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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as he is generally known, was baptized in a Salzburg Cathedral on the day after his birth as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. The first and last given names come from his godfather Joannes Theophilus Pergmayr, although Mozart preferred the Latin form of this last name, Amadeus, more often Amadé, or the Italiano Amadeo, and occasionally the Deutsch Gottlieb. Whatever the case may be, he rarely - if ever - used Theophilus in his signature. The name Chrysostomus originates from St. John Chrysostom, whose feast falls on the 27th of January. The name Wolfgang was given to him in honor of his maternal grandfather, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl.

He was the seventh and last child born to musical author, composer and violinist, Leopold Mozart and his wife Anna Maria Pertl. Only Wolfgang and Maria Anna (whose nickname was 'Nannerl') survived infancy. He was born in a house in the Hagenauersches Haus in Salzburg, Austria, on the 27th of January, 1756.

Though he did not walk until he was three years old, Mozart displayed musical gifts at an extremely early age. At the age of four, he could reproduce on the piano a melody played to him; at five, he could play the violin with perfect intonation. In fact, with more recent evidence, Mozart is believed to have written his first composition just a few short days before his fourth birthday! These compositions, an Andante and Allegro K1a and K1b, were written, Leopold noted, early in 1760, as he approached his fourth birthday. They are very brief, and modelled on the little pieces that his sister had been given to play (and which he also learnt; the "Wolfgang Notenbuch" is a forgery). As they survive only in his father's handwriting, it is impossible to determine how much of them are Mozart's own work.

So when the six-year-old Wolfgang had proved his extraordinary talents at the keyboard, Leopold was keen to exhibit those talents along with those of his gifted pianist daughter, Nannerl. Thus Leopold undertook a four month tour of Vienna and the surrounding area, visiting every noble house and palace he could find, taking the entire family with him. Mozart's first known public appearance was at Salzburg University in September of 1761, when he took part in a theatrical performance with music by Eberlin. Like other parents of his time, Leopold Mozart saw nothi...

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...ts of fever and general ill-health. And in his last ten years in Vienna, the constant need to write commissioned work - for he was the first of the composing freelances, with no regular patrons or court salaries - had worn him down to the point where one bout of fever was sure to finish him off. In July he'd had the anonymous commission to write a Requiem for the Dead; but that had been progressing slowly, because he'd been busy with two operas - La Clemenza di Tito and The Magic Flute - and two cantatas at the same time. Thirty-five years of artistic, social and personal pressure was taking its toll.

Almost as soon as the cold cloths had been wrapped around his head, Mozart lost consciousness. He left no great last words; his final utterance was an attempt to express a drum passage in the Requiem, a sound that would haunt Sophie Haibel for the rest of her life. Perhaps, in his last semi-conscious moments, the sounds of the completed Requiem were sounding inside Mozart's head, the perfect performance of his final masterpiece and swan-song that would never be heard.

Shortly before one o'clock on the morning of 5 December 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died at the age of 35.
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