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1. After having already produced the critically acclaimed 6 voll. of Complete Mozart Sonatas for Fortepiano and 3 voll. of Complete Beethoven Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello, in November 2018 you have released a CD Album with Piano Works by J.L. Dussek. What’s the origin of your interest in this MozartEra composer? How did you prepare yourself for this CD Album and how did you work to record it? What kind of choices you made to perform the music by this composer? Thanks to your special and exclusive experience, can you tell us how you see the music and pianism of Dussek among the works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven, also within a possible influence/difference game?
a. What’s the origin of your interest in J.L.Dussek, this MozartEra composer?
I have been fascinated by the 18th century music since more than 30 years ago. My interest first revolved around Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, but it very quickly broadened into the music of his contemporaries such as Emanuel and Christian Bach, Dussek, Hummel, Vanhal, Clementi, Schobert, Boccherini, Galuppi and others. The point is really that no composer develops in a vacuum, and that understanding the undercurrents in musical thinking of an era crystallizes ideas about a specific composition as well, through enlightening its context.
Jan Ladislav Dussek’s music is expressive and exciting, full of bold ideas and with a lot of musical drive. Some years ago I performed Dussek’s E flat major Piano Concerto with a Finnish period orchestra (it can be listened to on SoundCloud), and was overwhelmed by this inspired music and its wealth of ideas.
His music seems to be a mixture of gallant and Empfindsamer styles, and it uses operatic melismas and effects in adagios, thus extending its tentacles into the romantic era. Anachronistically his slow movements sometimes make us think of Chopin’s cantabile movements.
b. How did you prepare yourself for this CD Album and how did you work to record it? What kind of choices you made to perform the music by this composer?
As to my recent Dussek recording, I am grateful for the invitation by the Brilliant Classics to participate with one CD in the recording project of Dussek’s complete fortepiano sonatas. For the selection of the four sonatas on my CD, I went through tons of his fortepiano music, and picked up my favourite sonatas, which were quite a few, of course. I thought about the design of my program, and opted for covering many different periods in Dussek’s life and output. This was the most challenging option for myself, and I hope this proves to be gratifying for the listener as well. Dussek’s life’s story is an account on its own right, full of adventure, escapades, love stories and what not. I read accounts of his doings, and got some insight to his entourage and the ideological background of that tumultuous period.
My sonata selection on the CD starts in the period Dussek spent in Paris just before the French Revolution… I see him dashing from one salon to the next, performing and networking, and getting perhaps inspired by the revolutionary Zeitgeist, though at the same time socialising with the Queen Marie Antoinette. I have the chance to own an original, anonymous Viennese instrument from the 1790s, which I used for this early French sonata in A flat major (Op. 5 No. 3). The sonata, albeit in just two movements, is pure fireworks of liveliness and ideas, much in the vein of Mozart.
My fortepiano was imported to Finland sometime in the early 19th century by Bureau de musique in Leipzig, the music business of the composer Franz Anton Hoffmeister, a friend and publisher of Mozart’s among others. The soft sound colour, the resonance and the rich spectrum of overtones of this Walter type fortepiano are very special and inspiring.
I used this instrument also for the A major sonata (Op. 43), which represents the burgeoning virtuoso style of the time, and was written relatively late in Dussek’s English period (he fled his debtors to the Continent some time in 1799 or 1800).
Dussek’s earlier London period (he probably escaped to London to save himself from the turmoil of the French Revolution) is represented by a light divertimento sonata in B flat major (played on a replica of a Clementi fortepiano of 1799). To wrap up the program I chose the tragic and highly moving F sharp minor sonata, which sounds like an intimate confession of Dussek’s sorrow over the death of Prince Louis Ferdinand, for whom Dussek worked for several years in close personal interaction.
c. Thanks to your special and exclusive experience, can you tell us how you see the music and pianism of Dussek among the works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven, also within a possible influence/difference game?
I have the impression that the composers of that period, as any artist today would be, were influenced by anything they heard or played, anything, I say, that they considered, for various reasons, of some particular inspirational value. Musical scores were not only circulating in manuscript copies, but more and more frequently music was being printed and published through professional firms, and it was easier then to stay tuned about the state of music than at earlier times.
Thus one can imagine to hear echoes of Mozart’s melodic lines, Haydn’s richness of ideas and Clementi’s use of colours in Dussek’s compositions, if one wants, but nevertheless Dussek also comes out as a talent on his own right…
… in his works, when he reaches his best, he is always witty, emotional and charges his pieces with a lot of musical drive.
The typical trademarks of his music are the never-ending flow of new ideas and themes, his beautiful melodic ideas and the thrilling swing in his instrumental passages.
It is less discursive and operatic than Mozart, and he develops his ideas differently from the surprising Joseph Haydn, but he is personal, sincere and touching. Dussek was himself a virtuoso player and put this quality into display in his sonatas much more than Haydn or Mozart had ever done in their own ones. Muzio Clementi’s pianism in his serious sonatas is more in line with the way Dussek treats the instrument, and Beethoven of course rivalled anything written before him from the very beginning of his piano music production.
TUIJA HAKKILA’S MOZARTERA DISCOGRAPHY
2. You have released another two extremely interesting recordings with music by Haydn and with music by the Finnish Lithander Brothers, early Finnish 18th/19th centuries music which was in part also inspired by Haydn himself (i.e. Variations on a Theme by Haydn in A major). What led you to rediscover and produce this world premiere and critically acclaimed recording? How did you work to prepare this recording? Can you tell us about the Lithander Brothers? And what about the CD with Haydn trios? What’s your relationship with Haydn’s music? In your opinion, what was and what is the influence of Haydn on Finnish composers and music?
a. What led you to rediscover and produce this world premiere and critically acclaimed recording? How did you work to prepare this recording? Can you tell us about the Lithander Brothers?
If one is born in a small country outside big musical centres, like I was, one easily gets curious about the past music life in one’s own region as well. Thus I have done some digging into the repertoire of the turn of the 18th and the 19th centuries. The Lithander brothers are among the important exponents of this period. Other names worth mentioning would be Bernhard Crusell, Thomas Byström and Erik Tulindberg. They all are composing in the style of their international contemporaries, in all types of music, serious sonatas as well as lighter pieces, sets of variations, with a more or less prominent personal touch. As a matter of fact, I recorded the three exquisitely beautiful sonatas for violin and fortepiano by Thomas Byström with the violinist Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch… a fine addition to the duo repertoire for these two instruments.
As to the Lithander brothers, they were born in the 1770s, on Estonian ground. to Finnish parents. Carl Ludvig made a career for himself internationally in Sweden (Finland was until 1809 a part of the kingdom of Sweden), England and Germany, and his works were published even by Clementi himself. Fredrik, on the other hand, was active in Russia, St. Petersburg, which was a major musical capital, and nearly attached to the Finnish territory. Their music is inspired also by Mozart, Haydn, Clementi and probably even Dussek himself. They all were acquainted with a lot of repertoire by their contemporaries all that available as published and performed internationally.
In my mind, playing music by these lesser known composers sheds light on the aesthetic currents of the whole period. One starts making a clear distinction about what is conventional and what is more original in each composer’s thinking. And honestly, much of this now forgotten music is really musically valid and well worth to be performed, rediscovered and reproposed to the great public. In a certain way, I might add that for a performer it is a thrilling challenge to make this dormant music alive again.
Back in 2001, I was asked to make a recording with Lithander brothers’ music by a society promoting Finnish music. I spent one whole summer getting acquainted with their music production and choosing the pieces for the CD, with the idea of shedding light on different types of music, and making the CD program the most valuable, charming and fascinating possible.
b. And what about the CD with Haydn trios? What’s your relationship with Haydn’s music? In your opinion, what was and what is the influence of Haydn on Finnish composers and music?
Joseph Haydn – what a musician! What a composer!
In his time Haydn was the most famous composer in the world. His music was published everywhere, and his scores also landed in the far-away eastern provinces of Sweden (today’s Finland) through Stockholm, St. Petersburg and Reval (Tallinn). Stockholm and St. Petersburg were big capitals and melting pots of cultural thinking, and their influence radiated on the Finnish ground, Turku, Oulu and Kokkola being the most important towns in this regard.
Our old Haydn Trio CD of the 1990s is one of my darlings, a production which was inspired by the collaboration with the flautist Mikael Helasvuo and the cellist Anssi Karttunen. I had started the festival for early music in Hämeenlinna, Finland, which at the beginning focused on the many facets (and also lesser known composers) of the classical period. Our trio with flute was the core house band in the festival, and we played in all possible combinations, with other instruments too. The collaboration culminated in the recording sessions of this Haydn CD.
Last spring I came back to Haydn, and had a marvellous time playing and enjoying his music for months as I was preparing my recording for a double CD with eight of Haydn’s fortepiano sonatas from the 1760s (possibly 1750s sonatas included) and very early 1770s. The Finnish Ondine record company is going to publish it in 2020, and I am currently working on the text for the leaflet book.
Many recordings of the later sonatas of Haydn are published, but I wanted to challenge my thinking and musicianship with this a bit less played repertoire in the chiasm of an earlier gallant style, still pregnant with older elements and the more mature Viennese style of the burgeoning 1770s. The exquisite way of Haydn’s composing enthralled me completely. There is such a difference in the musical language between Mozart (whose music I find so easy to approach and to understand) and Haydn! Haydn manipulates his material in a more surprising and instrumental way; it is full of tension building, turns of mood within musical periods, witty twists for effect and such pure beauty, good-heartedness and love of music. Yes, he has now become a close friend, I dare say.
3. You have dedicated to Mozart and Beethoven two marvellous CD cycles: the 6 voll. of Mozart’s fortepiano sonatas and the 3 voll. of Beethoven’s Fortepiano and Cello. When did your passion for Mozart’s music start? And when did you think for the first time to perform Mozart’s music through a period instrument, a fortepiano? What’s the origin of your interest in Beethoven’s Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello? Is there a different approach to treat Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music on an original Fortepiano?
a. When did your passion for Mozart’s music start?
My passion for Mozart’s music started early on, with the first touch at the age of five or six. I must have been twelve when I heard Mozart’s Symphony No. 40 in a live performance for the first time, albeit with an amateur orchestra… and this was a true revelation for me.
Until then, even if my piano studies always were around conventionally classical repertoire, my main passion had been J.S.Bach and rock music… but suddenly there was this jive and swing of Mozart’s music, with its fascinating textural richness.
