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A prolific artist, Austrian composer Wolfgang Mozart created a string of operas, concertos, symphonies and sonatas that profoundly shaped classical music.
Wolfgang Mozart was known as a musical prodigy that mastered several styles of music during the 18th century. Witness his growth into one of the greatest composers of all time.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart learned the piano at the age of three, and soon developed his skills in all musical forms. Widely recognized as one of the greatest composers of all time, he produced over 600 works.
Richard Wagner wrote his first opera, "The Fairies," at the age of 21. He used all elements of theater, from music to lighting, to create "total art work."
Raised in a family of musicians, Johann Sebastian Bach played the harpsichord and organ from an early age. Deeply religious, he composed sacred music to be played in churches.
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Toward the end of 1785, Mozart met the librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, a Venetian composer and poet and together they collaborated on the opera The Marriage of Figaro. It received a successful premier in Vienna in 1786 and was even more warmly received in Prague later that year. This triumph led to a second collaboration with Da Ponte on the opera Don Giovanni which premiered in 1787 to high acclaim in Prague. Noted for their musical complexity,
the two operas are among Mozart’s most important works and are mainstays in operatic repertoire today. Both compositions feature the wicked nobleman, though Figaro is presented more in comedy and portrays strong social tension. Perhaps the central achievement of both operas lies in their ensembles with their close link between music and dramatic meaning.
In December, 1787, Emperor Joseph II appointed Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart as his "chamber composer," a post that had opened up with the death of Gluck. The gesture was as much an honor bestowed on Mozart as it was incentive to keep the esteemed composer from leaving Vienna for greener pastures. It was a part-time appointment with low pay, but it required Mozart only to compose dances for the annual balls. The modest income was a welcome windfall for Mozart, who was struggling with debt, and provided him the freedom to explore more of his personal musical ambitions.
Toward the end of the 1780s, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s fortunes began to grow worse. He was performing less and his income shrank. Austria was at war and both the affluence of the nation and the ability of the aristocracy to support the arts had declined. By mid-1788, Mozart moved his family from central Vienna to the suburb of Alsergrund, for what would seem to be a way of reducing living costs. But in reality, his family expenses remained high and the new dwelling only provided more room. Mozart began to borrow money from friends, though he was almost always able to promptly repay when a commission or concert came his way. During this time he wrote his last three symphonies and the last of the three Da Ponte operas, Cosi fan tutte, which premiered in 1790. During this time, Mozart ventured long distances from Vienna to Leipzig, Berlin, and Frankfurt, and other German cities hoping to revive his once great success and the family’s financial situation, but did neither. The two-year period of 1788-1789 was a low point for Mozart, experiencing in his own words "black thoughts" and deep depression. Historians believe he may have had a cyclothymiacs personality with manic-depressive tendencies, which might explain the periods of hysteria coupled with spells of hectic creativity.
Between 1790 and 1791, now in his mid-thirties, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart went through a period of great music productivity and personal healing. Some of his most admired works -- the opera The Magic Flute, the final piano concerto in B-flat, the Clarinet Concerto in A minor, and the unfinished Requiem to name a few -- were written during this time.
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