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|Complete Works for Double Bass
The Works for Double Bass
by Dittersdorf were written in 1760s
for the Double Bass virtuoso
Pichelberger. Such works
are well known for being technically
demanding (with the viola part
penned by Dittersdorf for himself).
The two concertos were used
by Haydn’s bassist Sperger
at the Esterházy Orchestra
and mainly survived for this reason.
Dittersdorf was on friendly
Leon Bosch & Robert Smissen
Who is Padre Martini?
Padre Martini or… the Dictator of Music, the Padre di tutti i Maestri or the Father of Music, as many musicians called him in the 18th century.
While many may have a general idea of the importance and of the great influence exerted by the Music School of Naples in the 18th century, few have a right perception of the far greater importance of the Music School of Bologna… greater importance, because most of the greatest composers of the 18th century studied music composition in Bologna and created and cultivated professional connections with the masters in Bologna and with one master of composition, in particular: Padre Martini. Sometimes still remembered as the teacher of Mozart, Padre Martini was considered, in reality, the greatest music authority in Europe and among his pupils there are the children of J.S.Bach and from his teaching tradition famous international composers such as Cherubini and Rossini spread the light of music throughout Europe, the World and the centuries.
Bologna: the factory of musical geniuses of the 18th & the 19th century from Mozart to Rossini, Donizetti and Respighi
Once upon a time there was a factory of musical geniuses and that was the city of Bologna, where many great composers received their music instruction in composition at the highest levels.
Among them, Mozart himself, J.C. Bach, Jommelli, Myslivecek, Sarti (then teacher of the great Cherubini), Vogler (then fundamental music theorist and teacher of von Weber and Meyerbeer) up to Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti (both pupils of Stanislao Mattei, the devote pupil, official successor and close friend of Padre Martini) and Ottorino Respighi.
The Martinians: more than 100 pupils for Padre Martini
Padre Martini was considered the most important teacher in music composition in Europe, a learned music historian and musicologist (who had studied almost all the treatises by Guido d’Arezzo) and the greatest master in the art of the counterpoint.
For these reasons Padre Martini was particularly sought after as a teacher of music composition and regarded somehow as the teacher of the teachers in music.
Padre Martini had ca. more than 100 pupils from almost any country of Europe and among them some of the most famous composers and music teachers and theorists in the history of music:
• W.A. Mozart (1756-1791)
• S. Mattei (1750-1825 Italian; official successor of Padre Martini and teacher of G. Rossini and G. Donizetti)
• J.C. Bach (1735-1782 German based in London, England; son of J.S. Bach, teacher and model of Mozart)
• J. Myslivecek (1737-1781 Bohemian; teacher, mentor and model of Mozart)
• G.J. Vogler (1749-1819 German; a rebel pupil of Padre Martini, important music theorist, teacher and mentor of von Weber and Meyerbeer; and through Meyerbeer Vogler’s teachings reached, in part, Wagner)
• N. Jommelli (1714-1771 Italian; one the most famous and most gifted pupils of Padre Martini, but with some criticism on Padre Martini’s very strict treatment of polyphonic music; Mozart and his father Leopold met him in 1763; Jommelli exerted a great influence on Stamitz, Wagenseil and von Dittersdorf)
• G. Sarti (1729-1802 Italian; friend of Mozart and teacher of the greatL. Cherubini, who managed to solve all the extra-difficult enigma canons composed by Padre Martini)
• A.E.M. Grétry (1741-1813 Belgian)
• M. Berezovsky (1745-1777 Ukrainian)
• G.B. Cirri (1724-1808 Italian; famous cellist, he played cello during the same concerts given by 8-year-old Mozart in London)
• G.M.G. Cambini (1746?-1825? Italian; probably pupil of Padre Martini, in Florence founded a quartet with Boccherini in 1767 and in Paris worked with Gossec and had a not happy encounter with Mozart in 1778)
• F.L. Gassmann (1729-1774 Bohemian; then friend and close collaborator of Gluck and teacher and mentor of A. Salieri)
• V. Righini (1756-1812 Italian; collaborator of Salieri at Vienna Court since 1780, he followed then the path of the strict Gluckian, so to say, nakedstyle like Salieri instead of that enriched by the art of counterpoint; in 1786 helped Salieri, while Salieri was in Paris; Da Ponte and Mozart disliked Righini and for Mozart he was fairly good at writing music, but he was a «great thief» and incapable of well hiding what stolen)
Among the friends, correspondents and admirers of Padre Martini we find the composers Gluck (who was, instead, pupil of G.B. Sammartini in Milan and whose works, beside their long lasting friendship, were not always fully appreciated by Padre Martini and his collaborators), von Dittersdorf,Hasse and the violin virtuoso Lolli.