For some reason playing Mozart always came easy to me, and I performed a few of his piano concerti with orchestra already during my study years, and got smitten by this marvellous experience.
Mozart, 12 Variations for violin and piano KV359 in G major, La Bergère Célimène (Wien 1781)
b. And when did you think for the first time to perform Mozart’s music through a period instrument, a fortepiano?
As to the fortepiano, the story goes back to my early interest in the music of the Baroque era. As I sweated over performance practice questions when playing Bach on the modern piano, I finally felt some real relief in hearing Early Music Orchestras play that repertoire – this was in the late 1970s. I played a bit of harpsichord early on, but unfortunately did not pursue. During my Paris years then, in the 1980s, I followed radio programs on France Musique, and at one time the pianist/fortepianist Paul Badura-Skoda was invited to speak and play his recordings every morning during a whole week. He woke up my sleeping interest in the early pianos. Some time later I heard Malcolm Bilson’s Mozart fortepiano concerto recordings, of great importance, and had the occasion to play on a Stein fortepiano replica that my Finnish colleague Olli Mustonen had acquired. All that had a real huge impact on me. I ordered an instrument, a Stein copy, from the same Dutch-born maker, Henk van Schevikhoven, who had made Olli’s instrument. This led to my writing a letter to Malcolm Bilson, to take lessons with him… and I visited Cornell in Ithaca, NY, for lessons for different lengths of time. I also started to follow the discussion around the performance practice questions of the Mozart era, including the problematics of the choice of instruments. The artistic director of the Finlandia Records then called me at the beginning of the 90s, and offered me to record a complete Mozart fortepiano sonata set… what a strike of luck this was!
c. What’s the origin of your interest in Beethoven’s Sonatas for Fortepiano and Cello?
As to my Beethoven recording with the cello, the story goes back to my teen years, when I collaborated closely with the cellist Anssi Karttunen playing both modern and older repertoire for cello and piano. Thus I was tinkering with Beethoven’s sonatas for piano and cello from early on… at first of course on modern instruments. When we were offered the occasion to make a recording of his complete works on period instruments, we added the variation sets and the arrangement sonatas to the repertoire… what a treat again! Such declamation, such rhetorical music at times, so full of invention, power and surprises… just along the lines of thinking of C.P.E. Bach and Haydn.
d. Is there a different approach to treat Mozart’s and Beethoven’s music on an original Fortepiano?
The emotional expression in music is not really dependent on the instrument. The choice of an instrument and all the knowledge one can learn in books will never overrule the good taste that one can develop only with sincere feeling. However, many musical things change when playing on period instruments. The texture, which is such an important quality in the music of this period, becomes fuller and more expressive, as it were. The presence and liveliness of the accompanying figures can sound more natural. And, in chamber music context, it is a staggering experience to play with period instruments and hear the balance problems disappear: the massive sound of the modern piano is not overpowering the string instrument, even if the music is fierce and powerful. Suddenly the texture is heard in all its nuances. This is true of the performance of Beethoven’s music as well as Mozart’s and any other composer’s. Even the most dramatic texture can be rendered up to its full emotional energy without it becoming ridiculously out of scope.
4. You regularly organize International Masterclasses. You have been also the Artistic Director of various Music Festivals, Academies and Concerts Series, in particular of the Early Music Festival in Hämeenlinna, the birthplace of composer Jean Sibelius. How do you think such experiences influenced, enriched and modeled your vision of MozartEra Music? What’s your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music on a period instrument and in a more historically informed way? What your projects for the future?
a. How do you think such experiences influenced, enriched and modeled your vision of MozartEra Music?
The festivals and masterclasses have always been an integral part of my artistic work. Organizing events is a wonderful way to share your music with your community, to share ideas and questions you might want to raise. Festivals also offer an occasion to collaborate with colleagues and expose yourself to new ways of thinking around music. The way these experiences have influenced my understanding of the Mozart era is probably simply by setting myself high expectations for the performances and gaining musical understanding through these experiences.
b. What’s your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music on a period instrument and in a more historically informed way?
My first advice for someone who wants to play on a period instrument and to work in an historically informed way would be just to start playing, to start exploring the repertoire and to start reading the sources of the past – preferably on a regular basis. Doing all this, one slowly develops one’s own musical TASTE. And taste is only built up through experience and honesty – honesty towards one’s own listening and one’s own musical feeling, with the risk of every now and again coming up with not such a great solution. This sort of “stumbling” is the tasty part of artistic experimentation and the source of any creative process.
I would start by learning about the conventions in notation of the 18th century. Then I would try to understand the hierarchy inside a bar and between the measures, I would experiment with the changing lilt in more danceful sections, look for the heavy and the light parts of the texture, try out effects, expression and timing in each section, and the list goes on, of course.
For wanna-be-fortepianists I would also strongly advice to acquire performing skills in continuo playing and in performing the music of the early 18th century, in its international styles. The fundamentals for the later repertoire can be found there. For this passion of mine, I had a copy of a Silbermann 1740s fortepiano made a few years back. I am thrilled by the possibilities it offers not only for the music of the likes of Emanuel Bach and Haydn, but it also works perfectly as a continuo and solo instrument in the repertoire of the early 18th century.
As to the period instruments, each instrument will communicate its potential only through sensitive and mindful practice. Each piano with its resonance is the most important guide to acquiring a sensitive touch. Each musical texture will also reveal its nature, and its role in the context of the piece and the period through experimentation and knowledge.
Finally, in my own learning path, getting advice from and playing with more experienced colleagues has been crucially important. It is especially rewarding when preparing solo repertoire, as what is de facto a lonely practice is, in this way, counterbalanced by another person listening and, hopefully, also with a sympathetic ear.
c. What your projects for the future?
For my future projects, besides my concert and recording sessions, I must say that teaching remains a fundamental centre of activities. Teaching can be a truly artistic activity, often tied with the psychological challenge of individual mentoring. The question is how to pass your vision to another person clearly but without imposition. How to give the student tools to find their own way of thinking and tools to cultivate their own musical sensitivity.
I have an intense activity of teaching as a Professor of Piano at the Sibelius Academy of the University of Arts in Helsinki, Finland. I teach modern piano to pianists and give performance practice workshops on historical pianos. Our University offers a Masters Program in Fortepiano, in collaboration between the Piano Department and the Early Music department. Thus we can flexibly tailor the curriculum of studies for each student.
As to my future recording projects, my Haydn double CD with early fortepiano sonatas will come out with Ondine next spring. A project on contemporary piano works is coming up, and hopefully a CD with Franz Danzi’s quintets for fortepiano with winds. I would love to record Schumann’s music, as well Lied and chamber as solo works, but these projects are still to be negotiated. We all know just too well in what kind of a turmoil the record companies are in these days.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
This is a tough but funny question!
There is so much music to be loved in the production of these two fellows!!!
In Mozart’s case, I immediately say Clemenza di Tito: but now all the other operas are shouting: «And why not me?»!…
… then the Symphony No. 39, the E flat major Piano Concerto K482, and so many chamber works which are just a miracle in music!
And what about Haydn?
I love his Piano Trios and The Seasons and his A flat major fortepiano sonata,… and those pieces just to name the first works I have in my mind now at this very moment…
Ah! It is impossible to choose!
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
A good question!
I think Emanuel Bach (Haydn and Mozart revered as their music teacher/father) still today has not that great popularity he certainly deserves among the main audience, if we consider the great level of his importance in the history of music, both as a highly influential theorist and a highly influential beautiful composer.
Gottfried Müthel, a late student of J.S. Bach, is interesting, as Zelenka is, but the latter is of course of a slightly earlier period.
The significance of several neglected and forgotten female composers, among others the dedicatee of Dussek’s A flat major Sonata, Hélène de Montgéroult, is yet to be established, studied, discussed and re-evaluated…
In that period only very few female composers used to hit the public music scene, with main public works such as operas or symphonies: Haydn’s and Mozart’s friend von Martinez was certainly one of them. They were usually more active in a chamber music context, and there might be some music works of a certain value which are still hiding from us.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Gottfried Müthel’s Sonata for Two Fortepianos is certainly a first piece, I have in my mind now, and then Boccherini’s chamber music works.
However, I think that also Haydn’s Piano Trios, which are, without doubt, the cornerstone of the chamber music repertoire, should be performed and studied much much more…
And I think that also Beethoven’s String Quartets should be played with the same urgency.
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
One should follow two principal ways…
One should try to directly read the source literature of the period, including, for instance, Emanuel Bach’s and Quantz’s treatises, both fundamental works in their genre.
On the other hand, there are various interesting modern books, which are based on a selection from original historical sources. Under this respect, a good handbook useful to keyboard players is Sandra Rosenblum’s Performance Practices in Classic Piano Music. And I’ve really loved also Leonard Ratner’s Classic Music: Expression, Form and Style from the 1980s.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Malcolm Bilson’s video Knowing the Score can be a good introduction to understanding the performance challenges one can find in the works written in the classical style.
The understanding of each composer’s notational practices is crucial to being free to interpret it.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
So many European courts, castles and palaces are really inspiring in this regard, be it in German lands, Italy, France or England!
There is the Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam near Berlin, where Frederick II was reigning from the 1740s onwards, and where C.P.E. Bach and J.J. Quantz, among others, were hired as court musicians. The Berlin Aufklärung circles incited them to write their important treatises, which both of course had a huge impact on the future generations of composers and musicians. Haydn for instance credited Emanuel Bach to be his sole mentor, and Mozart was generous in his remarks on Bach, and so was Beethoven.
The Dresden court was crucially important of course, having many Italian musicians among the court musicians (and Italian fortepianos too, by the way), and being a melting pot of musical ideas of the period. J.S.Bach and Gottfried Silbermann, among others, were closely in contact with the court.
And there is Eisenstadt with the fabulous Eszterhazy Palace and gardens. They managed to hire the Big Shot talent that Haydn was already early on, and the place became, thanks to Haydn and his orchestra, a town well worth the visit for anybody interested in music.
However, the city of Vienna continues to be the greatest inspiration for my love of the late 18th and the early 19th century. If you get acquainted with the palaces and the churches where musical performances took place, and if you visit the homes and the cafés where the artists lived and loved, you might get an idea of the context the music of that period was written in.
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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|Haydn on the Moon
Haydn on the Moon.
One of the funniest and most
brilliant operas by Haydn!
Who is Franz Danzi?
