Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born – January 27 1756 – Salzburg, Holy Roman Empire (Austria)
Died – December 5, 1791 – Vienna, Holy Roman Empire (Austria)
A few Mozartian myths debunked?
- Mozart was not the “divinely-inspired vulgarian” that the movie Amadeus would have us believe. He had the facility to recall music he had heard only once with 100% precision. He was known to be obsessively organized and kept a detailed log of everything he’d composed. Perhaps today we’d think of him as having a touch of OCD.
- He didn’t die in poverty. In 1789-90 he had major financial problems but the following year he had received annuities from wealthy patrons, sold dance music and had a stipend as Imperial Chamber Composer. He was no longer borrowing money and was paying off his debts when he took fatally ill.
- The story of a mysterious stranger commissioning the Requiem and Mozart’s belief that he was writing it for his own funeral were fabrications by his widow Constanze. A bit of hype to aid her in the sale of his manuscripts?
- He wasn’t buried in a “unmarked pauper’s grave” but in a “common grave” at St Mark’s Cemetery in Vienna. A “common grave” was an individual grave for a member of the common people (i.e., not the aristocracy). Common graves were excavated after ten years and the bones stored in a charnel house.
- The story of the rivalry between Mozart and Salieri makes for great drama but is entirely a fiction. Salieri was amongst the witnesses at Mozart’s internment and was a tutor to young Franz Xaver Mozart who had been born four months before his father’s death.
Eine kleine Nachtmusik – Serenade No. 13 for strings in G Major, K. 525
- The piece is brief and composed for modest resources:
- The four movements last approximately 20 minutes
- The orchestra is made up of 4 violins, 2 violas, 2 cellos, 2 basses
- Completed August 10 1787, probably on commission, no details of its performance are known.
- The popular title comes from a jotting Mozart made beside the work in his log. He casually noted that he had written “eine kleine nachtmusik” or “a little serenade.”
- He also recorded that there were five movements rather than the four that we hear today. The whereabouts of that fifth movement, a second minuet and trio, is unknown.
- The piece wasn’t published in his lifetime. In 1799 Constanze was in need of cash and sold it as part of a job lot to Johann André, a German publisher. It remained unpublished for the next 28 years until it was released with a number of other Mozart’s compositions.
- Oddly though Mozart passed over it as just another “little serenade” it is thought to be his most performed and recorded composition.
- A complete analysis of each of the four movements can be found here: BMSB Music Magazine