Biography

Georg Leopold Mozart (14th November 1719–28th May 1787) was a composer, music teacher, and violinist. He was born in the city of Augsburg (Germany), and was legally a citizen of the Diocese of Salzburg (now in Austria), but spent much of his time in Vienna, Austria, (all within the Holy Roman Empire). He is best known today for being the father and teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as well as writing the well-known book, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, but in his time, Leopold Mozart was well-known for his own musical compositions.

Memorial plaque dedicated to Leopold Mozart and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart at Hauenschild’s house in Lower square in Olomouc (Czech Republic). Leopold Mozart was the son of a bookbinder. He studied theology at Salzburg University and did quite well until his expulsion in 1739. He then became more interested in music, becoming a violinist and valet to one of the university’s canons, Count Thurn and Taxis, in 1740. In 1747 he married Anna Maria Pertl, who bore him seven children, although only two of them survived: Maria Anna Wallburga Ignatia (called “Nannerl”) and Joannes Chrysostomous Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart (who later in life changed his name to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart). In 1756, the same year as Wolfgang Amadeus’ birth, Leopold wrote his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, a comprehensive treatise on violin playing. Today, this is one of the primary sources on performance practice in the 18th century, along with Johann Joachim Quantz’s Versuch einer Anweisung die Flöte traversière zu spielen (on flute playing) and Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (on keyboard playing).

Leopold Mozart devoted much of his later life to developing and supporting the talents of his two surviving children, doing so at the expense of his own work.

Leopold Mozart’s music is inevitably overshadowed by the work of his son Wolfgang, but his Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys (Toy Symphony), once attributed to Joseph Haydn, remains popular, and a number of symphonies, a trumpet concerto, and other works also survive. He was much concerned with a naturalistic feel to his compositions, his Jagdsinfonie (or Sinfonia da Caccia for four horns and Strings) calls for dogs and shotguns, and his Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) includes bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, a dulcimer, whoops and whistles (ad lib.), and pistol shots.

Most critics would agree that he reached a high point of his creativity around 1760. After that, the amount of time he put into composing as well as teaching violin gradually decreased until 1771, when he wrote his last composition. He did, however still concentrate on his job as Kappellmeister as well as many of his and his son’s concerts all around the world.

His oeuvre was extensive but it is hard to establish either the scope or the quality of it; much is lost, and it is not known how representative the surviving works are of his overall output. Some of his work was erroneously attributed to Wolfgang and some pieces attributed to Leopold were subsequently shown to be the work of Wolfgang. Much of what survives is light music but some more significant work survives including his Sacrament Litany in D (1762) and three piano sonatas, all published in his lifetime.

Edited by Grosseteste on 12 Jun 2008, 08:50

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