Mozart’s 1778 Mannheim-Paris Tour (240th Anniversary 1778-2018/1779-2019) is an important turning point in Mozart’s life. Even though Mozart’s main target was apparently that of finding a solid music job position (at least, this was the intention of Leopold), Mozart seemed more interested in following other different paths, among them, to build a strong personal liaison with the Mannheimers… and probably he was right.
Mozart wants Mannheim instead of Salzburg (1777-1781)
A part from the dispute with Colloredo about Mozart’s violin playing at court (which de facto caused Mozart to leave Salzburg for his Mannheim-Paris Tour), Mozart’s choice to reach and stay in Mannheim and to cultivate the friendship of the composers and musicians there (even against the opinion of an extremely angry and irritated Leopold), according to his own letters, was also due to the provincialism of Salzburg cultural environment.
Beside Michael Haydn and Eberlin and a few great virtuoso players, Salzburg, at that time and under Colloredo, had not much to offer in terms of real State-of-the-Art musical practice. That’s why Mozart’s necessity to find an environment of like-minded people and of people on a similar professional level was a fundamental target of his 1777-1779 Tour across Europe… unfortunately more fundamental than a solid job position.
It is a fact that Leopold’s own account about the concerts organized in Salzburg, out of the strict Court-life, is really rather gloomy with its description of an arena of semi-professional and amateurish individuals performing (almost always badly) good music, now practically disfigured. And we can image how harmful such a provincial environment would have been if the natural talents of Mozart had got accustomed to nourishing his soul with such low level daily practices.
If we see Mozart’s 1777-1779 tour through his eyes and in this way, we well understand why Mozart (against his own father’s will) preferred to stay and live in Mannheim (and then in Munich) also without job and gratis et amore rather than to live in a culturally and professionally harmful environment, like the Salzburg of Colloredo’s years.
Even though the Cannabichs, Wendlings, Ramms and the other Mannheimers really belonged to a bad genre of friends (as Leopold wrote many times in his letters from 1777 to 1781: according to Leopold the old Cannabich was probably the real person responsible for the failed appointment of Mozart as Mannheim Kapellmeister in those years), Mozart knew that the cultural and professional level of those composers, of those musicians, of those conductors and that of their families was much higher than that that could be found in Salzburg at his time…
Mannheim orchestra was considered one of the best ever in Europe and the compositions and the music style of the Mannheimers were considered the cutting edge of their period… and Mozart wanted to stay with the avant-garde… wanted to study the avant-garde… wanted to master and further develop the avant-garde at any cost (i.e. also without money and without job)… and, in the end, he really did it… and, after all, if we consider the quality of his masterpieces imbued with so many Mannheim theories and ways of musical practice, Mozart was right and his father was wrong…
Probably Franz Liszt would say that it is exactly this kind of tragic choice that made Mozart a great artist.
Another aspect about the Mannheim Tour, which is usually not sufficiently investigated, is the fact that Mannheim, being a great orchestra, was considered also a great school for conductors. As a matter of fact, one point of dispute with Colloredo in 1777, before the Mannheim Tour, was that Mozart was treated in Salzburg only as a first violin, and this caused quarrels of any kind. After his Mannheim Tour and experience, in 1779 Mozart (at least!) managed to get a position in Salzburg through a brand new job contract and, apart from a better salary (but burdened with heavy debts), Mozart, finally, managed to be treated (and considered) as a conductor from the keyboard…
The fact that the old Cannabich and his son Carl and also then the other Mannheimer Franz Danzi were all considered important conductors is somehow fundamental.
The Mannheim Triangle: Mozart, Vogler and their Pupils
Franz Danzi was a young cellist of Mannheim orchestra in 1778 and a great admirer of Mozart. Aloysia Weber was both a pupil of Mozart and a love interest of Mozart. von Weber was a close relative of Mozart through his wife Constanze Weber (sister of Aloysia). All these people around Mozart were Mannheimers.
A curious aspect of this story is that Franz Danzi, Aloysia Weber and von Weber were all, at the same time, pupils of that Abbé Vogler (founder of the music school of Mannheim) that Mozart considered a personal enemy (!?).
However, it is a fact that Mozart disliked Abbé Vogler publicly and in his letters, but studied Vogler’s music theory manuals and further developed his own music style by following the instructions of Abbé Vogler and by further developing them through an important practical application.
Moreover, Leopold Mozart, as a music theoretician himself, liked and supported Abbé Vogler and his theories.
But still in 1781 the most important Mannheim pupil of Vogler of that period, another Mannheimer called Peter Winter (1754-1825), was in Vienna, now as a pupil of Salieri, and started a violent defamation campaign against Mozart and the other Mannheim child, Constanze Weber. By spreading the false word of mouth that Mozart was going to ruin Constanze, by making her his personal slut, forced Mozart to prepare, in December 1781, even a written marriage contract for Constanze… Peter Winter caused many problems to Mozart, who had many quarrels with Constanze’s mother and Constanze’s own guardian. In his important letter Vienna 22 December 1781 Mozart wrote: «I may say that on account of Vogler [Peter Winter] has always been my worst enemy». So one may wonder why the Danzis and the Webers, instead, are friends of Mozart…
In 1797 the Mannheimer pupil of Vogler Peter Winter will be the only composer who accepted to write the sequel of The Magic Flute for Schikaneder, Das Labyrinth: Paul Wranitzky refused the offer, as a form of respect for Mozart and his family.
This story is an example of how Mozart’s relationship with Mannheim environment was, somehow, a strange triangulation of music professionalism, Freemasonry connections and wild music rivalry.
Another Mannheim Family of Musicians: the Danzis
Nonetheless, we can say that, after all, Mozart liked the Mannheimers more than the people in Salzburg: the Mannheimers were, in any case, real music professionals, while most of the Salzburgers were just semi-professionals or simple amateurs, often even of bad level.
So the Mannheim family of the Danzis was that kind of family of music professionals of high level Mozart wanted to be in connection with.
The old Danzi was Innocenz Danzi, the famous first cellist at the Mannheim Court since 1754 and whose playing Mozart admired very much. Old Danzi had three children: Johann, who became violinist; Franziska, who became an important international Opera singer (better known as Lebrun, the surname of her husband, the famous oboist Ludwig August Lebrun, another Mannheimer); Franz, an important cellist, who became an important conductor and composer and a great promoter of Mozart and von Weber.
To understand the kind of relationship that existed between the Mozarts and the Danzis one must read a fundamental letter by Leopold Mozart: Vienna, 21 February 1785.
«We lunched on Friday, the 18th, with Stephanie junior, just the four of us and Herr Le Brun, his wife, Karl Cannabich [i.e. son of the old Cannabich, director/conductor of the Mannheim orchestra, who became also a famous conductor and who wrote also a famous Cantata in memory of Mozart] and a priest. Let me tell you [i.e. Nannerl] at once that there was no thought of a fast-day. We were only offered meat dishes. A pheasant as an additional dish was served in cabbage and the rest was fit for a prince. Finally we had oysters, most delicious glacé fruits and (I must not forget to mention this) several bottles of champagne… The two concerts which Herr Le Brun and his wife are giving in the theatre are on Wednesday, the 23rd, and Monday, the 28th. All the boxes for the first concert were sold out on the 18th. These people are going to make an enormous amount of money.»
Furthermore, in 1790 Franz Danzi married a famous music pupil of Leopold Mozart himself, the excellent opera singer Maria Margarethe Marchand, and, just as a curiosity, let us remember that Franziska Danzi Lebrun was born and died in the same years as Mozart… 1756 and 1791!
Munich, before 4 November 1790
Mozart to his wife
«You can well imagine that I have had a good time with the Cannabichs, Herr Le Brun, Ramm, Marchand and Brochard, and that we have talked a great deal about you, my love. […] PS. Gretl [i.e. Maria Margarethe Marchand former pupil of Leopold] is now married to Madame Le Brun’s brother [i.e. Franz Danzi], so her name is Madame Danzi.»
Franz Danzi as Composer
Danzi wrote a great number of Operas, Ballets and Theatre Music Works (Incidental Music). Unfortunately most of his Opera/Theatre works went completely lost and, furthermore, those few still extant scores are presently incomplete or in a miserable state, in most cases… And this is a great loss, because, as far as we know from the surviving fragments, Danzi’s Music Theatre creativity was really original and innovative to such an extent, that various scholars consider Danzi the actual forerunner of his friend von Weber’s musical world, in particular the von Weber of the Freischütz.
As a matter of fact, Danzi started working on Operas, as a pupil of Vogler (who preferred the highly dramatic theatre music, as a musical incarnation of the spirit of Shakespeare: see also Vogler’s 1777-1779 theory works), following in the footsteps of a few experiments on the Singspiel by conjugating the approach of Gluck with that of a few Mannheimers like Holzbauer (and before Mozart’s Serail). Then a fundamental interest of Danzi in Opera Music themes like scenes full of Magic and the rendering of horrendous supernatural situations was, without doubt, an important cause of inspiration for his close friend von Weber (another Mannheimer of Freemasonry descent, relative of Mozart and of his wife Constanze Weber): both friends, Weber and Danzi, were pupils of Vogler and, at the same time, strictly connected to the family of the Mozarts.
Other peculiarities of Danzi’s Opera music certainly reveal the truest pupil of the school of Vogler: pre-romantic atmospheres (based on the musical rendering of the Shakespearean drama), the large use of the minor keys in his compositions, the large use of chromaticism techniques (typical of Vogler and of the second period Mozart and Haydn, probably derived from Vogler himself and from his theory books), the use of dissonant harmony techniques.
Other characteristics of Danzi’s music can be found also in his Orchestral works and in his Chamber music: a throbbing rhythm full of vitality and energy, great beautiful melodies rich also in virtuoso passages and a great passion for the study of an accurate orchestration, based of a full charming sonority which can underline well-built and well-studied nice contrasts of the various instruments chosen for the compositions.
Most of the modern listeners know Danzi only from his marvellous Chamber Music and Concerto works, which, though full of an original and very personal interpretation of the Mannheim tradition and of Mozartian/Hummelian spirit, usually tend to less reveal the dramatic strength of Danzi full-orchestra creative genius. And that’s why the 2nd movements of his Chamber Music/Concerto works always deserve particular attention, for their meditative and sometimes a bit melancholic atmospheres, and that’s why also the musical treatment of the single instruments, as solos, and the odd and rare combinations of instruments are extremely interesting: Danzi’s Chamber Music has certainly an Orchestra perspective.
