Through the Looking Glass Children's Book Reviews

Mozart: The Boy who changed the world with his music

Mozart: The Boy who changed the world with his music

Marcus Weeks
Nonfiction  Series
For ages 8 to 12
National Geographic, 2007   ISBN: 978-1426300028

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart grew up in a house that was full of music. His father, Leopold, was a professional musician who worked for the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg in Austria. His sister Nannerl was an accomplished keyboard player and singer who began playing when she was seven. Wolfgang wanted to begin lessons when he was only three and Leopold agreed to teach him. By the time he was five Wolfgang was already composing little pieces of his own and when he was six he began learning to play the violin.

Leopold quickly saw that both his children were very gifted musicians and that Mozart was a prodigy whose skills needed to be cultivated. He saw too that the family could greatly profit from taking the two children on a musical tour. So when Wolfgang was six and Nannerl was ten Leopold took them for a three year tour around Europe to perform. The children and their father got to play for Emperors and Empresses, Kings and Queens.

By the time Wolfgang returned home to Austria he had become a serious composer and he continued to work on creating new pieces, including two operas. In 1769 Wolfgang and his father went to Italy on another tour and the young man took this opportunity to learn as much as he could about Italian music.

When he got home in 1771 Wolfgang was old enough at fifteen to look for a job. He was given a position by the new Prince Archbishop of Salzburg but Wolfgang was not happy. He did not have the freedom that he craved and found Salzburg too provincial for his tastes. He also did not have the time he needed to write the music that he wanted to write. He tried to find jobs elsewhere but none were to be had.

Finally, in the early summer of 1781, Wolfgang left the Archbishop’s employ and settled in Vienna. Rather then depending on a patron Wolfgang decided to be a “freelance musician” making money by giving lessons, playing the piano, teaching, and composing. It was not easy to make a start in a city where he his name was not known, but as time passed, his talent earned him the respect of the people who mattered and he began to make a living.

In 1782 Wolfgang married Constanze Weber and they moved into their own home. Though Wolfgang began to do very well financially, he was not good at managing his money and often had trouble playing his bills. He liked to live well but he then had to work very hard to pay for his expensive tastes. He and Constanze were happy together but the children that they had did not live. It was very hard on them both to have baby after baby die. Finally in 1791, their sixth child, Xavier, was born and he thrived.

Mozart worked very hard in the late 1780’s and early 1790’s but he found it hard to keep his audiences interested in his work. They wanted something new and fresh. Even though he was overworked and tired, he kept on composing until November of 1791 when he got very ill indeed and took to his bed. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart died on December 5th, 1791 when he only thirty-five years old.

This superb biography not only tells the story of one of the world’s greatest composers but it also provides readers with fascinating background information about Mozart’s times. Readers will discover what it was like to live in Austria in the 1700’s, what kind of musical instruments were in use at that time, what was happening in the world when Mozart was composing his most famous pieces, and more. A timeline at the bottom of the pages further helps to set the scene for readers, giving them a sense of what was happening during Mozart’s lifetime.

Beautifully presented with lots of annotated photographs which break up the text, this very special book is not only entertaining but it also paints a fascinating portrait of a unique period in history. This is one of the titles in the “National Geographic World History Biographies” series.