According to someone, after 1776, also the composer Martín y Soler(1754-1806 Spanish) studied composition with Padre Martini. However, such assertion must be considered rather speculation and not fact, since this period spent in Bologna, studying with Padre Martini, is not clearly demonstrated (see Waisman, Madrid 2007).
Mozart, during his life, maintained, in most cases, an open and friendly behaviour towards all the direct and orthodox pupils of Padre Martini. For this reason, he cultivated, when possible, the friendship of composers such as J.C. Bach, Myslivecek and Sarti (he celebrated, by quoting his opera in his Don Giovanni).
Gluck, Dittersdorf & Padre Martini
On April-May 1763 von Dittersdorf and Gluck reached Bologna for the premiere of Gluck’s Il Trionfo di Clelia for the inauguration of the new opera theatre of Bologna.
On this occasion, Gluck and von Dittersdorf made the acquaintance of both Farinelli and Padre Martini. von Dittersdorf (being a great virtuoso violinist) had the possibility of playing in some public performances in Bologna and, at the same time, of attending, with Gluck, the marvelous performance of some polyphonic music written by Padre Martini. The famous lively account of von Dittersdorf, left in his autobiography, gives an idea of the sincere admiration that both Gluck and von Dittersdorf cultivated towards the art of Padre Martini and this became the basis for a personal friendship.
Here the beautiful account by von Dittersdorf with a lively portrait of old master (Bologna, May 1763):
«Another of our visits was to Padre Martino, the world-renowned dictator of classical music. Ha was nearly as old as Farinelli, and they were bosom friends. Gluck, too, had known him for years, and never passed through Bologna without paying his respects to the “Padre di tutti i Maestri”, as all Kapellmeisters call him to this day.
[…] We were just setting out for the coffee-house, on the afternoon of that very day, when Padre Martino paid us his return visit. He seized the opportunity of asking me to play a concerto in his church, at a great function which was impending. Of course I was to be paid for it… would I be content with the ordinary fee of twelve double ducats? I said I would only play on condition that I was not paid. What I prized, beyond money, was the honour of being selected to play by“the Father of Music”. The good old man thanked me for my“pretty way of thinking of him”, as he called it, and after another half-hour’s conversation, he went away as he came, leaning on the arm of a lay brother, and supported by a stick.
It was soon the talk of all Bologna, that I had been invited by Padre Martino to assist at the grand ceremony, on the first day of the festival “per la visita della Madonna di San Lucca”, and everyone knew that I had refused to be paid, and had promised my services solely for the honour of God.
The day approached for the opening of the festival, which was to be inaugurated by the procession of the miracle-working portrait of the Madonna, said to have been painted by St. Luke. The fête lasted for three days. We went to church to hear Vespers,… the music by Padre Martino. What a gulf between that and Mazzoni’s work! I have never heard sacred music so majestic, so lofty, and so touching!Even Caldara’s composition is far inferior to it. In one Psalm… I think a Magnificat… the Amen was an eight-part fugue, a marvel of artistic elaboration. The effect made by that glorious fugue may be imagined, for the band consisted of one hundred and sixty people, and the chorus was eighty strong.
On the following morning, Gluck and I called on the venerable musician, who had asked us to drink chocolate with him. We were full of admiration for his fine music, i.e., the Vespers which we had heard.
“I think it probable,” said he, “that yesterday’s Vespers and to-day’s High Mass will be my Swan Song, for I am conscious already that my powers, physical and mental, are beginning to fail.”