Among his most remarkable works: the many works for cello, those for bassoon, the works featuring rare combinations of instruments, like those for viola, basson and horn, his Chamber Music for various combinations with Winds.
The fragments and what remains of his Operas practically are not available yet… Nonetheless some good recordings of Danzi’s Symphonies (for example, especially the remarkably dramatic Symphony P. 221, which was written before 1804, that’s to say before Beethoven’s Eroica) may give an idea of his style… his powerful orchestra style, which can be defined, in some ways, full of proto-romantic nuances and musical ideas, which will re-appear much later in the symphonies by Schumann, Schubert and Mendelssohn: most of Danzi’s symphonies belong to the period 1790-1803!
Just to begin with, here 6 CD Albums to build an approach to Danzi’s pre-Weberian music world: The Complete Symphonies (cpo), The Revolutionary Flute Quartets (Uppernote), Psalms (cpo), the highly critically acclaimed Ouverture – Piano & Cello Concertos (Sony; see BBC Magazine), Overtures & Flute Concertos (Coviello), J. Galloway & S. Meyer Danzi’s Concertos (RCA Victor)…
… And then the brand new magnificent series of Danzi’s Chamber Music Music for Piano and Winds performed by the great Ensemble F2 (S. Devine, J. Booth, A. Scott, et alii): the first 2 voll. are already available at www.devinemusic.co.uk.
Franz Danzi as the Mannheimer Promoter of Mozart and Weber
In a world without radios and recordings, the promotion of music composers and of their works followed various paths: more concerts, more operas on stage (even though sometimes highly manipulated) and the art of transcriptions, arrangements and variations.
Danzi was a great promoter of Mozart and of his music and involved his friends in this activity, i.e. in particular Spohr and Weber (who was closely linked to Mozart and his wife Constanze Weber through a Mannheim family of Freemasons: the Webers).
Thus Danzi carried on an intense activity of production of Mozart’s operas and of Mozart’s works with the precise intent to reach the largest audience possible through his cultural events on Mozart, in particular across Germany, Northern Italy and Bohemia.
Among such activities, there was also Danzi’s interest in transcriptions of Mozart’s works: the most famous one the arrangement of 16 nos. of The Magic Flute for a String Quartet (ca. 1800).
Like another Mannheim friend of Mozart (the young Cannabich), Danzi wrote also a secular cantata to be performed on 5 December in memory of Mozart (1805). The Mannheimer Constanze Mozart usually adored such works, in particular the 1790s cantata by the Mannheimer young Cannabich, a composition which may have highly influenced also Beethoven in his writing his Choral Fantasy and his 9th Symphony.
Great friend of Weber (another pupil of Vogler and relative and great admirer of Mozart), Danzi worked a lot to develop the style of Opera and the masterpieces by von Weber were largely based also on Danzi’s theories on Opera. And Danzi, then, became a great promoter of Weber’s own operas by producing them in German theatres, in particular Preciosa, Der Freischütz and Euryanthe, so to get the widest diffusion possible for Weber’s music.
Franz Danzi, Cleopatra Duodrama, Overture (1780) World Premiere Recording: here some similarity to Mozart’s Masonic Funeral Music K477 (1785).
Franz Danzi, Flute Concerto D Minor, 3rd Mv. Polacca (1805)
WORKS BY FRANZ DANZI
In 1997 Dr. Hans Schneider has published the Correspondance of Franz Danzi (1785-1826, 339 p.).
Various works by Franz Danzi are available at IMSLP:
Franz Danzi: Scores
A) Compositions by Franz Danzi:
• Various Arrangements of Works by Mozart, in particular 16 nos. from The Magic Flute for String Quartet
• Operas (many lost)
• Azachia (1780)
• Cleopatra (duodrama, 1780)
• Laura Rosetti (Singspiel, 1781)
• Der Sylphe (Singspiel, 1788)
• Die Mitternachtsstunde (comic opera, 1788)
• Der Triumph der Treue (grosse Oper, 1789, lost)
• Der Quasi-Mann (1789, lost)
• Deucalion et Pirrha (ca. 1795)
• Der Kuss (Singspiel, 1799, lost)
• El Bondocani (1802, lost)
• Iphigenie in Aulis (1807, lost)
• Dido (melologue, 1811, lost)
• Camilla und Eugen (Singspiel, 1812)
• Rubezahl (1813, lost)
• Malvina (1814)
• Turandot (Singspiel, 1817, lost)
• Die Probe (1817)
• L’Abbé de l’Attaignant (grosse Oper, 1820)
• Ballets & Theatre Music (many works, most of them lost)
• Sacred Music
• Preiss Gottes (cantata, 1803)
• Abraham auf Moria (oratorio, 1808)
• Der 6. Psalm op. 60 (1823)
• Der 128 Psalm op. 65 (1823)
• 9 Psalms
• ca. 10 Masses
• variousSalve Regina
• various works:Te Deum, Ave Regina etc.
• Vocal Music not Sacred
• Das Freudenfest (cantata, 1804)
• Kantate am Jahrestag von Mozarts Tod zu singen (cantata, 1805)
• ca. 100 Lieder (among them Opp. 14, 15, 19, 69, 70)
• Balladen und Romanzen Op. 46
• 8 Volkslieder
• Vocal Music with Piano (among various pieces):
• 6 dreistimmige Gesänge Op. 16
• 8 vierstimmige Gesänge Op. 17
• 3 Soldatenlieder Op. 58
• Gesänge der Hellenen Op. 72
• Piano Solo
• 3 Sonatas 4-Hands (among them Op. 2, Op. 9)
• Sonatas Op. 3, Op. 12, Op. 33
• Various pieces 4-Hands Op. 11
• Délassament Musical 2-Hands & 4-Hands 8 voll. (1807)
• 6 Pièces Faciles Op. 73 (ca. 1824)
• Marches des Chevaliers
• Marsch aus Agnes Bernauerin
• 6 Monferrine (dubious)
• Symphonic Music
• 7 Symphonies
• Various Sinfonie Concertanti
• 1 Concerto for Harpsichord
• 2 Concertos for Piano (among them Op. 4)
• 5 Concertos for Cello
• Concertino for Cello Op. 46
• 5 Concertos for Bassoon
• 4 Concertos for Flute
• Concerto for Flute & Clarinet Op. 41
• Concerto for Clarinet & Bassoon Op. 47
• Concerto for Horn
• Andante for Harpsichord & Strings
• 3 Pots-pourris for Clarinet
• 1 Pots-pourri for Violin Op. 61
• Chamber Music
• Sextet Op. 10
• Sextet Op. 15
• 3 Quintets Op. 66
• 3 Quintets for Piano & Winds Opp. 41, 53, 54
• 9 Quintets for Winds Opp. 56, 67, 68
• 3 Quintets Op. 50
• 19 Quartets Opp. 5, 6, 7, 16, 29, 44, 55
• 3 Quartets with Bassoon Op. 40
• Pièces détachées
• Trio with Piano
• 3 Sonatas with Piano
• 3 Trios Op. 7
• Trio Op. 23
• Sonata for 2 Pianos & Violin Op. 42
• 6 Sonatas for 2 Cellos Op. 1
• 24 Petits Duos for 2 Cellos
• 3 Duos for Viola & Cello
• 3 Duos for Viola & Cello Op. 9
• 2 Sonatas with Piano Opp. 28, 44
• 2 Sonatinas with Piano
• Variations with Piano onO Clori, lass ihn schwinden
• Sonata for Cello & Piano
• 3 Petits Duos for Cello & Flute Op. 64
• Sonata for Basset Horn or Cello Op. 62
• Manuals for the singers
• 18 Exercises pour le chant (s.a.)
• Leçons de vocalisation (s.a.)
• Singübungen für Sopran 2 voll. (s.a.)
• Neue Singübungen editio aucta of previous one (s.a.)
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|Rossini Edition 2018
Just few know that Rossini
has been one of the greatest
Mozartians ever… and also
a great Haydnian.
On the occasion of the 150th
Warner Classics has released this
beautiful 50 CDs Box
featuring great & legendary Rossini
performers: 13 complete operas,
3 sacred works, 5 complete recitals,
many rarities & much more!
Lucy Woodruff: Official Sites
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1. Last December you presented, for Divas & Scholars, a special soirée entirely dedicated to Mozart and his masterpiece opera, Le Nozze di Figaro 1786, a soirée in company of rising star soprano Sky Ingram and ENO repetiteur Richard Peirson. Can you give a detailed account of that very special all Mozart soirée to our readers?
Divas & Scholars’ evening in December at the elegant Club at The Ivy was dedicated to Mozart’s great opera buffa Le nozze di Figaro. We began the session with a recording of the overture while everyone took their seats. I featured the soprano Sky Ingram and paired her with the English National Opera repetiteur Richard Peirson. Richard has worked on Mozart’s operas during his career at the ENO and Scottish Opera, so I felt he was well qualified to impart some interesting insights as well as successfully accompany our singer. Sky is described in her Royal Opera House biography as a rising star and she has performed with them several times to critical acclaim in both an early opera and a new work. Her repertoire includes La Contessa Almaviva in Le nozze and this event was a great opportunity for her to sing Countess’ two exquisite arias and to talk about her experiences playing this intriguing role. She captivated the audience with her performances.
Richard gave some interesting background information on Mozart and his librettist Lorenzo da Ponte’s adaptation of the Beaumarchais source. The story contains an incendiary concept, of servants standing up to their masters and being impertinent and familiar. With revolutionary ideas abounding in Europe before the French revolution, this was a daring theme for performances largely attended by the wealthy and the aristocracy. Sky brought out in her singing and contextual commentary that the Countess is the most serious character in the farce. Her longing for the true love and fidelity of her errant husband is evident in her lovelorn Porgi amor and plaintive Dove sono i bei momenti (Sky’s favourite aria by Mozart!). Sky talked about her character being crushed by the lecherous activities of the Count. She pointed out that the excited young Rosina of Beaumarchais’ previous play about The Barber of Seville is now almost unrecognisable, although she recovers some of her old joie de vivre plotting with the servants to expose and ridicule the Count.
As the evening progressed Richard covered the twists and turns of the complicated plot while playing on the piano snippets from the score of interesting moments to listen out for. We discussed productions values, how directors bring out the comedy and develop characters. We then presented a very interesting session where Richard coached Sky as in a rehearsal. They worked on some recitative which she knew well in the original Italian but if she was cast at the ENO would have to learn anew in English. The Countess’ recitative reveals her fluttering emotional state in addition to moving the story forward.
