Happy Birthday, Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

            Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 258th birthday was Monday, January 27. Happy Birthday, Mozart! My husband, Jack, and I celebrated by retrieving the movie, Amadeus, from the back shelf and watching Wolfie’s hilarity bubble up in the fun and spunk of his music.

            Mozart was baptized Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, although we know him best by a much-shortened version, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. A little research shows that he changed his name often throughout his lifetime.

Why did he do that? He says his various church affiliations and his being multilingual are causes for some of the alterations. But, in letters from his younger days, he spelled his name backward: Mozart Wolfgang in some letters and Trazom in others. He simply couldn’t hide or turn off his creativity, the same characteristic that led to his playing piano and violin in public at age six.

            Amadeus, which we automatically insert as his middle name, may have originated as a facetious application of his keen interest in the Latin language. At one point, he “latinized” his entire name—Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus—perhaps in jest only. Nevertheless, the Amadeus portion of that experiment stuck. Another time, he tried an Italian twist—Wolfgango Amadeo Mozart.

            Perhaps his preference was something like Wolfgang Amade, the name he used on his wedding contract when he married Constanze Weber August 3, 1782. But, on August 4, 1782, the parish register entry for his marriage to Constanze shows him as Herr Wolfgang Adam Mozart.

            Regardless of what he named himself, “Unique genius” only begins to describe Mozart. He conceived and perfected the grand forms of music that marked the classical period. His operas, particularly, show uncanny insight into the human psyche, not known to music at that time and yet continues to fascinate audiences around the world.

Constanze Mozart, Mozart's wife and mother of his children.

Constanze Mozart, Mozart's wife and mother of his children.

            As to the contention between himself and Salieri that provides a theme for the movie, Amadeus, historically there is little basis for such a troubled relationship. Yes, they vied for the same jobs and attention at points along the way, but they admired each other’s work and even collaborated on a cantata for voice and piano called “Per la recuperate salute di Ophelia”. After Mozart’s death, December 5, 1791, at age 35, Constanze arranged for their two boys (they had six children; two survived infancy) to study with Salieri. Mozart probably had multiple nicknames for his boys also—Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver. Was Stanze his preferred nickname for Constanze?

            With all his musical genius and the multitude of musical miracles he left the world to enjoy, he can call himself and his family what he wants. In fact, we might add to his list of compositions one more gifted creation called Variations on the Name “Wolfgang” Theme. Happy Birthday, Mozart, and thanks for your never-ending legacy of inimitable music.