Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven rate among the most outstanding composers in the history of classical music. They both died over 150 years ago but their works continue to be studied, performed, and admired all over the world. Although both composers are equally popular, their music still differs considerably in style and message. Moreover, their backgrounds, approaches to work, understanding of music, and relations with public were also quite different though they undoubtedly share some common features.
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Mozart was born on the 27th of January, 1756, in Salzburg, Austria (14 years earlier than Beethoven). When he was three years old, he could play the piano, and by the age of four he had already started composing his own music. Besides, he was also a brilliant violin player (Woodford, 2016).
Beethoven was born on the 16th of December, 1770, in Bonn, Germany, in the family of musicians (both his father and his grandfather played musical instruments). Although he made his first public appearance at the age of eight and started publishing his music at twelve, this art did not come so naturally to him as he was not such a prodigy as Mozart (who was already a famous composer at that time). His father forced him to practice day and night hoping to educate the second Mozart (Solomon, 2012).
Both composers had a difficult childhood as their fathers controlled every aspect of their lives and made them spend all their time on practicing. However, Mozart started travelling with concerts when he was much younger than Beethoven. He played mostly for royalty and nobility. His first opera, “La finta semplice”, was completed when he was still a teenager (Woodford, 2016).
Unlike Mozart, Beethoven spent his early years without any glory. His father punished him severely for every mistake. His first recital when he was eight received no attention from the press. In 1784, he became an Assistant Court Organist as he needed money to support his family. He took off for Vienne when he was seventeen but had to return because of his dying mother. Thus, he did not enjoy early fame (Solomon, 2012).
However, in later years Mozart was much less popular as he was no longer perceived as a wonder. He earned very little money and had to borrow from his friends to survive. He was very sick and could not afford treatment. He died in his thirties and was buried in a pauper’s grave (Woodford, 2016).
On the contrary, Beethoven became rich and famous later in life. He enjoyed recognition long before his death. However, gradual loss of hearing that lead to deafness had a great impact on him. His best works were composed when he could no longer hear. He died when he was 56 (Solomon, 2012).
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As far as the style is concerned, Mozart’s music is characterized by simplicity, clarity, and harmony. It is an archetype of the Classical music. His music is a reflection of his light and cheerful personality. It can be performed even by musicians who lack outstanding skills. He wrote in every possible genre: opera, concert, symphony, chamber music, etc. His best works include operas Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro, Symphony No. 40 in G Minor, Requiem, etc. (Woodford, 2016).
The sound of Beethoven’s music is much gloomier and moodier. His style can be called transitory as it shares some features with both classicism and romanticism. His works are very hard to play as they have lots of variations and complex technical passages. Like Mozart, he created music of different genres and for different instruments. His major works include nine symphonies, an opera (the only one he wrote – Fidelio), and lots of shorter pieces (Solomon, 2012).
It would be fair to note that, despite a lot of differences in approaches to music, recognition, and life styles, these two composers are equally renowned as the greatest masters of all times.
Solomon, M. (2012). Beethoven. London, UK: Music Sales Group.
Woodford, P. (2016). New illustrated lives of great composers: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. New York, NY: Omnibus Press.