Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: 18 Interesting Facts You Might Not Know

Written by Dan Farrant
Last updated

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart remains one of the most famous and most prolific composers of his era. Writing hundreds of musical compositions in his 35 years of life, there are many things you probably don’t know about the esteemed composer.

Starting and finishing his musical career at a young age, there’s a lot more to the classical creator than meets the eye. Both a prodigy and practical joker, in this post, we’re going to take a look at 18 interesting facts about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that made him a unique legend of his time.

1. He Began Composing at Five Years Old

It should come as no surprise that Mozart was a highly regarded and respected musician in the classical scene. However, not many established composers began their craft at the ripe age of five.

Mozart’s father, Leopold, commenced harpsichord lessons for his toddler son who then proceeded to write his first concerto at age the young age of only five.

To this day, many regard him as a genius from the moment he came into the world. He was a concert pianist by the time he reached the age of six and even participated in a European piano tour during that same time. This milestone made him the youngest in his field to accomplish such goals.

2. He Had an Photographic Memory for Music

While this never received definite confirmation, most people speculated that Mozart had an eidetic (or photographic) memory for music.

This rumor began after he showcased his ability to listen to a full-length classical piece one time before writing down its musical composition exactly.

This skill doesn’t describe the exact definition of an eidetic memory. Mozart wasn’t using his eyes to memorize an already written piece of sheet music, but rather his ears to listen to an arrangement of it.

There’s no explanation for why he possessed this gift, but it does explain why he was such a prolific composer during his time on Earth.

3. The Trumpet Was His Kryptonite

Despite Mozart being a musical mastermind, his father revealed that the esteemed composer always had a difficult time learning to play and utilize the trumpet.

He often couldn’t create a successful musical composition for the beloved brass instrument and if you attempt to search for a Mozart trumpet piece, the only works that will appear are generated from his father, Leopold Mozart.

The trumpet brought the child composer significant discomfort from a very young age that never really dissipated with time. Many also believe that Mozart was quite literally afraid of the trumpet altogether.

He took an immediate liking to clarinet, making him a woodwind fanatic rather than brass as he grew into adulthood.

4. He Had a Bizarre Sense of Humor

Among the other reasons Mozart was an odd character, he quite literally had a potty mouth. He often used toilet humor in many of his musical compositions.

His jokes, both in his regular life and his musical works, were extremely crude and he often wrote poetic letters to family members, further showcasing this peculiar side of comedy.

Many Mozart scholars often refer to his strange wit as scatological humor. While many of his scatological compositions are not available to view, there’s plenty of evidence from family and friends supporting this claim. His cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, was believed to share this same sense of humor.

5. He Preferred the Nickname “Amadѐ”

At birth and baptism, the musical composer received the full name Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.

While Mozart’s name had many variants, he typically enjoyed calling himself “Amadѐ,” a shortened version of his widely-recognized middle name “Amadeus.” 

Habitually, Mozart was the only one referring to himself as Amade, while others often called him “Wolfgang Gottlieb” or “Wolfgang Amadeus.” 

The rise of his famed middle name most likely stemmed from his odd sense of humor. It began with him mocking traditional Latin text by adding an “-us” to the end of every word.

He would occasionally sign autographs as “Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus,” bringing forth the birth of this title which received much more notoriety centuries after his death.

6. He Was Pretty Short

Even with the European average height for a man living in the eighteenth century (5’5”), Mozart was relatively short. Many historians claim that the composer didn’t stand much taller than 5’4.”

He was much closer to average height in his era, but he would most likely be viewed as very small in global society today.  

Despite his impressively small stature, many biographers claim that he was a very vain little man with his pale skin and straight, light-colored hair.

Outside of his height, his appearance was entirely unremarkable as he blended in quite perfectly both in his area and his field.  

7. He Knew Twelve Different Languages

Given everything on his impressive resume, Mozart was somewhat of a prodigy. He tended to pick things up relatively quickly and garnered considerable knowledge despite his short lifespan.

Being a composer of Austrian origin, he effortlessly spoke German but among the languages, he was more proficient in, he possessed a decent fluency in Italian, English, and French.

He had a fair grasp of Spanish, Russian, Latin, Dutch, Czech, Polish, and Turkish, of the languages he held less proficiency in.

Many Mozart scholars note that he may have understood ancient Greek and biblical Hebrew a good bit as well. 

8. He Would Shop Until He Dropped

Everybody has at least one vice, and Mozart was no exception. While he wasn’t necessarily poor given the period, he still managed to waste most of his money on materialistic items to feed his shopping addiction.

He gained a good deal of his income doing freelance work, making an estimated 10,000 florins a year. In today’s money of America, this would be about $42,000.

Many historians argue that Mozart was impoverished even with all his earnings, but this wasn’t really the case. He did manage to die with very little left to his name, but it resulted from poor money management.

He additionally could not afford to pay his own bills due to his spending habits.

9. He Had Many House Pets, Including a Starling

Along with his love for music, Mozart had a soft spot for animals of all kinds. Resultantly, he had a dog, canary, horse, and starling on his property.

One can easily infer that he came into possession of the canary and starling as a way to blend his passion for music with his admiration for nature.

