Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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January 27, 1756
December 5, 1791
Place of birth: 

It seems that everything has been said about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the composer who is as close to all gods as a human can ever be. Yet there are some aspects of him and his life that even musicians do not think about every day.


In 1862 Ludwig von Köchel, a law and history scholar, amateur musician and teacher of the sons of the Austrian archduke Karl, began to catalogue the works of Wolfgang Amadé Mozart. And this is where the problem starts already: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's name was not "Amadeus": we do not have a single signature of Joannes Chysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (which was the name he was given upon his christening), and only in three letters he uses the  "Amadeus" that became so common following the officially latinized entry in the death register - and these three instances appear to be joking. Usually he chose to translate his third name "Theophilus" as "Amadé", and his first few works were published under the name of "J. G. Mozart" - "G" for "Gottlieb" (the German translation of "Theophilus").


"Who cares?" might be what you are thinking now - and yet it is not a mere curiousity. It is a sign for the fact that all research will never capture the real emotions and details of the life of W. A. Mozart. Which is exactly what happened to the Köchel-Verzeichnis that is now in its eighth edition of 1983 and constantly amended, adapted and added to by no less than five eminent musicologists over the last 150 years. The result is quite frankly a mess that no musician can ever follow, probably only exceeded by the state of the unfortunate register that Anthony van Hoboken compiled of the works of Joseph Haydn between 1957 and 1978.


While you are reading these lines, a work like the Menuet K 1 (1st edition), ie K 1e (6th edition) would already have passed. Not even the date of the composition of this little piece is clear: was Mozart five or eight years old when he wrote this piece? This, forgive me to say, I find completely irrelevant because the more music I know of Mozart, the greater I find the miracle of his genius.


Let's jump to the year 1785. Mozart had reached the climax of his creative power and was everything else but the depleted genius. In today's currency his turnover of the Viennese years would be millions. Mozart, the concertizing and composing superstar, spent more money on candles that illuminated his billiard table with a specially constructed indirect lighting system per year than the majority of the working population of Vienna earned and altogether lived an exuberant lifestyle: grand apartments, servants, instruments and their transports, clothes, wigs and cures for his beloved wife, gala dinners and what not. Yet: He was 29 (!) years young, finally sucessful and healthy - why would he have saved the money? He could not know that he was to fall fatally ill at 35. At such a lifestyle, one production that he had put a lot of money into, could easily flop and would then cause a shortage of money, as insurances of all kinds were not known at the time. Today we would call it "cashflow problem".  But real poverty? Never - that is a myth when it comes to Mozart. His concert fees were astronomical, and nobody would ever say of Michael Jackson that he led a "depleted" life ...

Next station: 1788. This year, the one following "Don Giovanni",  is dominated by the last three symphonies, by piano trios and sonatas and various smaller pieces. Mozart - never forget it! - was still only 32 years old. The Symphony in C, K 551 ("Jupiter") is the last of its kind, although other orchestral works such as "Titus", "Die Zauberflöte", the Requiem and the Clarinet Concerto were still to come. These last three symphonies were composed within two months only, their manuscripts dated 26 June, 25 July and 10 August, humiliating all following composers ... Their keys g minor, E Flat Major and C Major might be a reference Haydn's symphonies Nos 82 to 84, published as his op 51 in 1787. Another obeisance to his patron? It is an ironic turn that it was London where the impresario Johann Peter Salomon created the name "Jupiter" for the last symphony in 1829.

Look at the identikit picture of Mozart of the German secret service, depicting obsession. Schumann's quote "never jingle!" seems naive compared to Mozart's urge. What remains? Maybe another answer to the question what caused Mozart's death: Too much life.


© Martin Rummel / paladino media