Mozart: His Life and Works

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Mozart: His Life and Works

John Smith
Hum 100
Winter Term
March 03, 2010

Independent, freelance musicians are rarely seen, but after a rough dismissal by Archbishop Colloredo, that was what Mozart became. After Mozart’s tragic dismissal, he traveled to Vienna with the hopes of becoming employed in the court of Emperor Joseph II. Although his hopes were tragically disappointed, he managed to triumph in all musical categories and earned a high wage.

Mozart explored all fields of music but was particularly interested in the genre of opera. At the time, opera was the most high-paying road for a musician to take. Not only did Mozart triumph in this genre, he changed the way it was written and performed, “The former ‘gallant’ virtuosic contest between soloist and orchestra of the earlier, pre-Vienna works is resolved by Mozart, transforming it instead into a stark, dramatic contrast.”1 However, a lack of money-control led Mozart to a tragic situation as a debtor before he died.

Mozart’s Rise to Fame
Born in Salzburg, Austria on 27 January 1756, the child was christened Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. His father, Leopold, a composer, violinist, court musician and chamber composer, already triumphed with his book, “The Violin School.” As children, Mozart, and his sister Nannerl, showed great musical talent and Leopold began to devote all of his spare time to further his children’s skill for himself and the family, “[…] he surrendered his chances for advancement in his career, preferring to gamble on his children providing for the security of the family.”2

Realizing that the gifts Nannerl and Wolfgang had could lead them to success far greater than the confines of Salzburg, Leopold took the whole family on a tour in mid-1763. First, they traveled to Munich and then to Vienna, where Mozart and Nannerl triumphed in their performance for the Habsburg royal family. Even though no musical postings had been offered, Wolfgang had grown immensely with his musical abilities. 3

Although Mozart’s music was considered to be one of the best in the history of the world, he was born into a tragic situation where he did not need to worry about his financial condition. Everything that happened was taken care of by Leopold.4 His childish characteristics were not appreciated at the strict Austrian court and offended many people. A tragic lack of self-control where money was concerned led to the many debts that Mozart had towards the end of his life. Also, his condescending attitude towards his colleagues, whom he considered “mediocre,” led him to establish powerful enemies who were able to do much damage to Mozart’s social status.

The Child Prodigy
After Mozart’s first triumphant Grand Tour at the age of 7, he returned home for nine months before traveling once again to Vienna. The reason Leopold submitted to the Archbishop for his venture was to attend the Imperial Habsburg family at the marriage of a daughter. The unstated reason, however, was to seek a better post for Mozart and Leopold. The Mozart family was received well in Vienna, but a tragic outbreak of smallpox kills the bride and very nearly kills Wolfgang as well. After he recovered, Leopold achieved a royal commission for Wolfgang to write an opera. However, intrigues, jealousies, and an ill-conceived complaint to the royal family resulted in canceling the performance after Mozart composed La finta semplice (K.51). “All the clavier-players and composers in Vienna – with the sole exception of Wagenseil, who, however, is sick… - opposed our advancement.”5 Although the opera was not performed in Vienna, it most likely was later on in Salzburg.

After returning to Salzburg, Leopold continued to find projects for Wolfgang. He succeeded in gaining contracts to compose operas for courts in Italy. Leopold and Mozart made three trips to Italy between 1770-73. Wolfgang composed the operas Mitridate (K.87) and Lucia Silla (K.135) along the way and had...
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