Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus (Joannes Chrysostomos Wolfgangus Theophilus)

Composer

b Salzburg, Austria 1756, d Vienna, Austria 1791. A budding mathematician and confident composer at the age of 5, he was accomplished on the violin and harpsichord 6. He spent the next 4 years touring the courts and capitals of Europe as a child prodigy, giving recitals with his similarly gifted older sister and their violinist father who had resigned his own post as court musician to nurture his talented children. This tour included London for 15 months, 1764–65. But he lived mostly in Austria, being appointed to the musical staff at Salzburg and undertaking further tours to Italy and a less happy stay in Paris before settling in Vienna, aged 25. He made friends with J Haydn (qv, 24 years older), who influenced his early work, recognised his supreme genius and long outlived him. In spite of his extraordinary achievements he was often short of money, receiving innumerable glittering presents but somewhat erratic payment; ‘more snuff-boxes than silver’. More significantly, a chronic gambling streak further depleted his resources as he squandered his earnings on various forms of gaming. Cramming enormous enthusiasm and energy into the days and nights of his short life, he died at the age of 35. While the musical public of Germany grieved, his wife Constance could hardly afford the cost of his coffin; the Emperor had decreed that funerals should be stripped of ceremony, so on a December day of rain and sleet, with a tiny group of mourners, he was buried with two others in a pauper’s grave. Widely regarded as the most completely equipped of all composers, he wrote 50 symphonies, many operas (notably The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni, 1786 and 1787), concertos, much church music and chamber music, many songs, and compositions for piano, orchestra and church; rather less for the organ. While his Salzburg birthplace is appropriately marked, the impressively modernised ‘Mozarthaus’ in Vienna vividly and realistically celebrates his memory. No.734=761=832.