Mozart in Vienna
It's almost as difficult to avoid images of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-91) in Vienna as it is in his home town of Salzburg. For it was in Vienna that Mozart spent the last decade of his life, during which he composed nearly all his most famous works. Mozart moved to Vienna in March 1781 after a summons from his employer, the irascible Archbishop of Salzburg, Count Colloredo, who was visiting his sick father in the city. Within three months Mozart had resigned from his post as court organist to the archbishop, or "arch-oaf" ( ErzlÃ¼mmel ) as he called him in his letters, causing a rift with his overbearing father, who was assistant Kapellmeister in Salzburg. The relationship was further strained when Mozart, against his father's wishes, moved in with the all-female Weber family, and grew particularly attached to one of the daughters, Constanze. In August 1782 Mozart eventually married the 19-year-old Constanze in the Stephansdom. Their union appears to have been happy, despite most biographers' misogynist attacks on Constanze as unworthy of his genius. Mozart himself hated to be parted from her, if his letters - "I kiss and squeeze you 1,095,060,437,082 times" - and the fact that he rarely left her side, are anything to go by.
After giving many concerts as conductor and pianist, Mozart turned his hand again to opera, enjoying his greatest success in July 1782 with what is now the least known of his major operatic works, Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Escape from the Harem). It was after hearing Die Entführung for the first time that the Emperor Josef II is alleged to have said: "Too beautiful for our ears, and an awful lot of notes, dear Mozart"; to which Mozart replied, "No more notes than necessary, Your Majesty!" Such tales have led to a popular belief that Mozart and Josef were constantly feuding over artistic issues: in his letters, however, Mozart's criticisms of the notoriously stingy emperor were on purely financial matters.
Mozart's next opera, Le Nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), was premiered in May 1786 to a decidedly mixed reception, running for just nine performances. This was partly because its subject matter, in which a lecherous count is prevented from seducing a servant girl by an alliance between the serving classes and his own long-suffering wife, was controversial - as a play it had already been banned in Paris and Vienna. Josef II obviously liked it, however, inviting the cast to give a special performance at his summer residence at Laxenburg. And Figaro's subversive overtones went down a storm in Prague, where Mozart premiered two later operas, Don Giovanni and La Clemenza di Tito (The Clemency of Tito), both of which were written in Vienna. Mozart's final work was his Requiem , which was commissioned anonymously by an "unknown messenger" in the last year of Mozart's life. Only after Mozart's death did the patron's identity become known: it was the recently widowed Count Franz Walsegg-Stuppach, who wished to pass the composition off as his own. In the end it became Mozart's own Requiem , still unfinished when he died during the night of December 4-5, 1791, after two weeks of rheumatic fever. Few biographers have forgiven Constanze for not attending the funeral service at the Stephansdom; others assert that she was too distraught to attend. She has also been criticized for having the Requiem completed by one of Mozart's pupils, Sussmayr, so as to get the final payment - though this seems fair enough for a widow left with two children to raise (and apparently it was Mozart's suggestion on his deathbed).
Yet more anecdotes surround the generally accepted rivalry with the Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri, though this, too, has been overplayed. Salieri was primarily an opera composer, while Mozart, at least until 1786, was known chiefly as an instrumental composer and virtuoso pianist. Some went as far as to suggest that Salieri himself poisoned Mozart, an allegation strenuously denied by Salieri on his deathbed years later, but to no avail: Alexander Pushkin dramatized it, Nicolai Rimsky-Korsakov made it into an opera, and most famously, Amadeus , Peter Shaffer's play on the subject, was made into an Oscar-winning film by Milos Forman.
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