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Wolfgang Amadé Mozart  

This book was described in Germany as the most thought provoking book of the year and it looks at Mozart's life and work from new and different perspectives. Georg Knepler, the author, has made use of the Mozart family's correspondence and his study of Mozart's music to give the reader a new slant on his creative thoughts, his political ideas and his relation to the currents of Enlightenment.

 

The Mostly Mozart Guide to Mozart  

Mozart was one of the most prolific, popular and profound composers of all time and this book gives us a concise biography plus a survey of his most important works. His life is described against the background of the society in which he lived and worked.

 

WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART a Biography

Mozart 1756-1791 was born in Salzburg, Austria and wasa prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He is among the most enduringly popular of all the classical composers.

Leopold Mozart, his father, also a minor composer was deputy Kapellmeister to the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg and taught his children languages and academic subjects as well as music.Mozart was a keen student and at the age of 5 was composing little pieces for the clavier and playing the violin.

During Mozart's formative years, his family made several European journeys in which he and his sister Nannerl performed as child prodigies. These began with an exhibition in 1762 at the court of the Prince-electorMaximilian III of Bavaria in Munich, then in the same year at the Imperial Court in Vienna and Prague. A long concert tour spanning three and a half years followed, taking the family to the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, again to Paris, and back home via Zürich,Donaueschingen, and Munich. During this trip Mozart met a great number of musicians and acquainted himself with the works of other composers. A particularly important influence was Johann Christian Bach, whom Mozart visited in London in 1764 and 1765. The family again went to Vienna in late 1767 and remained there until December 1768.

These trips were often arduous. Travel conditions were primitive, the family had to wait patiently for invitations and reimbursement from the nobility, and they endured long, near-fatal illnesses far from home: first Leopold (London, summer 1764 then both children (The Hague, autumn 1765).

After one year in Salzburg, father and son set off for Italy, leaving Wolfgang's mother and sister at home. This travel lasted from December 1769 to March 1771. As with earlier journeys, Leopold wanted to display his son's abilities as a performer and as a rapidly maturing composer. In Rome he heard Gregorio Allegri's Miserere once in performance in the Sistine Chapel. He wrote it out in its entirety from memory, only returning to correct minor errors—thus producing the first illegal copy of this closely guarded property of the Vatican.

In Milan, Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770), which was performed with success. This led to further opera commissions. He returned with his father later twice to Milan.Leopold hoped these visits would result in a professional appointment for his son in Italy, but such hopes were never fulfilled.

 

After finally returning with his father from Italy on 13 March 1773, Mozart was employed as a court musician by the ruler of Salzburg Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. The composer was a favorite son in Salzburg, where he had a great number of friends and admirers. He had the opportunity to work in many genres, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, serenades, and a few minor operas. Several of these early works are still performed today. Between April and December of 1775, Mozart developed an enthusiasm for violin concertos, producing a series of five (the only ones he ever wrote), which steadily increase in their musical sophistication. In 1776 he turned his efforts to piano concertos, culminating in the E-flat concerto K. 271 of early 1777, considered by critics to be a breakthrough work.

Despite these artistic successes, Mozart grew increasingly discontent with Salzburg and redoubled his efforts to find a position elsewhere. One reason was his low salary, 150 florins per year;but also, Mozart longed to compose operas, and Salzburg provided only rare occasions for these. The situation worsened in 1775 when the court theater was closed, especially since the other theater in Salzburg was largely reserved for visiting troupes.

Two long expeditions in search of work (both Leopold and Wolfgang were looking) interrupted this long Salzburg stay: they visited Vienna from 14 July to 26 September 1773, and Munichfrom 6 December 1774 to March 1775. Neither visit was successful, though the Munich journey resulted in a popular success with the premiere of Mozart's opera La finta giardiniera.

1777–1778: The Paris journey

In August 1777, Mozart resigned his Salzburg position and on 23 September ventured out once more in search of employment, with visits to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich. Since Archbishop Colloredo would not give Leopold leave to travel, Mozart's mother Anna Maria was assigned to accompany him.

