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Mozart's life * Mozart's times * Mozart's music * Mozart's travels *
Buzz, Moz and the Bees by Roch Carrier

Mozart's Times

The late eighteenth century, the period in which Mozart lived, was relatively peaceful. There were no major wars in Europe, though across the ocean the American War of Independence raged from 1775�1783. Yet there was much discontent in Europe. People were getting fed up with a two-class social structure, in which a tiny group of rich people remained in power over a vast number of poor people at the bottom of the social scale, people with virtually no rights and no way to climb out of their poverty.

But power was slowly changing hands from the aristocracy to the growing middle class. This middle class came about partly through the Industrial Revolution, which brought a sudden, massive increase in the number of jobs available in mines, factories, and railroads. It was an age of invention: from Watt's steam engine (1775) to the fountain pen (1780) hot-air balloon (1783) and carbonated soda (1785)!

A philosophical movement known as the Enlightenment took hold. People began to believe in the power of human reason to solve social problems, to correct unjust behaviour, and to make their lives better. The rights of the individual, freedom of thought, relaxation of censorship, and the gradual abolition of child labour were just some of the changes that resulted from the Enlightenment.

Mozart's Contemporaries

The only other composer of the time who even came close to matching Mozart's genius was Franz Joseph Haydn (1732�-1809). The two became great friends, learned much from each other, and together created the models that future composers used to write symphonies and string quartets. Then there was Antonio Salieri, an Italian who spent much of his career at the court of Vienna; Johann Christian Bach, one of the leading composers in London; and Christoph Willibald Gluck, noted for his operatic reforms.

In other fields, we find philosophers and writers like Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau in France, Friedrich von Schiller and E.T.A. Hoffmann in Germany, Robert Burns and Sir Walter Scott in Scotland, and Jane Austen in England. Antonio Canaletto and his nephew Bernardo were famous Italian landscape painters, while Jean Honoré Fragonard and Thomas Gainsborough were his contemporaries in France and England, and across the ocean John Singleton Copley painted portraits of famous Americans.


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