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The many faces of Mozart
The works of Joseph Haydn, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven stand at the heart of classical music. Of the three, Beethoven was perhaps the most admired, partly because of his personal struggles, which took on a heroic nature - battling his deteriorating hearing and circumstances to produce uplifting music such as the Choral Symphony and the evocative Moonlight Sonata - and also because of his piano music, which took on more expressive qualities associated with Romantic music, made possible by the developments of the piano, from the transformation of Bartolomeo Cristofori's hammer action piano to later pianos with metal frames which allowed it to handle more weight.
Perhaps time has also diminished the legacy of Haydn. In addition, working with the courts of Eisenstadt and Esterhazy under patronage has perhaps given the impression he led an easier life with less struggle, as his day to day lifestyle was taken care of.
Of the three, Mozart's music has often been seen as superficial and light (read: trivial). The last of seven children born to Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria, he was only one of two to survive infancy. And while Leopold has often - not unlike Beethoven's father - been villified as a domineering parent, subjecting a young child to travel, a heavy practice regiment, and taking advantage of his son's abilities - history and a close examination of his letters has revealed that he recognised his son's abilities and was more concerned in ensuring it was not wasted. Like his sister Maria Anna, Wolfgang was a talented pianist, and Anna Maria, like Fanny Hensel, she found her talents limited to domestic realms while he was allowed public performances.
In his twenties Mozart was the concert master to the court in Salzburg and wrote sacred music, symphonies and operas, and he later moved on to Vienna where he established himself by writing a string of operas, including The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni and Cosi fan Tutte.
Mozart also wrote many piano sonatas and many of them have become standard Classical repertoire. They embody recognisable features of Classical music, such as the Alberti bass pattern, broken chords, and scalic and arpeggiac passages in the music. One of his more famous piano sonatas, the Piano Sonata in C major, opens with Alberti bass patterns in the left hand accompanying a simple melody, which then leads to scalic passages and left hand arpeggios in the next few bars - it is classical music in a nutshell.
The impression we often have of Mozart is as a frivolous, extroverted individual whom perhaps enjoyed life to the fullest. Perhaps a lot of these impressions are from the 1984 film Amadeus, in which the character of Mozart is seen showing off his repertoire of piano tricks such as playing with his back to the piano, with an exuberant personality that rubs others such as the court composer Antonio Salieri the wrong way. The latter's jealousy of Mozart may have extended to sabotage of the production of The Marriage of Figaro. Some even speculate that Mozart's death at a young age might have involved Salieri in some way.
Mozart lived from commission to commission but by his early thirties he was running out of money and depressed. While he seemed publicly exuberant, privately he was sombre - when he was writing his last work, The Requiem in D minor, he was convinced he had been poisoned, was dying, and even announced that he was composing the Requiem for himself. When he died he left little money and was given the cheapest possible funeral and in an unmarked grave.
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