Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
THE CHILD MOZART
Far, far away over land and sea lies the little town of Salzburg. What a
beautiful place it is! Old Mother Nature herself has given it its charm.
The town lies in the midst of a smiling plain. On one side are the
forest-clad hills, dark and green. Behind the town rise the mountains,
steep and rugged. As the great white clouds float across the blue sky
above, their shadows are seen on the bare rock of the mountain sides
Here in 1756, in the home of a musician, a little child was born. The
fair-haired baby boy was very welcome. He was the pet and plaything of
the whole household. His sister Marian was especially fond of him. She
was four years older than her little brother. She looked forward to the
time when he would be old enough to play with her.
The baby's father was an organist and violinist. He played in the king's
chapel. The child's mother was a beautiful, loving woman. So it is not
strange that little Wolfgang Mozart, for that was his name, became a
No two children ever had a happier childhood than Marian and Wolfgang
Mozart. Their father and mother were always planning how to make them
happy. Leopold Mozart, the father, was not a rich man, but his heart was
full of love and tenderness.
Dearly did little Wolfgang love his father. He never went to bed without
kissing him on the tip of the nose, and singing a little good-night
song. He used to say, "Next to God comes papa."
Leopold Mozart devoted much time to the training of his two children.
When Marian was quite small, he began to give her piano lessons. The
child learned rapidly. Little Wolfgang, three years old, liked to listen
while his sister was having her lesson.
One afternoon Marian's father was giving her a music lesson. Wolfgang
stood close to the piano, as he was fond of doing. He was as quiet as a
little mouse. All through the lesson he watched and listened. When it
was over, he surprised his father. He searched for a few moments among
the white keys. Then with his baby fingers he played one of Marian's
exercises. He was only a tiny lad, and yet he played the exercise
correctly. Leopold Mozart caught his little son in his arms, exclaiming,
"Who would have thought the baby understood what I was teaching Marian?"
Little Wolfgang was fond of games and had many toys. Often some little
friend played with him. Wolfgang was happiest when they had music in
their games. Indeed, he would not play when there was no music. Even
when they carried their playthings from one room to another, the one who
went empty-handed must sing a march.
When the boy was four years old, his father began teaching him. He
learned music easily, often mastering a piece in half an hour. A year
later he began to compose little pieces, which his father wrote down.
One day Leopold Mozart came home from church with a friend. He found his
son daubing notes on a sheet of paper. The child dipped his pen to the
very bottom of the inkhorn each time. He made many blots on his paper;
but he was not discouraged. He wiped them off with the sleeve of his
coat and went cheerily on.
"What are you doing there, my boy?" asked his father. "I am writing a
concerto and have almost got to the end of the first part," replied
The father took the paper and showed it to his friend. They laughed
heartily at first. After a time, however, they saw that it was written
according to rule. The father said, "It is a pity it can not be made use
of. It is so difficult that no one could play it." "It is a concerto,"
said Wolfgang, "and must be studied till it can be played properly. See,
this is the way it should be given." Going to the piano, he tried to
play it for them.
Wolfgang Mozart was the most gentle and loving of children. He would say
many times a day to those about him, "Do you love me well?" Sometimes
they laughingly replied, "No." At this answer, tears would run down the
little fellow's cheeks.
MOZART'S FIRST TRAVELS
Marian and Wolfgang had studied so hard and practiced so faithfully,
that their playing was remarkable. Indeed, they played so well that, in
Wolfgang's sixth year, their father decided to take them to Munich.
In 1762 they set out for that city, where they remained for three weeks.
Many people attended the concerts which the Mozart children gave. All
who heard them were delighted with their playing.
Later in the same year Leopold Mozart took his children to Vienna.
Vienna, the capital of Austria, is a larger city than Munich. Part of
the journey was made by boat. How much Marian and Wolfgang enjoyed
seeing the blue waters of the Danube! They could look far away across
the green fields which border the river, to the mountains beyond.
While the Mozart children were in Vienna they were invited to play at
court. The empress and her husband were great lovers of music. Little
Wolfgang, with his delicate face and large soft eyes, became a great
favorite in the palace. They liked his music too. Sometimes he played
hours at a time for the empress. The emperor called him his "little
One day the emperor said in jest to little Wolfgang, "It is not very
difficult to play with all one's fingers. To play with only one would be
far more wonderful." The young musician showed no surprise. Using only
one finger he began at once to play with great clearness.
He afterward asked that the keys of the piano might be covered. A cloth
was spread over them and he continued to play as well as before. It
seemed as though he must have practiced playing in that way.
Wolfgang was not at all spoiled by the praise he received. He did not
think of the empress as a sovereign. To him she was only a kind, loving
friend. Sometimes he would spring into her lap, throwing his arms about
her neck, and kissing her.
