Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (whose full name is actually Johann Chrysostomus Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart!) is one of the most renowned composers of all time. Did you know despite only living to age 35, he composed more than 600 pieces of music? Read the entire article to get more fascinating information about this talented man.
1. He Made His First Composition at Five Years Old
The son of a teacher, violinist, and composer, Leopold Mozart, he was exposed to music and musicians at a young age. His older sister was his first music teacher, starting him off playing the clavier at just three years old. The first documented piece he wrote was a cheerful minuet now known as KV 1. We can only imagine the joy his parents felt as they watched him perform.
2. He Wrote His First Symphony at 11 Years Old
Unsurprisingly, Mozart was not satisfied with simply creating minuets and short musical pieces. The family spent some time in the English countryside when their father became ill. Wolfgang and his sister were banned from playing instruments while their father recovered. Bored, Mozart decided to write his first symphony, a four-movement piece featuring trumpets and kettledrums.
3. He Had a Seat on the Court Orchestra at 15 Years Old
A big part of Mozart’s early life was traveling through Europe and playing music for different royals and nobility. When he was a teenager, he earned a spot on the court orchestra in Salzburg, Austria. He wrote most of his orchestral works during that time, according to “Mozart’s Salzburg Orchestras,” an article from the Early Music Journal.
4. Mozart’s Sister Was Also a Musical Genius
Maria Anna Mozart, known by the family as “Nannerl,” was beloved by Mozart and performed alongside him throughout their youth. According to custom at the time, she had to stop performing once she reached adulthood and was married. We don’t know if she wrote music as none of it was preserved, but she continued to play music and teach piano for many years.
4. It Would Take About 8 Days of Uninterrupted Listening to Go Through All Mozart’s Works
Though he died rather young, Mozart was an extremely prolific composer. What’s more, he composed quite a few long pieces, like concertos and symphonies. One of his pieces, Symphony 41, lasts 45 minutes, all on its own! History has preserved about 600 of his compositions.
5. He Was Friends With Joseph Haydn
Despite being 24 years younger, Mozart developed a friendship with Haydn, who was already quite famous as a composer. Mozart dedicated six quartets to his friend in 1785, which was a mark of great esteem. Haydn was quite devastated when his accomplished friend died at age 35. He predicted another composer of his talent wouldn’t be seen again for a century.
6. He Transcribed Allegri’s Miserere From Memory
Part of his evident abilities as a musical prodigy was possessing perfect pitch and an ability to remember long, complicated musical arrangements by heart. He heard the five-part choral arrangement in the Sistine Chapel. It was forbidden for this composition to be performed anywhere else, at any other time outside of Holy Week, and it wasn’t supposed to be published. Despite this, it was circulated in London the following year.
7. Pope Clement XIV Awarded Him the Order of the Golden Spur
Sharing the Miserere outside of the papal restrictions could have been punishable by ex-communication from the Church, but Pope Clement XIV had quite the opposite reaction. Instead of kicking the young composer from the church, he decided to award him with the Order of the Golden Spur. This honorary knighthood came with a large golden cross necklace Mozart liked to wear in social situations.
8. He Was a Freemason
Mozart joined the Freemasons when he was 28; his membership was at a lodge in Vienna. He wrote at least eight pieces of music for the brotherhood he was so fond of. “The Magic Flute,” one of his most renowned operas, supposedly contains references to the Masonic brotherhood.
9. He Worked for Emperor Joseph II
The monarch of Austria felt quite possessive of the young prodigy. He ensured Mozart would stay at his disposal by offering a high-paying job that didn’t require very much actual work. Mozart chafed in the role, writing to his father at the time that he needed the gentry and royalty in Vienna to realize he wasn’t put on Earth just for them.
10. He Was a Roman Catholic
Yes, despite his loyalty to the Freemasons, Mozart was a Roman Catholic. His marriage and his funeral took place in the same church, St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. He wrote dozens of pieces for the church and served as the assistant choirmaster at St. Stephen’s. Despite the apparent tension that exists between the church and the Masons to this day, Mozart appears to have cheerfully been a full member of both organizations.
11. He Didn’t Like the Trumpet
When he was small, Mozart found the trumpet’s sound startling. He maintained a near phobia of the instrument until he was nine years old. While he seems to have overcome his extreme dislike of trumpets, he certainly didn’t emphasize the instrument in his compositions.
12. He Moved to Vienna
He was born in Salzburg, Austria, and as we’ve discussed, he traveled all over Europe to exhibit his abilities as a musician. When he was 25, he and his wife moved to Vienna and lived in several different homes throughout District 1 of the city, according to the New York Times. He remained in Vienna until his death.
