Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Background Information for Teachers and Parents
This page contains information to support educators and families in teaching K-3 students about Mozart’s life and music. The information is designed to complement the BrainPOP Jr. movie Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It explains the type of content covered in the movie, provides ideas for how teachers and parents can develop related understandings, and suggests how other BrainPOP Jr. resources can be used to scaffold and extend student learning.
Encourage children to explore music and introduce them to different genres. This movie will explore the life and work of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and share some of his most famous works, including his operas and symphonies. Inspire children to compose their own music or discuss how music makes them feel. We highly recommend listening to Mozart’s compositions together and pausing to discuss them and the feelings that they invoke.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg, Austria. He was raised in a musical family. His father was a violinist and a composer. Maria Anna, Wolfgang’s older sister by five years, was a skilled harpsichord player. Young Wolfgang was surrounded by music and began learning and exploring music at a very young age. His talent became evident quickly and by the time he was five years old, he was composing melodies and sonatas. (Remind children that a sonata is a musical composition that is divided into a few sections and is written for one or two instruments. You may want to share selected sonatas by Mozart.) The family traveled to different cities to perform and they were often invited to play for kings, queens, and members of royal courts.
When he was eight years old, Wolfgang composed his first symphony. Review with children that a symphony is a long musical composition that is divided into several sections and is written for an orchestra. The sections of a symphony are called movements. Mozart wrote over forty symphonies in his lifetime, and some children may recognize several of them. You may want to listen to one of Mozart’s symphonies together, such as Symphony No. 40 in G Minor: many free versions of the symphony are available online for free streaming. Compare and contrast the first and third movements. How are they alike? How are they different? What mood or feeling does each movement invoke?
Explore Mozart’s work together with children. One of his most well known pieces is “Eine kleine Nachtmusik,” which loosely translates to “A Little Night Music” in German. How does the piece feel? What gives the piece an upbeat and happy mood? Instruct children to listen to different parts of a piece of music. For example, you may want them to listen for the lower and higher parts in Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11 in A Major, Alla Turca. Here the notes in the bass clef feel heavy and powerful while the notes in the treble clef feel more playful and light, but still driving and rhythmic.
Help children understand that throughout his life, Mozart explored different forms of music, including opera. Opera is a form of music that tells a story through singing and acting. You may want to share clips from performances of Mozart’s operas, which you can find on the Internet. The Marriage of Figaro, which premiered in Vienna on May 1, 1786, is a comical opera about a group of people who prepare for a wedding and scheme against each other. The opera is silly at times and Mozart’s music helps create the mood. Some children may recognize the overture from the opera, which feels light-hearted and celebratory. The opera Don Giovanni, which premiered in Prague on October 29, 1787, is a dramatic opera about an evil nobleman who makes enemies and meets his end. Mozart’s music communicates the feelings each character goes through, from happiness to fear. The Magic Flute, which premiered in Vienna on September 30, 1791, is about magical characters that fight against an evil queen. The opera is known for its arias, which are long songs performed by one singer accompanied by an orchestra.
Help children understand that Mozart’s works are still being performed today, over two hundred years later. Encourage them to explore his music and listen to how his work has influenced other musicians and composers. Invite them to compose music themselves!