Mozart, John Chrysostom Wolfgang Theophilus

, an eminent musician, was the son of Leopold Mozart, vice-chapel-master to the prince archbishop of Salzburg. This Leopold, who was born at Augsburg in 1719, became early in life a musician and composer; and in 1757 published a treatise on the art of playing the violin; but what, according to Dr. Burney, did him most honour was his being father of such an incomparable son as Wolfgang, and educating him with such care. His son was born at Salzburg, Jan. 17, 1756, and at seven years old went with his father and sister to Paris, and the year following to London. In 1769 he went to Italy; and in 1770 he was at Bologna, in which city Dr. Burney first saw him, and to which city he had returned from Rome and Naples, where he had astonished all the great professors by his premature knowledge and talents. At Rome he was honoured by the pope with the order of Speron d’Oro. From Bologna he went to Milan, where he was engaged to compose an opera for the marriage of the princess of Modena with one of the archdukes. Two other composers were employed on this occasion, each of them to set an opera; but that of the little Mozart, young as he was, was most applauded.

During his residence in London, which was when he was but eight years old, he evinced his extraordinary talents and profound knowledge in every branch of music, was | able to play at sight in all keys, to perform extempore, to modulate, and play fugues on subjects given in a way that there were very few masters then in London able to do. But there is in the Philosophical Transactions, vol. LX, (for 1770) a minute and curious account, by the Hon. JDaines Barrington, of the musical feats of this child in London, during 1765, when he was no more than eight years and five months old, to which we refer our readers. His progress in talents and fame, contrary to all experience, continued to keep pace with the expectations of the public to the end of his life.

He went again to Paris soon after his return from Italy. But on the death of his father in 1778, he was called to Salzburg, and appointed principal concert-master to the prince archbishop, in his stead; but he resigned this office in 1780, and went to Vienna, where he settled, and was admired and patronized by the court and city; and in 1788 he was appointed chapel-master to the emperor Joseph. His first opera at Vienna was the “Rape of the Seraglio,” in 1782, to German words. The second, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” in four acts. The third, the “Schauspiel Director,” or the Manager at the Playhouse, in 1786. “II Don Giovanni,” in 1787. “La Clemenza di Tito,” a serious opera. “Cori Fantutti,” comic. “Flauto Magico.” “Idomeneo,” a serious opera, &c. It was not till 1782 that he began to compose at Vienna for the national theatre; at first chiefly instrumental music; but on its being discovered how well he could write for the voice, he was engaged by the nobility and gentry first to compose comic operas, sometimes to German words, and sometimes to Italian. His serious operas, we believe, were all originally composed to Italian words. There is a chronological list of his latter vocal compositions till the year 1790 in Gerber’s Musical Lexicon.

In England we know nothing of his studies or productions, but from his harpsichord lessons, which frequently came over from Vienna; and in these he seems to have been trying experiments. They were full of new passages, and new effects; but were wild, capricious, and not always pleasing. We were wholly unacquainted with his vocal music till after his decease, though it is manifest that by composing for the voice he first refined his taste, and gave way to his feelings, as in his latter compositions for the piano forte and other instruments his melody is exquisite, | and cherished and enforced by the most judicious accompaniments, equally free from pedantry and caprice.

Dr. Burney observes, that the operas of this truly great musician are much injured by being printed in half scores, with so busy and constantly loaded a part for the piano forte. Some of the passages we suppose taken from the instrumental parts in the full score; but there is no contrast; the piano forte has a perpetual lesson to play, sometimes difficult, and sometimes vulgar and common, which, however soft it may be performed, disguises the vocal melody, and diverts the attention from it, for what is not worth hearing. A commentary, says the same author, on the works of this gifted musician, would fill a volume. His reputation continued to spread and increase all over Europe to the end of his life, which, unfortunately for the musical world, was allowed to extend only to 36 years, at which period he died, in 1791.

After his decease, when Haydn was asked by Broderip, in his music-shop, whether Mozart had left any ms compositions behind him that were worth purchasing, as his widow had offered his unedited papers at a high price to the principal publishers of music throughout Europe; Haydn eagerly said, “purchase them by all means. He was truly a great musician. I have been often flattered by my friends with having some genius; but he was much my superior.” Though this declaration had more of modesty than truth in it, yet if Mozart’s genius had been granted as many years to expand as that of Haydn, the -assertion might perhaps have been realised in many particulars. 1

1 By Dr. Burney in Rees’s Cyclopædia. Encyclopaedia Britannica, Suppl. by Dr. Gleig.