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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Probably the greatest genius in Western musical history, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria, Jan. 27, 1756, the son of Leopold Mozart and his wife, Anna Maria Pertl. Leopold was a successful composer, violinist and assistant concertmaster at the Salzburg court.

Wolfgang began composing minuets at the age of 5 and symphonies at 9. When he was 6, he and his older sister, Maria Anna (who was nicknamed "Nannerl"), performed a series of concerts to Europe's courts and major cities. Both children played the keyboard, but Wolfgang became a violin virtuoso as well.

In 1762 the Mozart children played at court in Vienna; the Empress Maria Theresa and her husband, Emperor Francis I, received them. From 1763 - 66, the Mozart children displayed their talents to audiences in Germany, Paris, at court in Versailles, and London (where Wolfgang wrote his first symphonies and began a friendship with Johann Christian Bach, whose became a great musical influence on Wolfgang). In Paris, the young Mozart published his first works, four sonatas for clavier with accompanying violin (1764). In 1768 he composed his first opera, La Finta Semplice, which had its premiere in Salzburg. In 1769-70, Leopold and Wolfgang undertook a tour through Italy. This first Italian trip culminated in a new opera, Mitridate, re di Ponto, composed for Milan. In two further Italian journeys he wrote two more operas for Milan, Ascanio in Alba (1771) and Lucio Silla (1772).

In 1772, Archbishop von Schrattenbach died, to be succeeded by Hieronymus von Colloredo. The latter, at first sympathetic to the Mozarts, later became irritated by Wolfgang's prolonged absences and stubborn ways. In 1772, von Colloredo retained Wolfgang as concertmaster at a token salary. In this capacity Mozart composed a large number of sacred and secular works. Wishing to secure a better position outside Salzburg, he obtained permission to undertake another journey in 1777. With his mother he traveled to France, where he composed the Paris Symphony (1778) but he was unable to find a permanent position. His mother died in Paris.

When he returned to Salzburg he was given the position of court organist (1779) and produced a splendid series of church works, including the famous Coronation Mass. He was commissioned to compose a new opera for Munich, Idomeneo (1781), that proved he was a consummate master of opera seria. Summoned by von Colloredo to Vienna in 1781 he was dismissed after a series of arguments.

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WAM at 250

Read "WAM at 250" reviewed by C. Michael Bailey

Dateline: February 27, 2006, Little Rock, Arkansas.

No, not WHAM!, the 1980s boy duo of George Michael and what's-his-name. WAM! - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and today is his 250th birthday. Mozart was born in Salzburg, Austria on January 27, 1756; his full name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Gottlieb Mozart. The composer was baptized as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart: named after his grandfather on his mother's side and after the Saint honored on the date his of birth, Johannes Chrysostomus.

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