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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(1756 - 1766)

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as he is generally known, was baptized in a Salzburg Cathedral on the day after his birth as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. The first and last given names come from his godfather Joannes Theophilus Pergmayr, although Mozart preferred the Latin form of this last name, Amadeus, more often Amadй, or the Italiano Amadeo, and occasionally the Deutsch Gottlieb. Whatever the case may be, he rarely - if ever - used Theophilus in his signature. The name Chrysostomus originates from St. John Chrysostom, whose feast falls on the 27th of January. The name Wolfgang was given to him in honor of his maternal grandfather, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl.

He was the seventh and last child born to musical author, composer and violinist, Leopold Mozart and his wife Anna Maria Pertl. Only Wolfgang and Maria Anna (whose nickname was 'Nannerl') survived infancy. He was born in a house in the Hagenauersches Haus in Salzburg, Austria, on the 27th of January, 1756.

Though he did not walk until he was three years old, Mozart displayed musical gifts at an extremely early age. At the age of four, he could reproduce on the piano a melody played to him; at five, he could play the violin with perfect intonation. In fact, with more recent evidence, Mozart is believed to have written his first composition just a few short days before his fourth birthday! These compositions, an Andante and Allegro K1a and K1b, were written, Leopold noted, early in 1760, as he approached his fourth birthday. They are very brief, and modelled on the little pieces that his sister had been given to play (and which he also learnt; the "Wolfgang Notenbuch" is a forgery). As they survive only in his father's handwriting, it is impossible to determine how much of them are Mozart's own work.

So when the six-year-old Wolfgang had proved his extraordinary talents at the keyboard, Leopold was keen to exhibit those talents along with those of his gifted pianist daughter, Nannerl. Thus Leopold undertook a four month tour of Vienna and the surrounding area, visiting every noble house and palace he could find, taking the entire family with him. Mozart's first known public appearance was at Salzburg University in September of 1761, when he took part in a theatrical performance with music by Eberlin. Like other parents of his time, Leopold Mozart saw nothing wrong in exhibiting, or in exploiting, his son's God-given genius for music. He took Wolfgang and Nannerl to MÑŒnchen, for about three weeks from January 12th, 1762, where they played the harpsichord before the Elector of Bavaria. No documentation survives for that journey. Later ones are better served - Leopold was a prolific correspondent and also kept travel diaries. The next started on September 18th, 1762, when the entire family set off for Wein; they paused at Passau and Linz where the young Wolfgang gave his first public recital at The Trinity Inn, Linz, on October 1st, 1762. Soon afterwards, he amazed the Empress at Schonbrunn Castle and all her royal guests with fascinating keyboard tricks: playing with the keys covered with a cloth, with his hands behind his back, and so on. In 1769, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was appointed concertmaster to the Archbishop of Salzburg (his father's job), and later in the same year, he was made a chevalier of the Order of the Golden Spur by the Pope. He also completed his first German operetta, Bastien une Bastienne in the same year. At age fourteen, Mozart was commissioned

to write a serious opera. This work, Mitridate, rи di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus) completely established Mozarts' phenomenal reputation.

While the Mozarts were touring Italy, the Archbishop of Salzburg died, and Hieronymus, count von Colleredo was the successor. Unfortunately, this man cared little for music, and looked down upon Mozart. After five years of composing music for next-to-nothing pay, Wolfgang obtained a leave of absence for a concert tour. In 1777, he left with his mother for Munich.

The courts of Europe ignored the tewnty-one year old composer in his search for a more congenial and rewarding appointment. This was heartbreaking for Wolfgang, and matters did not get any better when his mother fell ill. Leopold ordered his wife and son to go to Paris, and Wolfgang had to obey. It was in Paris that his mother died in July 1778.

Mozart returned to Salzburg in 1779, and composed

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