We expressed our regret that we might, perhaps, never have another opportunity of hearing the eight-part fugue.
“I’ll set that right,” answered the kindly old man. “I will make the fugue do duty for the Amen in the Credo; they are both in the same key, and so far your wishes shall be gratified.”
I did my very best with my concerto, which I played very successfully in the Garduale, for I had carefully prepared myself for it a week before. Soon after I had finished my concerto, I went with Gluck into the body of the church, to hear the Credo and the Amen at a distance. That day, we discovered all sorts of beauties in the eight-part fugue, which had escaped us the day before. We returned home in a high state of exaltation, and sat down to dinner. Afterwards, our landlord came in, bringing with him a good-sized paper parcel with a seal on it, and said:
“Padre Martino sends you both a few pounds of chocolate.”
He had written on the packet with a very shaky pen: “12 libre per il mio caro amico, il Cavagliere Gluck, e 12 libre per il mio caro figliuolo, il Signor Carlo Ditters.”»
1770: Mozart meets Padre Martini
In 1770 Mozart and his father Leopold meet Padre Martini in Bologna.
Thanks to a long stay in Bologna in the summer 1770, Mozart could study music and composition with Padre Martini and with Myslivecek and on 9 October 1770 Mozart passed the examination at the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna and officially became Magister Compositor Accademico Filarmonico di Bologna.
Mozart & Bologna: cover-up or not cover.up?
Since in the archive of the Accademia Filarmonica of Bologna, there are different copies of the exercise that Mozart had to solve, one in the handwriting of Padre Martini and one in the handwriting of Mozart, there were some speculations by various scholars that Padre Martini covered up the mistakes written by Mozart during the examination.
Nonetheless, since Mozart, just 14 years old, passed the examination at the Accademia of Bologna with a «considering the circumstances, sufficient» degree (that’s to say what appears to be a «C-»), other scholars, in conclusion, just think that there was not any kind of cover-up by Padre Martini. The 2 different exercises, in fact, were simply due to the fact that, after the judgement of «sufficient», Padre Martini just solved the composition and showed how a correct exercise had to be written to obtain a judgement «full marks» and then obliged Mozart to rewrite the new correct exercise written by him.
Anyhow, this point is still very controversial, because we don’t know exactly which final version was given to the judges: Mozart’s own one or the copy of Martini’s work?…
This piece is Quaerite primum regnum Dei K. 86.
Here a bizarre video highlighting the mistakes of Mozart and then featuring the correct work by Martini.
Padre Martini vs. Padre Vallotti? Vogler’s own revolution
Thanks to the studies of F.K. Grave and M.G. Grave, we have some important details on how also the composer G.J. Vogler spent some time in Bologna, studying composition with Padre Martini.
However, Vogler was dissatisfied with Padre Martini’s approach to music composition, strictly linked to Fux and without any interest in research. So Vogler decided to move to Padua and to study composition and musical theory with Padre Vallotti (more revolutionary and inquisitive in his studies than Padre Martini), becoming thus somehow his successor.
De facto, we know that Padre Martini did not appreciate either Tartini (the long time collaborator of Padre Vallotti) or Rameau, considering Rameau’s theory «probably» good for the theatre music and all that music that is not Sacred Music, but not good for the Sacred Music. Moreover, Padre Martini considered Rameau’s theory, in general, a form of «destructive music method».
This transition of Vogler from Padre Martini (Bologna) to Padre Vallotti (Padua), well documented also through some letters written by Mozart, then proved to be particular crucial for the difficult steps of the career of Mozart in Mannheim in 1777 and 1778.
Despite what happened with Vogler, it seems that Padre Martini and Padre Vallotti admired each other and, when Padre Vallotti died, Padre Martini became the musical heir of Padre Vallotti.
