Leopold Mozart: Biography & Trumpet Concerto

Instructor: Alisha Nypaver

Alisha is a college music educator specializing in historic and world music studies.

Did you know there was more than one famous Mozart? Wolfgang Mozart's father, Leopold, was a very talented musician himself, although he is best remembered today as the father of the famous child prodigy.

Biography

Johann Georg Leopold Mozart was born on November 14th, 1719 in Augsburg, Germany. His father was a bookbinder, but Leopold studied philosophy and law in Salzburg, Austria. Unfortunately, he was expelled for poor attendance and turned to his musical talents to secure a position as court musician to the Archbishop of Salzburg. There, he played the violin and composed. Eventually, he was promoted to assistant Kapellmeister (master of the chapel).

Painting of Leopold Mozart by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni.
Portrait of Leopold Mozart

In 1747, Leopold married Anna Maria Pertl. They had seven children, but only two survived: Maria Anna, called 'Nannerl' (born 1751) and Wolfgang Amadeus (born 1756). In 1759, Leopold began giving Nannerl keyboard lessons. Amazingly, the little two-year-old toddler Wolfgang climbed up on the piano bench and began to play the same music his eight-year-old sister was learning! Leopold discovered that both children were musically gifted and saw an opportunity to capitalize on their talents. After teaching them privately for several years, he took his children on tour to showcase their musical talents for Europe's nobility. In 1762, they embarked on the first of a series of extensive tours that lasted over a decade, including a 'grand tour' from 1763 to 1766.

Such a life was taxing, and the extended absences prevented Leopold from receiving the top promotion to head Kapellmeister at his post with the Archbishop. After the final tour concluded in 1773, Leopold tried to find his son a permanent position. It was not easy. Musicians were largely viewed and treated as high-ranking servants, but the arrogant and fun-loving Wolfgang wanted to be servant to no one.

Leopold performs with his children while on tour.
Painting of Mozart Family

In 1778, Leopold's wife Anna Maria died. The following year, he was able to get Wolfgang a court organist post with the Salzburg Archbishop, but Wolfgang was continuously locked in a power struggle with his employer. Leopold tried to smooth things over between his boss and his son, but his efforts came to nothing in 1781 when Wolfgang left Salzburg to pursue a freelance career in Vienna.

Nannerl and Wolfgang playing a duet at the fortepiano with father Leopold after the death of Anna Maria. Her portrait is featured behind the seated family.
Painting of Mozart Family

Nannerl lived at home with her father until her marriage in 1784 to a widower who had five children. When Nannerl gave birth to her own child in 1785, she did not want to raise the child in her new home and left him with Leopold. He apparently enjoyed raising his grandson until his death on May 28, 1787.

As Composer

Leopold wrote a large amount of music. Unfortunately, the vast majority of it has been lost, and only a few dozen pieces remain today. Of these, some might not have actually been written by him, such as the relatively popular Toy Symphony.

In his day, Leopold was well-known for his compositions and performing ability. He composed less after the birth Wolfgang, and he did not compose anything after 1771, spending his time editing and cataloging his son's compositions instead. Who knows how famous he could have become if he continued to compose instead of furthering Wolfgang's career?

Trumpet Concerto

Of the pieces that have been definitely attributed to Leopold Mozart, the Trumpet Concerto in D Major is the most popular. A concerto is a work for orchestra and soloist. This piece was written in 1762. It is in two movements, which are sections of a larger musical work that sound complete on their own, but are meant to be heard in the context of the other movements.

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