Composers Datebook®

Mozart's First (and Fashions)


In the summer of 1764, the eight-year-old child prodigy, Wolfgang Mozart, was in England, accompanied by his 13-year old sister, Nanerl, and their father, Leopold.

The Mozarts had arrived in London wearing what back home in Salzburg would pass as fashionable French-style clothing. Since England had just ended the Seven Years' War with France, this faux pas resulted in the Mozarts receiving some rude words and even ruder gestures from London street urchins. Papa Leopold quickly acquired more "politically correct" attire for himself and the children.

On August 5th, 1764, the family settled at a country home in Chelsea for a time, as Leopold had taken ill. Temporarily forbidden to make any noise or even play the piano while their father recovered, Wolfgang and Nanerl had to amuse themselves quietly. Mozart had already written some keyboard pieces and chamber works, but it was in Chelsea that he decided to try his hand at writing his first symphony.

Perhaps as compensation for having to keep so quiet, Mozart suddenly was keen on writing for as many instruments as possible. As Nanerl later recalled, "While he composed and I copied, he said to me, 'Remind me to give the horn something worthwhile to do!'"

And so, Mozart's Symphony No. 1 in E-flat, written in London in the summer of 1764, is scored for two oboes, TWO horns and strings.

Music Played in Today's Program

Wolfgang Mozart (1756 – 1791) Symphony No. 1, K. 16 Prague Chamber Orchestra; Charles Mackerras, cond. Telarc 80256

On This Day


  • 1623 - Italian opera composer Marc Antonio Cesti, in Arezzo;

  • 1694 - Italian composer and organist Leonardo Leo, in San Vito degli Schiavi(near Brindisi); He was one of the founders of the Neapolitan School of composition;

  • 1811 - French composer Ambroise Thomas, in Metz;

  • 1926 - French composer of American parentage Betsy Jolas, in Paris;


  • 1891 - English-born French composer, pianist and music publisher Charles Henry Litolff, age 73, in Bois-Colombes (near Paris);

  • 1916 - English composer George Butterworth, age 31, in France, as a British soldier during the battle of Pozières;


  • 1956 - Ned Rorem: Symphony No. 2, at La Jolla, Calif.;

  • 1972 - David Del Tredici: "Vintage Alice" for soprano and chamber ensemble (to a text by Lewis Carroll), in Saratoga, California;

  • 2000 - Richard Danielpour: Violin Concerto ("A Fool's Paradise"), at the Saratoga Center for the Performing Arts, in Saratoga, N.Y., by the Philadelphia Orchestra conducted by Charles Dutoit, with soloist Chantal Juillet;


  • 1717 - J.S. Bach appointed Kapellmeister to Prince Leopold at Coethen, but is at first prevented by his current employer, Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar, from taking up the post (Bach was even imprisoned for a time by Duke Wilhelm Ernst);

  • 1978 - The citizens of Patowan, Utah, decided to name a local mountain Mr. Messiaen, in honor of the French composer, Olivier Messiaen, who spent a month in Utah in 1973 an composed a symphonic work, "Des canyons aux etoiles" (From the canyons to the stars), which glorified the natural beauty of the region.

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About Composers Datebook®

Host John Birge presents a daily snapshot of composers past and present, with timely information, intriguing musical events and appropriate, accessible music related to each.

He has been hosting, producing and performing classical music for more than 25 years. Since 1997, he has been hosting on Minnesota Public Radio's Classical Music Service. He played French horn for the Cincinnati Symphony and Pops Orchestra and performed with them on their centennial tour of Europe in 1995. He was trained at the Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, Eastman School of Music and Interlochen Arts Academy.

About Composers Datebook®