The empress had a little daughter called Marie Antoinette, who
afterwards became queen of France. One day, at the palace, Wolfgang was
playing with her. He slipped on the polished floor and fell. Marie
Antoinette helped him to his feet. "You are kind and I will marry you,"
Before the Mozart children returned to Salzburg, the empress sent them
each a present. To Marian she gave a beautiful white silk dress.
Wolfgang's gift was a lilac-colored suit, trimmed with bands of gold
Wolfgang often wore this suit when he played in concerts. With his
powdered curls, bright knee buckles, and little sword, what a picture he
must have made!
Up to his sixth birthday, Wolfgang had played only the piano. On his
return from Vienna he brought with him a small violin which had been
given him there. He often amused himself with it.
A short time afterwards, two friends came to visit the Mozart family.
Both were violinists. Leopold Mozart and his friends were going to
play some new music together. One of the guests was to play the first
violin and the other the second violin. Leopold Mozart played the bass
Now you must know that the second violin is the easier part. Wolfgang
asked if he might play that part. His father said, "No, my son, you have
never received any violin lessons. You could not possibly play it well.
Run away now."
Wolfgang was so hurt at these words that he began to cry bitterly. As he
was going away with his little violin under his arm, one of the guests
said, "Let the child stay and play the second part with me." At last the
father consented. "You may play with us," he said, "if you play very
softly and do not let yourself be heard."
The music was begun, Wolfgang playing the second part. Soon the
violinist who was playing the same part saw that he was not needed.
Without saying anything, he laid down his violin. The father, too,
noticed how well the child played and shed tears of joy at the sight.
The picture gives you an idea of the bronze statue of Mozart, made in
1883 by the artist, Barrias. The original is in Paris; but an excellent
copy stands in the Art Institute of Chicago.
MOZART IN FRANCE, ENGLAND, AND HOLLAND
After visiting Vienna the Mozart family spent some months quietly at
home. This time was well used by the children. Never a day went by that
they did not devote many hours to their studies. Their progress was
amazing. In fact they improved so much that their father concluded to
take them on another tour.
This time they were to go to Paris. The summer after Wolfgang's seventh
birthday, Leopold Mozart set out with his children. They stopped at so
many towns and cities that it took them five months to complete the
journey to Paris.
They decided to give a concert in Frankfurt, one of the German towns
that they visited. At that time Goethe was a lad of fourteen. He
attended the concert and never forgot little Wolfgang Mozart. Years
afterward the poet wrote, "In imagination I can still see the little man
in his wig and sword."
The first Paris concert was a great success. The people applauded again
and again. When the children came upon the stage, the men clapped their
hands, and the ladies waved their handkerchiefs. In writing about this
very concert to a friend, Leopold Mozart said, "We burned more than
At New Year's the Mozart children were presented at the French court,
where they were kindly received by the king and queen. The queen had
Wolfgang placed beside her and talked with him in German. He had the
honor of playing the great organ in the king's chapel. Those who heard
him play both the piano and the organ could not decide which he played
The children of a royal family are not often allowed to play with
children of lower rank. The king's daughters admired Wolfgang and Marian
Mozart very much. The princesses and the little musicians had many romps
together in the palace.
From the French capital the Mozarts went to London. On their journey the
children saw the sea for the first time. They liked to watch the great
waves break against the cliffs. They clapped their hands with delight
when the spray dashed over the rocks on the shore. They liked to run
down upon the beach to meet the incoming waves. "See, brother,"
exclaimed Marian, "how the sea runs away and grows again."
The young musicians gave many concerts in London. The English people
were even better pleased with their playing than the French had been.
They were invited to Buckingham Palace, where Wolfgang amazed his
hearers by playing difficult music at sight.
King George was very fond of music and Handel was his favorite composer.
He was surprised that this little fellow could play much of Handel's
music. One day, at the palace, Wolfgang played while Queen Charlotte
sang. He was very proud to be chosen to play for the queen.
The queen's music master was a son of the great Sebastian Bach. He took
quite a fancy to little Wolfgang. They became good friends and often
played together. One day Bach took his little friend on his knee and
they played a sonata together. First Bach would play a few measures;
then Wolfgang would play three or four. They continued in this manner
until they had played the whole sonata. Those who did not see them could
not have told that the sonata had been played by two persons.
In London, Wolfgang Mozart had his first singing lessons. They were as
easy for him as his piano lessons had been. While in that great city he
wrote six sonatas. He sent them to Queen Charlotte, with a little
At the end of fifteen months Leopold Mozart and his children left
England. They had been invited by the Princess Caroline to visit
Holland. So once again they crossed the rough English Channel. They
spent several happy months among the Dutch people. The good Princess
Caroline was very kind to them. Wolfgang composed several pieces of
music for her.
