This child prodigy, Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was born in Salzburg in 1756. We all know him as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or simply Mozart for short. His family and friends used to call him Wolferl and he at some point also started calling himself Amadé instead of Theophilus. The many names may be confusing but it was obvious from very early on that Mozart was destined for greater things. His father was a music teacher and gave Mozart his first music lessons on the piano, violin and in composition when he was just three. Mozart started writing his first pieces soon after. At six he was so good that his father organised concert tours for him. Salzburg's first sensation …
Early years of success throughout Europe
Mozart travelled across Europe and gave concerts for nearly one third of his life. He was always met with great enthusiasm. His growing popularity led to greater commission work, starting at first with piano pieces and chamber music through to the great operas and very impressive symphonies and masses.
Mozart and Salzburg – a love-hate relationship
Mozart’s father Leopold as well as Wolfgang Amadeus did not have an easy time with their employers, the archbishops. Their quarrels even led to Mozart being kicked in his behind. Mozart left soon after this incident in 1781. He moved to Vienna and vented his anger in letters and in his diary, which are too crude to quote here.
Volatile years in Vienna
Mozart moved to Vienna in 1781 where he had already spent a year as a child. He went freelance, taking on commission work and giving piano lessons – and earned good money. But his higher earnings encouraged an excessive lifestyle. He often squandered all he had and was forced to borrow money several times. Days of wine and gambling were followed by phases of work that were just as intense. In 1782, however, he married Constanze Weber and they had 6 children, but only two survived infancy.
An abrupt end
Mozart experienced bouts of success as well as hardship in his final years. His greatest public success was The Magic Flute. Only a few weeks later, aged 35, he became bedridden and wasn’t able to finish probably his most important and impressive composition – the Requiem. His student Franz Süßmayr is said to have finished it or him.
There has been a lot of speculation regarding Mozart’s death – claims of poison to syphilis through to a genetic illnesses, even the miliary fever recorded in the death certificate has been disputed.
One of the greatest composers in the world?
Mozart’s influence has remained huge to this very day. We have all heard of Mozart, recognise many of his compositions. His status today as probably the most famous composer in the world is not just down to his unbelievable talent. No, he constantly tried out new things, practised, worked hard and had the amazing skill of absorbing and retaining music.
Nowadays we tend to think of Mozart’s music as easy-going, pleasant, with beautiful melodies – you simply have to think of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (Serenade no. 13). But in the last few years of his life, Mozart created some of his most beautiful works with religious music and operas. He has influenced generations of musicians. Who knows what Mozart could have achieved had he not passed away so young?
Salzburg, the City of Mozart
Try and walk through Salzburg without stumbling over Mozart and his name. Sometimes it’s difficult to tell whether it has a genuine connection or is simply a clever business idea. Have fun finding out for yourself:
- Mozart’s Birthplace is at Getreidegasse 9, close to the Staatsbrücke bridge. Mozart’s family life comes alive on three floors. A must if you are visiting Salzburg.
- Mozart’s Residence, where the family lived for nearly 15 years, is at Makart Square on the other side of Salzach and now also houses a museum. If you have the SalzburgerLand Card, then admission is free at both the Birthplace and the Residence.
- The Mozarteum – one of the most famous conservatories in the world. Young musicians from all over the world flock to Salzburg every year to get a place at this institution that is nearly 180 years old. Treat your ears to one of the first-class performances by the students and lecturers of the Mozarteum held in concert halls in Salzburg.
- Mozart Square: the statue of Mozart right next to the cathedral overlooks the composer’s former place of work.
- Mozartkugel: the ideal souvenir and gift for any occasion. Real pros insist on the original Fürst Mozartkugel – the ones with silver and blue wrapping paper.
- You can see a number of exciting things, from Mozartsteg to various Mozart cafés and Mozart’s Residence through to violinists and flute players wearing Mozart costumes. But if you delve further into the souvenir shops, you’ll find a whole lot more …
Follow in the great composer’s footsteps and discover Salzburg with the SalzburgerLand Card.