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The break with Salzburg and the early Viennese years, 1780–83.
In the summer of 1780, Mozart received a commission to compose a serious opera for Munich, and the Salzburg cleric Giovanni Battista Varesco was engaged to prepare a libretto based on Danchet's Idomenée. The plot concerns King Idomeneus of Crete, who promises Neptune that if spared from a shipwreck he will sacrifice the first person he sees and is met on landing by his son Idamantes. Mozart began to set the text in Salzburg; he already knew several of the singers, from Mannheim, and could draft some of the arias in advance.
Mozart arrived in Munich on 6 November 1780. Both the performing score of the opera (not taken into consideration by the Neue Mozart-Ausgabe; see Münster, J1982) and Mozart's letters to his father, who was in close touch with Varesco, offer insights into the genesis of the work and its modification during rehearsal. The matters that chiefly occupied Mozart were, first, the need to prune an overlong text; secondly, the need to make the action more natural; and third, the need to accommodate the strengths and weaknesses of the singers. Several cuts were made in December, during rehearsals, and Mozart continued to trim the score even after the libretto was sent to the printer at the beginning of January; a second libretto was printed to show the final text (although in the event still more adjustments were made, as the performing score makes clear). Much of the secco and accompanied recitative was cut, as well as sections of the ceremonial choral scenes and probably three arias in the last act. In a letter of 15 November to his father, Mozart described his concerns for both dramatic credibility and the singers' capabilities:
[Raaff] was with me yesterday. I ran through his first aria for him and he was very well pleased with it. Well – the man is old and can no longer show off in such an aria as that in Act 2 – ‘Fuor del mar ho un mar nel seno’. So, as he has no aria in Act 3 and as his aria in Act 1, owing to the expression of the words, cannot be as cantabile as he would like, he wishes to have a pretty one to sing (instead of the quartet) after his last speech, ‘O Creta fortunata! O me felice!’ Thus too a useless piece will be got rid of – and Act 3 will be far more effective. In the last scene of Act 2 Idomeneo has an aria or rather a sort of cavatina between the choruses. Here it will be better to have a mere recitative, well supported by the instruments. For in this scene which will be the finest in the whole opera … there will be so much noise and confusion on the stage that an aria at this particular point would cut a poor figure – and moreover there is the thunderstorm, which is not likely to subside during Herr Raaff's aria, is it?
The opera was first given on 29 January 1781, with considerable success. Both Leopold and Nannerl, who had travelled from Salzburg, were in attendance, and the family remained in Munich until mid-March. During this time Mozart composed the recitative and aria Misera! dove son … Ah! non son’ io che parlo k369, the Oboe Quartet k370 and possibly three piano sonatas (k330–32 although these many equally date from his first month in Vienna).
On 12 March Mozart was summoned to Vienna, where Archbishop Colloredo and his retinue were temporarily in residence for the celebrations of the accession of Emperor Joseph II; he arrived on 16 March, lodging with the archbishop's entourage. Fresh from his triumphs in Munich, Mozart was offended at being treated like a servant, and the letters that he wrote home over the next three months reflect not only increasing irritation and resentment – on 8 April the archbishop refused to allow him to perform for the emperor at Countess Thun's and thereby earn the equivalent of half his annual Salzburg salary – but also a growing enthusiasm for the possibility of earning his living, at least temporarily, as a freelance in Vienna. Matters came to a head on 9 May: at a stormy interview with Colloredo, Mozart asked for his discharge. At first he was refused, but at a meeting with the chief steward, Count Arco, on 8 June, he was finally and decisively released from Salzburg service, ‘with a kick on my arse … by order of our worthy Prince Archbishop’ (letter of 9 June 1781).
About this time Mozart moved to the house of the Webers, his former Mannheim friends, who had moved to Vienna after Aloysia's marriage to the court actor Joseph Lange, although in order to scotch rumours linking him with the third daughter, Constanze, he moved again in late August to a room in the Graben. He made a modest living at first, teaching three or four pupils, among them Josepha von Auernhammer (for whom he wrote the Sonata for two pianos k448) and Marie Karoline, Countess Thiennes de Rumbeke, cousin of Count Johann Phillipp von Cobenzl, the court vice-chancellor and chancellor of state (whom Mozart had met in Brussels in autumn 1763). He also participated in, or had works performed at, various concerts: the Tonkünstler-Societät gave one of his symphonies on 3 April (Mozart later applied for membership in the society, which provided pensions and benefits for the widows and orphans of Viennese musicians, but he failed to provide a birth certificate and his application was never approved); and on 23 November he played at a concert sponsored by Johann Michael von Auernhammer. Later Mozart participated in a series of Augarten concerts promoted by Philipp Jakob Martin. At the first of these, on 26 May 1782, he played a two-piano concerto with Josepha von Auernhammer (the programme also included a symphony by him). Mozart's own first public concert took place on 3 March 1782, possibly at the Burgtheater. The programme included the concertos k175 (with the newly composed finale k382) and k415, numbers from Lucio Silla and Idomeneo, and a free fantasy; on 23 March Mozart wrote to his father that the new concerto finale was ‘making … a furore in Vienna’. During this period he also played regularly at the home of Baron Gottfried van Swieten, where Handel and Bach were staples of the repertory.
