Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria and, although he died over 200 years ago, his operas, concertos, symphonies, and sonatas have profoundly shaped classical music to this day. Every year on his birthday, music lovers from around the world celebrate this legends incredible accomplishments.
Universally recognized as one of history’s most influential composers, Mozart showed prodigious talent from an early age. By age four, he was already performing short pieces. By age five, he was displaying an aptitude for composition. By age six, he was playing before European royalty including performances at the Bavarian court and at the imperial court in Vienna.
Alongside contemporaries like Franz Joseph Haydn and Ludwig van Beethoven, Mozart helped form the First Viennese School in the late 18th century. However, even those legends worked in Mozart’s shadow, with Haydn famously writing of Mozart, “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years.”
Before his seventh birthday, Mozart took a leave of absence from his position as deputy Kapellmeister at the prince archbishop’s court at Salzburg to set out on a prolonged tour. That type of extended touring became the norm, as Mozart spent 3,720 of his 13,097 days on earth (nearly 30%) traveling and performing in major European cities including Munich, Frankfurt, Brussels, Paris, London, and Amsterdam.
At age eight, Mozart met Johann Christian Bach (son of Johann Sebastian Bach) in London and began composing his first symphonies. At age 17, Mozart and his family finally ended their decade long tour and returned to Austria where Mozart began his employment as a court musician appointed by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. During this period, Mozart began composing more symphonies, as well as concertos for the bassoon and violin.
By age 20, Mozart turned his efforts towards piano concertos and, shortly after his 21st birthday, he completed Piano Concerto No. 9. However, Mozart soon grew restless and dissatisfied with his position and began looking for more lucrative opportunities elsewhere. After less than two years of touring cities like Paris and Munich, Mozart returned to Salzburg to produce a series of church works and operas. This extended touring clearly affected Mozart’s subsequent work, with symphonies like K 318 in G Major and K 338 in C Major showing a clear Parisian influence.
Before his 27th birthday, Mozart became more and more inspired by the Baroque stylings of Bach and Handel, which influenced his later compositions. In 1784, just before his 30th birthday, Mozart’s production reached a new zenith. With theatre space in Vienna at a premium, Mozart began performing in offbeat venues like large apartments, ballrooms, and restaurants. His versatility was on full display in these concerts, as Mozart would conduct symphonies, play improvisational pieces, and perform existing selections.
Riding high on his recent success, management of the Estates Theatre in Vienna agreed to mount a production of Mozart’s next opera — Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro). The opera premiered in May 1786 but was met with mixed reviews. However, when the opera premiered in Prague later that year, it was deemed a tremendous success with one newspaper review stating, “no piece has ever caused such a sensation.”
In 1787, Mozart premiered Don Giovanni in Prague, Czech Republic. An opera based on the legends of Don Juan that combines elements of comedy and drama, it is widely regarded as one of Mozart’s masterworks. It is consistently one of the most performed operas to this day, and it was selected as the premiere when the Vienna State Opera opened in 1869.
Following a stretch of decreased productivity, Mozart went through a period of great creation shortly before his death. Some of his crowning achievements during this period included The Magic Flute, the final piano concerto (K. 595 in B-flat), the Clarinet Concerto in A major, and the unfinished Requiem (K. 626).
Despite his vast musical catalog and notoriety, Mozart was prone to living beyond his means and fell upon serious financial troubles. Mozart often dealt with low wages and racked up significant debts. Although he composed more than 600 works during his lifetime, Mozart was buried in a common grave at the St. Marx cemetery, in accordance with Viennese customs, upon his death at age 35.
Mozart leaves behind an incredible legacy that helped define the classical period. His achievements in symphony, string ensemble, opera, and concerto show a vast range of expression that makes his music universally accessible — even to this day. His influence crosses countless genres, and there’s no question that he’s one of the greatest musicians to ever live.
At Encore Tours, we believe in celebrating our musical history and paying homage to the musicians that helped define an era. That’s why we’re proud to offer a performance tour dedicated to the life of Mozart, as well as other influential composers like Haydn and Dvořák. Our trips are fully customizable, but this sample itinerary includes stops in Salzburg, Vienna, and Prague. Highlights include:
- Visiting Mozart’s birthplace
- Seeing Mozart’s memorial statue at Plaza de Mozart (Mozartplatz)
- Exploring Mozart’s House in Vienna where he wrote “The Marriage of Figaro”
- Enjoying a Mozart dinner at the Grant Hotel Bohemia
- Taking a tour In the Footsteps of Mozart
- And More!
Looking to celebrate Mozart’s birthday on your own? There are so many wonderful books written about Mozart for music lovers of all ages, and Classics For Kids offers several lesson plans about Mozart for elementary school students. They have also produced a series of short shows about Mozart, which can be found below:
- About Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
- Mozart’s Operas
- Janissary Music
- What’s a Rondo?
- Child Prodigy Composers