Mozart, Padre Martini & the Mannheim Affair (1777-1778)
It is well known, how Mozart, in 1777 and 1778, tried to build a solid musical career in Mannheim, but had to face a strong position held by Vogler there and other difficulties. Despite the enthusiasm and interest of Leopold for the theoretical work of Vogler, Mozart never managed to find a path of dialogue and collaboration with Vogler and one of the reasons for this (according to Mozart’s letters) was the atmosphere of criticism and reciprocal accusation existing between Vogler and Padre Martini.
Despite the presence of Vogler in Mannheim, Mozart and Leopold tried to have the support and the recommendations of Padre Martini for the Court of Mannheim, but the whole scheme miserably failed, even though Padre Martini wrote many letters to the opera singer Raaff, as a possible supporter of Mozart at the Court of Mannheim.
After some time, in what seems to appear a sort of intrigue of some kind, Mozart will discover that all the letters written and sent by Padre Martini from Bologna to Raaff and to the Court the Mannheim just disappeared somehow and somewhere and just never reached their intended destination.
Moreover, it is fact that Padre Martini, in Bologna, in the years 1777 and 1778 was in a very difficult situation in his own town and didn’t have that particular musical and professional prestige he had in 1770 any more, due to a series of serious quarrels with the Accademia Filarmonica di Bologna, which led him, in the end, to an official act of resignation from the Accademia (29 December 1781).
So the Mannheim scheme of Mozart in the autumn 1777 began under bad auspices and his most revered master and teacher, Padre Martini, who was himself in troubles in his own town, de facto, could not do anything to support his pupil and his steps of career in Mannheim and to avoid all the intrigues behind the possibility of a solid position at the German Court.
K. 222: Padre Martini praises Mozart’s sacred music
On Sunday 5 March 1775 a particular sacred music work by Mozart was performed at the Munich Court Chapel. It’s the K. 222 Offertorium de tempore “Misericordias Domini”.
On 4 September 1776 Mozart sent this motet to Padre Martini at Bologna. Padre Martini praised the work by Mozart highly and asked Mozart to receive a painted portrait of Mozart: the importance of this request is due to the fact that Padre Martini, as historian of music, had the habit of collecting the portraits of the people he considered great and important.
Here the original letter sent by Padre Martini to Mozart from Bologna on 18 December 1776 with a technical judgement of Mozart’s work.
«Together with your most kind letter, which reached me by way of Trent, I received the Motet… It was with pleasure that I studied it from beginning to end, and I can tell you in all sincerity that I was singularly pleased with it, finding in it all that is required by Modern Music: good harmony, mature modulation, a moderate pace in the violins, a natural connexion of the parts and good taste. I am delighted with it and rejoice that since I had the pleasure of hearing you at Bologna on the harpsichord you have made great stride in composition, which must be pursued ever more by practice, for Music is of such nature as to call for great exercise and study as long as one lives.»
This piece by Mozart is famous also for featuring a few sections of a choral melody similar to the one used by Beethoven for his 9th Symphony. Nonetheless, it is sure that Beethoven for his symphony was influenced also by other works which featured music elements similar to that used by Mozart (see Cannabich and others).
Padre Martini and a portrait of Mozart
Only on 22 December 1777 Leopold managed to have a painted portrait of Wolfgang ready to be sent to Padre Martini at Bologna.
It is still one of the best portrait of Wolfgang we have today, a work of a Salzburg painter.
The original portrait of Mozart (1777) for Padre Martini is today in theMuseo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.
The legacy of Padre Martini
The legacy of Padre Martini was already important in the 18th century, since his teachings were widely spread by his favourite pupil Stanislao Mattei at Bologna, who became the teacher of composition of another two among the greatest composers in history: G. Rossini and G. Donizetti.
Moreover, Padre Martini, beside the famous portraits, left to Bologna an amazing library with very important and extremely rare books on music history, music theory and thousands of music scores. Already Burney in 1770s had the possibility to visit the library of Padre Martini, which had already more than 17.000 books and works of any kind on music. The library of Padre Martini is now at the Museo internazionale e biblioteca della musica di Bologna.
Recently (since 2007) the efforts of Sugar Suvini-Zerboni, Sony and the Accademia degli Astrusi has been making the works by Padre Martini available again, through new printed editions of his works and DVDs.