By the end of 1781, Mozart had established himself as the finest keyboard player in Vienna; although he was not without competitors, few could match his pianistic feats. The most serious challenge, perhaps, came from Clementi, with whom Mozart played in an informal contest at Emperor Joseph II's instigation on 24 December. Clearly Mozart was perturbed by the event: although he was judged to have won, and Clementi later spoke generously of his playing, Mozart in his letters repeatedly disparaged the Italian pianist. It is likely that Clementi's skill took Mozart by surprise; the emperor must have been impressed as well, for he continued to speak of the contest for more than a year. That same month saw the appearance of Mozart's first Viennese publication, a set of six keyboard and violin sonatas (k296 and 376–80, of which two, k296 and 378 had been composed earlier). They were well received; a review in C.F. Cramer's Magazin der Musik (4 April 1783) described them as ‘unique of their kind. Rich in new ideas and traces of their author's great musical genius’.
The most important composition of this period, however, was Die Entführung aus dem Serail, the libretto of which was given to Mozart at the end of July 1781. Originally planned for September, the première was postponed until the following summer (Mozart had completed the first act in August 1781). The opera was a great success: Gluck requested an extra performance, Schikaneder's troupe mounted an independent production in September 1784 (although the aria ‘Martern aller Arten’ was replaced because the orchestra was incapable of performing the obbligato solos), and productions were soon mounted in cities throughout German-speaking Europe. The earliest lengthy obituary of Mozart, in the Musikalische Korrespondenz der Teutschen Filarmonischen Gesellschaft of 4 January 1792, described the work as ‘the pedestal upon which his fame was erected’.
In his letters to Leopold, Mozart described in detail several of his decisions in composing the opera. He wrote on 26 September 1781:
in the original libretto Osmin has only [one] short song and nothing else to sing, except in the trio and the finale; so he has been given an aria in Act 1, and he is to have another in Act 2. I have explained to Stephanie the words I require for the aria [‘Solche hergelaufne Laffen’] – indeed, I had finished composing most of the music for it before Stephanie knew anything whatever about it. I am enclosing only the beginning and the end, which is bound to have a good effect. Osmin's rage is rendered comical by the use of the Turkish music. In working out the aria I have … allowed Fischer's beautiful deep notes to glow. The passage ‘Drum beim Barte des Propheten’ is indeed in the same tempo, but with quick notes; and as Osmin's rage gradually increases, there comes (just when the aria seems to be at an end) the Allegro assai, which is in a totally different metre and in a different key; this is bound to be very effective. For just as a man in such a towering rage oversteps all the bounds of order, moderation and propriety and completely forgets himself, so must the music too forget itself. But since passions, whether violent or not, must never be expressed to the point of exciting disgust, and as music, even in the most terrible situation, must never offend the ear, but must please the listener, or in other words must never cease to be music, so I have not chosen a key foreign to F (in which the aria is written) but one related to it – not the nearest, D minor, but the more remote A minor. Let me now turn to Belmonte's aria in A major, ‘O wie ängstlich, o wie feurig’. Would you like to know how I have expressed it – and even indicated his throbbing heart? By the two violins playing in octaves. This is the favourite aria of all who have heard it, and it is mine also. I wrote it expressly to suit Adamberger's voice. You see the trembling, the faltering, you see how his throbbing breast begins to swell; this I have expressed by a crescendo. You hear the whispering and the sighing – which I have indicated by the first violins with mutes and a flute playing in unison.
Mozart had already described his concern for naturalness, in both composition and performance, in a letter written in Paris on 12 June 1778:
Meis[s]ner, as you know, has the bad habit of making his voice tremble at times, turning a note that should be sustained into distinct crotchets, or even quavers – and this I never could endure in him. And really it is a detestable habit and one that is quite contrary to nature. The human voice trembles naturally – but in its own way – and only to such a degree that the effect is beautiful. Such is the nature of the voice; and people imitate it not only on wind instruments, but on string instruments too and even on the keyboard. But the moment the proper limit is overstepped, it is no longer beautiful – because it is contrary to nature.