I thought it would be interesting to play a recording of Sull’aria and to mention how Mozart crops up in contemporary culture. This beautiful duet was used movingly in the popular film The Shawshank Redemption.
In all our events we also focus on our singer. So we learnt about Sky’s vocal technique, how she approaches the singing of a Mozart role and other aspects of the demands of her life as an opera singer. Then as a grande finale she sang Susanna’s aria Deh vieni, non tardar written for a soubrette soprano and not therefore ordinarily a role that Sky, a lyric soprano, would be cast for.
After the fascinating talk and recital members of the audience were able to continue the conversation about Le nozze di Figaro with our performers over dinner.
December 2018 Divas & Scholars’ Soirée dedicated to Mozart’s
Nozze di Figaro with rising star soprano Sky Ingram
2. Can you tell us about the origin of Divas & Scholars? And what the mission and the achievements of Divas & Scholars through the years since its birth? Can you tell us about some marvellous moments during the various soirées and events organized by Divas & Scholars?
Divas & Scholars started like many good ideas with a conversation at a party. I was telling a Royal College of Music professor Jean-Philippe Calvin about the passion I had developed for opera when I lived in Vienna. We thought it would be fun to hold soirees in my home and Jean-Philippe suggested an acquaintance of his who might enjoy performing. Later that year in 2011 the soprano Elizabeth Llewellyn and accompanist Alice Turner came to my house and gave a wonderful performance of opera arias to an invited audience of around thirty people. She performed some Mozart of course – Fiordiligi’s aria Come scoglio from Così fan tutte. It was some time ago but I still remember everyone who attended was very impressed. I think I may have charged a small entry fee and served champagne. It was a success and Alice Turner asked another of her colleagues, soprano Natalia Romaniw to do another recital in my house. This time we included some contextual information about the operas and some Q&A and it was clear that the guests very much enjoyed talking to the performers over drinks. I continued organising more events like these and introduced a speaker into the mix. Our first speaker was Mel Cooper the former Classic FM presenter and founder. He was extremely knowledgeable, and we worked together for some time in this format and Jean-Philippe also gave a few lectures. After a while it became clear I needed to find a more professional venue with some catering, so I moved D&S to the prestigious Cadogan Hall and started offering both lecture-recitals and also masterclasses for young performers with some very established opera singers such as Nelly Miricioiu with David Gowland from the Jette Parker ROH Young Artists programme and with Rosalind Plowright. Thanks to my personal connection with Nick Prettejohn (Chairman of the RNCM) I teamed up with the Royal Northern College of Music and we took to the main stage with a three-day course focusing on early opera and in particular Monteverdi’s Il ritorno d’Ulisse.
Young artists from the conservatoire sang and Lynne Dawson (famous for singing at the funeral of Princess Diana), director Stefan Janski and others gave an interesting commentary about performing early Baroque opera. Subsequently I offered many performance opportunities in a prestigious London venue for Manchester-based young singers on the RNCM opera course.
Without sounding too pompous I suppose the mission of Divas & Scholars is to promote the art form, opera, to a wider audience but in intimate surroundings. People love meeting and interacting with the singers who ordinarily they would only see at a distance on stage. The events offer a platform for established opera-insiders, whether they be directors, conductors, repetiteurs or opera singers to talk about what they do. And I team up young as well as rising star singers with more well-known artists. Divas & Scholars is a network and so many useful connections have been made at the events. One important part of what we do is give some useful publicity for up-and-coming opera singers too. Another exciting element of the events is the intimacy and proximity to the performers, and feeling the vibrations of these powerful voices is a visceral thing. It is fascinating to observe their vocal technique close-up.
3. How your many cultural activities (i.e. Thailand, the University of London, recitals and masterclasses at Cadogan Hall) led you to develop the project of Divas & Scholars?
My background in the arts and interest in culture of all kinds lead me to this project. Operas are stories taken from ancient mythology, bible stories, Shakespeare and other playwrights, history and contemporary issues. I studied both Classical Civilisation and History of Art at the University of London and these subjects are so linked to opera. Visual arts are very important in my life and operatic productions use elements of material culture combined with some of the greatest music. Singing has always been a feature of my life from an early age. I have always sung in choirs, from my school days until now and singing lessons have given me an insight into the voice. Although I might not be good enough to be a soloist myself, I have an informed appreciation of really good singers. Thanks to my husband’s career in Finance I lived in Thailand for a few years and studied South East Asian art while I was there. This culminated in my doing a Master’s degree at SOAS. I was subsequently invited to lecture on some of the short courses they run for external students. This was something I enjoyed and inspired me to someday run a similar programme for people interested in learning about opera!
4. Divas & Scholars has collaborations with many important groups and associations, in particular Opera Rara, The Grange Festival and the National Opera Studio. Can you tell us about your work with such institutions? And what your projects for the future?
Divas & Scholars is delighted to be associated with various important institutions and companies.
A) National Opera Studio
I was very excited when the renowned National Opera Studio agreed to collaborate on an Opera Studies course throughout 2018. They gave quasi-academic accreditation to the course and their Young Artists performed at each of the sessions. We did this series of ten evening sessions in the glamorous ballroom at the Lansdowne Club, Mayfair. Our lecturers included the star soprano and Glyndebourne chatelaine Daniel De Niese who we teamed up with a young mezzo-soprano and they talked about Singing Handel and the trouser roles. Another amusing evening was spent in the company of the veteran baritone Donald Maxwell who talked about Acting in Opera and directed performances by Angela Simkin. Angela has since made a successful debut with the Royal Opera House. Perhaps of most interest to your readers would have been the lecture given by the opera writer and Telegraph critic Rupert Christiansen on A personal journey through Mozart’s operas. Illustrating this talk with a lovely recital of Mozart’s arias was the Chinese soprano He Wu who recently performed with Joseph Calleja at the Royal Festival Hall. Marianne Cornetti, the spectacular American mezzo gave the most wonderful talk on her roles: Witches, bitches and queens!. She also generously sang an aria from almost all of them! We teamed her with the heldentenor Neal Cooper who on the night after had to step in at the last minute at the Royal Opera House to sing Tannhauser. He has since debuted at the Met. Nadine Benjamin also sang with Marianne Cornetti and recently she has been enjoying great reviews for her role in the ENO Porgy and Bess. The conductor and former music director of ENO Edward Gardner talked about Conducting Tchaikovsky and rehearsed with a talented young baritone who recently told me it had been a most useful connection for him. It was hugely touching when at the end of the series, an elderly retired dentist and opera fan wrote to me that the series had given him the most enjoyment of his opera-going life, especially when I sat him next to Nelly Miriciou at dinner!
B) Opera Rara
A collaboration with the recording company Opera Rara involved an evening with conductor Sir Mark Elder and the American tenor Michael Spyres, with musicologist Professor Roger Parker. They talked about the exciting work of Opera Rara, reviving lost and forgotten operas, especially in the bel canto repertoire. Michael Spyres has an extraordinary range and phenomenal top notes. He had only just flown in from the USA on his way to perform in Paris, but nonetheless gave an impressive recital of arias by Bellini, Donizetti, Rossini and Leoncavallo. They discussed the forensic process by which they reconstruct lost operas from extant fragments. The top singers and musicians they work with then learn this rediscovered music under the guidance of the Artistic Director Sir Mark Elder. It is then performed in concert and recordings are made and CDs produced. Recently I watched the World Premiere of Opera Rara‘s reconstruction of Donizetti’s L’Ange de Nisida at the Royal Opera House and then their new version of Puccini’s Le Villi at the Royal Festival Hall starring Ermonela Jaho. I am hoping we will be able to do a Divas & Scholars event soon with the fabulous Ermonela.
C) The Grange Festival
The aim of the collaboration with Grange Festival was to promote the newly launched country house opera company at Grange Park, Hampshire after the original incumbents left the premises. I organised three evenings at the Club at The Ivy on which we focused on the operas in their future programme. Singers, conductors and directors including the renowned former Artistic Director of the Royal Opera House, John Copley appeared to talk about and perform highlights from Il ritorno d’Ulisse in patria, Carmen and Albert Herring on separate evenings. The audience enjoyed our series and ticket sales for the new festival were considerably boosted. I introduced the famous West End theatre director Christopher Luscombe to counter-tenor Michael Chance, Artistic Director of Grange Festival and they will be working together on a production of Falstaff. We will hopefully do an insights and highlights event at the Club at The Ivy with Christopher and a singer from the production in advance of their summer season.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
My favourite work by Mozart is Don Giovanni, and by Haydn, The Creation.
Don Giovanni was one of the first operas I encountered as a young person through the atmospheric 1979 Joseph Losey film starring Ruggiero Raimondi and Kiri Te Kanawa filmed in Vicenza and Venice. I adore the music, the darkness, the comedy.
Thanks to my choral background, I loved singing The Creation. It’s true to say the more you work on a piece the more you grow to love and understand it.
Losey’s Don Giovanni (Official Trailer)
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
Domenico Cimarosa (Aversa, Naples, 17 December 1749 – Venice, 11 January 1801). And this year is the 270th Anniversary of his birth: 1749-2019. This Neapolitan composer is not as celebrated today as his contemporary Mozart. However, in the 18th century he was one of the most popular and internationally famous composers, and for this reason maybe his work deserves more attention. He was prolific and composed 60 opera buffe and 20 opera serie many of which were in the repertoire of the great European opera houses in London, Paris, Vienna, Berlin, Hamburg, Prague, Copenhagen, Stockholm, St Petersburg and all the main Italian cities during his lifetime. His opera Il Matrimonio Segreto was premiered in Vienna in February 1792, two months after Mozart’s death to an ecstatic public. Mozart never enjoyed such success in Vienna. Apparently his work was respected by his peers and Haydn conducted performances of many of Cimarosa’s operas at Schloss Esterhazy. His first opera was Le stravaganze del conte which premiered in Naples with instant success and recognition for the composer. He lived and worked all over Europe, in Naples, Rome, St Petersburg at the invitation of Catherine II, Warsaw, Vienna and Venice. The composer’s favourite opera was his Artemisia, regina di Caria, and his comic opera La ballerina amante was the inaugural work at the Teatro Nacional in Lisbon. Other titles were L’italiana in Londra and I due baroni, Le astuzie femminilli, Penelope and Gli Orazi ed I Curiazi. Although lacking the true genius of Mozart his style certainly resembles Mozart’s and may have even borrowed from Mozart whose opera audiences he would have shared.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Remaining with the theme of Cimarosa, perhaps his best known opera Il Matrimonio Segreto isn’t produced much. Often compared unfavourably by modern critics with Mozart’s Nozze di Figaro it is nevertheless a work full of sparkling charm with an amusing story and well defined characters:
Paolino a clerk to Geronimo a snobbish Bolognese businessman has been secretly married for two months to his employer’s daughter Carolina. Hoping to placate his boss, Paolino has been trying to arrange a marriage between Carolina’s sister Elisetta and his acquaintance Count Robinson. Unfortunately the count arrives and is attracted instead to the already married Carolina. Geronimo’s wealthy widowed sister announces she would like to marry Paolino.
