Did Mozart play piano? Yes! Mozart did play the piano. In fact, the piano is one of the instruments he was most famous for. He started by playing the organ, then later moved on to other instruments. However, at the time of his death, the fortepiano is what he played the most.
Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, otherwise known as Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart or simply Mozart, is one of the most celebrated composers and musicians in all of music history. He was considered a child prodigy and finished his first composition at the age of five.
Mozart is widely known to play all sorts of instruments, which led some to ask whether or not the piano is one of them. Well, it’s time that we know the answer to the question once and for all. Here are some things you need to know about Mozart.
Mozart started with a Woodwind Instrument
Technically, Mozart started playing and making music using a woodwind instrument. No, we’re not talking about saxophones or clarinets or flutes. What we’re talking about is the organ. His talents on the instrument later earned him the opportunity to play in various churches like the Cathedral of Antwerp, the Church of St. Thomas, the Church of the Holy Ghost, and the Church of St. Bavo.
He showcased his skills by improvising progressions and turning various parts of Christian worship compositions into complex pieces. Despite being a woodwind instrument, organs have keys, which somehow make them almost similar to pianos in terms of appearances and how they’re played.
The String Instruments
While improving his organ-playing skills, Mozart also became prolific in string instruments, most especially the viola and the violin.
Out of all the instruments he could play, it’s rather popular that Mozart preferred the viola. He produced compositions where instruments like pianos, clarinets, and violins were involved. However, he especially gave a lot of attention to the viola segments. He even goes on to maximize the entire range and musical capability of the instrument.
All the while learning the viola, Mozart also focused on the violin. He wrote plenty of chamber music for the instrument, but he also made sure to include it in compositions where a larger ensemble is involved. The most famous of them is the “Eine Kleine Nachtmusik” or “A Little Night Music.”
Upon traveling to Paris, Mozart reignited his love for the organ and dedicated a lot of his musical life to keyboard instruments. This was when he learned the clavichord and the harpsichord. He preferred performing with the harpsichord because of how diverse the styles and genres he could play and compose on the instrument.
While the clavichord was more dynamic than the harpsichord, Mozart had a hard time including it in his performances because it was rather quieter. Nonetheless, he was still able to compose pieces on it, with the most famous one being the “Klavier.”
Mozart kept playing the harpsichord and clavichord while he was in Vienna. As soon as the fortepiano was developed, he switched them up a bit and played on any of these three instruments. Between 1782 and 1785 is when Mozart created a vast majority of his compositions, and all of these were when he used the fortepiano.
So, Did Mozart Actually Play the Piano?
A lot of people will argue that Mozart couldn’t have been able to play the piano because Mozart died in 1791, and the piano was developed in the early 1800s. Well, the operative word there is “developed.”
Technically, the first upright piano, called the fortepiano, was around somewhere between 1698 to 1700. Ergo, when Mozart was composing keyboard pieces from 1782 to 1785, the fortepiano has been around for more than 80 years.
However, if we’re going to be strict about it, then no, Mozart didn’t play the piano we know today because he wasn’t around when the instrument was developed. What he played was the fortepiano, which later evolved into the modern piano.
If we aren’t too technical about what piano means and only refer to it as a keyboard instrument, then Mozart was already playing a keyboard instrument ever since he was a child. That’s because an organ, harpsichord, clavichord, fortepiano, piano, and grand piano all use keys.
They are all played in almost the same manner. They just have varying dynamic ranges, and the principle by which they produce sounds also differs. However, all of Mozart’s compositions that use any of these keyboard instruments can be played on the piano that we know today.
Fortepiano vs. the Piano
So, what’s the whole deal between the fortepiano and the piano? Are they actually different? If yes, does it really discredit Mozart from being able to play the piano? Well, not necessarily. Fortepiano is simply an umbrella term for a lot of keyboard instruments.
Basically, a fortepiano is an early piano, and the piano we know today is just the result of hundreds of years of evolution from the first fortepiano. It’s kind of like how we call different types of guitar a banjo, electric, acoustic, nylon-string, steel-string, folk, and classical. In essence, all of them are guitars. So, if you know how to play one of them, you are most likely to be able to play the other ones, albeit with a few adjustments.
Most Famous Piano Pieces From Mozart
We don’t need to prove that Mozart was a prolific pianist. However, if you wish to get a glimpse of his mastery of the instrument, try listening to or learning some classical piano pieces like the following: Rondo Alla Turca – Sonata No. 11, Don Giovanni: Overture, Minuet in F Major, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik – Serenade No. 13, Non piu andrai, The Marriage of Figaro, Lacrimosa – Requiem in D Minor, and Allegro – Sonata No. 16 in C Major.
Wherever you go in the world, you will find someone who knows the name Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Even people who don’t listen to classical music or are not invested in the history of music know his name. That’s a testament to how prolific of an artist he is.
So, if you’re asking us whether or not Mozart played the piano, we’d still and always will say yes. No matter what other people say, Mozart will always be one of the best keyboard-instrumentalists to have ever walked this planet.
Eduardo Perez is a multi-instrumentalist with over 20 years of experience playing instruments such as piano, guitar, ukulele, and bass. Having arranged songs and produced music in a recording studio, he has a wealth of knowledge to share about analyzing songs, composing, and producing. Currently pursuing a Bachelor of Arts degree in Interdisciplinary Musical Studies at Berklee College School of Music. Featured on Entrepreneur.com. Subscribe to his YouTube channel, or follow him on Instagram.