Here are the facts about the great composer – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756– 1791).
Facts About Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
- Left-handed people are assumed to be generally more creative than their right-handed counterparts; Mozart, like many musicians, was left-handed. The list also includes Sergei Rachmaninoff, Carl Philippe Emmanuel Bach, Ludwig van Beethoven, Niccolo Paganini, and modern-day artists Daniel Barenboim and Nicol Benedetti.
- One of Mozart’s most famous compositions, his Requiem, was an anonymous commission from the pompous Count Franz von Walsegg who wanted to pretend that he had written it himself for the funeral of his wife.
- Not knowing who wanted the Requiem written, led Mozart to believe that he was being paid to write a Requiem for his own funeral. He had been ill for some time and his state of mind was clearly playing tricks. In the event, he died before he completed it.
- The completed version of the Requiem (by Franz Xaver Sussmayr) was played at Mozart’s funeral and also Frederick Chopin’s in 1848 and the at the re-burial of Napoleon I in 1840.
- Despite the ‘Amadeus’ stage show/film depicting Mozart as being called ‘Wolfie’ as a nickname by his wife Constanza, there is no evidence in any of the contemporaneous material to suggest that this was true.
- Although we know his name to be Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, he was christened Joannes Chrysostonus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. ‘Theophilus’ is Greek for ‘loved by God’ and it seems that Mozart preferred the Latin translation of the same phrase – Amadeus. Being multi-lingual, Mozart frequently adapted his name to other languages and from 1770 onwards he frequently used Amadeo or Amade as his middle name. Taking the language modifications even further, a concert in Prague in 1791 to raise money for the family after his death was announced in memory of Wolfgang Gottlieb Mozart – Gott (God) lieb (love).
- Mozart was buried in a ‘common’ grave – not a pauper’s grave as is often reported. Yes, he was poor, but not a pauper. The distinction of a ‘common’ grave was that his grave which could be dug up after ten years – which an aristocrats grave could not. This is the reason why the whereabouts of his remains are unknown.
- Mozart’s final symphony (No. 41, K.551) is called the Jupiter Symphony. The name wasn’t his and was coined by the German violinist, composer and impresario, Johann Peter Salomon, after Mozart’s death. No one really knows why he called it this, but the name stuck and became commonly known by the early 1800’s.
- Mozart, as with other members of his family, had a strange sense of humour which meant frequent smutty references in their letters. When the British Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher, first saw the Amadeus play in London in 1979, she rebuked the play’s director for the use of four-letter words; only to be told that Mozart’s letters frequently displayed his ‘extraordinarily infantile’ sense of humour.
- It has been often said that Mozart enjoyed mathematics – there are equations written in the margins several of scores. However, no one has properly answered the frequency of the application of the Golden Section principle in his music. Check out the piano sonatas, or even whole Acts of his operas (Act II of Cosi fan Tutti is a great example), and you’ll see that the principle applies. In sonata form the movements are ordinarily divided into an exposition followed by a development and a recapitulation – the first movement of his sonata number 1 in C major contains one hundred bars that are perfectly divided into two parts – 38 bars in the first and 62 in the second; a ratio of 0.618; the same as Golden Section. It doesn’t happen in every work but its frequency is intriguing.
- The legendary Dutch-American rocker Eddie van Halen named his musician son Wolfgang van Halen after Mozart.
- Mozart, like many of the great composers, was brilliant at extemporising at the piano; he would compose on the spot. In one of his letters to his father he refers to his second piano concerto (K. 382) and says, ‘whenever I play this concerto, I play whatever occurs to me at the moment.’ In the same letter, he also asked his father not to allow anyone else to play the piece as ‘I composed it specially for myself.’
- Mozart wrote five violin concertos which, whilst it being a remarkable feat for any classical composer, is deemed all the more incredible when you realise they were all written when he was only nineteen years old in 1775. To take the incredulities for this achievement even further, the five concertos were the earliest pieces of his music to maintain themselves permanently in the world’s concert repertoire.
- Mozart ‘confessed’ to not liking the flute – he nevertheless wrote for it, because he was commissioned to do so, but in a letter to his father where he wrote about composition and the fact that he usually wrote at night, he said, ‘Moreover, you know that I become quite powerless whenever I am obliged to write for an instrument (the flute) which I cannot bear.’
- Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, sent him to Paris in 1778 with his mother, but they really didn’t have a good time there; he spent days going to play for the rich people who were simply not interested in his talent; we know this because he wrote to his father to complain at the way he was being treated. ‘They arrange for me to come such and such a day, I play and I hear them exclaim, Oh, c’est un prodige, c’est inconceivabble, c’est etonnant! and then it is – Adieu‘. With no money and little food, the great Mozart, after traipsing around the streets looking for work, was reduced to giving lessons to earn money. His mother then got ill and died in their meagre hotel in Paris. Mozart was only 22.
- Unlike Chopin, who was happy to use unconventional fingerings in his keyboard compositions, or Beethoven, who deliberately fingered pieces to make them more difficult to play, we know from his writings that Mozart valued correct fingering, smooth, flexible execution and a steady hand. He didn’t like technical virtuosity that was simply an excuse to show off.