Very early in his father Leopold's study of the harpsichord, together with his sister Maria Anna, his first essays of composition date back to 1759; in 1762 he wrote his first minuet and an Allegro in B flat, which is a real first time sonata in miniature.
Musical journeys began in 1762: the child was endowed with an exceptional talent and the father did not miss the opportunity to take him around, together with his sister, to make him known and admired. On one of these occasions he was introduced to the archbishop of Passau and played in Vienna in the presence of the imperial majesties.
In 1763 he traveled a longer route, with stops in Munich, Augsburg, Ulm, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Cologne, Brussels, Paris. After a six-month stay in Paris, Leopold and his sons went to England, where they stayed for more than a year.
In London, Mozart's musical experience was greatly enriched: during the London period he composed his first symphony, following the traces of J. C. Bach, which was to be his first model also in the composition of concerts.
From England the family went to Holland, from where, after a long stop in Lille due to a serious illness of Wolfgang, he returned to Salzburg, passing through Paris, Switzerland and Bavaria. In the calm of his hometown followed a period of study and recollection interrupted only by some short stay in Vienna: among the works of this period we must remember Die Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes, written on commission of the archbishop of Salzburg and executed in May 1767, the works Apollo et Hyacinthus (1767), Bastien und Bastienne (1768), The Simple Pretend, written in the same year by the emperor's invitation, and a Mass (49 of the von Köchel catalog).
M.'s travel series ended in Italy: he arrived there in 1768 and returned there later. In Rome, having listened to the Miserere of G. Allegri in the Sistine Chapel, he transcribed the score from memory; in Bologna he met Father G. B. Martini, who was taken by so much sympathy and admiration for him, to advocate his appointment as a philharmonic scholar; in Milan he met with G. B. Sammartini and N. Piccinni and in a short time he wrote the opera Mitridate, king of Pontus (1770). Leaving Italy in 1771, he returned there the same year to compose and have the Ascanio done in Alba, on the text of G. Parini, and in nov. of 1772 for the representation of Lucio Silla, with libretto by Giovanni de Gamerra.
At this time, M. had already given birth to 135 musical works of all kinds: a staggering quantity and more than ever promising for quality. Back in Salzburg, he had to suffer a series of bitterness; much helped to make life difficult for him to misunderstand the new archbishop of Salzburg, Geronimo of Colloredo, a tough and coarse man who in M., father and son, could not see anything but two employees. M. then devoted himself to a continuous work, without rest, and he derived considerable advantages from the influence that on him did not fail to exercise M. J. Haydn (brother of Joseph), then composer and maestro of the archbishop's concerts. Traces of the contacts of M. with Haydn are evident in the instrumental works and particularly in the quartets composed at that time. However, the taste of the Salzburg court tended, by the inclination of the new archbishop, towards fatuity and gallantry, and in this sense it was necessary to orientate the Mozart production of that period: The fake gardener, represented in Munich in 1775, is a work Italian buffa, rather light and conventional. This was followed by another minor work, The Pastor King, represented in Salzburg in 1776. In September 1777, temporarily abandoned the ungrateful employment, M. took the road to Paris, in the company of his mother. During a stop in Mannheim, he fell in love with the singer Aloysia Weber, but the relationship was abruptly cut off at the behest of Leopold.
In Paris, this time, the only assignment offered was to compose for J. G. Noverre the ballet Les petits riens and the only truly remarkable artistic event was the composition of the Symphony in King K 297, known as La parigina. His mother died and discouraged by the progress of things, on the advice of his father, he returned, albeit reluctantly, to the service of Colloredo.
