Even after two centuries since his death, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains as one of the most famous and highly influential composers the world has ever seen. His enormous output of Classical music spans over six hundred compositions, including several works that have become seminal pieces of symphonic, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music. Today, there are many Mozart compositions that are still a staple of standard concert repertoire.
Mozart is also unique in the sense that it is rare among composers to have their lives celebrated outside the boundaries of their art. But Mozart’s own life was the subject of many myths and controversies, some of them so colorful that they have become the subject matter of countless biographies and even stage plays and films.
Some say Mozart’s life was so colorful because none of his biographers knew him personally and, as such, had to resort to supposition and fabrication in the absence of real fact. Historians have pointed out the fact that many of the myths surrounding Mozart actually started after his death. There is the belief that Mozart composed his Requiem for himself, but that has neither been confirmed nor denied by the many Mozart scholars who continue to study his life to this day.
One famous story revolves around the supposedly heated rivalry between Mozart and Antonio Salieri. There has been some speculation that Mozart died from poison that was supplied by Salieri. This is precisely the subject of Aleksandr Pushkin’s play Mozart and Salieri as well as Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov’s opera Mozart and Salieri. Lastly, this subject was also touched upon by Peter Shaffer in his play Amadeus, which was later made into a feature-length film of the same name. In 1984, the film won eight Academy Awards and was one of the year’s most popular films. But beyond that, the movie created a new generation of Mozart fans.
Then, there is the portrayal of Mozart as a kind of superhuman prodigy who showed musical genius from childhood to his death. There may be some truth in that. Many of Mozart’s early compositions became hugely popular, include the motet Exultate, which Mozart composed when he was seventeen years old.