Why is Mozart considered a genius?

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

More than 250 years after his birth, Mozart's work is still up-to-date and is played every day around the world. And because there is a lot of information from Mozart and his family through numerous letters left behind, he became more tangible for posterity than other musicians of that time.

The child star

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 as the son of a court violinist in Salzburg. He had an older sister, Maria Anna, called "Nannerl", who regularly played music with her father. This is how Mozart came into contact with music from birth.

Although he showed an extraordinary talent: He started playing the piano at the age of four. At the age of five he was already writing his first pieces and had his first public appearance. The father Leopold Mozart quickly recognized what talent was in his son and tried to promote it and earn money with it.

Mozart was just six years old when he went on his first concert tour with his family. These trips with horse-drawn carriages sometimes lasted years and led to cities such as Munich, Cologne, Paris and London.

Father Mozart initially presented his son and daughter together as music-making child prodigies. But Wolfgang quickly developed into a "star". The little boy not only played the violin and piano extremely well. He also had a very friendly manner with which he won the hearts of the often noble audience.

The composer

With increasing age, Mozart developed from an interpreter into a composer to be taken seriously. At the age of twelve he received his first commission for an opera in Vienna. The work was not performed, but received a lot of recognition in specialist circles.

The change from child star to professional musician was not as easy as hoped. Because with the abandonment of childhood Mozart lost the "cuteness factor" and his exceptional talent was perceived as a threat to other composers.

During his lifetime he had to endure a lot of unjustified criticism, which was often based only on envy. It is even reported that musicians sabotaged his pieces by deliberately playing poorly.

Mozart had his great breakthrough as a composer with the opera "Idomeneo", which was premiered in Munich in 1781.

What made Mozart a musician was his versatility. He could write extremely complex pieces and then re-engross his audience with very catchy melodies. He mastered drama and lightness like no other composer after him, which is why he is an exceptional figure to this day.

The human being

It is questionable whether Mozart was really the heartthrob he is often portrayed as today. Eyewitnesses like the author Franz Xaver Niemetschek, who knew Mozart personally, described him as very "unsightly in his appearance".

At 1.58 meters, it is said to have been very small. And since he mostly spent his time sitting at the piano, he was anything but an athletic figure. As a child he was more likely to attract attention because of his very friendly and considerate manner.

He was good-natured and - to the displeasure of his father - very good faith, which various people are said to have taken advantage of throughout his life.

In his letters, Mozart showed a penchant for play on words and a very peculiar sense of humor, which today often seems strange when he wrote sentences like "I will then compliment you in person, poke your ass" to a lover. His often crude language, which also contained a lot of fecal words, is said to have been typical of that time in general.

To what extent Mozart really had many affairs with women, as is often claimed, is controversial. We know of a relationship with his younger cousin Maria Anna Thekla, whom he called "Bäsle". Documented is his unrequited love for the Mannheim singer Aloisia Weber, whose sister Constanze he later married.

In addition, there is little evidence. There are hints in his correspondence about possible relationships with other women, but details can no longer be determined.

It is generally said that Mozart showed little respect for the authorities - perhaps one reason why, despite his extraordinary talent, he always had difficulties getting permanent positions as a court musician.

In addition to music, Mozart is said to have enjoyed playing billiards, and he also loved "Bölzlschießen", an early form of target shooting with a kind of air rifle.

As far as his art was concerned, Mozart is said to have been less "exalted" than many of his musical contemporaries. He hardly talked about his work, nor did he boast of successes.

But it was important for him who he was playing for, whether the audience knew about music or not. When he had music lovers in the audience, he played more passionately and, above all, longer.

The career

The career of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart shows many parallels to careers in today's music business. It begins with the lengthy tours that Mozart already completed in his time as a "music-making prodigy". Mozart traveled a good third of his 35 years to make his music heard internationally.

He visited many places that are still mandatory dates for musicians today. In Germany he was a guest in Munich, Mannheim, Cologne and Berlin, among others. Other destinations of his 17 trips were London, Paris and Prague as well as Italy, at that time the country of music in general.

Of course, during Mozart's lifetime there were no recordings on which he could distribute his pieces. After all, Mozart had the sheet music printed for many of his works so that he could then sell them. That - and here, too, there is a parallel to today's music business - led to "pirated copies" even then, in which others copied his notes and earned money with them.

What the record deal is for today's artists, was for musicians back then a permanent position at a court. It guaranteed a secure income, but also had the disadvantage that artistic freedom was severely restricted. Because the compositions mostly had to fulfill a function: as background for trade fairs or special occasions.

Mozart had two permanent positions in Salzburg through his father, but felt that he was artistically restricted there. In vain did he try to find permanent positions in Munich, Mannheim and Paris. In 1781 he gave up his permanent position in Salzburg and went to Vienna.

It was only four years before his death that he got a new permanent position as Kapellmeister there. In between he made a living from performances, composition commissions and piano lessons.

As for his popularity, Mozart is said to have been particularly successful in Prague during his lifetime. There people loved his works, which was expressed in the long running times of his operas. In Vienna, on the other hand, where he was surrounded by a lot of competition and envy, his popularity fluctuated widely.

He also spent the last weeks of his life in Vienna. Shortly after the premiere of "The Magic Flute", he died in December 1791 at the age of only 35. The circumstances surrounding his death are still puzzled today.