W.A. Mozart 1756-91, Austrian composer whose oeuvre represents one of the great peaks of musical history. His works, written in every genre, combine beauty of sound with classical grace and technical perfection. He learned to play harpsichord, violin, and organ from his father, Leopold Mozart, 1719-87, a composer and violinist. A remarkable prodigy, the young Mozart was composing by age five, presenting concerts throughout Europe as a child, and by age 13 had written concertos, sonatas, symphonies, and operettas. In Italy (1768-71) he absorbed Italian style, and in 1771 he was appointed concertmaster to the archbishop of Salzburg, a position in which he was restless.
Idomeneo (1781), one of the best examples of 18th-cent. OPERA seria, was the first opera of his maturity. He moved to Vienna (1781), married, and met HAYDN, to whom he dedicated six string quartets (1782-85), testimony to the two composers’ influence on each other. The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782), a singspiel combining songs and German dialogue, brought some success. He turned to the Italian opera buffa, creating the comic masterpiece The Marriage of Figaro (1786). Don Giovanni, considered difficult in its day but now recognized as one of the most brilliant operas ever written, followed in 1787. In the same year Mozart succeeded GLUCK as court composer to Joseph II; Eine kleine Nachtmusik (1787) is an example of the elegant occasional music he wrote in this role.
In 1788 he wrote his last three symphonies, Nos. 39-41, which display his complete mastery of classical symphonic form and intense personal emotion. In Vienna he produced his last opera buffa, Cosi fan tutte (1790). In The Magic Flute (1791) he returned to the singspiel, bringing the form to a lyrical height. He then worked feverishly on a requiem commissioned by a nobleman; it proved to be Mozart’s own, and the work was completed by his pupil Franz Sssmayr.
The composer died at 35 in poverty and was buried in a pauper’s grave. A catalogue of Mozart’s works was made in 1862 by Ludwig von Kchel; they are usually identified accordingly, e.g., the Piano Concerto in B Flat, K. 595. Music Essays.