Johann Georg Leopold Mozart (November 14, 1719 – May 28, 1787) was a composer, conductor, teacher, and violinist. Mozart is best known today as the father and teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and for his violin textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule.
He was born in Augsburg, son of Johann Georg Mozart (1679-1736), a bookbinder, and his second wife Anna Maria Sulzer (1696-1766). From an early age he sang as a choirboy. He attended a local Jesuit school, the St. Salvator Gymnasium, where he studied logic, science, theology, graduating magna cum laude in 1735. He then moved on to a more advanced school, the St. Salvator Lyceum.
While a student in Augsburg, he appeared in student theatrical productions as an actor and singer, and became a skilled violinist and organist. He also developed an interest, which he retained, in microscopes and telescopes. Although his parents had planned a career for Leopold as a Catholic priest, this apparently was not Leopold's own wish. An old school friend told Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1777, "Ah he [Leopold] was a great fellow. My father thought the world of him. And how he hoodwinked the clerics about becoming a priest!"
He withdrew from the St. Salvator Lyceum after less than a year. Following a year's delay, he moved to Salzburg to resume his education, enrolling in November 1737 at the Benedictine University to study philosophy and jurisprudence. At the time Salzburg was the capital of an independent state with Holy Roman Empire (the Prince-Archbishopric of Salzburg), now part of Austria. Except for periods of travel, Leopold spent the rest of his life there.
Leopold received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy in 1738. However, in September 1739 he was expelled from the university for poor attendance, having "hardly attended Natural Science more than once or twice".
Leopold Mozart's music is inevitably overshadowed by the work of his son Wolfgang, and in any case the father willingly sacrificed his own career to promote his son's. But Leopold's Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys (Toy Symphony), once attributed to Joseph Haydn, remains popular, and a number of symphonies, a trumpet concerto, and other works also survive.
Leopold Mozart was much concerned with a naturalistic feel to his compositions, his Jagdsinfonie (or Sinfonia da Caccia for four horns and strings) calls for dogs and shotguns, and his Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) includes bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, a dulcimer, whoops and whistles (ad. lib.), and pistol shots.
When Leopold died on 28 May 1787, Wolfgang was unable to attend the funeral, the travel time to Salzburg being too long.Little information is available on how Wolfgang took Leopolds' death, but a postscript he included in a letter to his friend Gottfried von Janequin suggests that, despite the quarrels and partial estrangement, his father's death was a blow to him: "I inform you that on returning home today I received the sad news of my most beloved father's death. You can imagine the state I am in."
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