life, too. He was so Catholic that when Voltaire died, he wrote to his father that "... the ungodly arch-villain Voltaire has died miserably like a dog — just like a brute. That is his reward!"
- Settle for Sibling: He originally wanted to marry Aloysia Weber, but she declined. He married her sister Constanze, instead, and the marriage was apparently successful.
- Short-Lived Big Impact: He died at just 35, yet produced much of the most highly-regarded classical music in history.
- Smug Super: "A fellow of mediocre talent will remain a mediocrity, whether he travels or not; but one of superior talent (which without impiety I cannot deny that I possess) will go to seed if he always remains in the same place."
- Sophisticated as Hell: Envision an ensemble of dignified classical musicians (preferably in powdered wigs) singing the canon "Leck mich in Arsch" (K. 231), meaning roughly "Lick me in the ass," and meaning more or less "Kiss my ass." This was a quote made famous by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe in Götz von Berlichingen.
- Stage Dad: Leopold Mozart makes this trope Older Than Radio.
- Standard Snippet: He's responsible for a lot of them. See also Public Domain Soundtrack. Notably:
- Stuffy Old Songs About the Buttocks: Possibly the first use of it, though his song,"Leck mich im arsch," lacks many properties of other buttocks songs.
- Stylistic Suck: Ein musikalischer Spaß (K. 522). A first movement whose melodic ideas have, for the time, uneven lengths and never seem to really go anywhere, a second movement in which the horns deliberately play wrong notes as though they have the wrong crooks, a third movement in which the first violin deliberately plays wrong notes very high in its register in the cadenza to parody untalented violinists overextending their reach, and a finale that runs out of ideas early on but keeps going anyway and then collapses in a cacophonous mess in its final measures as the four string instruments play in four different keys at once.note
- Tenor Boy: Mozart himself was a tenor, but most of his main male roles were 'basses' (actually what we'd call a 'baritone' nowadays), the only exceptions being comical male characters.
- Theme And Variations: Mozart loved this genre of music and he wrote several variations. They were mostly for solo keyboard and were either his own original themes or taken from other composers or tunes of the day — the most famous being K. 265, the variations on "Ah, vous dirai-je, Maman" — "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star" to the rest of us. He did occasionally write variations for bigger ensembles e.g. his Clarinet Quintet, K. 581.
- Vocal Range Exceeded: Parodied in his composition "A Musical Joke" not with vocals, but the violin. At the end of the violin solo near the end of the 3rd movement, the soloist plays ascending scales, slowing down and playing a whole-tone scale at the higher registers. This was to imitate a clumsy violinist floundering with high notes. The solo can be heard here. The ascending scale happens at 15:30.
- You Are Number Six: As most of Mozart's works lack a proper title (beyond "Sonata in B-flat major" or the like), musicologist Ludwig von Köchel went through them in the 1860s and systematically assigned numbers to every single piece of music Mozart ever wrote, numbering them in roughly the order he thought they were written.note The Marriage of Figaro, for example, is K. 492. These Köchel numbers range from K. 1 all the way out to K. 626. In the original German, the abbreviation used is "KV" for Köchelverzeichnis "Köchel register".