Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on 27 January 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 5 December 1791, it is considered by many to be a masterpiece and a fitting swansong to an extraordinary talent.