So far one of the best CD Albums available is the one released by L’arpa festante & l’Ensemble Cantissimo (Ars Musici):
WORKS BY PADRE MARTINI
Various works by Padre Martini are available at IMSLP:
Giovanni Battista Martini: Scores
A) Theory works, letters and other works:
• Attestati in difesa del Sig. D. Jacopo Antonio Arrighi, maestri di cappella della Cattedrale di Cremona (1746)
• Regola agli organisti per accompagnare il canto fermo (1756)
• Storia della Musica 3 voll. (1757-61, 1770, 1781)
• Onomasticum (1763)
• Dissertatio de usu progressionis geometricae in musica (1767)
• Compendio della teoria de’ numeri per uso del musico (1769)
• Esemplare ossia saggio fondamentale pratico di contrappunto sopra il canto fermo 2 voll. (1774-75)
• Lettere del Sig. Francesco Maria Zanotti, del padre G.M., min. con., del padre Giovenale Sacchi (1782)
B) Compositions by Padre Martini:
• Opera Theatre:
• Azione Teatrale (Intermezzo: 1726)
• La Dirindina (Intermezzo: 1731)
• L’impresario delle Canarie (Intermezzo: 1744)
• Il maestro di musica (Intermezzo: 1746)
• Don Chisciotte (Intermezzo: 1746)
• various pieces of music for the theatre
• L’assunzione di Salomone al trono d’Israello (1734)
• S. Pietro (1738)
• S. Pietro (1739)
• Il sagrificio d’Abramo (sketches)
• Deposizione della Croce (lost)
• Sacred Music:
• 12 Masses 4 v. with instruments
• 1 Requiem
• 2 Masses 8 v. with instruments
• 3 Masses 4 v. capp.
• 1 and 1 Missa pro defunctis with organ
• 3 Masses 8 v. capp.
• 1 Messa de’ Morti with organ
• 5 Masses Brevi 8 v. with instruments
• 7 Masses unfin. 2-3 v. capp.
• 3 Kyrie
• 2 Gloria
• 12 Credo
• 40 sections of Proprium Missae with instruments
• 101 Introitus
• 25 Graduali
• 26 Offertorium
• 32 Communiones capp.
• music for funerals and the Holy Week (54 Responsoria Hebdomadae Sanctae)
• 198 Psalms with instruments (of which 51 with double choir)
• 26 Magnificat
• 5 Nunc dimittis
• vespri, notturni, mattutini, inni, sequenze, antifone, litanie, mottetti
• 2 Te Deum
• 1 Requiem
• 9 Cantate spirituali a solo with instruments
• 1 Litaniae atque Antiphonae 4 v. cum organo et Instrum. ad lib. op. I (1734)
• Works for Orchestra:
• various symphonies
• concerto vl., ob., vcl. and strings
• 6 concertos harpsichord and strings
• concerto vl. and strings
• concerto vcl. and strings
• concerto piano and strings
• Chamber Music:
• sonatas vcl.
• sonatas 2 fl.
• sonatas vl. and 4 tr.
• various arias, cantatas and canons
• 12 Sonate d’intavolatura per l’organo e il cembalo (1742)
• 6 Sonate per l’organo e il cembalo (1747)
• Duetti da camera a diverse voci (1763)
• 52 canons 2-4 v.
|Three Missing Ovid Symphonies
Three missing Ovid Symphonies
by Dittersdorf became three 4-hands
piano sonatas. The original
orchestral score is still missing,
like the other 6 symphonies.
We have only 9 symphonies
(6 orchestra+3 4-hands piano)
out of the original 15 symphonies
Dittersdorf was on friendly
James Tibbles & Michael Tsalka
Who is Gottfried van Swieten?
Usually a rather blurred figure in Mozart’s biographies, in reality, Baron Gottfried van Swieten exerted an enormous influence on the development of Mozart’s interests in music composition and then also on Haydn and on the young Beethoven. Furthermore, van Swieten (a freemason himself, like Mozart), with the Abbé Stadler, had a crucial role in the promotion of Mozart’s works carried on by Constanze, after December 1791.
