Primary History - Famous People

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart  

  • Who was Mozart

    How do you say his name?
    Most people say Moht-zart. His first name was Wolfgang, a German name. It means 'wolf path'. His middle name was Amadeus (Am-uh-day-us), which means 'God's love' in Latin.

    Mozart was born in Austria, where most people speak German.

    Why is Mozart famous?
    Mozart wrote music. He was a composer, and one of the greatest musicians of all time. He was famous as a child because he could play and write music from the age of 4. He grew up to write some of the most beautiful music ever heard.

    When did he live?
    Mozart was born in 1756. He lived before there were cars, trains or planes. When Mozart travelled around Europe, he went in a coach and horses or by boat. Mozart died in 1791, not long after the French Revolution had begun.

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  • A wonderful child

    The Mozart family
    Mozart was born on 27 January 1756 in the town of Salzburg, in Austria. Mozart's father Leopold was a musician. He played the violin. Mozart's mother was Anna Maria Pertl.

    Leopold Mozart earned his living as a music teacher. He also played for the archbishop of Salzburg.

    The wonder-child
    Leopold soon knew he had a brilliant son. Wolfgang could play the harpsichord at the age of 3. By the time he was 5, he was writing tunes.

    He seemed to have music in his head. He could pick up a violin and play it, without being shown how.

    Brother and sister
    Mozart's sister Maria Anna was good at music too. He called her Nanerl.

    Brother and sister made up their own secret language. They told stories about a magic kingdom where they were king and queen.

    Leopold took his two children to Vienna. They played for the Emperor of Austria at his palace. Everyone was amazed. The Emperor called Mozart a 'little magician'.

    Mozart goes on tour
    In 1763 Leopold took the children on a tour of Europe. They went to France, then by ship to England. They stayed in London for a year. The children played for King George III.

    In London, Mozart met Johann Christian Bach (pronounced 'bark'). Bach was a German musician, a son of the famous composer Johann Sebastian Bach. Mozart learned from Bach, as he did from all the musicians he met.

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  • Mozart at work

    More travels
    Mozart did a lot of travelling. His father took him to Italy, and there he saw opera for the first time. At the age of 12, he wrote his first opera.

    Mozart astonished everyone. He could sit in a church, listen to the music and singing, go home, and then write down all the notes - from memory.

    What was music like then?
    When Mozart lived, there were no music downloads. No records of any kind, just notes written on paper. People heard music only when it was 'live'.

    People sang while they worked. They danced at balls and parties. They made music at home. Musicians played in orchestras. In Christian churches, choirs sang as part of the services.

    Musical instruments
    Musicians played keyboard instruments (such as piano), strings (violin), wind (oboe) and brass (trumpet). These instruments were not quite the same as the ones today.

    Mozart played a piano for the first time in 1777. Pianos were replacing old keyboard instruments, such as the harpsichord.

    Looking for a job
    Mozart gave piano lessons, but was always poor. In 1777 his mother went with him to Germany. He hoped to get a job as a court musician. Rich princes had their own orchestras. In Germany, he fell in love with a singer, Aloysia Weber.

    Then it was off to France. There Mozart's mother became ill. She died in the summer of 1778. Mozart went back to Austria.

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  • Mozart the composer

    Mozart gets married
    Back in Salzburg, the old archbishop had died. The new archbishop gave Mozart a job, but Mozart did not like the archbishop. He felt like a servant. He soon left.

    He went back to Germany. Aloysia Weber had decided to marry someone else. In 1782, Mozart married Aloysia's sister Constanze. She was a singer too.

    In 1784, Mozart joined the Freemasons.

    Home life
    Mozart and Constanze were happy, but poor. One winter's day, a visitor saw them dancing around the room - to keep warm!

    The Mozarts had six children. But four died as babies. Two sons grew up, and were good musicians, though not as good as their father.

    What music did Mozart write?
    Mozart never stopped writing music. He wrote music for piano and violin. He wrote for orchestras and singers. He wrote 'chamber music' for a quartet (4 players). He wrote church music too.

    The famous composer Josef Haydn said Mozart was the finest composer he knew.

    Good times and sad times
    In 1787, Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro was a hit. But then he learned his father Leopold had died. Happiness turned to sadness.

    Mozart had to earn money by teaching music, and giving concerts. He worked hard. He sat up all night to finish his next opera, Don Giovanni.

    The King of Prussia (in Germany) offered him a well-paid job. But Mozart stayed in Vienna.

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  • What Mozart left us

    How Mozart worked
    Mozart could write music very quickly. He once wrote an opera in 3 weeks.

    He wrote 41 symphonies. He wrote funny operas, such as Cosi fan Tutte ('All Women Are Like That') and serious ones like The Magic Flute. He wrote solemn church music, and shorter, cheerful pieces such as Eine Kleine Nachtmusik ('A Little Night Music')

    How Mozart's life ended
    Mozart was working on a piece of funeral music, called a Requiem, in the summer of 1791, he became ill. No one knows what was wrong with him. He died in December 1791.

    The great composer was so poor he was buried with other poor people in a 'paupers' grave'. No stone marked it.

    Mozart's music
    Mozart's music is enjoyed all over the world. People listen to it at concerts They enjoy recordings made by orchestras and solo players.

    Mozart was not always happy. Yet his music is often full of fun. He also wrote serious and moving music.

    Festivals of music
    Every year people come to Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace. The town has a music festival in his honour.

    There are music festivals all over the world. The BBC 'Proms' is a music festival. People come to festivals to make music and enjoy it.

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Game

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Travel around Europe with Mozart.

Fun Facts
  • One of Mozart's 'party tricks' was to play the piano with the keys covered by a cloth.

  • As a boy in Vienna Mozart met Princess Marie Antoinette. She later married the King of France, but had her head cut off during the French Revolution.

  • Mozart wrote more than 600 pieces of music.

  • Mozart was only 8 when he wrote his first symphony.

  • Mozart's family name (the one used at home) was 'Wolferl'.

  • As a little boy Mozart was taken to see the Empress of Austria, and sat on her lap! Everyone was shocked but the Empress did not mind.

Other famous writers, poets and musicians

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Jump to: A-D | E-G | H-L | M-O | P-S | T-Z

A to D

An important Christian church leader.
Grand parties with music and dancing.
A group of people singing together.
Someone who makes up and writes music.
A public performance of music for people to listen to.
Where a ruler such as an emperor lived and was entertained.

E to G

Like a king, but ruling over more than one country.
A celebration, with performances and shows.
A secret 'brotherhood', who do charity work and help one another.
French Revolution
This was in France in 1789, when people killed the king and queen.
A ceremony when someone dies.

H to L

A keyboard instrument, before the piano.

M to O

The symbols used to write down music.
A play where the actors sing rather than speak.

P to S

The home of a ruler.
Doing something on your own, such as singing or playing the piano.
A long piece of music for lots of instruments.

T to Z

A long trip, around a country or from one country to another.