Musically there are moments reminiscent of Mozart’s Zauberflöte and Le nozze di Figaro, but this is unsurprising as composers of Italian opera of the period wrote in a similar style. Even if it lacks the inventiveness, the complexity and psychological depth of a Mozart opera it is full of vibrant and engaging melodies. The opening duet for Paolino and Carolina is lyrically beguiling and Geronimo’s Che saltino i dinari stopped the show at its premiere. The work was commissioned by the emperor Leopold II who had appointed him Kapellmeister to the court in Vienna. The humorous libretto by Giovanni Bertati was based on the English play of 1766 The Clandestine Marriage by George Colman and David Garrick who in turn may have loosely based the story on Hogarth’s series of engravings Marriage a la Mode. The opera was first performed at the Burgtheater and was said to have had the longest encore of any opera. Also the recent film The Cladestine Marriage is based on the same work by George Colman and David Garrick.
8. The whole story behind the music and the creation of Il matrimonio segreto (February 1792) is really very interesting. In the first months of 1792 (just a few months after the death of Mozart in December 1791: see, as you said, the quotations from Mozart’s works) Cimarosa had a sort of confrontation with Salieri himself (after the sudden death of Leopold II… and, as many said, poisoned) and had to leave his Vienna Imperial Court music position to Salieri immediately. In this way, Salieri became the master of Vienna music until Autumn 1823 (!), when he completed the music instruction of young Franz Liszt (celebrated as the newly reborn Mozart) and lost his mental health. Also Cimarosa was said to have been poisoned in Venice (1801; most probably not true!)… but this time by agents of the Bourbons of Naples and for well known political reasons… since he openly supported the revolutionary French Republic…
Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
When invited to write about literature which I think illuminates the era of Mozart I was hoping to be able to talk about some of my favourite eighteenth century books and plays. Those that first sprung to my mind were by Jane Austen, Daniel Defoe, Sheridan, Henry Fielding or maybe Samuel Richardson. However, on further consideration, none of these precisely fit the time when Mozart was active, being either a decade or two earlier or later, and also they are more commentaries on English society and mores and none of them discuss the music of the time in any detail.
Mozart himself was fortunately a prolific letter writer and he wrote to family and friends throughout his life. He reveals much about his composing and life as a musician. His youthful letters written when travelling abroad present to us a hard-working musician, a dutiful boy, sensitive and devoted to his mother and sister left behind in Salzburg as well as to his father who travelled with him and promoted his musical career. The early letters are touchingly full of energy, observations of places he travelled to and people he knew, complaints about sore hands from endless composing and tiredness from the uncomfortable travel he had to endure, particularly through Italy in the intense summer heat. The impression is that he was a sweet and thoughtful boy with an adorable sense of humour sending messages and prayers to his loved ones and friends as well as his family pets. A teenage Mozart wrote the following from Milan:
«Address your letters direct to us, for it is not the custom here, as in Germany, to carry the letters round; we are obliged to go ourselves to fetch them on post-days. There is nothing new here; we expect news from Salzburg. Not having a word more to say, I must conclude. Our kind regards to all our friends. We kiss mamma 1,000,000,000 times (I have no room for more noughts); and as for my sister, I would rather embrace her in persona than in imagination.» (Milan, 7 November 1772)
He compares the crowded streets of London and Naples, comments on a hanging he observed in Milan and gives us so much interesting detail on the life of musicians and behind the scenes glimpses at the opera houses. He writes enthusiastically of the successful performances of his works. As he did from Munich (14 January 1775) for La finta giardiniera:
«GOD be praised! My opera was given yesterday, the 13th, and proved so successful that I cannot possibly describe all the tumult. In the first place, the whole theatre was so crammed that many people were obliged to go away. After each aria there was invariably a tremendous uproar and clapping of hands, and cries of Viva Maestro! Her Serene Highness the Electress and the Dowager (who were opposite me) also called out Bravo! When the opera was over, during the interval when all is usually quiet till the ballet begins, the applause and shouts of Bravo! were renewed; sometimes there was a lull, but only to recommence afresh, and so forth. I afterwards went with papa to a room through which the Elector and the whole court were to pass. I kissed the hands of the Elector and the Electress and the other royalties, who were all very gracious.»
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Two films which enhance one’s understanding of Mozart’s life and times are the documentary In Search of Mozart and Interlude in Prague. The former addresses the questions, who was Mozart, where did he come from and what made his music? And the charming film Interlude in Prague, a semi-fictionalised account of events in Mozart’s life during the creation of Don Giovanni, gives a wonderful flavour of the era. It stars actors James Purefoy, Aneurin Barnard and Samantha Barks.
After two years spent following in Mozart’s footsteps round Europe, the film maker Grabsky presented his answers in the feature-length documentary. Leading Mozart historians and performers – from René Jacobs to Renée Fleming – are interviewed. The two-hour film tells Mozart’s life story from beginning to end. It features live performance excerpts from his works, plus readings from his correspondence, and it dispels the popular myths such as those fostered in the Hollywood film Amadeus, that surround his life and death in an attempt to reveal his true identity. Grabsky claims, for example, that Mozart’s father Leopold, far from being money-driven, took his son on tour across Europe to ensure his prodigious talents were properly recognised. Wolfgang’s scatological humour was in keeping with typical speech of his time. And his communal grave was not necessarily that of a pauper, but in keeping with tradition. What sets Mozart apart from the rest is his more than 600 sublimely crafted works. For Grabsky, the transcendental quality of Mozart’s music makes him an intriguing and elusive subject, raising the question of whether events in his life are even relevant to our understanding of his brilliance.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
I was very fortunate to live in Vienna for three and a half years in the late 1990s. It is one of my favourite cities and the place where I really developed my interest in opera. Although Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, he spent much of his short life in Vienna and parts of the city still have something of the atmosphere and look of his day. It has been very well preserved. Even if the premiere of Don Giovanni was in Prague and other triumphs were in Italy, Germany and England, Vienna was his hometown for his last ten years, and around 20 Viennese locations are closely associated with his story. Many of these locations are places I loved to visit.
In 1762 when Mozart was six years old and a prodigy from Salzburg he was invited to Schönbrunn Palace, the summer residence of Empress Maria Theresia to play for the imperial family. They were charmed and impressed and he jumped into the Empress’ lap. Schönbrunn is a magnificent Baroque building painted yellow with green woodwork, just as was my house in the wine village of Grinzing. Architecturally it is similar in style to Versailles with wonderful gardens adorned with statues, fountains and grottoes. I very much enjoyed walking up to the beautiful Gloriette where there is now a café and from which there is a lovely view of the palace.
Mozart had audiences with the Empress Maria Theresia at the Hofburg Palace and later with Emperor Joseph II. Parts of the rambling Hofburg dates from the 13th century and one can imagine Mozart walking through it along cobbled streets on his way to the Burgtheater.
The Mozarthaus as it is now known was one of the houses he lived in on Domgasse 5. It was here that he wrote The Marriage of Figaro in 1786.
A place with an important association for the Mozart family was the Stephansdom where he married his beloved Constanze in 1782 and where his body was blessed after his death in 1791. St Stephen’s is a wonderful Gothic cathedral and an important landmark in Vienna. I remember it being rather dark and candle lit even in the 20th century.
www.michaelerkirche.at: Mozart Memorial Service Documents
His memorial service was held at the Michaelerkirche another important church and where most probably his Requiem was heard for the first time already in December 1791.
There are monuments to Mozart throughout Vienna including the Mozart memorial in the Burggarten and there is a Café Mozart behind the Staatsoper. However a café which Mozart knew was Café Frauenhuber and you can still visit it and eat Wiener schnitzel there.
I used to enjoy Mozartkugeln, the marzipan chocolates which bear his portrait.
State Opera House
A favourite place of mine in Vienna is the State Opera House which was built long after Mozart’s time in 1869 but it opened with a performance of Don Giovanni.
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.
|The Magic 1791: Mozart & Müller
Just few know that in 1791,
months before Magic Flute premiere,
at Leopoldstadt (few kms near Vienna)
The Magic Zither premiered.
It was written by Wenzel Müller,
a pupil of von Dittersdorf.
Since Magic Zither story was very
similar to Magic Flute story,
Schikaneder, fearing accusations
of plagiarism, changed a bit
the plot of Magic Flute!
With this CD you can make
a first comparison between
Mozart’s & Müller’s music…!
Who is Otto Heinrich von Gemmingen?
Mozart’s 1778 Mannheim-Paris Tour (240th Anniversary 1778-2018) is usually considered a whole disaster. Mozart didn’t manage to find a solid job position anywhere, he is surrounded by people he (at least, at the beginning) considers his friends (but Leopold dislikes and distrusts them, in particular Wendling and Cannabich, and this for years), he doesn’t manage to find a wife. However, during the period from autumn 1777 to winter 1779 and during his stay in Mannheim, Mozart makes a few important acquaintances, which will have a great impact on his life and on his long-lasting fortune.
A. von Gemmingen and Freemasonry (1778)
In 1777 Mozart meets Otto Heinrich von Gemmingen, the man who probably will be highly influential in developing Mozart’s great taste for theatre drama and who probably actually did invite Mozart to join the Freemasonry in Vienna and backed Mozart’s career as freemason.
B. Constanze Weber and Mozart (1778)
In January 1778, in Mannheim, Mozart meets for the first time and befriends the family Weber, falling in love with opera singer Aloysia Weber. In December 1778 in Munich, according to Constanze Weber herself and Nissen, Mozart receives signs of possible sentimental overtures from the young Constanze (sister of Aloysia) for the first time: Constanze, sad for the bad end of love story between Mozart and Aloysia, reached Mozart and told him that she might have been interested in him (instead of her sister Aloysia). Constanze, the Mannheim girl, who will become his wife in Vienna in August 1782, and who then will create a long-lasting and successful popular devotion to his dead husband, after December 1791.