In November, 1765, the child musicians returned from their long journey.
They had been traveling for three years. They had been petted and
honored at all the great courts of Europe. They had received many
beautiful presents, yet they were glad to be in Salzburg once again.
MOZART IN ITALY
After much serious study at home, Mozart went to Italy. His father
thought that it would benefit him to visit that country. Musicians and
artists from all over Europe went there to study. The finest musicians
played in the large cathedrals. No better music could be heard in the
world than in that country. It was worth a journey of many miles to hear
one of the organs, when played by a master.
Leopold Mozart wished his son to hear this music and to become
acquainted with the great Italian musicians. He hoped that he could
talk with the composers. He told him to visit the art galleries and
study the paintings. All this Wolfgang did and more, too.
He spent much time in the art galleries. He listened to much beautiful
music and became acquainted with musicians and composers. Besides all
this, he practiced regularly, and he studied French. He spent several
hours each day composing.
In a letter to his mother, Wolfgang wrote: "To-day I had the pleasure of
riding on a donkey. Every one in Italy rides a donkey, and I thought I
must try it too." In the same letter he asked: "Does my little canary
still sing in the key of G? Is there any one to pet my dog, now that I
am so far away? Take good care of him."
Wolfgang and his father visited many Italian cities. There were no
railroads in those days, so the father and son journeyed from place to
place in a carriage. That is a slow and very tiresome way to travel, and
Wolfgang sometimes became weary and impatient. Then he would jump from
the carriage and race with the horses.
Often they stopped at some quaint old inn for lunch. The meal was
occasionally served out of doors. How good the honey and fresh milk
tasted after the long dusty ride! How sweet were the figs and how juicy
After visiting Florence, Verona, and other cities, Leopold Mozart and
his son arrived in Rome. It was the week before Easter. Wolfgang liked
to attend the services held each day in the magnificent cathedrals. He
liked to watch the priests moving softly about the altar. He liked the
faint odor of the incense and the glimmer of the candles.
When the great organ pealed forth, he forgot all these things. He forgot
even his father, seated at his side. He had never heard such music
before. It seemed to him like music from heaven.
In some of the churches there was singing as well as organ music. One
day, while in Rome, Wolfgang visited the Sistine Chapel. He heard some
singing that he never forgot. A choir of about thirty voices sang a very
beautiful, yet very mournful, piece of music.
When the music began, all the candles were burning brightly. As the
singing went on, the candles were extinguished one by one. The chapel
became more and more dim. The choir sang softly and still more softly.
At last not one candle was left burning. No sound could be heard but the
sad, sad music and the sobs of the people.
Throughout the whole service, the child Mozart sat with clasped hands
and bended head. When the music died away, he arose and walked home in
silence. He went to his own room and wrote from memory the music which
he had heard.
It is a rule of the Sistine Chapel that only the members of the choir
shall have copies of this music. Many others had asked permission to
copy it. They had always been refused. Many had tried to write it from
memory; but they had always failed. So it was a wonderful thing that
this youth had written the difficult music from memory. When Wolfgang
showed the music to his friends, they could not believe that he had
written it correctly.
"Let us have a concert," they said. "Let the lad sing the chapel music
for us. We shall hear whether or not he has remembered it correctly."
The concert was held. Young Mozart sang the music from his own copy. It
was perfect from beginning to end.
While Wolfgang was in Rome, the Pope bestowed a great honor upon him. He
made him a Knight of the Golden Spur. That was one of the greatest
honors that he could have received in Italy. Wolfgang was very proud to
wear the beautiful golden cross.
From Rome, the Mozarts went to Naples. There Wolfgang gave a concert
before a large audience. When he was in the middle of a sonata, the
people became uneasy. They whispered to one another; they pointed to the
hands of the young musician; they became more and more excited.
Young Mozart wondered at the noise, yet he went on with the sonata. At
last his father learned the cause of the disturbance and explained it to
his son. He told him that the people believed there was a charm in the
diamond ring which he wore upon his left hand. "If the ring is not a
charm," they said, "how can he play so rapidly with the left hand?"
When Wolfgang heard this, he laughed merrily and took the ring from his
finger. When he began to play again, the audience thought the music was
even more wonderful than before.
In 1771 Mozart made a second trip to Italy, and wrote the music for a
royal wedding. The empress was so pleased that she presented him with a
gold watch set with diamonds. On one side of the watch was a beautiful
portrait of the empress. Can you not imagine how proud he was to be the
owner of such a treasure? Do you not fancy that he always kept it?
