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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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Mozart was able to revive much of his public notoriety with repeated performances of his works. His financial situation began to improve as wealthy patrons in Hungary and Amsterdam pledged annuities in return for occasional compositions. From this turn of fortune, he was able to pay off many of his debts.
However, during this time both Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s mental and physical health was deteriorating. In September, 1791, he was in Prague for the premier of the opera La clemenza di Tito,
which he was commissioned to produce for the coronation of Leopold II as King of Bohemia. Mozart recovered briefly to conduct the Prague premier of The Magic Flute, but fell deeper into illness in November and was confined to bed. Constanze and her sister Sophie came to his side to help nurse him back to health, but Mozart was mentally preoccupied with finishing Requiem, and their efforts were in vain.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on December 5, 1791 at age 35. The cause of death is uncertain, due to the limits of postmortem diagnosis. Officially, the record lists the cause as severe miliary fever, referring to a skin rash that looks like millet seeds. The most widely accepted hypothesis, however was that Mozart died of acute rheumatic fever, a disease he suffered from repeatedly throughout his life. It was reported that his funeral drew few mourners and he was buried in a common grave. Both actions were the Viennese custom at the time, for only aristocrats and nobility enjoyed public mourning and were allowed to be buried in marked graves. However, his memorial services and concerts in Vienna and Prague were well attended. After his death, Constanze sold many of his unpublished manuscripts to undoubtedly pay off the family’s large debts. She was able to obtain a pension from the Emperor and organized several profitable memorial concerts in Mozart’s honor. From these efforts, Constanze was able to gain some financial security for herself and allowing her to send her children to private schools.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s death came at a young age, even for the time period. Yet his meteoric rise to fame and accomplishment at a very early age is reminiscent of more contemporary musical artists whose star had burned out way too soon. At the time of his death, Mozart was considered one of the greatest composers of all time. His music presented a bold expression, often times complex and dissonant, and required high technical mastery from the musicians who performed it. His works remained secure and popular throughout the 19th century, as biographies were written and his music enjoyed constant performances and renditions by other musicians. His work influenced many composers that followed -- most notably Beethoven -- in its complexity and depth. Along with his friend Joseph Haydn, Mozart conceived and perfected the grand forms of symphony, opera, string ensemble, and concerto that marked the classical period. In particular, his operas display an uncanny psychological insight, unique to music at the time, and continue to exert a particular fascination for musicians and music lovers today.
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