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About this sample
Words: 1745 |
9 min read
Published: Jan 15, 2019
Words: 1745|Pages: 4|9 min read
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is the greatest and most celebrated composer of the classical period and the most gifted musical genius in history. Born in January 27, 1756 in Salzburg , Mozart was not appreciated as a composer during his time. Great success did not arrive until the generation of the romantics, who found in Mozart what they believed to be a kindred spirit . Through an examination of his early life as a child prodigy, musical mastery, large number and range of works, mastery of the classical style, and endless praise from fellow composers, we can begin to see why his legacy has grown and remained strong after his death.
Wolfgang Mozart was a child prodigy who revealed his extraordinary talent at the incredibly young age of three years old. Mozart’s seven-year old sister Marianne began to receive clavier lessons from their father Leopold, who was a violinist in the Archbishops band in Salzburg . During this time Mozart would sit at the keyboard and entertain him self for hours. As any child would, Mozart enjoyed hearing the sound coming from the keyboard, but it was his added awareness of tension and harmony that caught the attention of his father . Leopold soon recognized the extraordinary musical gift that his son possessed and began to nurture it.
At the age of four, Mozart began to receive clavier lessons from his father. He learnt a number of minuets with ease, needing only half an hour to play each one ‘perfectly, cleanly, and with the steadiest rhythm’ . At the age of five, Mozart began to compose his own little pieces, which his father proudly wrote down. Leopold made notes in the margin of the sheet music, such as “little Wolfgang’s compositions in the first three months after his fifth birthday” . These notes became the first indications of young Wolfgang as a composer. In 1763, when Mozart was about seven years old, he wrote his first large composition – six sonatas for violin and piano . The mere fact that Mozart was able to play and compose these pieces at such a young age is a testament to his musical genius.
In 1762, Leopold took Mozart on a trip around Europe and the United Kingdom in order to showcase his talent. During this trip he showed off some incredible talent, such as sight-reading pieces by Bach and improvising beautiful melodies upon the figured bass of a Handel piece . The tour was very much a success, as Mozart was awarded with acclaim and recognition. In London, Mozart was announced as “Master Mozart of Seven years of age, prodigy of nature” . During the trip Leopold proudly wrote to his friend that “everyone is amazed, especially at the boy, and everyone whom I have heard says that his genius is incomprehensible” . Leopold continued to parade his son’s musical talent until 1773, when Mozart ceased to be under his father’s instruction. The influence of Leopold upon Mozart is worthy of recognition. After all, Mozart had never been under the musical teachings of anyone except his father. Leopold recognized his son’s potential, developed his talent, and made his genius known around Europe. Without the influence of his father, Wolfgang would never have achieved the character and greatness that he did .
Mozart had an undeniable mastery of music. He was a superb clavier player, – ‘one of the greatest clavier virtuosi of his time’ . Although he was also proficient on the violin it was the keyboard that mainly occupied his attention. Niemetschek, who was an early biographer of Mozart’s, praised the composer’s piano skills when he wrote “His admirable dexterity…his feeling and delicacy, and beautiful expression…together with his abundant ideas and his knowledge of composition must have enthralled every listener and made Mozart the greatest pianist of all time” . After seeing Mozart perform, fellow composer Muzio Clementi also applauded Mozart’s piano skills when he told his own pupil “Until then I had never heard anyone perform with such spirit and grace” .
Improvisation was one of Mozart’s most impressive skills. During his early years of composing he did not need to write down piano sonatas or variations, as he could just improvise them. He would only put his compositions on paper if a pupil was trying to learn them or if he wanted to send them to a publisher . A friend of Mozart’s named Maximilian Stadler wrote of Mozart’s improvisational talent in his own autobiography: “His improvisations were as well-ordered as if he had them lying written out before him. This led several to think that, when he performed an improvisation in public, he must have thought everything out, and practiced it, beforehand” . From these firsthand accounts it is clear that Mozart had mastered the skill of improvisation.
