Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest composers of the classical period and brought fame to the Viennese Classical School. Although he died young, the story of Mozart’s life is filled with fascinating details.
Here are twelve facts you might not know about this child prodigy and musical genius.
Fact 1: Mozart was a child phenomenon and today his name decorates lists of the smartest children in history. At the young age of four it is believed that Mozart could already learn a piece of music in half an hour. At five he successfully played the clavier. At six he was already composing music and at eight, he wrote his first symphony!
Fact 2: Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, was a violinist and a minor composer. It is believed that Mozart as a young boy often traveled through Europe with his father and that he knew a total of 15 languages.
Fact 3: Biographers describe Mozart as the first freelance musician in history, with a free career removed from the influence of church, court or a rich patron.
Fact 4: Mozart’s music was outstanding and still is today, but he was also the first composer in history that wrote masterpieces in every musical genre and excelled in all of them. His serenades, divertimenti and dances are a synonym for the Classical “age of elegance”.
Fact 5: Although he was one of the most successful composers of operas and a well acclaimed piano virtuoso, Mozart was in fact poor. He is often documented as a jovial man, tactless and impulsive with a somewhat childish approach to life in an era of white wigs, powdered faces and refined manners. In this world of nobleness Mozart found it hard to make a living and retain it.
Fact 6: Joseph Haydn, a prominent composer of the Classic period, was very impressed with Mozart. “Before God, and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste, and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition”, declared Haydn to Mozart’s father Leopold in 1785.
Fact 7: Many biographers have written that Mozart had a deformed left ear, hidden by his wig. However, since photography wasn’t yet invented, apart from written testimonies and paintings which tend to beautify their subjects, we are not sure whether this is true.
Fact 8: Mozart’s middle name was Theophilus, but he preferred the Latin translation of his Greek middle name Amadeus. Amadeus in English means “love of God”, derived from Latin amare “to love” and Deus “God”.
Fact 9: Mozart died from illness at the young age of thirty-six. He was buried, like most ordinary Viennese citizens, in a common grave whose exact location remains unknown.
Fact 10: Mozart wrote over 600 compositions, 300 of them involved the participation of an orchestra. His work includes operas, symphonies, piano concertos, dances, liturgical music, mixed chamber ensembles and many more.
Fact 11: Mozart’s sister Nannerl was also a prodigy and performed throughout Europe with her brother. However, after she turned 18, a marriageable age, her father banned her from performing in public. It is believed that Nannerl was Wolfgang’s teacher and perhaps experienced a mix of emotions, pride and jealousy, watching her little brother’s success.
Fact 12: Mozart has often featured in popular culture. You have probably heard at least one of his compositions in Hollywood films without even recognizing it. However, the most famous song inspired by Mozart is “Rock me Amadeus” by Austrian artist Falco, released in 1985. Although the song doesn’t contain any portions of Mozart’s music it does comprise his middle name and lyrical references to the genius of classical music.