Mozart became acquainted with members of the famous orchestra in Mannheim, the best in Europe at the time. He also fell in love with Aloysia Weber, one of four daughters in a musical family. There were some prospects of employment in Mannheim, but they came to nothing; and Mozart left for Paris on 14 March 1778 to continue his search. There his luck was hardly better; one of his letters home hints at a possible post as an organist at Versailles, but Mozart was not interested in such an appointment. He fell into debt and took to pawning valuables. Mozart's mother took ill, and died on 3 July 1778. There had been delays in calling a doctor probably because of a lack of funds.

 

While Wolfgang was in Paris, Leopold was energetically pursuing opportunities for him back in Salzburg,, and with the support of local nobility secured him a better post as court organist and concertmaster. The yearly salary was 450 florins; but Wolfgang was reluctant to accept, and after leaving Paris on 26 September 1778 he tarried in Mannheim and Munich, still hoping to obtain an appointment outside Salzburg. In Munich he again encountered Aloysia, now a very successful singer: but she made it plain that she was no longer interested in him.

Mozart finally reached home on 15 January 1779 and took up the new position, but his discontent with Salzburg was undiminished.

 

 

In January 1781, Mozart's opera Idomeneo premiered with "considerable success" in Munich and following March Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where his employer, Archbishop Colloredo, was attending the celebrations for the accession of Joseph II to the Austrian throne. Mozart, fresh from the adulation he had earned in Munich, was offended when Colloredo treated him as a mere servant, and particularly when the archbishop forbade him to perform before the Emperor at Countess Thun's for a fee equal to half of his yearly Salzburg salary. The resulting quarrel came to a head in May: Mozart attempted to resign, and was refused. The following month he was dismissed. In Vienna, though, Mozart had become aware of some rich opportunities, and he decided to settle there as a freelance performer and composer.

Mozart's new career in Vienna began well. He performed often as a pianist, notably in a competition before the Emperor with Muzio Clementi on 24 December 1781, and he soon "had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna".He also prospered as a composer, and in 1782 completed the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail ("The Abduction from the Seraglio"), which premiered on 16 July 1782 to enormous acclaim. The work was soon being performed "throughout German-speaking Europe", and fully established Mozart's reputation as a composer.

Mozart moved in with the Weber family, who had moved to Vienna from Mannheim. The father, Fridolin, had died, and the Webers were now taking in lodgers to make ends meet. Aloysia, who had earlier rejected Mozart's suit, was now married to the actor Joseph Lange, and Mozart's interest shifted to the third daughter, Constanze. The couple were married on 4 August 1782, eventually securing Leopold's "grudging consent".The couple had six children (although only two survived infancy)

In the course of 1782 and 1783 Mozart became intimately acquainted with the work of Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel as a result of the influence of Gottfried van Swieten, who owned many manuscripts of the Baroque masters. Mozart's study of these scores inspired compositions in Baroque style.

In 1783, Wolfgang and Constanze visited his family in Salzburg. Leopold and Nannerl were, at best, only polite to Constanze; but the visit at least prompted the composition of one of Mozart's great liturgical pieces, the Mass in C minor. Though not completed, it was premiered in Salzburg, with Constanze singing a solo part.

Mozart met Joseph Haydn in Vienna, and the two composers became friends . When Haydn visited Vienna, they sometimes played together in an impromptu string quartet. Mozart's six quartets dedicated to Haydn  date from the period 1782 to 1785 He stood in awe of Mozart, whose sister recorded that in 1781 Haydn told the visiting Leopold: "I tell you before God, and as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer known to me by person and repute, he has taste and what is more the greatest skill in composition."

From 1782 to 1785 Mozart mounted concerts with himself as soloist, presenting three or four new piano concertos in each season. Since space in the theaters was scarce, he booked unconventional venues: a large room in the Trattnerhof (an apartment building); and the ballroom of the Mehlgrube (a restaurant).The concerts were very popular, and the concertos he premiered at them are still firm fixtures in the repertoire.