If Mozart left his masterpiece The Magic Flute to posterity in 1791 is also, in part, thanks to his long friendship with the freemason Grand Master of Vienna Masonic Lodges von Gemmingen, an important minor German writer, linked to the circle of the great Klopstock, and an avid promoter of great theatre (Rousseau, Shakespeare and others) and of opera theatre in German language.
Most of the information on von Gemmingen’s life are from Mozart’s own letters, from the book C. Flaischleu, Otto Heinrich von Gemmingen, Stuttgart 1890 and from the recent studies of Mozart scholars.
Mozart meets von Gemmingen in Mannheim
When Mozart met von Gemmingen in Mannheim for the first time in autumn 1777, von Gemmingen, already linked to the great Klopstock (who had just visited Mannheim and left an important cultural legacy), held a few notable government posts in Mannheim (chamberlain, Hofkammerrath, etc.) for the court of Prince-Elector, Charles Theodore. During the months spent by Mozart in Mannheim (October 1777-March 1778), it seems that von Gemmingen (who was already very interested in the theatre of Shakespeare and Rousseau) and Mozart intentionally attended, together, opera rehearsals, court concerts and cultural circles soirées, discussing on the future of the development of opera in German language, an important cultural subject on those days in the German Nations and in Austria.
According to Mozart’s letter from Paris (24 March 1778), their friendship was finally sealed and cemented a few days before Mozart’s leaving Mannheim for Paris: «von Gemmingen assured me of his friendship and asked me for mine». von Gemmingen gave Mozart also 3 louis d’or «to cover the expenses of copying» music, since Mozart had sent him, as a present, the copies of a few works by him:
1. the string quartet K80 (1770-1774);
2. the quintet K174 (1773);
3. variations on a theme by Fischer K179 (1774).
von Gemmingen as patron of Mozart: Paris 1778
The violent controversy on the real nature of the friendship of people such as Wendling, Grimm, Noverre and Cannabich to Mozart is more or less well known. Despite the general belief, in his letters, Mozart has many doubts about Wendling, about Ramm and also about Cannabich (see, in particular, the letter from Paris 24 March 1778; Leopold totally dislikes all Mozart’s friends in Mannheim and the dispute between Leopold and Mozart on Mozart’s Mannheim friends will go on for many years after 1778).
Grimm will brutally mistreat both Mozart and his mother, when in Paris, with many lies, many unpaid music works and false promises of job positions. In the end, Grimm and Noverre (that famous Noverre, who, Leopold thought, had to help Mozart, because they were both Knights of the Golden Spur, like Gluck and von Dittersdorf) will fool Mozart with two fake opera commissions for Paris Theatre and that for ca. 6 months.
In this Paris context, von Gemmingen appears as a patron of Mozart. In Mannheim he gives Mozart a letter of recommendation for the Minister of the Palatinate in Paris, von Sickingen. The fact that, after the Paris disaster, von Gemmingen will keep supporting Mozart and his musical activity, is a true sign of the solid sincerity of their friendship.
While Mozart is in Paris, von Gemmingen takes care also of Aloysia Weber, the opera singer pupil of Mozart and love interest of Mozart at this time. We know, in fact, that von Gemmingen organizes concerts at his home in Mannheim, to present Aloysia and her abilities in singing to the aristocratic audience.
As far as we know, von Sickingen is one of those few people who treated Mozart really friendly and decently, during his Paris stay.
von Gemmingen and Mozart in Paris 1778: Freemasonry, Austria and Catholic Church
There’s a dispute among scholars about the real nature of the relationship of von Gemmingen and Mozart in 1778, because von Gemmingen (like many other men of culture and musicians in Mannheim) was an active freemason. Charles Theodore, the Prince Elector of Mannheim (who had to choose Mozart as his own possible employee in 1778-1779), was (probably) a hidden freemason himself, secretly supporting the activity of the other Mannheim freemasons, without disturbing the Catholic Church too much in this way, since the Catholic Church was (officially,… but not unofficially!) against Freemasonry.
The fact that Mozart came from Salzburg and actually directly lived under a Catholic Bishop may have been a serious obstacle to obtain a good job position in Mannheim… and Mozart (moreover an open supporter of the Austria Emperor against the Prussia King) probably did not completely realize in which type of extremely delicate situation he was moving his first steps for a new job away from Salzburg…
Hence there have been various informed speculations about the possibility that von Gemmingen (through his friendship) asked Mozart to personally contact various members of Paris Freemasonry on his behalf (in particular those attached to Les Neuf Soeurs and to Freemasonry controlled institutions like Concert Spirituel and Concerts des Amateurs). However, on this point in particular, no speculation, at this moment, seems to be really supported by any kind of solid documentation.
von Gemmingen as author for Mozart: the lost Semiramis 1779
In autumn-winter 1778-1779 von Gemmingen will be again in direct contact with Mozart in Mannheim, after Mozart’s leaving Paris.
Mozart (who had received an advice by von Heufeld from Vienna in January 1778 about writing new operas free of charge and only at Mozart’s own expenses, just to gain visibility before Vienna Imperial Court) will easily accept a proposal of writing some music for a work written by von Gemmingen.
Even though von Gemmingen was already an important member of the cultural establishment of Mannheim as German writer and poet, in autumn 1778 he was not considered a successful author yet. Probably von Gemmingen’s interest in producing a declaimed opera in music (it is exactly a duodrama) in collaboration with Mozart was due also to von Gemmingen’s interest in obtaining that stage success he was seeking for some time.
The duodrama had the title Semiramis (K. 315e = Anh. 11).
According to a letter by Mozart December 1778 from Mannheim, Mozart was already writing music for this drama by von Gemmingen and accepted the work, even though it was going to be another unpaid work («for nothing»). Mozart writes to his father that he will bring this work with him to Salzburg and that he will complete it there in 1779.
According to a few original sources (but not very clear and a bit controversial) of the 18th century this duodrama Semiramis was actually completed by Mozart in 1779.
It is a fact that the music from this work went lost and is still lost today, like many various works written in Paris in 1778. It seems (but it is not sure at all) that, after 1791, Constanze Mozart and Abbé Stadler did actually find the autograph score: however, this score may have been also Zaide…
In conclusion, there are many hypotheses that, if Mozart really wrote some music and/or if Mozart really completed the work, probably he re-used parts of music from this Semiramis to entirely re-write and re-work his Thamos, König in Aegypten or Zaide.
In the end, von Gemmingen will become famous in 1780 with his successful drama Der deutsche Hausvater.
The world of scholars’ speculation:
von Gemmingen & Mozart & the Vienna Freemasonry
It may be a pure coincidence, but, when von Gemmingen (already linked to Vienna Freemasonry lodges since 1779 and a member of the Illuminati, like his friend van Swieten, the future patron of Mozart) definitively reached Vienna in 1782, Mozart had just left Salzburg to reach Vienna (1781, after Idomeneo in Munich), where he was going to contact van Swieten himself, a close friend of von Gemmingen. Consider, at this point, that van Swieten (under suspicion for his Freemasonry Illuminati activities) will be removed from his Imperial Court positions on 5 December 1791, the very day of the death of Mozart (see Attardi).
In Vienna, von Gemmingen became Grand Master of the Masonic Lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence). Then (another coincidence?) Mozart, a long time friend of von Gemmingen, joined the Masonic Lodge of von Gemmingen (December 1784)… and it is generally thought that von Gemmingen encouraged Mozart to enter the mysterious paths of Vienna Freemasonry.
Even though we have a good series of original Vienna Freemasonry documents, that give sufficient evidence about Mozart as Freemason and about his activities within the Vienna lodges, there are still many obscure passages in the career of Mozart as freemason in Vienna. This is the reason why, on freemasonry matters, unfortunately there is still a good amount of informed speculation by scholars…
… And this is due also to the fact that most of the original documents of Vienna Freemasonry went lost or were already a well guarded unwritten secret in 1770s-1790s…
But let’s try to collect all possible sufficiently documented facts.
1. von Gemmingen, Illuminati, Rosicrucians & Asiatic Brethren: Mozart & the Vienna lodges
Like many freemasons of his time, von Gemmingen belonged, at the same time, to various different well known or secret Freemasonry factions, in particular, the Bavarian Illuminati, the Rosicrucians and the Vienna group of the Rosicrucians, the Asiatic Brethren.
This position helped von Gemmingen (who was strictly in contact with the Imperial Court of Vienna, also through van Swieten, and then worked for it), to maintain a certain position within the Vienna Freemasonry movement also when the Emperor decided to reform the Vienna lodges (11 December 1785).
It is highly probable, at this point, that Mozart (close friend of von Gemmingen and van Swieten) was a freemason and, in particular, a member of the Asiatic Brethren (see also infra), as Irmen and other scholars suggested.
To understand the Freemasonry interests of Mozart from 1784 to 1791, we must consider the specialization of the single lodges he belonged to.
1784-1785. von Gemmingen’s own Lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence) must have had a peculiar interest in social charity, in order to support the poor. Beside this, von Gemmingen, as a member of both the Illuminati and the Asiatic Brethren, promoted alchemy as a science, theology, cosmogony, qabbalah and numerology and probably was somehow involved in the delicate political matter of the acquisition of Bavaria (1777-1790) by the Austria Emperor Jospeh II. This Lodge had a particular good reputation in Vienna, because in 1784 it really managed to raise a great amount of relief funds to help the victims of the spring’s flood.
1786-1791. After the 1784 Bavarian scandal of the Illuminati, who were disbanded by the Prince Elector Charles Theodore, and Joseph II’s 1785 Freemasonry Act, von Gemmingen’s Lodge was closed, like many others, and Mozart joined the lodge Zur neugekronten Hoffnung. This lodge was a Stretta Osservanza Zinnendorf Swedish eclectic and syncretist lodge (and this may explain the interest of the composer Kraus in Vienna Freemasonry). It gathered freemasons of different origin and many of them refused the strict masonic spiritualism Schwärmerei for a bit more rationalist approach, that accepted alchemy, supernaturalism and esotericism under certain conditions controlled by rationalism.
After 1786, von Gemmingen seems to act more behind the scenes (probably due to his delicate political position about Bavaria and the Illuminati and also due to his political writings, many also against the Catholic Church, not always well received by Austrian police), while another friend of Mozart, von Gebler, the author of the text of Thamos, König in Aegypten (1773-1776; then reworked and completed in ca. 1779), in the end, acquired a prominent position of leadership within Mozart’s masonic lodge. In 1787 von Gemmingen rapidly and definitevely left Vienna, officially to take care of his family’s properties. He will be back in Vienna again only in 1799.