13. He Has a Monument in Salzburg
Fifty-one years after Mozart died, leaders in Salzburg erected a statue sculpted by Ludwig Schwanthaler. It would have been 50 years, according to the Salzburg website, but while they were preparing the area for the statue, they found a Roman tile floor that had to be preserved.
14. His Father Was His Teacher
Mozart’s father, Leopold, was active in the rearing of both of his living children. He taught them both music, and Nannerl also assisted in teaching her little brother the ropes. Leopold himself was an accomplished musician, so teaching his beloved children came naturally.
15. Constanze Weber Wasn’t His First Love
Mozart’s first love was actually his wife’s sister. However, when she didn’t seem to remember him after an absence, he turned his attention to Constanze, a singer. They married in 1782 and had six children, two of whom survived past infancy.
16. A Frog Was Named After Him
A critically endangered Haitian frog bears a name honoring the composer. Eleutherodactylus amadeus earned its moniker of Mozart’s Frog for its four-note whistling call, which its discoverer, Blair Hedges, found made imagery like music notes when converted into an audiospectrogram. It is so endangered that it has only been observed once – in 2011 – since 1991. Its forest canopy habitat in Haiti continues to suffer losses, placing the species in continual peril.
17. An Asteroid Was Named After Him
A Soviet stargazer, Vladimir Albitsky, discovered this sun-orbiting asteroid in September 1924. It earned the name 1034 Mozartia in November 1952 from the Minor Planet Center at the Smithsonian Astrophysical Observatory. There’s actually a second asteroid or minor planet named in the composer’s honor: 471 Papagena is named for a character in Mozart’s last opera, The Magic Flute.
18. His Full Name Includes Five Names
As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, his full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart. He called himself Wolfgang Amadé or Wolfgang Gottlieb in correspondence. In correspondence with Mozart, friends called him Wolferl, Wofl, or Wolfgangerl. In the movie “Amadeus,” he is called “Wolfie” by his wife, but historians insist this is inaccurate.
19. He Had Multiple Pets
There’s a historical record of Mozart having several pets throughout his life. He had a fox terrier named Pimperl. He also loved birds and had several canaries throughout his life.
His pet starling was the most beloved of his pets. There’s some mythology making it into the story of his life. According to some tellers, the starling’s sweet song inspired him, and a version of it made it into his seventeenth piano concerto, K453. However, others say the concerto came first, and the bird could sing it. He held a funeral for it when it died (he did not attend his father’s funeral, for comparison). He also wrote a poem dedicated to the starling.
20. Magic Flute Was His Last Opera
Mozart wrote The Magic Flute in 1791. The opera featured themes inspired by his membership as a freemason. According to the Library of Congress, the content of the opera is an allegorical battle between the repression of knowledge and freedom and wisdom.
21. He Was Buried in a Common Grave
Despite his father and wife being buried in St. Sebastian Cemetery in Salzburg, Mozart was buried in a common grave in Vienna at St. Marx Cemetery.
Some speculate that he was buried in an unmarked grave because he died in poverty, but it was because of the regulations set by the Austrian monarch at the time. Joseph II had tried to get the residents of his realm to bury everyone in mass graves, sewn naked into burlap bags. However, this was never required.
Mozart was buried in a common grave, which, while unmarked at the time, now has a monument for him at St. Marx Cemetery.
22. His Cause of Death Is an Unsolved Mystery
Mozart’s death at age 35 was shocking. It caused an uproar of gossip and speculation, with rumors of poisoning persisting for centuries. This was not helped by the report that Mozart himself told his wife he suspected someone had given him “acqua toffana,” an arsenic-based poison. His rival, the composer Antonio Salieri, was among the prime suspects in the alleged crime.
However, according to “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: The Death of a Genius,” it is most likely, based on his correspondence with his family, that chronic kidney disease led to his death.
23. His Student Completed Mozart’s Requiem Mass in D Minor
Franz Xaver Süssmayr, a composer and music teacher, is known to have helped complete Mozart’s last composition after his death; his handwriting is found in the music for the unfinished composition.
However, some other versions have been created since the late 20th century. Musicologist Robert Levin wrote his senior thesis on Mozart’s unfinished works, which led him to develop a version of the Requiem Mass in 1991.
24. His Music Appeared in Films
With such a prolific life of composition, it should be no surprise that you can hear Mozart’s music in many different films. For instance, his Clarinet Concerto in A Major was in the movie Out of Africa, and the opera Marriage of Figaro was in The Wedding Banquet, Trading Place, and Last Action Hero.