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, Beethoven, Johannes Brahms and Richard Wagner, he is probably one of the best known and most influential composers of classical music. Birth Name: Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.note
Mozart's talent became evident at an early age, and his father, the composer and teacher Leopold Mozart, had his son on the road as a touring musician by the age of six. On October 13, 1762, he met Marie Antoinette while performing for her family. There was a long-standing rumor that after he tripped and she helped him up, he fell in love with her and begged her to marry him even though they were only children. 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 Manchild bit.
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.
You may be surprised to learn that he was actually 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 from an illness. 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, Rule of Drama and Unreliable Narrator, Amadeus is very much not an accurate portrayal of the composer's life. In particular, many object to the depiction of his "rivalry" with Antonio Salieri, which in reality was more of a guarded but respectful co-existence; Mozart privately resented the fact that, because in those days it was cool for musicians to be Italian, Salieri, being Italian, got more respect from the court than he himself did, but the two men seem to have been on reasonably friendly terms, and there's no evidence to support the idea that Salieri was violently jealous of Mozart's talent.note The story of the rivalry was made up wholesale by Alexander Pushkin in his 1830 play Mozart i Salyeri—written just 5 years after the death of Salieri. For what it's worth, the movie did get a few things completely right: 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 getting 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" sequence.)
His life is also covered in the Kunze/Levay German-language musical Mozart!. Like Amadeus, it's by no means accurate.
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. Mozart considered himself German and was evidently proud of his German fatherland.
Being one of the best-known composers of Classical Music, Mozart gets gets referenced a lot in all kinds of media. Odds are pretty good if a famous classical composer needs to make an appearance, it will either be him or Ludwig van Beethoven.
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 his wife, Constanze, paid him back in full.
- 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. Accounts written by Mozart's friends stated that his laugh was like the "braying of a jackass" and "grating a cobblestone down a piano's string".
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: When Mozart was a young boy, he once performed to Daines Barrington, a fellow of the Royal Society, when a cat came in. Mozart immediately left the harpsichord and a considerable amount of time was spent trying to get him back.
- 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 and the Commendatore from Don Giovanni.
- Brotherhood of Funny Hats: Mozart was a Freemason in the last seven years of his life, 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 (his last completed work was the Masonic cantata "Laut verkünde unsre Freude"); 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. However, Mozart was also a Catholic, and joining the Freemasons was an act that would normally result in an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church. However, he never saw a conflict between Catholicism and Masonry, and the Church's opposition to Masonry became known in Austria in 1792, a year after his death. Ironically enough, Pope Benedict XVI is a fan of Mozart's works despite his vehement opposition to Freemasonry, having written a letter denouncing the society and declaring that those who join Masonic organisations are in a state of grave sin.
- Bunny-Ears Lawyer: He was a thoroughly eccentric man prone to childish behavior, but also one of the greatest composers of all time, to the point where by the modern day, hundreds of books argue whether or not he had The Gift, whether he was mentally stunted or a harebrained genius or both, whether he had a rivalry with this or that contemporary musician, or whether he literally sold his soul to music.
- Child Prodigy: Mozart is famous for starting the piano at age 3, composing at 5, writing his first symphony at 8 and his first opera, Apollo et Hyacinthus at 11note . Saying he had The Gift is probably an understatement; Mozart just got it.
- 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 about 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. In fact, the Royal Society tested whether he was a kid or a dwarf by having him perform for one of its fellows, Daines Barrington. Barrington sent a letter confirming that Mozart was indeed a child, pointing out that Mozart was once playing to him when a cat distracted him mid-performance. He also noted that Mozart sometimes ran around the room with a stick between his legs as if it were a horse.
- 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 its Archbishop, 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.
- Hard Work Hardly Works: Big time averted. He grew up in a family of hardcore musicians and practiced day and night well into his later years. The fact that he has goofy as all hell in his private life does not detract from the fact that he is Talented, but Trained incarnate for classical music.
- I Have Many Names: Baptised Johannes 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.
- Impossible Genius: If the 1984 film Amadeus were to be believed, Mozart did all of his composing in his head and simply wrote down what he had already completed mentally. Except, he didn't. Mozart, much like any other normal composer would, worked his musical ideas out on the keyboard, made sketches of his pieces and went back and revised them frequently. The superhuman abilities that have been ascribed to him are myth and only started many years after he had died. Mozart himself admitted that he spent a great deal of time carefully studying composition and the works of other masters, and that the idea that his art was easy for him was a mistake.
- 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 number of letters he sent her with toilet humour and sexual humour, it is probably true.
- Last Note Nightmare: The last three bars of "A Musical Joke" are in a polytonal jumble of five different keys.
- 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:
- "Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen" and "O zittre nicht, mein lieber Sohn" from The Magic Flute.
- "Martern aller Arten" from The Abduction from the Seraglio — described by Salieri in Amadeus as "ten minutes of ghastly scales and arpeggios, whizzing up and down like fireworks at a fairground".
- Obligatory Bondage Song: The aria "Batti, Batti, o bel Masetto" from Don Giovanni translates as, "Beat me, dear Masetto, / Beat your poor Zerlina. / I'll stand here meek as a lamb / And bear the blows you lay on me...." Though subverted as well, when he refuses and she takes that as proof that he really loves her after all.
- Odd Friendship: That the loud, brash, party-loving 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.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Any of his religious choral works, but especially the Requiem.