The son of the Vampirism scholar Gerard van Swieten
The father of Baron van Swieten, Gerard van Swieten, was an important Dutch-Austrian physician, who in 1745 became the personal physician of the Austria Imperial family and, in particular, of the Empress Maria Theresa.
From 1718 to 1732, suddenly, a previously unknown brutal myth on vampirism reached also Austria from Serbia and received a wide sudden diffusion throughout Europe and many scholars were called by the local authorities to directly investigate the phenomenon and to eradicate it.
Maria Theresa asked Gerard van Swieten to investigate and was sent to Moravia in 1755, to study the case. In 1768 Gerard van Swieten published his Essay against vampirism Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts, which led Maria Theresa to ban all traditional defences to vampires, as the product of vain fear and of superstitious credulity.
In 1774 and in 1789 (2nd edition) the Dissertazione sopra i Vampiri by Giuseppe Davanzati, Bishop of Trani, appeared, to support the Essay by Gerard van Swieten and Maria Theresa’s laws. Unfortunately the superstition was difficult to eradicate and, thus, in the end, the authorities tried to transform vampirism in an art genre, to defeat it, by using also opera and comic opera (among the first works, the comic opera I vampiri by Silvestro Palma, 1812, which promotes the rationalist theories of Giuseppe Davanzati).
van Swieten and the von Jacquins friends of Mozart
The fact that Mozart and his wife Constanze were close friends of Gottfried von Jacquin and his sister Franziska, is well known. What probably many still fail to consider is that both Gottfried and Franziska von Jacquin belonged to the circle of van Swieten’s close friends. In fact the father of Gottfried and Franziska was Nikolaus von Jacquin, a famous and important scholar and a personal pupil of van Swieten’s father, Gerard van Swieten. Even more, Nikolaus von Jacquin named a genus of mahogany after his mentor and friend Gerard van Swieten, the Swietenia. So Mozart and his wife, by regularly attending the von Jacquins, just remained within the group of close friends of van Swieten.
Mozart and the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program
Thanks to Mozart’s letters and Weigl’s autobiography and some reminiscences of Salieri, we are rather well informed on the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program held at his apartments from the Spring 1782 to some years later.
At 12 every Sunday, Mozart, Starzer, Teyber, van Swieten and, probably only on a few occasions, also Salieri met at van Swieten’s apartments to study and perform works by Handel, Graun, J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach. F. Bach, with Mozart accompanying at the fortepiano, van Swieten singing discant, Mozart also singing alto, Starzer tenor, Teyber bass. According to Weigl, when Salieri was there, he also sang some part.
Thanks to this sort of private academies, Mozart developed his peculiar taste for Handel’s and Bach’s works, now made known and available through the rare and difficult to find scores of van Swieten, and their art of counterpoint, a taste that well emerges in his major works from 1782 to 1791 (Mass in C Minor, Haydn Quartets, The Magic Flute, Requiem etc.).
Mozart tried to promote, instead, during such occasions, the knowledge of the sacred music works by Michael Haydn and Eberlin, even though, as far as we know, he decided not to promote Eberlin’s keyboard art of fugue, because he found it on a lower level in comparison to Bach and Handel.
The presence of Salieri at these private academies at van Swieten’s are much disputed, because his pupil Weigl tells this story and because Salieri’s own reminiscences of these academies are certainly heavily manipulated and distorted: i.e. Salieri was the leader of these academies and Mozart used to call him papa all the time (difficult to believe, because Salieri was not much older than Mozart and could not be a papa to Mozart).
van Swieten’s political roles & his influence on Mozart’s works
From 1780 to 1782 van Swieten reached a high position at Court with Joseph II, earning an annual salary of ca. 20.000 florins (ca. 140.000 modern US dollars).
He became Councillor of State, Director of the State Education Commission (1781) and Director of a new Censorship Commission (1782). van Swieten, in his official role, supported and carried on the program of reforms of Joseph II. If Mozart’s works, like Le Nozze di Figaro, and certain parts of Don Giovanni (regularly censored and cut in 1800s) and, on a certain level also The Magic Flute, were freely performed in Austria in 1780s, that was also the result of the activity of van Swieten within the Censorship Commission, which increased certain forms of freedom.
