Culture and Recreation


How old was Mozart when he composed his first work?

A child prodigy, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) was composing at the age of five. He had been playing the harpsichord since the age of three. His father, Leopold (1719–1787), was a composer and violinist who recognized his son’s unusual music ability and encouraged and taught young Mozart. In 1762 Leopold took his son and daughter, Maria Anna (nicknamed “Nannerl”; 1751–1829), on tour to Paris. While there, young Wolfgang Mozart composed his first published violin sonatas and improvisations.

However, the image of the effortless and “artless child of nature” is not altogether true. Contrary to the reports that the gifted composer never revised first-and-only drafts, he did work at his craft. In a letter to his father, he wrote, “It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me—no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I have. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.” The fact is that he did make revisions to his works, though it is also true that he composed at a rapid pace. The result is an impressive body of works, unequaled in beauty and diversity. The complete output—some 600 works in every form (symphonies, sonatas, operas, operettas, cantatas, arias, duets, and others)—would be enough to fill almost 200 CDs. Among his most cherished works are The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), Cosi fan tutte (1790), and The Magic Flute (1791).


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