MOZART, THE COMPOSER
Mozart's boyhood and youth had been filled with sunshine. At many of the
courts of Europe he had been praised and petted. Kings and queens were
proud to be numbered among his friends. The remainder of his life was
not so bright, and he learned how sad a thing it is to be without a home
When Mozart was twenty-one years of age, he set out for Paris,
accompanied by his mother. They traveled in a carriage, as Wolfgang and
his father had done in Italy. On their way to the French capital they
made several stops. Mozart gave a concert in each of the towns in which
The people of Paris had been so kind to Mozart when he had visited it
long ago, that he expected the same treatment again. In that he was
disappointed. He was now a man and they treated him as a man.
Mozart was looking for some work as a musician and composer, but found
none. That made him sad. It troubled him, too, that the Parisians were
no longer eager to hear his music; but a still greater sorrow came to
him. His dear mother died in Paris, and Mozart returned to Salzburg
During the next few years, Mozart spent much time in composing. Among
his compositions were several operas. An opera is much like a play,
except that all the parts are sung instead of spoken. When a composer
wishes to write an opera, he generally selects some beautiful story or
poem. He then writes music that will help to tell the story.
In an opera some parts are sung by many voices; others are sung as
solos. The composer must arrange parts of music for women's voices.
Some, too, must be suited to the voices of men. Still other music must
be written for the orchestra. All this requires a musician of great
In August, 1782, Mozart married and settled in Vienna. His wife was the
daughter of a musician. Mozart and his wife were always poor; yet they
were very happy.
Once upon a time Mozart was invited to write an opera for a festival. By
and by the work was all finished except one part for the orchestra. The
singers had learned their parts and all was ready but the one piece of
music. When it lacked only one day of the time when the opera was to be
given, Mozart had not completed his work.
The day passed by, but nothing had been done. Evening came, and Mozart
had a merry time with his friends. He knew that the music must be
written that night; so he asked his wife to sit up with him while he
When he grew sleepy, she told him fairy stories. She made the stories of
Cinderella and Aladdin's Lamp so funny that Mozart laughed till the
tears rolled down his cheeks. In spite of the tales he grew so sleepy
that he felt obliged to lie down. His wife promised to call him after he
had slept an hour.
The hour passed and Mozart was sleeping soundly. Another hour and still
he did not waken. At last, when his wife called him, he arose and began
his work. In two hours he had written a beautiful composition for the
Mozart was fond of playing at night and often played for hours at a
time. If he sat down to the piano at nine o'clock in the evening, he
seldom left it before midnight.
In 1785 Mozart's father visited Vienna. He attended a concert given by
his son. He was pleased to see that the emperor was there. Leopold
Mozart watched him to see how he was enjoying the music. At the end of
the concert the emperor rose and, waving his hat, cried, "Bravo,
Mozart!" The father was delighted that his son had won the emperor's
While in Vienna, Mozart's father talked with the great musician Haydn,
who said, "I declare to you before God and as an honest man that I
regard your son as the greatest composer I have ever heard."
This was high praise from so great a man as Haydn. It was a fine
compliment, too, to have the emperor shout "Bravo"; yet Mozart was poor
and often sad. He worked hard and composed much beautiful music.
Sometimes he received no pay for his work; sometimes he was cheated out
of money that he had honestly earned.
Once the king asked Mozart to write music for a court concert. He put it
off until he had no time to write the part which he was to perform
himself. So he went to the concert with his part unwritten. He placed a
sheet of paper on the piano, and looked at it as if the notes were
The king, who was peeping everywhere, happened to look at the sheet of
paper. Surprised to see nothing but empty lines, he said to Mozart,
"Where is your part?" "Here," replied the musician, tapping his
Mozart is best known as a writer of operas. Most of his operas were
composed in Vienna. One of them is called The Marriage of Figaro.
Another is named The Magic Flute. Many people like it the best of any
opera that Mozart ever wrote. It was composed a short time before his
Mozart was ill before The Magic Flute was finished. After it had been
completed, he grew much worse. His only pleasure, during his suffering,
was to hear the news of how well the people liked his opera.
Only the day before his death, he wished that he might hear the music of
The Magic Flute once again. A friend who was with him at the time went
to the piano, and played and sang some parts of it. This seemed to cheer
the sick man greatly.
On the 5th of December, 1791, the master passed away. No stone marked
Mozart's grave, and to-day no one knows where the great composer was
laid to rest. More than a century after his death, the people of his own
city erected a fine monument in his memory.
When Haydn heard of Mozart's death, his eyes filled with tears. He
exclaimed, "Oh, my friends, will the world ever find such an artist
again?" Years afterward, when some one spoke of Mozart, Haydn wept
bitterly. "Pardon me," said he, "but I can never hear the name of my
gentle Mozart without breaking my heart."