With substantial returns from his concerts and elsewhere, he and Constanze adopted a rather plush lifestyle. They moved to an expensive apartment, with a yearly rent of 460 florins.Mozart also bought a fine fortepiano from Anton Walter for about 900 florins, and a billiard table for about 300.The Mozarts sent their son Karl Thomas to an expensive boarding school,and kept servants. Saving was therefore impossible, and the short period of financial success did nothing to soften the hardship the Mozarts were later to experience.

On 14 December 1784, Mozart became a Freemason, admitted to the lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit ("Beneficence"). Freemasonry played an important role in the remainder of Mozart's life: he attended many meetings, a number of his friends were Masons, and on various occasions he composed Masonic music. 

In 1785, Mozart began his famous operatic collaboration with the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte. 1786 saw the successful premiere of The Marriage of Figaro in Vienna, closely followed by the opera Don Giovanni, which premiered in October 1787 to acclaim in Prague, and also met with success in Vienna in 1788. The two are esteemed among Mozart's most important works and are mainstays of the operatic repertoire today, though at their premieres their musical complexity caused difficulty for both listeners and performers. These developments were not witnessed by the composer's father, as Leopold had died on 28 May 1787.

In December 1787 Mozart finally obtained a steady post under aristocratic patronage. Emperor Joseph II appointed him as his "chamber composer", a post that had fallen vacant the previous month on the death of Gluck. It was a part-time appointment, paying just 800 florins per year, and only required Mozart to compose dances for the annual balls at the palace Mozart complained to Constanze that the pay was "too much for what I do, too little for what I could do" However, even this modest income became important to Mozart when hard times arrived. Court records show that Joseph's aim was to keep the esteemed composer from leaving Vienna in pursuit of better prospects.

In 1787 the young Ludwig van Beethoven spent two weeks in Vienna, hoping to study with Mozart. The evidence concerning this time is conflicting, and at least three hypotheses are in play: that Mozart heard Beethoven play and praised him; that Mozart rejected Beethoven as a student; and that they never even met

Around 1786 Mozart had ceased to appear frequently in public concerts, and his income shrank. It was a difficult time for all musicians in Vienna because Austria was at war, and both the general level of prosperity and the ability of the aristocracy to support music had declined.

Mozart made long journeys hoping to improve his fortunes: to Leipzig, Dresden, and Berlin in the spring of 1789, and to Frankfurt, Mannheim, and other German cities in 1790. The trips produced only isolated success and did not relieve the family's financial distress.

Mozart's last year was, until his final illness struck, a time of great productivity He composed a great deal, including some of his most admired works and his financial situation, finally began to improve. In his later operas he employed subtle changes in instrumentation, orchestral texture, and tone color, for emotional depth and to mark dramatic shifts. Here his advances in opera and instrumental composing interacted: his increasingly sophisticated use of the orchestra in the symphonies and concertos influenced his operatic orchestration, and his developing subtlety in using the orchestra to psychological effect in his operas was in turn reflected in his later non-operatic compositions.

Mozart fell ill while in Prague for the premiere on 6 September of his opera La clemenza di Tito, written in 1791  He was able to continue his professional functions for some time, and conducted the premiere of The Magic Flute on 30 September. The illness intensified on 20 November, at which point Mozart became bedridden, suffering from swelling, pain, and vomiting. Mozart died at 1 a.m. on 5 December 1791 at the age of 35

Mozart's sparse funeral did not reflect his standing with the public as a composer: memorial services and concerts in Vienna and Prague were well attended. Indeed, in the period immediately after his death Mozart's reputation rose substantially

 

The cause of Mozart's death cannot be known with certainty. The most widely accepted version, however, is that he died of acute rheumatic fever; he is known to have had three or even four attacks of it since his childhood, and this disease has a tendency to recur, with increasingly serious consequences each time, such as rampant infection and damage to the heart valves.

Mozart's sparse funeral did not reflect his standing with the public as a composer: memorial services and concerts in Vienna and Prague were well attended. Indeed, in the period immediately after his death Mozart's reputation rose substantially.

 

 

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