Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a child prodigy who became an adult genius, died in debt and was buried in an unmarked grave in his adopted home of Vienna.
Mozart needed no formal lessons in composition. He’d been composing since the age of five, and possessed astonishing musical memory, able to re-create whatever he heard or saw. He could mimic different styles and his travels, which were endless, gave him plenty to imitate whether sacred, dramatic or instrumental. As he said, ‘I can pretty well adapt or conform myself to any style or composition.’ He was not the tortured artist but could compose whilst playing billiards or skittles, ordering the musical ideas in his head so exactly that writing them down was a slightly mechanical affair, requiring little effort. The music was there in its entirety in his head.
Mozart struggled with relationships, revealing a strong sense of abandonment beneath the surface. Quick to judge, he possessed a sharp manner himself, but saw only the upset that others caused him. He had a long list of foes and his battles with them he describes in much detail. A difficult relationship with his controlling father Leopold was partially offset by a happy marriage to Constanze, a genuine oasis in a world he found frustrating. Mozart was a phenomenal performer as well as composer, enjoying moments of great adulation. But these never turned into financial security. For this reason, he was a reluctant piano teacher throughout his life.
‘Conversations with Mozart’ is an imagined conversation with the man behind the music who died largely unnoticed at the age of 35. But while the questions are imagined, Mozart’s words are not; they are all authentically his, taken from his many letters.
He was the eternal child. As his sister Nannerl said, ‘Outside of music he was, and remained, nearly always a child.’ But he was a child with a seat at the very top composers’ table; a conduit for the most perfectly shaped musical argument, sublime harmonies and with a deep understanding of drama and emotion. ‘There’s never a dull moment with Wolfgang,’ says Simon Parke. ‘He’s fascinating on the subject of music, and beguiling on the soap opera of his life. He understood music better than he understood himself, which brought suffering. But he was determined to be cheerful. Hope was always round the next corner for Wolfgang.’
About the author
Although Mozart is one of the most famous names in Classic musical history, his renown stretches way beyond that genre and even music itself. Even though he died over two hundred years ago his name and works are recognised across the globe and his groundbreaking and prolific efforts in such a variety of styles within the Classical canon have yet to be surpassed.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27th, 1756, in Salzburg, in the Bavarian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire, an area that is in modern day Austria. He was a young prodigy, mastering various instruments before he was five years old. By the time he was four he had already began writing short pieces and gave his first public performance at the age of five.
Although he was one of seven siblings only he and a sister Maria survived early childhood. Maria, nicknamed Nanneri, was also very talented musically as was his father Leopold who was a composer as well as a musician. When Mozart was seven the three of them embarked on a tour of Europe that took in London, Paris, and many other major European cities.
The European adventure, which was a major success and saw the Mozart family wow royalty along the way, came to a conclusion in 1766 and upon their return to Salzburg Wolfgang began writing more seriously. By the following year he had written his first opera “Bastien und Bastienne” and he was starting to develop works that were way beyond his years.
At the age of 17 Wolfgang was appointed Concert Musician of the Salzburg Court and he embarked on further tours with Leopold and Nanneri, this time exclusively in Italy where he studied Italian opera which he quickly mastered. He returned to Salzburg in 1773 where his prolific writing bore yet more fruit as he wrote major works in various sub-genres of Classical music such as violin concertos, masses, chamber music and symphonies.
In 1777 he left his position as Concert Musician after a falling out with the Archbishop of Salzburg. He travelled around Europe spending time in Paris and Munich before returning to Salzburg in 1779 to reluctantly take up the position of Concert Master, a job that his father had arranged for him that he felt was beneath him.
In 1781 Mozart’s opera, ‘Idomeneo’, debuted with great success in Munich and the fame it brought him furthered his displeasure at his position in Salzburg and after a rather undignified end to the arrangement he moved to Vienna.
There his reputation grew rapidly, and he quickly became known as the best keyboard player in the city; his opera, ‘Die Entführung aus dem Serail’, solidifying his standing as one of the great composers of the age. While in Vienna he met and fell in love with Constanze Weber and the couple married in 1784 and would go on to have six children of which only two survived early childhood.
Whilst in Vienna Mozart studied the masters of the Baroque style and would go on to master the form himself and compose many influential works. In his later years his circumstances worsened considerably along with many other musicians as Austria was at war. His health also suffered but as his finances dwindled and his life ebbed away he became obsessed with completing one of his most famous pieces; ‘Requiem’.
It is more than likely that Mozart was too ill to complete ‘Requiem’ and that his wife said that he had to claim the final payment for the commission of the work. Regardless of who actually put the finishing touches to the piece, since Mozart’s death on December 5th, 1791, it is considered by many to be a masterpiece and a fitting swansong to an extraordinary talent.
Publisher: White Crow Books
Published October 2010
Duration: 2 hrs 56 minutes