In the carnival of 1781 the Idomeneo opera was successfully performed in Monaco, with a libretto by Abbot Varesco, composed by order of the Elector of Bavaria. Shortly thereafter, the definitive rupture took place with Colloredo and M., abandoned Salzburg, moved to Vienna. The decade of 1781-91 was that of the masterpieces, but also a sad period for the life of the composer, who already turned at sunset. In 1782 he married Costanza Weber, sister of Aloysia. During the period of the engagement he had written the Singspiel Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which can be considered as the first example of German lyrical drama, distant from both the Italian opera and the dramatic conception of Gluck. From 1782 to 1785 M. devoted himself especially to the composition of instrumental music, writing among other things the Haffner Symphony (1782), that of Linz and the six wonderful quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn and published in 1785. In 1786, after the short opera Der Schauspieldirektor, wrote Le nozze di Figaro, one of his main works; the beautiful libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, taken from the play by Beaumarchais, offered Mozart's temperament the opportunity to expand freely. The representation of the Marriage of Figaro, first in Vienna and then in Prague, was a real triumph for M., who, however, failed to derive substantial economic benefits from it. Following the success, Bondini, director of the Prague Theater, gave him the task of writing a new work for the following season: Don Giovanni. In the libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, the funny is grafted into the dramatic, the knight in the fantastic; but the work acquires its real vitality only through Mozart's music. Unlike the Marriage of Figaro, in which the comedy almost drowns in music, characters and action stand out in a plastic which music gives new evidence: M. quickly catches what is dramatic in the story and sculpts it with a force of style and a depth of accents that seem to announce the romantic world, while however the comedy, around, is not sacrificed. Don Giovanni was represented for the first time in Prague on 29 October. 1787 and had an enthusiastic welcome. Returning to Vienna, M. was named Kammermusikus of Emperor Joseph II. In 1788 he wrote his last three and stupendous symphonies: in E flat K 543, in G minor K 550 and C major (Jupiter) K 551. In 1789 he followed the prince Karl Lichnowsky, his pupil, on a tour through Germany, receiving flattering offers from Frederick William II. But he preferred to return to Vienna, where on behalf of Joseph II he wrote a new opera, Così fan tutte, also on a libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, which was performed in January 1790. At that time Joseph II died, the new emperor Leopold II he showed the interest of his predecessor for the music. In need of money, M. entered into relations with Emanuel Schikaneder, the impresario of the Theater auf der Wieden, who gave him the idea of writing a work of pure German character; Thus was born the third of the major theatrical works of M., Die Zauberflöte on a libretto by Schikaneder himself, represented on 30 September 1791. In just twelve days, La clemenza di Tito was composed, on an old reworked booklet of P Metastasio.
The composition of the Requiem, begun in July 1791, was interrupted, with painful coincidence, from the death of the musician, which took place on 6 December. 1791. The production of M. was of a truly prodigious quantity, especially if compared to his short life: the catalog of his works, compiled by Ludwig von Köchel in 1862, lists 626 compositions (which are indicated with the catalog number preceded from the initial K). All forms of every genre involved the inexhaustible inventive power of M., from sacred and profane vocal music to theatrical music, from symphonic to chamber music. He wrote 21 operas, 49 symphonies, 25 piano and orchestra concerts, 5 violin and orchestra concerts, 23 string quartets, 17 piano sonatas, 35 sonatas for violin and piano, and also masses, cantatas, litanies, vespers, compositions minor liturgical, church sonatas, arias with orchestra, Lieder, canons, trios, quartets for various instruments, quintets, marches and dances for orchestra, entertainment, serenades, cassations, concerts for different instruments and orchestra. M.'s art is complex and manifold, the brilliant work of an undisputed protagonist of the European cultural changes of the late eighteenth century. The apparent ease of his music has allowed critical and often even conflicting readings; to the "classical" interpretation of O. Jahn (contained in the documented biography of M. published between 1856 and 1859) and to the "historical" (1911-46) of Th. de Wyzewa and G. de Saint-Foix the "pre-romantic" one by A. Einstein (1945) or the "expressive" one by E. Hanslick (1854). The multiplicity of criticism testifies to the universality of the Mozartian genius, rich in different elements, influences (above all Italian and German) admirably assimilated and left behind, capable of a rare balance between the ease of invention and the necessity of formal structuring, between spiritual contents and morphological configurations. In the epoch-making transition from the ancien régime to the revolutionary age, M. was a nodal pivot: his music, while not giving up on ever-present aspects of serenity and composure, is in fact permeated with an undeniably modern sensibility.