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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Early Years

A remarkable prodigy, Mozart was taught to play the harpsichord, violin, and organ by his father, Leopold, and began composing before he was five. When Mozart was six, he and his older sister, Marianne, were presented by their father in concerts at the court of the Empress Maria Theresa in Vienna and in the principal aristocratic households of central Europe, Paris, and London. His progress as a composer was amazing; by the age of 13 he had written concertos, sonatas, symphonies, a German operetta, Bastien und Bastienne (1768), and an Italian opera buffa, La finta semplice (1769). During a tour in Italy (1768–71) he absorbed Italian style, received great acclaim for his concerts in Rome and other major cities, and successfully produced his opera Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770).

In 1771 Mozart was appointed concertmaster to the archbishop of Salzburg. However, he was dissatisfied with his position and the restrictions placed on his work, and after six years he went on tour in search of a better post. He traveled with his mother, visiting numerous cities, including Munich, Mannheim (where he fell in love briefly with the singer Aloysia Weber), and Paris. Despite the successful performance in Paris of his Symphony in D (1778), known as the Paris Symphony, Mozart did not receive much attention there.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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