Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–91) was one of the greatest composers in the Western tradition. His mature operas, including Le nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and Die Zauberflöte, are among the finest examples of the art form.
Mozart was born in Salzburg, the seventh and last child of composer and violinist Leopold; only he and his sister Maria Anna (‘Nannerl’) survived infancy. He and Nannerl were taught by their father and both displayed prodigious musical talent, which they displayed on tours to the European courts. Mozart’s earliest compositions date from age five or six, and his music seems first to have appeared in print in 1764. Aged 13 he was appointed Konzertmeister at the Salzburg court, in recognition of his reputation as both composer and performer. Early operas include Mitridate, re di Ponto (1770) and Lucio Silla (1772), both written for Milan. For much of the 1770s he was settled in Salzburg, excursions including to Munich in 1774–5 for La finta giardiniera. Idomeneo (1780), also composed for Munich, is now considered the first opera of his maturity; but it was Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782) for Vienna that secured his fame. His move to Vienna in 1781, where he taught, composed and preformed, heralded his most successful years. Operatic works from this period include his three operas with librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, Le nozze di Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787, for Prague) and Così fan tutte (1790); all were instantly acclaimed, although Così was later accused of promoting immorality. In 1791 he wrote La clemenza di Tito to celebrate the coronation of Emperor Leopold II and Die Zauberflöte for the Viennese popular theatre Theater auf der Wieden. His many other great late works include the clarinet concerto, the final two string quintets and the unfinished Requiem.
Mozart excelled in every musical form current in his time, including sacred, chamber, symphonic, dance and operatic works. His early facility matured into an inspired synthesis of Italian and south German traditions. Recognized as a great artist in his time, he is now considered perhaps the most consummate artist in Western music.
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