Mozart (1756-1791) and Beethoven (1770-1827) gifted the world with hundreds of works that played a key role in making the “Classical Period” one of the greatest periods in the history of music – even though Beethoven is often acclaimed as a great Romantic composer. Born in Salzburg, Austria, Mozart was a child prodigy who began composing at the age of five and wrote his first symphony at the age of eight; between 1762 and 1763, he traveled around Europe to perform for various noble families and some older composers were so impressed by his talent that they allowed him to attend Accademia Filarmonica in Bologna. Contrary to what one may think, Mozart was not born into a wealthy family.
To showcase his exceptional skills, he had to wait for his father -a relatively famous composer- to receive invitations and sufficient funds from his noble hosts. Similarly to Mozart, Beethoven was introduced to music by his father, a talented musician, who invested in his education by hiring several local instructors. Inspired by Mozart’s success, Beethoven’s father also tried to promote his son as a child prodigy, to the extent that he lied about his age in occasion of his first performance (Thayer et al., 1921). Unlike Mozart, who managed to build a successful career rather quickly, Beethoven had to overcome many obstacles (i.e. family issues) before being able to focus on his work.
In their own unique ways, Beethoven and Mozart used their skills to innovate and modernize European music. Mozart, for instance, introduced clarinets in some of his compositions, whereas Beethoven used piccolos, trombones and voices. As far as quantity is concerned, both composers were remarkably prolific: while Mozart wrote more compositions, Beethoven’s works were longer and more elaborate. If I could meet either Mozart or Beethoven, I would probably choose the latter as I would love to know more about the professional and psychological implications of his deafness – as evidence suggests that at some point, he had suicidal thoughts because of his condition (Cooper, 2000).
- Cooper, B. (2000). Beethoven. New York: Oxford University Press.
Thayer, A. W. et al. (1921). The Life of Ludwig Van Beethoven, Vol 1. The Beethoven Association.