Under [his father Leonardo’s] guidance Mozart began playing the piano at age four, was a skilled musician at age six, and was subsequently propelled through Europe, visiting Vienna at six in 1762, Paris in 1763, London in 1764, and Italy in 1769 at the old age of thirteen. As a young child in Rome, he wrote out the entire score of a nine-voice religious work after hearing it twice. He played the piano brilliantly, he read concertos at sight, he improvised, and he composed from the age of six; his first symphony came at eight, his first oratorio at eleven, his first opera at twelve. At fourteen he conducted twenty performances of that opera. The Pope decorated him, Empress Maria Theresa took note of him, he heard Haydn’s string quartets in 1773 and wrote his own first six that same year, at age 17. (Classical Music: The 50 Greatest Composers and their 1,000 Greatest Works, Phil G. Goulding, P121
That all sounds a little Elon Musky, if you ask me, a contrived ‘great’ man, a product of publicity and deception.
I know there is controversy surrounding the works of William Shakespeare, but I have always set them aside as unimportant. After all, the works were written, and they are timeless. Who cares by whom centuries later? But given what I have learned these past few years about the phenomenon of fake deaths of famous people, I tend now to lean to the Christopher Marlowe theory. His “death,” after all, relieved him of trial for alleged atheism, at that time a capital offense. Queen Elizabeth I would have been relieved of the responsibility for his public execution. His friends involved in the drunken brawl that resulted in his death were Rosicrucians, so there’s that aspect, the hidden hand crowd.
So alleged authorship takes on significance as it appears to fit the historical pattern of fake death for various purposes, from staging an orderly succession to an otherwise unelectable new president (Lincoln to Johnson) to the tragic final act of a real life play (Hitler) to beginnings of the destruction of a strong country (JFK) to mere cashing in on a soon-to-be moribund music portfolios (John Denver, Cobain, Karen Carpenter, Prince, etc. etc. etc.)
Here’s a rather long passage from an essay on the questions surrounding Mozart by
Dr. Pei-Gwen South called Exploding the Myth About Mozart.
“His performing capabilities aside, much has been made of Mozart’s apparent ability to compose at this young age, and the works that he supposedly wrote and published while on tour. It was, in fact, one of the selling points of his father’s campaign to boost the reputation of his son. An advertisement from 13 May 1765, while they were in London, invited audiences to hear a “‘Concerto on the Harpsichord by the little Composer and his Sister, each single and both together'”, and engraved sonatas and portraits were offered for public purchase (Heartz 1995: 506). Just a few months earlier, in February, Mozart had also apparently performed some of his first symphonies in concert. However, by their very importance to the family’s activities and success at this time, the validity of such works and compositional claims is necessarily questionable, for in building up his son, one has to wonder how much Leopold exaggerated his talent, and how much of his compositional achievement was manufactured for the public. It is known that the harpsichord sonatas composed during their stay in Paris from 1763-64 were written “with the ever-present help of his father” (Heartz 1995: 498), and that his father’s assistance was again required for the Gallimathius musicum K.32, written for the Dutch court, the autograph for which shows parts written in Leopold’s hand. There is also some controversy amongst experts as to the extent of Leopold’s contribution to the symphonies composed during the trip to Italy in 1770, further to his involvement with their copying (Heartz 1995: 507,556).
Certainly, the argument that Leopold ghost-wrote Mozart’s early compositions because it was expedient is a likely one that warrants serious consideration. Given the rigours of travel, especially in those days, and the constant round of social engagements they undertook, the toll on the young Mozart must have been enormous, and extensive documentation indicates that he was frequently ill. During these years alone he was stricken with erythema nodosum, rheumatic fever, angina, small-pox, scarlet fever and intestinal typhoid, the latter of which afflicted him for two months, and during which time it is claimed that he also published six sonatas for keyboard and violin K.26-31 allegedly of his own composition. These illnesses were in addition to minor maladies such as colds. It is indeed difficult to imagine that under these circumstances Mozart would have had the time, vigour or inclination to compose, let alone to compose works worthy of public performance or publication. But for someone of Leopold’s skill it would have been easy. Leopold’s presence looms large in Mozart’s juvenile church works, such as the Masses K.66 and K.139 and the Litany K.125, which are said to have been modelled on Leopold’s compositions and to be thus indebted to them, but which could just as easily have been written by the older composer, thus accounting for their style. Certainly, Leopold’s predisposition towards employing horns in his sacred music (he was probably the first composer in Salzburg to do so) is a feature that is also found in Mozart’s works in this genre (Eisen 1989: 171).
It is a 10,000 word essay, not for the drive-by type, but well worth time spent for students of history involved in the ongoing search for truth.
I think it is understood by all that Mozart was a gifted pianist and did indeed compose many works attributed to him. But he was no Elon Musk.
Or was he.