As is well known, the death of Joseph II (and the French Revolution) created troubles to all the people who worked for Joseph II. And van Swieten, already considered the person responsible for too much revolutionary freedom and for other disasters of the Imperial administration, was discharged from his commission post by Leopold II on 5 December 1791, the same day as the death of Mozart, while Imperial informers were building an act of accusation against Mozart’s The Magic Flute, considered a satire against Louis XVI of France and the Austria Emperor’s sister Marie Antoinette and an obscure promotion of the French Revolution.
Mozart, van Swieten and the Handel controversy
The strong interest of van Swieten in the music by Handel, if, on the one hand, it led to the birth of great masterpieces like Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Haydn’s Oratorios and Beethoven’s various works, on the other hand, unfortunately reached also levels of a sort of fanaticism hard to be comprehended.
In 1786 van Swieten organized the Gesellschaft der Associierten (Society of Associated Cavaliers), to organize the performance of great orchestral works in Vienna. In 1788 van Swieten chose Mozart as official conductor of the Society and from 1788 to 1790 commissioned Mozart to write a revised and updated (mainly in the orchestration) edition of four major works by Handel: Acis and Galatea (1788), The Messiah (1789), Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1790), Alexander’s Feast (1790).
Despite Mozart’s intense activity on Handel, van Swieten kept a certain pressure on Mozart, because he wanted Mozart to write a purer Handelian work (possibly an oratorio?), to prove he was a real great composer (!?). From this, also the long lasting debate on Mozart’s borrowing from Handel in building his famous Requiem, considered already in 1790s also a collection of reminiscences of Handelian themes firstly heard by Mozart in his famous Tour in England when a child prodigy.
Moreover a letter of van Swieten written in 1798 ignited the Handel controversy among Mozart supporters, since van Swieten clearly declares himself unsatisfied with the work carried on by Mozart, but not with that carried on by Haydn, who really managed to prove himself a great composer on the same level as Handel. Mozart simply failed to prove this, due to his sudden death.
Here the infamous words from van Swieten’s letter (December 1798):
«Undoubtedly it [i.e. the level of Handel and of the two Bachs] would have been reached by Mozart, had he not been snatched from us prematurely. Joseph Haydn, conversely, truly stands there [i.e. with Handel the two Bachs]».
The harsh judgment of van Swieten simply means that Haydn, in the end, managed to deliver a great Oratorio, The Creation, in the high style of Handel, while Mozart miserably failed in doing this, due to his sudden death (!?).
van Swieten helps Constanze
After the death of Mozart, van Swieten actively helped Constanze Mozart and her children both financially and socially. Apart from his famous intervention for the funeral of Mozart, he promoted benefit concerts in favour of Constanze’s family and took care of the education of the young Karl Mozart. His role proved particularly crucial, in Prague, in April 1794, to save the young Karl Mozart, the 9 year old child of Wolfgang, from a trap organized by the supporters of Salieri in Prague: Karl Mozart had to publicly appear on stage during the performance of Salieri’s opera Axur «as the boy who is offered up for sacrifice». The immediate intervention of van Swieten and of his mother Constanze saved the boy from this orchestrated form of public humiliation against the child of Mozart by the supporters of Salieri.
van Swieten as composer, librarian, copyright promoter
van Swieten, who had studied music in his youth with a pupil of J.S. Bach and had become a member of the musical circle of the princess Anna Amalia, was also a composer and not only a simple patron of the musical arts.
While as patron van Swieten had already patronized the son of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach (6 Symphonies H. 657–662, 1773; Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, 1781) before reaching Vienna, through the years van Swieten developed his own musical compositions.
Today the critics are largely divided on the quality of his music. Even though The Grove Dictionary is particularly harsh in his judgment on van Swieten’s musical works, other scholars give more cautious opinions on his music works, especially because a few of them were considered for long time and printed and published as works by Haydn (3 of van Swieten’s Symphonies were printed and re-printed as Haydn’s Op. 29 for many years). Curiously enough, instead, Haydn considered most of van Swieten symphonies in the old fashioned 3 movements style, «as stiff as the man himself». Nonetheless, we know that Mozart conducted at least one of van Swieten’s symphonies in Vienna in 1782.
