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Date: 02 February, 2006

Mozart


 

'Mozart is famed for writing his first musical composition as young as five.'

 

 

By Andrew Chapman

It's hard to miss that this year is the 250th anniversary of the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, regarded by many as the world's greatest composer, and unquestionably one of the major figures in European history.

Johann Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 in Salzburg, now in Austria. His father Leopold was a music teacher, who trained his son as early as three years old, and Mozart is famed for writing his first musical composition as young as five.

As he grew up he travelled widely in Europe, to Munich, Vienna, London, Paris and many others. One story from his time in Italy tells of how he heard Allegri's Miserere only once and was able to write it out from memory.

From the 1780s, Mozart settled in Vienna, marrying Constanze Weber - two of their six children survived infancy. Constanze sang in the premier of Mozart's Mass in C Minor in 1783.

In this period Mozart was influenced by the works of both J S Bach and Handel, and befriended Haydn, to whom he dedicated six quartets. Mozart continued to compose and perform many works across a variety of genres, from concerto to operas, particularly in Vienna and Prague, although was often beset by financial difficulties and illness.

He died in 1791, famously while still working on his Requiem, as immortalised in the film Amadeus. He was buried in a communal grave and his remains, despite DNA testing in 2005, have yet to be conclusively identified.

This year there are many celebrations of Mozart's anniversary - particularly in Salzburg and Vienna, but also in London and as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

His works remain hugely popular worldwide. For information about his life and works, you can visit the Mozart exhibition at the British Library until April.

If you can't get to a concert, try the Mozart quiz, or listen to his works on Radio 3, or introduce a new generation to his work through ClassicFM's Mozart for Babies CD.