Mozart was incredibly skilled in the art of composition. The extraordinary thing about the way he composed was that it came so naturally to him. He didn’t have to search for ideas about what to write – compositions simply appeared in his head and then he wrote them down. Creating a piece of music came so easily to him that at times he would be working on two or three pieces at a time, as they would appear in his mind all at once . Mozart could also compose a piece at an impressive speed. He once composed a sonata for pianoforte and violin the night before he was supposed to perform it in concert. With no time to write down the music or practice with his partner, he played the sonata by memory the next day . Within his compositions are numerous examples of his absolute artistry of contrapuntal combinations, movement structure, use of counterpoint, harmonic modulations, and tonal color . With his extraordinary keyboard, improvisational, and composition skills, it is an undeniable fact that Wolfgang Mozart possessed a profound mastery of music.
Mozart wrote an impressive number and variety of works over the course of his short life. The entire catalogue is exhausting, but among the works are twenty operas, fifteen masses, seventeen church sonatas, more than a hundred airs, songs, choruses, and vocal canons, around fifty symphonies, fifty concertos, seventeen piano sonatas, forty two sonatas for violin and piano, twenty six string quartets, eight string quintets, seven piano trios, two piano quartets – all written with an exceptional degree of perfection. In a letter that Mozart wrote to his father in 1778 he states, “As you know, I can more or less adopt or imitate any kind and any style of composition” . The sheer number and extreme versatility of his work is a testament to this self-proclaimed ability.
Mozart was the greatest master of the classical style. A key element of the classical style was a lightness that contrasted the earlier work of the Baroque period. Mozart achieved this with his melodies, which held him above the rest of the composers of his time. A great melodist named Richard Strauss said “The most perfect melodic shapes are found in Mozart; he has the lightness of touch which is the true objective” . His ability to create melodies that sounded so “light” was a result of his perfect technique. These delicate melodies were the most accessible part of Mozart’s music and allowed an exposure to a wide range of listeners. ‘Komm, liber Mai’, is a song using one of Mozart’s melodies that every German schoolchild still sings today . Another aspect of the classical style is a wide range of dynamics and mood. In true classical form Mozart would use a wide range of expression and a strong contrast of styles and feelings within a single work . Mozart’s mastery of the classical style is outrivaled by any other composer of his era, making him the greatest composer of the classical period.
There is no shortage of praise for Mozart from fellow composers. Joseph Haydn, who was the most renowned composer in Europe at the time, was astonished after seeing young Mozart play live. He famously commented to Leopold Mozart that “Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition” . Haydn’s judgment was the highest recognition that Mozart could have received in that period . He continued to express his respect for Mozart on later occasions.
Although the approval of Haydn was an outstanding achievement for Mozart, it was one of the few examples of praise that he received during his time. Lorenzo Da Ponte, who wrote the librettos for three of Mozart’s operas, commented on Mozart’s lack of acknowledgement: “Wolfgang Mozart, although endowed with talents surpassing those of any composer of past, present, and future, had not been able as yet, owing to the intrigues of his enemies, to utilize his divine genius here in Vienna” . Da Ponte suggested that Mozart enemies, as opposed to a lack of worthy talent, had halted his success. Whatever the reason, it was not until the later Romantic period that Mozart received his well-deserved recognition. Romantic composer Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky openly worshipped Mozart throughout his life. Tchaikovsky even left two memorials of affection for Mozart: his “Mozartiana” Suite for Orchestra (op. 61) and a vocal quartet . Romantic era poets such as Wilhelm Heinrich Wackenroder and Ludwig Tieck also idolized Mozart . The extraordinary amount of praise that Mozart received shows the true celebration he received as a composer, even if it was after his death.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at the young age of thirty-five on December 5, 1791 . Although he lived a short life, he was able to compose for a span of twenty-nine years. Because he started writing at such a young age, he was given almost as full of a ‘composing life’ as other composers, who started creating music a lot later in their life. As a result of his early life as a child prodigy, musical mastery, large number and range of works, mastery of the classical style, and endless praise from fellow composers, Mozart’s music and influence continues to transcend history. Thus, Mozart is undoubtedly the most celebrated and recognized composer of the classical period, and the most gifted musical genius of all time.
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