On Mozart: An Introduction to Music History

(text in large print for class projection)

Besides training his young children (Mozart's sister Maria also composed and was extremely talented), Leopold Mozart definitely used his own influence to present the young musicians before royalty and influential patrons of the time. Mozart gained enormous fame as a child, which helped him throughout the rest of his life. (Maria discontinued studies once she reached marriageable age).

Without a doubt, Mozart was absolutely brilliant and there has yet to be a composer who had such an impressive and prolific output at such a young age. Yet, his father's influence helped bring him into the spotlight. Even if Mozart's father had not been a "stage father", Mozart would probably have excelled in music because of natural talent and growing up in a musical family. However, he might not have gained fame so quickly.

First, I would like to distinguish between a musical prodigy, a musical savant, and a musical genius:

Musical Prodigy: Typically a young child with inordinate intelligence and musical talent (and usually with parents who recognize and push the child's abilities). Mozart was a musical prodigy and musical genius.

Musical Savant: A severe mental disorder which allows for incredible musical talent in some cases

Musical Genius: A person (young or old) with exceptional musical talent that may have developed as a child or taken years (or even decades) to perfect. Usually of high intelligence. The majority of serious composers that I know personally and/or professionally fall into this category. I do not consider student composers part of this group.

In the day of YouTube, it is fairly easy to find hundreds of "musical prodigies". A recent example would be the young Jackie Evancho on the reality show America's Got Talent. Videos from a few years ago showed a young girl with some musical talent. Her parents recognized this talent, gave her professional vocal lessons, and the rest is history. (BTW, most vocal experts agree that a developed voice like Jackie's at that age will most likely destroy a child's vocal chords before she reaches adulthood. Hopefully her parents will look out for her and ignore the money signs if her voice begins to suffer).

Mozart and his sister Maria both were musical prodigies, pushed on by their father Leopold. Martha, expected to marry of course, did not have the advantages of the young Amadeus. (Similar stories accompanied many other talented girls like performer/composer Fanny Mendelssohn, sister of composer Felix Mendelssohn). However, Mozart had an amazing ear like very few musicians. He could compose a symphony in his head and dictate it exactly without even having to be by a piano. He was a musical prodigy in both composition and performance.


I do differentiate between musical prodigies and musical genius because there are few musical prodigies (and even fewer that have their talents recognized at an early age) but there are millions of musical geniuses in the world.

I believe that to become a musical genius, one has to have the intelligence, creativity, obsessiveness, and diligence to succeed. I have many students who want to become amazing musicians. They might have lots of talent or little drive or they might have little talent and lots of drive, but it is perseverance and hard work that make the difference between the wannabes and the great musicians.

Haydn had drastically different relationships with Mozart and Beethoven. Mozart's primary influence was his father Leopold, who trained the young prodigy rigorously and sternly. Mozart and Hadyn did have a friendship, along the lines of a mentorship. Beethoven and Hadyn's working relationship was brief. Beethoven most likely learned more from Hadyn by listening to the works and studying his music than from one-on-one attention from Hadyn.

Mozart Opera "The Marriage of Figaro"


Mozart's fame as a boy sadly did not last into his adulthood. His father's control over much of his life hindered Mozart's own ability to succeed on his own. Eventually Mozart became a freelance composer/musician in Vienna, and did very well. He wrote the operas "The Marriage of Figaro" and other great works. Don Giovanni was a master opera, but was too dissonant and unpopular with the audience.

Before his death, Mozart did regain some popularity. He wrote the "Magic Flute" (a comic opera) and worked on a mass for the dead, which he did not finish (a student completed the mass).

While Mozart did have a "pauper's" burial, during the that time, the reigning ruler Joseph II had "decreed that for reasons of sanitation, economy, and rationality, burial Masses would be celebrated in Viennese churches, and that the bodies would then be transported in (reusable) wooden boxes on special carts to mass graves outside the city limits." (Morris, pg 90). In other words, the situation behind Mozart's funeral services were not unusual for non-nobility at that time. Only the wealthiest had a more extravagant burial.

The Köchel Catalogue was created by the Mozart enthusiast Sir Ludwig von Köchel in the mid 1850s. Köchel catalogued every known Mozart work chronologically and published his findings. Others edited and published the catalogue over the following century and a half, including Albert Einstein! The reprints of Mozart's works (which have constantly been revised as more works have been discovered and reordered) were up to the eighth edition in 2008 under the K6 denotation.


Morris, J. (1994). On Mozart. Cambridge, : Cambridge University Press.
Music at Virginia Tech. (2008). Köchel Verzeichnis. Retrieved from http://www.music.vt.edu/musicdictionary/textk/Kochelverzeichnis.html
Hiles, D. (2002). Savant Syndrome. De Montfort University. Retrieved from http://www.psy.dmu.ac.uk/drhiles/Savant%20Syndrome.h
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