Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756. His father was a musician and started training the young boy as soon as he could. By the age of six, Mozart had become a better musician than most adult professionals. He had remarkable abilities as a performer on the piano, organ, and violin. Also, he showed incredible talent as a composer and was able to sit down at the piano and improvise a piece that was outstanding for a musician of any age.
Since Mozart’s father was a musician he understood how great and unique his son was. He was an ambitious man and he made sure that he could gain as much fame and profit from his son’s genius as was possible. By the time Mozart was ten he had toured most of Europe, performing in London, Paris, Amsterdam, Geneva and every significant city on the continent.
Young Mozart gained far more than money in all of these travels, though. He was able to hear music from other parts of the world and absorbed all the different national styles of the time. When he felt like it, he could imitate each of those styles in his own compositions and also improve upon them.
Salzburg served as Mozart’s home base until he moved to Vienna in 1781. Although his father did not approve of his relocation to Vienna, it was the cultural capital of Europe and Mozart lived there until his death in 1791. Even though he only lived to be thirty-five, he was an extremely prolific composer, writing more than 600 compositions. Mozart was a master at composing operas, symphonies, concertos, sonatas, string quartets, and every other genre of his time. He enjoyed a period of great popularity in Vienna for several years, but public tastes changed, and although he was still admired and respected, he did not enjoy the same fame for the last few years of his life.
Composing was relatively easy for Mozart and he didn’t seem to labor as much as many other musicians. His music has an effortless quality about it and sometimes seems as if it were poured out from some divine source. There is clarity to his melodic lines and his harmony strikes a perfect balance between consonance and dissonance. To our ears today the texture of Mozart’s music is never thick or muddled. Compared to the music of the baroque era as well as that of most of his contemporaries, Mozart’s creations were more emotional and more expressive.