Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart


Mozart was born to Leopold and Anna Maria Pertl Mozart, in the front room of nine Getreidegasse in Salzburg, the capital of the sovereign Archbishopric of Salzburg, in what is now Austria, then part of the Holy Roman Empire. His only sibling who survived beyond infancy was an older sister: Maria Anna, nicknamed Nannerl. Mozart was baptized the day after his birth at St. Rupert’s Cathedral. The baptismal record gives his name in Latinized form as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart. Of these names, the first two refer to John Chrysostom, one of the Church Fathers, and they were names not employed in everyday life, while the fourth, meaning “beloved of God”, was variously translated in Mozart’s lifetime as Amadeus (Latin), Gottlieb (German), and Amadé (French). Mozart’s father Leopold announced the birth of his son in a letter to the publisher Johann Jakob Lotter with the words “…the boy is called Joannes Chrysostomus, Wolfgang, Gottlieb”. Mozart himself preferred the third name, and he also took a fancy to “Amadeus” over the years. (see Mozart’s name).

Mozart’s father Leopold (1719–1787) was one of Europe’s leading musical teachers. His influential textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, was published in 1756, the year of Mozart’s birth (English, as “A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing”, transl. E.Knocker; Oxford-New York, 1948). He was deputy kapellmeister to the court orchestra of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and a prolific and successful composer of instrumental music. Leopold gave up composing when his son’s outstanding musical talents became evident. They first came to light when Wolfgang was about three years old, and Leopold, proud of Wolfgang’s achievements, gave him intensive musical training, including instruction in clavier, violin, and organ. Leopold was Wolfgang’s only teacher in his earliest years. A note by Leopold in Nannerl’s music book – the Nannerl Notenbuch – records that little Wolfgang had learned several of the pieces at the age of four. Mozart’s first compositions, a small Andante (K. 1a) and Allegro (K. 1b), were written in 1761, when he was five years old.[1]