Mozart Minute Podcast

“Mozart Minute,” hosted by Jennifer Hambrick, Classical 101 Midday Announcer, takes a look at the life of Mozart and little known tidbits and trivia about the Austrian composer, in a minute

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A previous episode of The Mozart Minute saw the 14-year-old Mozart composing his opera Mitridate, rè di Ponto on commission and for performance in Milan amid all manner of envy and intrigue. How Wolfgang the boy wonder secured a commission for such a large work at such a tender age is a story in its own right.

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During Mozart’s life, many a pet dog and even a pet bird wagged and flapped their way into the composer’s heart – and, it seems, into his music, as well.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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If you've followed The Mozart Minute, then you know that Mozart's stay in Paris was pretty much a flop. He had hoped to establish himself as a composer in Europe’s musical capital, but that didn't happen. And in at least one incident, envy and petty rivalry seem to have kept one of Mozart’s new works from being premiered on a major Parisian concert series.

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Even as Mozart was establishing himself Vienna as a freelance composer and performer, his new musical compositions were also establishing themselves among the world’s great masterworks. Here’s how Mozart’s Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466 made its way into the world.

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Mozart wrote the opening chords of his so-called "Paris" Symphony (Symphony No. 31) specifically to pander to French expectations, which is not to say to pander to French taste. Mozart didn't think the French had any taste. He also thought they were ridiculous for thinking that symphonies that begin this way were especially French.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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Mozart's 1778 stay in Paris was pretty much a total washout. Instead of making his name there as a composer, he was rebuffed and ignored. His mother died. He was cold and starving. And people kept stiffing him for his work.

While in France, Mozart had to take on private students to pay the bills. One of those students was the daughter of Adrien-Louis de Bonnières, the Duc de Guînes. The duke was nonchalant about compensating the struggling Mozart for his work. On July 31, 1778, Mozart wrote his father of one such unsavory episode.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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How tall was Mozart? What color were his eyes? Did he ever pretend to be a cat?

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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His genius secured his immortality despite his untimely death. His Requiem - ironically unfinished at his death - he believed he was composing for his own funeral.

Mozart may have been pursued by intimations of his own mortality, but he wasn't haunted by the idea of death. However, the death of his father, Leopold Mozart, may well have been a different story.

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By the time Mozart turned 30, his success as a composer was undeniable. But that didn't stop him from hitting up his friends for cash.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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More than 200 years after its premiere, Mozart's opera The Marriage of Figaro remains one of the best-loved comic operas in the repertoire. And if you think people like Figaro today, you should have seen - and heard - the audiences in Mozart's day.

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Picture it: Mozart at a masquerade ball gussied up as an ancient Middle Eastern prophet and spouting a made-up philosophy of riddles and off-color aphorisms.

Too silly even for Mozart? Nope.

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It's fascinating to imagine what a day in the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart must have been like. Mozart's father had a chance to experience that first-hand at the height of his son's career.

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In a month full to bursting with concerts, Mozart's waistband might also have stretched a bit during February 1785 from all the fabulous food he enjoyed.

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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As spring springs and nature emerges fresh and fragrant, even Mozart can't resist a posy - or, in this case, two.

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What does every betrothed woman want from her little brother on the eve of her wedding? A naughty poem, of course.

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It’s like a scene from one of Mozart’s operas – the master of the house snoops on his wayward maid and is shocked by what he learns.

Mozart in a red coat
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If you were a pianist or composer in Europe in Mozart’s day, you definitely had competition. 

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If you followed the previous episode of The Mozart Minute, then you likely wish to know how the birth of Wolfgang and Constanze’s firstborn turned out.

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If you’ve ever known an expectant father, then you’ve probably witnessed that unique mixture of masculine responsibility, fear and uncontainable excitement that soon-to-be first-time dads seem to embody.

Wolfgang Mozart was no different during his wife, Constanze’s, first pregnancy, and the closer Constaze’s due date came, the greater Mozart’s obvious anticipation of the birth.

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In February 1783, Mozart was a happy newlywed, an expectant father and a brilliant composer in the dawn of what he knew could be an illustrious career. In short, everything was going perfectly well for Mozart.

Well, almost everything. At the time, Mozart was having a bit of a cash flow issue. The details are a bit sketchy, but it seems Mozart owed a debt to a merchant, who had decided to call in the loan.