Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of music’s greatest, most prolific composers. Born in Salzburg, Austria, in 1756, he composed more than 600 works, including more than 600 symphonies, concertos, operas, and chamber music, before his death at age 35.
Perhaps no other composer has influenced the way music is written and perceived as much as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Not only did he write some of the most recognizable tunes in history, but he also wrote the first operas in history. Although he only lived until he was 35 years old, he managed to compose more than 600 pieces of music.
If you have heard of Mozart, you would probably picture him as a tiny little boy playing with wooden toys. But his father gave him chores like learning to play the clavier and practicing the violin. He was only five when his father, Leopold Mozart, started making him play for his musical friends.
Even though Mozart is well-loved today, it wasn’t always like that. During his life, his father tried to make Wolfgang an established musician, which meant being a freelance musician. This required Wolfgang to travel around Europe and compose a lot of music. The problem was that not many people loved Mozart’s music. In fact, for many years, his music was forgotten and considered unimportant. It wasn’t until a hundred years later when people started to realize how great Mozart’s music was.
“Never Boring” Music
The music of Mozart is unmistakable. From the “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” to the “Jupiter Symphony,” each piece is like a puzzle piece that fits with the others. If you think of his music as a whole, you can see how each part is not only an integral part of the whole but also an individual piece of art, which can stand alone as well.
The late great conductor Herbert von Karajan once said that Mozart’s music “is never boring because the composer gives you surprises in every bar.” Von Karajan has a point: in a Mozart symphony, you never know what’s coming next. The unpredictable nature of Mozart’s music may account for its popularity with the public, but it has also posed a challenge to musicologists. Indeed, it is a well-known fact among musicologists that no one has ever been able to understand a single note of a Mozart symphony.
The Mozart’s Effect
Music has long been a tool for study, and yet its role in academic success has been largely understudied. But a handful of recent studies have shown that listening to classical music can improve memory and focus and thus may help students improve their grades. “Listening to Mozart has a beneficial effect on attention and working memory,” says Dr. Naila Rabbani, an expert in music and cognitive psychology. “So if they listen to Mozart before they go into an exam, they should perform better.”
While you might not think of classical music when you think of a study aid, many studies have shown that classical music can boost cognitive skills. For example, researchers in Sweden had volunteers listen to a Mozart piano sonata before they took a test that measured their spatial ability to rotate objects in their mind’s eye. Those who listened to Mozart scored much higher than those who listened to a relaxation tape.
What is this famous composition that was said to have the “Mozart Effect”?
Well, it is called the Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488. Mozart wrote this piece at the age of 16 and is his earliest known piano concerto, composed in 1767. Despite being young at the time, the piece is filled with mature musical ideas, and it goes beyond just being another boring, simple piano concerto. However, he never heard his Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 performed live.
The composer only gave the inaugural performance himself. At the same time, the manuscript sat unrevised in a drawer for several decades, and neither Mozart’s son nor his pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr nor Beethoven made any changes to the composition. Therefore, Mozart’s autograph score of the concerto became the final version, and it is this score that is seen by performers today.
Does listening to classical music like Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 23 make us more intelligent?
The Piano Concerto No. 23, along with its famous, haunting final cadenza, is widely believed to make you smarter. Some have claimed that it is an effective mind aid, while others disagree with this claim. Whether a piece of music makes you smarter is mostly dependent on the complexity of the piece. More complex music tends to have more notes, different rhythms and scales, and more variance in volume and tempo and is more likely to be listened to regularly.