Shortly after the première of Die Entführung, on 16 July, Mozart decided to go forward with his marriage to Constanze Weber, which he had first mooted to his father the previous December. Events gave him little choice: probably through his future mother-in-law's scheming, he was placed in a position where because of his alleged intimacy with Constanze he was required to agree to marry her or to compensate her. Mozart wrote to his father on 31 July 1782, asking for his approval, on 2 August the couple took communion together, on 3 August the contract was signed, and on 4 August they were married at the Stephansdom. Leopold's grudging consent did not arrive until the next day. The marriage appears to have been a happy one. Although Mozart described Constanze as lacking wit, he also credited her with ‘plenty of common sense and the kindest heart in the world’, and his letters to her, especially those written when he was on tour in 1789 and when she was taking the cure at Baden in 1791, are full of affection. There is little reason to imagine that she was solely, or even primarily, to blame for their chronic financial troubles, which surfaced only weeks after their marriage; the truth probably lies somewhere nearer Nannerl's statement, in 1792, that Mozart was incapable of managing his own financial affairs and that Constanze was unable to help him.
Mozart's departure from Salzburg, and his wedding to Constanze, triggered another acrimonious exchange with Leopold (whose letters from this period are lost, but their contents can be inferred from Mozart's). Leopold accused Wolfgang of concealing his affair with Constanze and, worse, of being a dupe, while Wolfgang, for his part, became increasingly anxious to defend his honour against reproaches of improper behaviour and his alleged failure to attend to his religious observations; he chastised his father for withholding consent to his marriage and for his lukewarm reaction to the success of Die Entführung. Mozart had reason to be upset: not only had Leopold repeatedly pressed him to return home, but in his dealings with Colloredo Mozart had been told by Count Arco that he could not leave his post without his father's permission. Despite his numerous successes in Vienna, he felt thwarted in his attempt to achieve a well-earned independence.
Presumably in order to heal the rift with his family, Mozart determined to take Constanze to Salzburg to meet his father and sister, although to Leopold's irritation the visit was several times postponed. The success of Die Entführung had catapulted Mozart to prominence: the opera was performed at the Burgtheater on 8 October, in the presence of the visiting Russian Grand Duke Paul Petrovich (Mozart directed from the keyboard, as he explained in a letter of 19 October 1782, ‘partly to rouse the orchestra, who had gone to sleep a little, partly … in order to appear before the royal guests as the father of my child’); and between November and March 1783 he played at concerts sponsored by Auernhammer (at the Kärntnertortheater), the Russian Prince Dmitry Golitsïn, Countess Maria Thun, Philipp Jakob Martin (at the casino ‘Zur Mehlgrube’), his sister-in-law Aloysia Lange (at the Burgtheater; according to Mozart's letter of 12 March, Gluck, who attended, ‘could not praise the symphony and aria too much’), Count Esterházy and the singer Therese Teyber. On 23 March Mozart gave his own academy at the Burgtheater, in the presence of the emperor. The programme may have included the Haffner Symphony k385 (composed in July 1782 to celebrate the ennoblement in Salzburg of Siegmund Haffner) and improvised variations on an aria from Gluck's La rencontre imprévue.
Mozart composed several new works for these occasions, including the piano concertos k413–15, later published by Artaria (although Mozart may not have conceived them as a set, the autographs show that some time in the spring of 1783 he thoroughly revised all three together), and three arias, k418–20, intended for a production of Pasquale Anfossi's Il curioso indiscreto at the Burgtheater on 30 June 1783. He also began work on the so-called ‘Haydn’ quartets. The first, k387, was completed in December 1782; the second, k421, was finished in June 1783, while Constanze was giving birth to their first child, Raimund Leopold, born on 17 June. (Mozart and Constanze had six children, four of whom died in infancy: Raimund Leopold (1783), (5) Karl Thomas, Johann Thomas Leopold (1786), Theresia (1787–8), Anna Maria (1789) and (6) Franz Xaver Wolfgang.)
Mozart and Constanze eventually set out in July (Raimund Leopold, who was left behind, died on 9 August); they remained in Salzburg for about three months. Later correspondence suggests that the visit was not entirely happy – Mozart was anxious about the success of the visit and about his father's reaction to Constanze – but details are lacking. While there, he probably composed his two violin-viola duos for Michael Haydn, who was behindhand with a commission from the archbishop, and parts of the Mass in C minor (k427, never completed) had their first hearing, possibly with Constanze singing, at St Peter's on 26 October. On the return journey to Vienna, Mozart paused at Linz, where he composed a symphony (k425) for a concert; the Piano Sonata k333 may also date from this time.
Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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