- 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.
- Perpetual Poverty: Mozart and his wife were chronically short of money during their marriage, though this occurred because of overspending and poor budgeting rather than a lack of income.
- Real Men Love Jesus: Mozart was a devout Catholic and the Church played an important role in his life. He composed more than sixty pieces of sacred music, such as his Church Sonatas (one-movement pieces intended to be played during Mass between the reading of the Epistle and the Gospel) and Masses, perhaps the most famous of which is his Requiem. He also did not think highly of Voltaire, an anti-Christian philosophe, and wrote this in a letter to his father shortly after Voltaire died: "I must give you a piece of intelligence that you perhaps already know — namely, that the ungodly arch-villain Voltaire has died miserably like a dog — just like a brute. That is his reward!" In the last seven years of his life, Mozart became a Freemason, an act that would normally result in an automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church. However, he never saw a conflict between Catholicism and Masonry, and the Church's opposition to Masonry became known in Austria in 1792, a year after his death.
- Rich in Dollars, Poor in Sense: Mozart was born into the noble class and earned a king's fortune through his career. The only problem is that Mozart was also an eccentric spender and arguably the Trope Codifier of musicians burning through their earnings in record time. He didn't die broke, but through his intense partying he'd essentially spent himself pack to where he started.
- The Rock Star: With Mozart's drug and alcohol abuse and relative infamy as a partying musician in his own time and widespread fame after his death, he is one of the trope builders. In fact, Falco's beloved hit song is a Rock Star Song about Mozart.
- 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.
- Shout-Out: He arranged his own version of George Frederic Handel's Messiah (with a bigger orchestra, and in German), and was inspired by it himself; the "Kyrie Eleison" from Mozart's Requiem is based on "And With His Stripes We Are Healed" from Messiah.
- 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:
- "Alla Turca", the finale of his Piano Sonata No.11 in A major.
- "Dies Irae" and "Lacrimosa" from the Requiem — a favorite source of Ominous Latin Chanting.
- Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, possibly the most famous melody in all of Classical Music.note
- Piano Sonata No. 16, AKA "Sonata facile", a popular piece with young piano students.
- The head motive of the first movement of his 40th symphony has also reached this status.
- "Se vuol ballare" and "Non più andrai" from The Marriage of Figaro, both of which are codified as mainstays of lyric baritone repertoire.
- Meanwhile, the Queen of the Night Aria from The Magic Flute is the coloratura soprano aria. It features an ironically jaunty melody in a very high range, and is otherwise known for being virtually impossible for humans to sing.
- 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: Music historians are still debating whether Ein musikalischer Spaß (usually translated as A Musical Jokenote ), a divertimento for two horns, two violins, viola, and double bass, is deliberately bad or an excuse for Mozart to experiment.note A popular version of the former theory holds that he was parodying untalented local musicians who composed pieces to show off their (modest) skill as performers but knew only what the great composers did, not why they did it. Throughout, the fictional bad composer doesn't seem to know what to do with the viola and has no clue how to write for double bass or horn. The individual movements have their own comically terrible devices:
- The first movement tries to follow a paint-by-numbers sonata allegro but can't fit its trite melodic ideas into the mould properly. Phrases go on for too long or not long enough, modulations try to gather steam but fall back on themselves, and several passages feature accompanying figures with no melody over the top.
- The second movement minuet includes jarring parallel fifths, a mistuned passage for horns suggesting they have the wrong crooks,note a disproportionately long trio that climaxes with the melody running out of accompaniment, and a loud and awkward final gesture better suited to a march.
- The slow third movement tries to showcase the first violin, only to bypass introducing the main theme in favour of going straight into mindless decorative filigree, so that by the time the violin gets a solo cadenza, it has run out of ideas and just saws away to pad things out, ultimately climbing so high up its register that it goes horribly out of tune and re-centres itself with an incongruous single pizzicato low G (possibly representing a string breaking) and poorly executed trill.
- The finale follows the first movement's lead in trying and failing to fit its banal musical ideas into a sonata allegro structure. Contrapuntal passages never get off the ground, the horns have to sustain notes for a ridiculously long time while the strings repeat the same fragment ad nauseam, and the final measures are a polytonal mess as the four string musicians play in different keys to each other and to the horns.
- Take That!: Reportedly, when Aloysia Weber turned down his marriage proposal at a party, the disgruntled Mozart walked over to a nearby piano and proceeded to entertain the guests with the folk song "Leck mich das Mensch im Arsch, das mich nicht will" (roughly: "Anyone who doesn't like me can kiss my ass").
- 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 sets of variations. They were mostly for solo keyboard and were either based on 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 (and contrary to what is sometimes stated, Mozart did not create the tune himself, only this set of variations on it). He did occasionally write variations for bigger ensembles e.g. his Clarinet Quintet, K. 581 or the last movement of the 24th Piano Concerto, K. 491.
- Toilet Humor: The Other Wiki devotes an entire article to Mozart And Scatology, thanks to the abundance of scatological references in his letters and even his music (see "Leck Mich Im Arsch," mentioned elsewhere on the page.) Some scholars, embarrassed by such humor (which is generally less socially acceptable now than it was in 18th-century Europe), have theorized that he may have had a mental condition such as Hollywood Tourette's. But the typical consensus is he just liked potty jokes.
- 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.