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Wolfgang Amadeus 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 s

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.


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,"

he said.

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.


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

sixty candles."

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 better.

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.


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

the melons!

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'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

and friends.

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

they stopped.

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

wrote it.

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

written there.

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."