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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791)

Everyone is familiar with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – boy genius, classical composer, tragic figure who died so young. Perhaps less well appreciated, however, is that Mozart’s great classical achievements were firmly grounded in the baroque. Mozart’s intense study of the work of both George Friderick Handel and Johann Sebastian Bach had a profound influence on his own compositions – as, for example, in the fugal passages in The Magic Flute and the finale of Symphony No 41. Mozart’s mastery of the baroque style allowed him to adopt and modulate ornate contrapuntal forms and fuse them to cleaner classical forms.

Much of Mozart’s youth was spent touring Europe with his sister Nannerl, who was also something of a musical prodigy. As an adult, his professional life was the source of much frustration, as Mozart moved from one position to another, seeking better wages. In 1787, he found steady, if not particularly remunerative, work when he replaced Christoph Willibald Gluck as the chamber composer in the court of the Austrian Emperor Joseph II.

Mozart was well connected throughout Europe, counting Franz Joseph Haydn as a close friend. His financial woes aside, Mozart was always able to have his work performed. His prolific output is as legendary as his musical precociousness. Mozart left behind over 600 symphonies, operas, chorales, chamber music pieces, piano sonatas, concertos, string quartets, masses, serenades, and many other works. At the time of his death at 35, Mozart was the undisputed master of every musical genre.