2. von Gemmingen and Mozart: the Austrian Police surveillance
Just few know that actually in 1778 Austria politics on Bavaria de facto ruined Mozart’s job position in Mannheim (as Mozart often left written in his letters), since Bavaria went to the Mannheim Prince-Elector Charles Theodore and Emperor Joseph II wanted Bavaria for himself from Mannheim Prince-Elector. Mozart, with good connections in Vienna and supporter of the Austria Emperor against the King of Prussia, was seen as another kind Austrian, i.e. a dangerous person at the wrong place in the wrong moment, and was considered a threat to Charles Theodore’s court. The 1778 Prussia-Austria War ended with some but scarce results for the Vienna Emperor and Mozart was sent back to Salzburg without new job at a new court.
In 1784 and 1785 the old controversy on the Austrian acquisition of Bavaria was again a political target for Joseph II and, in the end, the freemasonry groups like the Illuminati were considered, at some point, Austrian spies working at the Court of the Prince Elector Charles Theodore, in order to obtain Bavaria and give it to Joseph II: this is the Komplott. Therefore Charles Theodore decided to ban all secret societies and to create a very clear distinction between good freemasons and bad freemasons, i.e. the Illuminati conspirators.
As Daniel Heartz pointed out, Joseph II for some reasons of political order and political convenience (most probably caused by the failure of his plans on Bavaria and by various reports by his own Police: see Attardi) decided to radically re-organize Freemasonry in Vienna through his famous Freemasonry Act (11 December 1785), in order to get a major control on the activities of the freemasons and of their factions.
Even though, as Da Ponte already writes in his memoirs, Austria Secret Police was already very active under Maria Theresa, according to Wangermann the 1785 Vienna Freemasonry Act de facto heavily augmented, so to speak, the authority of the Secret Police of Count Johann Pergen and all the activities of Vienna freemasons became motive of serious suspicion and police surveillance.
At this point, von Gemmingen, after 1786, rapidly became a person of interest for the Austrian Secret Police and unfortunately it is probable that also Mozart ended up entrapped in the same surveillance network and went under scrutiny. It is a fact that, according to the Novellos, still at the beginning of the 19th century Constanze Mozart had a series of forbidden books of the Secret Societies and of the Revolutionaries, forbidden books which belonged to Mozart and which were kept hidden during the famous 1791 post-mortem inventory.
It is well known how even The Magic Flute became a political subversive opera in the hands of the Austrian Police.
3. The rapid career of Mozart and of Leopold Mozart in Vienna Freemasonry
The strange rapid career of Mozart and of Leopold Mozart within Vienna Freemasonry still remains without a solid explanation.
They both reached the highest degrees of Freemasonry in few months or even few weeks between December 1784 and May 1785, while the usual paths required at least one year from a degree to another.
A possible solution to the mystery is that Mozart and Leopold already belonged to some lodge in Salzburg, but probably secretly. As a matter of fact, it’s very strange that Leopold wanted his son to write music on a very famous masonic text already in 1767! According to Koch, Thomson and Knepler, Leopold and Mozart both already belonged to the Salzburg eclectic masonic lodge Zur Fürsicht. Unfortunately it seems that the Salzburg documents that clearly demonstrated that affiliation of the family Mozart went lost some time after 1911.
As Daniel Heartz correctly pointed out, it is a fact that Leopold and Mozart, since the first Europe Tour in 1760s-1770s, were always surrounded by famous activists of Freemasonry… even though Leopold did not seem (apparently!) particularly involved in Freemasonry.
4. The Kronauer Stammbuch and Mozart as Arch-Englishman
A very interesting document of the complex network of friendships built by Mozart thanks to the Vienna system of lodges is The Kronauer Stammbuch.
«Patience and tranquillity of mind contribute more to cure our distempers as the whole art of Medicine.
Vienna, 30 March 1787
Your true sincere friend and brother Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
Member of the very hon. lodge of the New-crowned Hope in the Orient of Vienna.»
Near the word Mozart, you can see two intersected triangles. Various scholars consider that Alchemy symbol (a Solomon’s Seal, representing, at a first simple analysis, the elements of water and fire, i.e. the Finale of The Magic Flute) used by Mozart as secret indication that he belonged to the group of the Asiatic Brethren. However, one must consider, instead, that usually those people who used that kind of signature were people who considered themselves as initiated to the Art of Alchemy… and probably the part about the Art of Medicine was not that casual.
The fact that Mozart was writing in English is interesting. In fact on 19 October 1782 Mozart was already writing about himself that he was an Arch-Englishman!
In the same Stammbuch we find also the messages by Otto von Gemmingen and by the composer Kraus, a friend of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.
5. Mozart Alchemist, Dittersdorf high official of the founder of the Vienna Freemasonry & the Alchemy secrets
The fact that Mozart probably considered himself an initiated alchemist (even though probably a rationalist alchemist, according to the teachings of his own lodge), in addition to his being a freemason, may explain Mozart’s particular interest in von Dittersdorf’s Ovid Symphonies cycle and then in certain peculiar symbology in The Magic Flute.
We find Mozart’s quotations/borrowings from Dittersdorf’s Ovid works (consider their original version with complete parts for trumpets and timpani and not the 19th century printed edition) in Mozart’s works for piano and, in particular, in his operas Nozze di Figaro, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte and in his Jupiter Symphony Final Movement.
von Dittersdorf, apparently, was not a freemason himself…
… However he worked for ca. 20 years as Kapellmeister and high official of that very person who was considered the real founder of the Vienna Freemasonry, the Count Philipp Gotthard von Schaffgotsch, then Prince-Bishop of Breslau.
The first Vienna lodge was the Aux trois canons (17 September 1742) and was directly derived from the Breslau lodge Aux trois squelettes: the Count von Schaffgotsch in person had sent the Counts Hoditz and Grossa from Breslau to Vienna to found there the very first lodge. Then the husband of Maria Theresa carried on the work initiated by Count von Schaffgotsch, then Prince-Bishop of Breslau and master and patron of von Dittersdorf (for a detailed reconstruction of the events, among others, see Attardi).
In conclusion, von Schaffgotsch was not only de facto the father of all Vienna lodges but he was a Freemasonry close brother of the husband of Maria Theresa…
As revealed by the decorations of the French Castle of Cenevieres, the Ovid’s Metamorphoses were always an important reference for all those interested in Alchemy. So it is probable that von Dittersdorf’s cycle of the Ovid Symphonies had a particular meaning for his own master and patron, the Freemason Prince-Bishop von Schaffgotsch,… and also for Mozart (who was well known practically as Apollo within masonic circles: see von Born et alii), an active freemason and, probably, even (at least in part) a rationalist alchemist, according to the controlled rules of his eclectic lodge Zur neugekronten Hoffnung.
As a matter of fact, the Solomon’s Seal used by Mozart in his own masonic signatures is usually alchemically interpreted (being a combination of the symbols of fire and water) as the symbol of transmutation, that’s to say metamorphosis…
6. Mozart and another family of Freemasons: the Webers
Another interesting consideration may be the fact that Franz Anton Weber, the uncle of Aloysia and Constanze, the two Mannheim girls Mozart fell in love with, was also a freemason…
On 8 January 1787 Mozart left another cryptic (alchemic? possibly fire+oil?) signature on the Album of his cousin-in-law Edmund Weber, pupil of Haydn and step-brother of the great composer Carl Maria von Weber…
7. Mozart, Schikaneder and the Vienna eating lodges
According to Treitschke’s memoirs, Schikaneder and probably Mozart, as his friend, were attached to a Vienna (unofficial) masonic group derived from Mozart’s central lodge Zur neugekronten Hoffnung (information from the masonic brother of Mozart Gieseke from the same lodge), known as «peripheral or eating lodge, where the brethren busied themselves at the weekly evening meetings with games, music and the many pleasures of a well-covered table». Within this inner circle, Schikaneder and Mozart developed the project of the The Magic Flute from spring 1791, with a direct rival, von Dittersdorf’s pupil Wenzel Müller and his The Magic Zither derived from the same fairy tale by Wieland as The Magic Flute. Müller’s The Magic Zither premiered in Leopoldstadt Theatre (June 1791) just a few months before The Magic Flute and that caused many headaches to Schikaneder…
After all and behind that extra-serious esoteric appearance, also the Vienna Freemasonry lodges evidently had some decadent aspects…
Mozart and Vienna cultural circles: from von Gemmingen to van Swieten and von Lichnowsky
In conclusion, it is thanks to a network of freemasons that Mozart actually managed to develop his activity in Vienna within its cultural circles. Through von Gemmingen he reached van Swieten and through the two Freemasonry friends Mozart could attend the most important soirées in Vienna. In particular we remember von Lichnowsky (linked, through marriage, to the von Thun family, a family who usually promoted important cultural soirées in Vienna), von Lichnowsky a freemason brother Mozart first befriended thanks to von Gemmingen at the very lodge Zur Wohltätigkeit (Beneficence) already in 1784.
von Lichnowsky will be the patron of Mozart until 1791 and then the patron of young Beethoven (until the Lobkowitz’s period)… and also the man, who had Mozart condemned for debts a few weeks before Mozart’s death in 1791… and who dismissed Beethoven as a lazy, nothing doing and nothing achieving, irresponsible artist…
van Swieten, a few years later, lamented the fact that Mozart remained de facto a sort of half-composer, because he totally failed to reach the greatness of Handel… (!?)
After a very serious bankruptcy, overwhelmed by debts (more than 200,000 fl.), von Gemmingen died in 1836, alone, forgotten and impoverished.
WORKS BY OTTO VON GEMMINGEN
• Sidney und Silly (?)
• Pygmalion by J.J. Rousseau (1778, translation)
• Richard III by W. Shakespeare (1778, translation)
• Duodrama Semiramis for Mozart’s music (1778, lost)
• Various writings and various works for and about Mannheim Theatre (1778/1779)
• Die Erbschaft (1779)
• Der deutsche Hausvater (1779)
• Various works for Mannheim Theatre (1780)
• Allegro und Penseroso by J. Milton (1781, translation)
• Der Weltmann (1782)
• Richard II (1782)
• Die wöchentlichen Wahrheiten (1782/1783)
• Magazin für Wissenschaft und Kultur (1784)
• Wiener Ephemeriden (1785)
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.