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Ancestry and early childhood.

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The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians. In the 29-volume second edition. Grove Music Online /General Editor – Stanley Sadie. Oxford University Press. 2001

Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(b Salzburg, 27 Jan 1756; d Vienna, 5 Dec 1791). Austrian composer, son of (1) Leopold Mozart. His style essentially represents a synthesis of many different elements, which coalesced in his Viennese years, from 1781 on, into an idiom now regarded as a peak of Viennese Classicism. The mature music, distinguished by its melodic beauty, its formal elegance and its richness of harmony and texture, is deeply coloured by Italian opera though also rooted in Austrian and south German instrumental traditions. Unlike Haydn, his senior by 24 years, and Beethoven, his junior by 15, he excelled in every medium current in his time. He may thus be regarded as the most universal composer in the history of Western music.

1. Ancestry and early childhood.

2. Travels, 1763–73.

3. Salzburg, 1773–80.

4. The break with Salzburg and the early Viennese years, 1780–83.

5. Vienna, 1784–8.

6. The final years.

7. Early works.

8. Works, 1772–81.

9. Works, 1781–8.

10. Works, 1789–91.

11. Aftermath: reception and scholarship.



Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Ancestry and early childhood.

Mozart was baptized on the day after his birth at St Rupert's Cathedral as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. The first two names record that 27 January was the feast day of St John Chrysostom, while Wolfgangus was the name of his maternal grandfather and Theophilus a name of his godfather, the merchant Joannes Theophilus Pergmayr; Mozart sometimes preferred the Latin form, Amadeus, but more frequently Amadè, Amadé or the German form Gottlieb. He was the seventh and last child born to Leopold Mozart and his wife Maria Anna, née Pertl (b St Gilgen, 25 Dec 1720; d Paris, 3 July 1778); only he and the fourth child, (2) Maria Anna (‘Nannerl’), survived.

The name Mozart (spelt in a variety of forms including Mozarth, Mozhard and Mozer) is first recorded for a Heinrich Motzhart in Fischach, in 1331, and appears in other villages south-west of Augsburg, notably Heimberg, from the 14th century; the paternal ancestry of the family has been traced with some certainty to Ändris Motzhart, who lived in the Augsburg area in 1486. Several early member of the family were master masons (i.e. architects), builders, craftsmen and sculptors; two, in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, were artists. Mozart's great grandfather David (c1620–1685) was a master mason, his grandfather Johann Georg (1679–1736) a master bookbinder in Augsburg. His mother's family came mainly from the Salzburg region and followed middle-class occupations. Her father, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl, held important administrative and judicial posts at Hüllenstein, near St Gilgen, but a bout of ill-health pushed him into debt and his family was left destitute.

Until 1773 the Mozart family rented an apartment on the third floor of the house of Johann Lorenz and Maria Theresia Hagenauer, who had a thriving grocery business with connections in several important European cities. They also acted as bankers to the Mozarts, establishing credit networks for Leopold during the tours of the 1760s. It was to the Hagenauers that most of Leopold's early letters, now the most important source of information about Mozart's travels during the 1760s, were addressed. Many of them were intended for public circulation: Leopold was keen to impress the children's triumphs on the archbishop, the Salzburg nobility and his wide circle of friends and acquaintances.

As far as is known, Leopold was entirely responsible for the education of his children, which was by no means restricted to music but also included mathematics, reading, writing, literature, languages and dancing; moral and religious training were part of the curriculum as well. (A later biographical dictionary, B. Pillwein's Biographische Schilderungen (Salzburg, 1821), suggests that the court singer Franz Anton Spitzeder also gave the young Mozart musical instruction, but this assertion is uncorroborated.) Mozart showed his musical gifts at an early age; Leopold noted in Wolfgang’s sister's music book (the so-called Nannerl Notenbuch, begun in 1759) that Wolfgang had learnt some of the pieces – mostly anonymous minuets and other binary form movements, probably German in origin, but also including works by Wagenseil, C.P.E. Bach, J.J. Agrell and J.N. Tischer as well as Leopold Mozart himself – when he was four. According to Leopold, Wolfgang's earliest known compositions, a miniature Andante and Allegro k1a and 1b, were written in 1761, when he was five. More substantial are the binary form minuets in F major k2 and k5 and the Allegro in B k3, composed between January and July 1762.

Mozart's first known public appearance was at Salzburg University in September 1761, when he took a dancing part in a performance of Sigismundus Hungariae rex, given as an end-of-term play (Finalkomödie) by Marian Wimmer with music by the Salzburg Kapellmeister Ernst Eberlin. In 1762 Leopold apparently took Wolfgang and Nannerl to Munich, where they played the harpsichord for Maximilian III Joseph, Elector of Bavaria (no documentation survives for this journey, which is known only from a later reminiscence of Nannerl Mozart). A tour to Vienna lasted from September to December 1762. The children appeared twice before Maria Theresa and her consort, Francis I, as well as at the homes of various ambassadors and nobles (the empress sent the children a set of court clothes, which they wore for the well-known paintings done later in Salzburg, probably by P.A. Lorenzoni). The trip was a great success: in October the imperial paymaster presented the Mozarts with a substantial honorarium and a request to prolong their stay; the French ambassador, Forent-Louis-Marie, Count of Châtelet-Lomont, invited them to Versailles; and Count Karl von Zinzendorf, later a high state official, wrote in his diary that ‘the poor little fellow plays marvellously, he is a child of spirit, lively, charming; his sister's playing is masterly’.

The family returned to Salzburg on 5 January 1763. Leopold was promoted to deputy Kapellmeister on 28 February, and that evening Mozart played at court as part of Archbishop Schrattenbach's birthday celebrations; the Salzburg court chronicle records that there was ‘vocal music by several virtuosos, among whom were, to everyone's astonishment, the new vice-Kapellmeister's little son, aged seven, and daughter, aged ten, performing on the harpsichord, the son likewise on the violin, as well as one could ever have hoped of him’. On 9 June the family set out on a three-and-a-half-year journey through Germany, France, the Low Countries, England and Switzerland. It was the first of five tours undertaken during the next decade.

Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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