A little Boy Who played
the Second Violin
Wolfgangus Theophilis Amadeus Mozart
Once known as Wolferl (1756 - 1791)
- Austrian composer, a centrally important composer of the classical era, and one of the most inspired composers in
Western musical tradition. Born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, and baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, he was
educated by his father, Leopold Mozart, who was concertmaster in the court orchestra of the archbishop of Salzburg
and a celebrated violinist, composer, and author.
Mozart's Musically Precocious Childhood
- By the age of six Mozart had become an accomplished performer on the clavier, violin, and organ and was highly
skilled in sight-reading and improvisation. Five short piano pieces composed by Mozart when he was six years old
are still frequently played. In 1762 Leopold took Wolfgang on the first of many successful concert tours through the
courts of Europe. During this period Wolfgang composed sonatas for the harpsichord and violin (1763), a symphony
(1764), an oratorio (1766), and the opera buffa La finta semplice (The Simple Pretense, 1768). In 1769 Mozart was
appointed concertmaster to the archbishop of Salzburg, and later in the same year, at La Scala (Milan, Italy), he was
made a chevalier of the Order of the Golden Spur by the pope. He also composed his first German operetta, Bastien
und Bastienne, in the same year. At the age of 14 he was commissioned to write a serious opera. This work, Mitridate,
rè di Ponto (Mithridates, King of Pontus, 1770), produced under his direction at Milan, completely established an
already phenomenal reputation.
The Mozarts returned to Salzburg in 1771. Hieronymus, count von Colloredo, the successor to the archbishop of
Salzburg, who had died while the Mozarts were touring Italy, cared little for music. Mozart's appointment at Salzburg,
however, proved to be largely honorary; it allowed ample time for a prodigious musical output during his next six
years, but afforded little financial security. In 1777 Mozart obtained a leave of absence for a concert tour and left with
his mother for Munich.
A Difficult Later Life
- The courts of Europe ignored the 21-year-old composer in his search for a more congenial and rewarding appointment.
He traveled to Mannheim, then the musical center of Europe because of its famous orchestra, in hopes of a post, and
there fell in love with Aloysia Weber. Leopold promptly ordered his son and wife to Paris. His mother's death in Paris
in July 1778, his rejection by Weber, and the neglect he suffered from the aristocrats whom he courted made the two
years from Mozart's arrival in Paris until his return to Salzburg in 1779 one of the most difficult periods in his life.
While at home Mozart composed two masses and a number of sonatas, symphonies, and concertos; these works
reveal for the first time a distinctive style and a completely mature understanding of musical media. The success of
Mozart's Italian opera seria Idomeneo, rè di Creta (Idomeneo, King of Crete), commissioned and composed in 1781,
prompted the archbishop of Salzburg to invite Mozart to his palace at Vienna. A series of court intrigues and his
exploitation at the hands of the court soon forced Mozart to leave. In a house in Vienna rented for him by friends, he
hoped to sustain himself by teaching. During this period Mozart composed a singspiel (a type of German operetta
with some spoken dialogue) called The Abduction from the Seraglio, which was requested by Emperor Joseph II in
1782. In the same year Mozart married Constanze Weber, Aloysia's younger sister. Unending poverty and illness
harassed the family until Mozart's death. The Marriage of Figaro (1786) and Don Giovanni (1787), with librettos by
Lorenzo Da Ponte, while successful in Prague, were partial failures in Vienna. From 1787 until the production of Così
fan tutte (All Women Do So, 1790, again with a libretto by Da Ponte), Mozart received no commissions for operas. For
the coronation of Emperor Leopold II in 1791 he wrote the opera seria La clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Titus;
libretto by Metastasio). His three great symphonies of 1788—no. 39 in E-flat, no. 40 in G Minor, and no. 41 in C (the
Jupiter)—were never performed under his direction. While Mozart was working on the singspiel The Magic Flute (1791),
an emissary of a Count Walsegg mysteriously requested a requiem mass. This work, uncompleted at Mozart's death,
proved to be his last musical effort. He died, presumably of typhoid fever, in Vienna on December 5, 1791; his burial
was attended by few friends. The place of his grave is unmarked. The legend that the Italian composer Antonio Salieri
murdered him is unsupported by reputable scholars.
- Mozart had an unsuccessful career and died young, but he ranks as one of the great geniuses of Western civilization.
His large output (more than 600 works) shows that even as a child he possessed a thorough command of the technical
resources of musical composition as well as an original imagination. His instrumental works include symphonies,
divertimentos, sonatas, chamber music for a number of instrumental combinations, and concertos; his vocal works
consist mainly of church music and operas. Mozart's creative method was extraordinary, for his manuscripts show
that, although he made an occasional preliminary sketch of a difficult passage, he almost invariably thought out a
complete work before committing it to paper. His music combines an Italian taste for clear and graceful melody with a
German taste for formal and contrapuntal ingenuity. Mozart thus epitomizes the classical style of the 18th century, the
goal of which was to be succinct, clear, and well balanced while at the same time developing ideas to a point of
emotionally satisfying fullness. These qualities are perhaps best expressed in his concertos, with their dramatic
contrasts between a solo instrument and the orchestra, and in his operas, with their profound contrasts between
different personalities reacting to changing situations. His operas achieved a new unity of vocal and instrumental
writing; they are marked by subtle characterization and an unusual use of classic symphonic style in large-scale
"Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus," Microsoft (R) Encarta. Copyright (c) 1994 Microsoft Corporation. Copyright (c) 1994 Funk
& Wagnall's Corporation.
Once upon a time .....
There was a little boy in Salzburg, Austria, known as Wolferl who had a Papa, a Mama, and an
older sister Nannerl.
Papa was a very good violinist; he was so good that he became the concertmaster of his town . When his sister Nannerl was seven and Wolferl was three,
Papa started teaching her to play the piano. Wolferl loved hearing her play and asked Papa to teach him too.
When the boy was four, Papa decided to give him piano lessons. But he liked to play violin like Papa. They got
him a little violin, just like Papa's, only smaller.
One day Papa came home with two friends. They set up
music stands and pulled up chairs so they could play some
new "trios" that one had just written.
Wolferl came into the room with his little violin and said,
"Papa, can I play?"
And his papa looked down at him and said,
"Wolferl, you can't play the violin."
But Wolferl begged,
"Please, papa. Please, papa."
The second violinist started feeling sorry for him and said to Wolferl's Papa,
"Let the little one sit next to me. You won't be able to hear him play."
Papa turned to Wolferl and said,
"All right, you can sit there and play, but make sure no one can hear you!"
Little Wolferl sat down with his tiny violin and began to play.
Pretty soon the second violinist stopped playing. He looked at that little five
year old boy who was now playing the second violin part all by himself!!!
To read the whole story about Wolferl, ask your Papa or Mama to send you to
"Mozart's Magical Life and Music"
An internet presentation for the entire family.