Probably also van Swieten’s surviving opéras comiques may deserve a better study and approach by both scholars and musicians, since his Les talents à la Mode has certain important affinities with Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne and features important, beautiful and very difficult coloratura arias and Colas toujours Colas, mostly in the pastoral style, has passages with strong affinities with Haydn’s The Seasons (in particular, the hunt scene).
As librarian and copyright promoter, van Swieten not only expanded the official Imperial library with books on science, but kept promoting music, by collecting rare scores and trying to convince the Emperor Joseph II, in 1784, to adopt the new copyright and royalties law in favour of the authors of works of art. In the end, Joseph II rejected the proposal by van Swieten and the system of copyright and royalties, so, was not available for those living under the Austrian Empire. Such law would have certainly changed the life of Mozart in better, by making it a bit easier.
The importance of van Swieten as Imperial Court librarian is due also to the fact that he is considered the first librarian in Europe to use the first form of library catalog, entirely based on a easily searchable system of cards, instead of the usual old bound volumes.
van Swieten, Haydn and the young Beethoven
The great interest of van Swieten in Handel’s music was also a distinctive trait of his patronage relationship with Haydn and the young Beethoven.
It is well known how, thanks to van Swieten and his intense activity of patron, music promoter, librettist and public concerts organizer in Vienna, Haydn managed to carry out his three great oratorio projects of the 1790s: The Seven Last Words of Christ (1795/96), The Creation (1796/98) and The Seasons (1799/1801). Nonetheless the personal relationship between the two men was not always easy, as it happened with the famous quarrel between Haydn and van Swieten on the French-style passages Haydn disliked for The Seasons, the Frenchified trash.
Instead, a lesser known episode of van Swieten’s life is his fundamental role, in 1790s, in the development of young Beethoven‘s interest in Handel’s and Bach’s music, as he had done with Mozart many years earlier. This time, he accomplished his music educational program through a long series of soirées at his home, usually starting at 8.30 pm, with Beethoven who was expected to play many pieces of music and especially many fugues by Bach for various hours in the night and then to sleep at home of van Swieten.
So, when Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries wrote: «Of all composers, Beethoven valued Mozart and Handel most highly, then S. Bach.», we know that Beethoven was, in this, highly influenced by van Swieten’s program of music education, based principally on the fact that, still in 1790s, van Swieten was one of the few owners of many scores by these authors, scores which were, in certain cases, still particularly rare to find on the 18th century market of music.
In 1801 Beethoven dedicated his 1st Symphony Op. 21 to van Swieten: Erste Symphonie von L. van Beethoven Dem Baron van Swieten gewidmet.
van Swieten & Vermeer
The father of van Swieten was the owner of one of the greatest masterpieces in the History of Art, painted by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, between 1665 and 1675. Then the painting became property of his son, Baron Gottfried van Swieten. They both probably ignored the name of the real author of the painting, since, until 1860, the painting was considered a work by Pieter de Hooch.
Ten years after the death of van Swieten, in 1813, the painting was sold to the family of the Bohemian-Austrian Counts Czernin.
WORKS BY VAN SWIETEN
A) Compositions by van Swieten:
• Ariette for La Rosière de Salency (1769)
• Opéra comique: Les talents à la Mode
• Opéra comique: Colas toujours Colas
• Opéra comique: La chercheuse d’esprit (lost)
• 10 Symphonies (7 surviving), 3 of them for long time considered works by F. J. Haydn as Op. 29 (according to some sources the symphonies were at least 12)
At imslp.org the score of van Swieten’s opera Colas toujours Colas is now available: Colas toujours Colas.
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|A Viennese Quartet Party
String Quartets by
Haydn, Mozart, Vanhal & Dittersdorf.
In 1784 to celebrate Paisiello in Vienna
The Revolutionary Drawing Room