The starling became his most well-known pet, who he would often use as inspiration to write and produce short melodic pieces.

After his starling passed away, Mozart proceeded to write a poem in the dedication of the musically inclined bird. He also adored the starling enough to give it a burial in his backyard following its death. 

10. He Was Good Friends with Joseph Haydn

Mozart was quite the extrovert which paired fantastically with his dirty jokes and sailor’s mouth. Amongst the friends he made in his field, he grew very close to the fellow Austrian composer, Joseph Haydn.

Many cite Haydn as Mozart’s best friend and musical mentor; the two men weren’t simply acquaintances. 

The two gentlemen first met in 1781 at Haydn’s premiere of La Fidelta. Mozart was already well aware of Haydn’s work while living in Salzburg, leading him to the premiere to meet the musician face-to-face.

There’s no abundance of proof that these two men admired each other, but they often played together on their respective string instruments.

11. He Traveled a Lot and Could Compose Music Anywhere

Mozart was no stranger to moving around often. The composer was born and raised in Salzburg, Austria, but began to move repeatedly by the time he reached age 18.

If you questioned how Mozart could pick up numerous languages during his brief lifetime, the frequency in which he traveled could serve as an explanation. 

Germany, Italy, France, England, Switzerland, the Netherlands, the Czech Republic, and Slovakia were all countries he visited, following his exit from Austria.

Mozart managed to make it back to his home country, making Vienna a permanent place of residency until the day he died.

12. He Had a Complicated Relationship with His Father

Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, was a composer long before the birth of his talented son. Leopold is responsible for bringing his child into the musical field from such a young age.

While the father and son pair weren’t altogether resentful of one another, the relationship continued to strain with time. Mozart was never entirely free of Leopold’s grip until he moved to Vienna.

Many viewed Leopold to be incredibly possessive and controlling of Mozart, cousin constant tension between the two.

Despite there being no absence of love and respect, Mozart didn’t attend Leopold’s funeral when he passed. A week after Leopold’s death, Mozart’s starling died, leading the musical prodigy to pick the bird over his father.

13. He Was Extremely Outspoken and Out of Pocket

Given his incredibly crude humor, Mozart was an extremely “out-of-the-box” kind of character as a whole. He spoke as though his words would go unnoticed by those around him.

Consequently, this became an integral part of his personality. Between his interest in potty humor and his inability to control his crass vulgarity, this later led to the theory that Mozart might have suffered from Tourette’s syndrome.

14. He Fathered Six Children, but Only Two Survived Past Infancy

After his betrothment to the singer, Constanze, Mozart fathered six children with his beloved wife. Unfortunately, only two out of his six offspring with Constanze made it past infancy. He initially wanted to marry Constanze’s sister, Aloysia Weber, but she declined. 

There’s no apparent cause for the early deaths of four of his children, but the eighteenth century often appeared to be the era of grueling childbirth mishaps.

Neither of his two surviving children went on to have kids of their own, abruptly ending Mozart’s bloodline before the end of the eighteenth century.

15. He Was Very Unorganized but Also a Perfectionist

In composing hundreds of pieces during his life, Mozart did a horrible job keeping track of all his hard work. To this day, there is an innumerable amount of work from Mozart that the world will never get to hear.

This unfortunate fact is due to his wife burning his remaining music that never saw the light. 

While overwhelmingly unorganized, Mozart was still quite particular when it came to the composition and sound of his art. He was very detail-oriented, which is why his final piece before death remains unfinished.

16. He Wrote Over 600 Musical Pieces in His Brief Lifetime

Among more than 600 compositions from the respected composer, Mozart wrote 50 symphonies, 15 masses, and 21 stage operas.

These pieces are some of his more recognized work, but the musician had hundreds of musical compositions to show for his efforts in the classical field. 

He lived a rather short life but managed to compose twice as much music as other musicians who remained in the musical field for an extended period and lived longer than him.

17. He Was Left-Handed

When your claim to fame is in a field such as music, your dominant hand becomes a non-factor to the ultimate cause.

Given that Mozart began his musical journey on piano, it took historians some time to figure out that Mozart may have been left-handed. 

Many others argue that if he wasn’t left-handed, he at least had to be ambidextrous due to his ability to write sheet music with both hands. In his era, left-handed children still had to learn how to write with their right hand.

18. His Death Is Still a Mystery

Mozart’s Grave by Invisigoth67 (CC BY-SA 2.5)

Mozart scholars stated that the Austrian composer died from poison in the past. Many believed his perpetrator to be Antonio Salieri, a musical professor of other great composers, including Ludwig Beethoven. 

People now think this rumor to be false, leaving Mozart’s actual cause of death a bit of an unsolved mystery.

Summing Up Our List Of Mozart Facts

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart provided the world with some of the most magnificent musical works ever composed.

From Turkish March to Lacrimosa, he proved that creating worthy music contained no age requirement nor a firm hold on sophistication.

Photo of author

Dan Farrant, the founder of Hello Music Theory, has been teaching music for over 15 years, helping hundreds of thousands of students unlock the joy of music. He graduated from The Royal Academy of Music in 2012 and then launched Hello Music Theory in 2014. He plays the guitar, piano, bass guitar and double bass and loves teaching music theory.