Mozart was one of the world’s great composers. He is what historian’s of music call, the classical period. Mozart sadly died before his 36th birthday, however he still left behind over 600 compositions including his greatest opera “Don Giovanni”.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 17 January 1756 in Salzberg, Austria, the son of a respected musician. His father Leopold was the leader of a local orchestra. He also was noted for penning the first important book about violin playing.
By the age of three, Mozart showed signs of remarkable musical talent. He first learnt to play the harpsichord, an instrument related to the piano, and he was only 4 years old. By 5 he was already composing music. And at 6, he played for the Austrian empress at her court in Vienna.
Before he turned 14 years, Mozart had composed many works called sonatas, as well as orchestral and other works specifically designed for the harpsichord, piano or violin.
Seeing his son had so much potential, his father devoted most of his time to his son’s general and musical education. Mozart would accompany his father on many tours through most of Europe. For young Mozart, considering he never attended school, this was the closest he would get to a field trip. Mozart during this time, continued to compose, give public performances, meet musicians, and play the organ in many churches. By 16 years, Mozart had already written 25 symphonies and his first string quartets.
His travels brought him much honor, but not much money, and he tended to be quite extravagant with what little he earned.
In 1769, like his father before him, he began working for the archbishop of Salzburg, who also ruled the province. Leopold and young Mozart of ten would clash with the archbishop, mainly because Mozart was often absent from Salzburg. In 1781, The archbishop finally dismissed young Mozart.
Mozart was finally free and happy to be leaving Salzburg. Mozart knew if he wanted to have fame and fortune, if wouldn’t happen in Salzburg. He would have to move to Vienna, one of the music capitals of Europe. No longer a child prodigy, people started taking less notice of him. He may no longer be a child, but he was a brilliant performer and extremely active as a composer.
Mozart had two loves, his first was his music, and then he had Constanze Weber 20 years whom he married whilst living in Vienna in 1782 at age 26. It was in September 1777, while staying in Manneheim with his mother, that Mozart first met Constanze’s family, the Webbers. He fell in love with her eldest sister, Aloysia, a singer of opera, but his father Leopold, who never trusted the Webber family, persuaded him against it. A year later Aloysia’s feeling for Mozart had cooled and he wrote to his father in 1778, “I can only weep. I have far too sensitive a heart”.
Nevertheless Mozart stayed in close touch with the family and in 1781, he wrote his father again revealing his plans to marry.
Mozart brought with him to his marriage an engaging personality, limitless talent and plenty of optimism, but few prospects. He made a promise to the Webbers, that if he did not marry Constanze within three years, he would pay her family 300 gulden every year for the rest of his life. Within the three years, they married at St. Stephens Cathedral in Vienna. There was not a dry eye in the church, even the priest shedding one or two. Constanze was frequently ill, and often with child. In the nine years together, she gave birth to six children, only two of who survived. Mozart was often forced to go on tour just to pay the doctors bills for Constanze.
Marriage as difficult as it was, with lack of money, Constanzes sickness and his own health problems, consoled him. Whilst away in Frankfurt, his thoughts turned to Constanze in Vienna. He wrote, “I fear I am in for a restless life… Well it is probable that my concert will not be a failure. I wish it were over, if only to be nearer the time when I shall once more embrace my love”.
Whenever they were apart, Mozart and Constanze exchanged loving letters.
Once whilst in Frankfurt, and in desperate need of money, Mozart was forced to take on engagements, against his will. He writes to Constanze:-
“Perhaps if you were with me, I might possibly take more pleasure in the kindness of those I meet here. But as it is, everything seems so empty.
Though Mozart probably was “the Greatest Composer of his Time”, he was struggling financially. He did not have a regular job in Vienna and tried to earn a living by selling his compositions, giving public performances, and giving music lessions. None of which produced enough income to support his family. He even made a point of travelling to Germany for the coronation of a new emperor, but his concerts still didn’t attract as much attention as he had hoped.
Mozart’s health was deteriorating. In 1791, he was working on his opera “The Magic Flute, when a mysterious stranger, now believed to be Count F. Von Walsegg-Stuppach, left an anonymous letter, commissioning him to write the score for the requiem mass. As he worked on the piece, Mozart was convinced more and more that he was writing a mass for his own funeral. Constanze tried to calm him and stop him from working so hard and such long hours. She even took the unfinished score away from him. Close to death, and an hour after midnight, he turned to his sister in law Sophie Webber and said
“I already have the taste of death on my tongue, and who can support my dearest Constanze if I cannot stay”.
Mozart died in poverty in 1781.
After Mozarts death, Constanze was left in a difficult situation, with many debts consuming her. It was then, that Constanze’s was forced to look at her life as a business. She first obtained a pension from the Emperor. She then organized profitable memorial concerts and began to publish her husbands works. This new direction eventually made Constanze financially secure. In 1809, she re-married George Nikolaus von Nissen, who was living with her as her tenant. Together they both settled in Salzberg and wrote Mozarts biography and published their efforts. In 1828 her second husbands died.
During her last years, both her sisters Aloysia and Sophie, also widows, moved in with her to live out there lives together.
Soon after Mozarts death, 22 of his compositions gained wide recognition and they still please audiences worldwide. Mozart wrote over 40 symphonies many of which are still performed today. A catalog of Mozarts works was first prepared by Ludwig Kochel a German music lover. To this very day, Mozarts compositions are still identified by the original numbers Kochel assigned to them.
Today Mozarts music is known and admired thoughout the world. There is even a famous festival held each summer in Salzburg which features his music.