1781 in music
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- March - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart moves to Vienna to pursue his career, but is passed over in favour of Antonio Salieri as music teacher of Princess of Württemberg.
- June 27 - Mozart writes of his new pupil and admirer, Josepha Barbara Auernhammer: "I am almost every day after dinner at H: v: Auernhammer - The freulle is a monster!" *Christian Gottlob Neefe takes on the young Ludwig van Beethoven as a pupil.
- July 29 - Mozart receives the original libretto of his next opera, Die Entführung aus dem Serail from the director of the Nationalsingspiel, Gottlieb Stephanie.
- October 12 - First bagpipes competition in the Masonic Arms, Falkirk, Scotland.
- Étienne Méhul makes his first, unsuccessful attempts at orchestral composition.
- Joseph Haydn – String Quartets, Op. 33
- Giovanni Paisiello – Concerto for Keyboard no 1 in C major
- Samuel Wesley – Concerto for Violin no 2 in D major
- Miles Peter Andrews & Samuel Arnold – The Baron Kinkvervankotsdorsprakingatchdern
- Antonio Calegari – Deucalione e Pirra
- Domenico Cimarosa – Giannina e Bernardone
- Elizabeth Craven et al. – The Silver Tankard
- Nicolas Dalayrac – Le Chevalier à la mode
- Marc-Antoine Désaugiers – Les Deux sylphes
- Joseph Haydn – La fedeltà premiata
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Idomeneo
- Niccolò Piccinni – Iphigenie en Tauride
- Antonio Salieri – Der Rauchfangkehrer
- Giuseppe Sarti – Giulio Sabino
- Niccolò Antonio Zingarelli – Montesuma
- January 22 – François Antoine Habeneck, violinist and conductor (died 1849)
- March 11 – Anthony Philip Heinrich, composer (died 1861)
- July 20 - Sophie Lebrun, pianist and composer, daughter of Ludwig August Lebrun (died 1863)
- July 27 – Mauro Giuliani, guitarist, cellist and composer (died 1829)
- September 5 – Anton Diabelli, music publisher, editor and composer (died 1858)
- September 6 – Vincent Novello, organist and conductor (died 1861)
- November 18 – Felice Blangini, organist and composer (died 1841)
- December 1 – Charles Philippe Lafont, violinist and composer (died 1839)
- January 22 – Johann Siebenkas, composer
- February 4 – Josef Mysliveček, composer (b. 1737)
- May 22 – Garret Wesley Mornington, composer
- July 11 – Adolph Carl Kunzen, composer
- July 30 – Augustin Ullinger, composer
- October 9 – Thomas Erskine, 6th Earl of Kellie, musician and composer (b. 1732)
- October 27 – Herman-François Delange
- October – Anton Zimmermann, composer
- November 4 – Faustina Bordoni, operatic mezzo-soprano (b. 1697)
- date unknown – William Paxton, cellist (b. 1737)