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August 28, 2010

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Mozart Year 2006

On January 27, 2006, it is the 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, born in Salzburg, Austria. Mozart is widely regarded as one of history’s greatest classical composers.

Mozart was born on January 27, 2006. His parents, Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl Mozartis, gave him the name Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus. The first two were saint’s names and not commonly used at the time in daily life. Theophilus translates as Amadeus (Latin) and Gottlieb (German). Mozart preferred to use both Wolfgang and Amadeus and is generally known by these two names.

Mozart is probably the most significant and enduring of classical composers. His remarkable musical gift became apparent when he was about three years old. At the age of four he could play the keyboard with total confidence and composed his first pieces at five.

His father, Leopold, a composer and violinist, was one of Europe’s leading musical pedagogues. In those formative years, Mozart received intense musical training from him, including instruction in both the clavier and violin.

Leopold soon realised that he could earn a substantial income by showcasing his son and the young Mozart soon gained a reputation as a musical prodigy. During these formative years, he made several journeys around Europe, including the Imperial Court in Vienna.

It was at this time that Mozart met a great number of influential musicians and acquainted himself with the works of the great composers of the time. Of particularly importance was Johann Christian Bach. They became friends in London, where Bach’s influence on the young Mozart became a significant and constant inspiration.

In 1767, the family returned to Vienna for five months where he wrote a comical play for the Emperor and a spoken-dialogue opera in German. But Mozart had problems with the other musicians, particularly the composer Antonio Salieri, who made it very difficult for him to produce his operas.

Mozart then left Vienna and returned to Salzburg where he was appointed honorary Konzertmeister to Archbishop Sigismund von Schrattenbach.

Mozart’s tremendous creative output includes works that are pinnacles of symphonic, chamber, piano, operatic and choral music. Many of these are now part of the standard concert repertory and widely recognised as masterpieces of the classical style.

On August 4, 1782, Mozart married Constanze Weber against his father’s wishes. Although they had six children, only two survived. But this was to be an auspicious year for Mozart’s career: his opera, “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, was a great success and he began a series of concerts where he premiered his own piano concertos as conductor and soloist.

Having become closely acquainted with the works of Bach and Handel led to a number of works imitating their Baroque style, which later had a powerful influence on the fugal passages in “The Magic Flute” and the “41st Symphony”.

In 1783, Wolfgang and Constanze visited Leopold in Salzburg, which saw the composition of one of Mozart’s great liturgical pieces: “Mass in C Minor”. It was premiered in Salzburg in the same year and is one of his best known pieces.

Mozart spent 1786 in an apartment in Vienna which may be visited today at Domgasse 5, behind St Stephen’s Cathedral. It was here that Mozart composed “The Marriage of Figaro”, followed in 1787 by one of his greatest works, “Don Giovanni”.

Mozart’s life was fraught with financial difficulty and illness. Often, he received no payment for his work, and the small amounts he did receive were quickly consumed by an extravagant lifestyle.

The actual cause of Mozart’s death is a matter of conjecture. Dozens of theories have been proposed, including trichinosis, mercury poisoning and rheumatic fever.

Mozart died on December 5, 1791 while he was working on his final composition, the “Requiem”. Franz Xaver Süssmayr was engaged by Constanze to complete it. He was not the only composer involved but he is associated with it over others due to his significant contribution.

The major productions for “Mozart Year 2006″ are being held at the Theatre of Vienna – which is now, after extensive renovation, considered the “new opera house” in Vienna – together with various other concert halls and St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

Tickets for Mozart Year 2006 concerts may be viewed at the Vienna Ticket website.

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