January 27, 2010

Happy Birthday to Mozart!

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on this day in 1756. This famed composer's full baptismal name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

(This is a Latinized ver
sion of his name, with the first two names being his saints' names, as per Catholic tradition. The German version of Wolgangus is, of course, Wolfgang, and Mozart also went by an Italian version of the name, Wolfgango, while living in Italy. Theophilus means “lover of God”; Amadeus is a familiar form of the name, and Mozart sometimes used German or Italian translations, Gottlieb, Amadeo, or Amade.)

Mozart was born in Salzburg. At the time, that was part of the Holy Roman Empire, but now it is part of Austria. He spent most of his adult life in Vienna, which was not only the capital of the empire but also the cultural center for arts, science, music, and fine cuisine. (Vienna is now the capital of Austria.)

Mozart was a child prodigy who played both keyboard and violin, and even began composing music at age five! He was also very prolific, which means that he wrote a lot of music, composing over 600 works including symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. He remains one of the most popular and influential composers of all times.

Play Mozart's Musical Dice Game!

In 1787, Mozart wrote the measures and instructions for a musical dice game, and Sunsite's “Mozart's Musikalisches Wurfelspiel” website has the measures as played on keyboard ready for you to mix up and enjoy. There are 176 minuet measures and 96 trio measures, plus a table of rules, and the computer rolls virtual dice to come up with random numbers to use in the game. All you have to do is press a key called “Make Music”! (There is also a button to "Generate the Score" of the random-measure music.)

Learn more about Mozart's life at the Studio-Mozart website. (Choose your preferred language at the bottom of the picture of Mozart, on the first page.)

Listen to a show on Mozart's “opera for ordinary people,” The Magic Flute, on the website Classics for Kids.

For really young children, look at the brief Starfall bio of Mozart. Be sure to click the blue arrow to hear the Sonata that Mozart wrote when he was only 8 years old!

Classical Archives is a very complete website, with lots of opportunities to listen to or purchase classical music. Here is the Mozart portion of the website.

Did Mozart write “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”?

No. The tune is a French folk song called “Ah! vous dirai-je, Maman.” This tune has been used for several children's songs, including “Twinkle” (words by Jane Taylor) but also including the Alphabet Song and “Baa, Baa, Black Sheep.”

Mozart's name is associated with “Twinkle” because he wrote a piece called “Twelve Variations on 'Ah vous dirai-je, Maman.'” Listen to his variations here.

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