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With his return to Vienna in late November 1783, Mozart entered on what were to be the busiest and most successful years of his life. On 22 December he performed a concerto in a concert mounted by the Tonkünstler-Societät, and on 25 January 1784 he conducted a performance of Die Entführung for the benefit of Aloysia Lange. He gave three subscription concerts in the private hall of the Trattnerhof in March, and a grand musical academy at the Burgtheater on 1 April; the programme included a ‘quite new’ symphony, possibly the Linz (k425), a new concerto (k450 or 451), the Quintet for piano and wind (k452) and an improvisation. The 1785 season was similar: there where six subscription concerts at the Mehlgrube beginning on 11 February (including the first performance of the D minor Concerto k466) and another grand academy at the Burgtheater on 10 March. It was chiefly for these concerts that, between February 1784 and December 1786, Mozart composed a dozen piano concertos (from k449 to k503), unquestionably the most important works of their kind. Perhaps in recognition of his risen star, in February 1784 Mozart started keeping a list of his new works, the Verzeichnüss aller meiner Werke, recording the incipit and the date of each (see fig.6). The catalogue is a primary source of information concerning Mozart's compositional activities during the 1780s, documenting among other things several lost compositions, including the aria Ohne Zwang, aus eignem Triebe k569, the contredanses k565 and an Andante for a violin concerto k470.
In addition to his public performances, Mozart was also in demand for private concerts: in March 1784 alone he played 13 times, mostly at the houses of Count Johann Esterházy and the Russian ambassador, Prince Golitsïn. By the same token, visiting and local virtuosos and concert organizations frequently gave newly commissioned works by him in their programmes: on 23 March the clarinettist Anton Stadler mounted a performance of the Wind Serenade k361, and on 29 April Mozart and the violinist Regina Strinasacchi played the Sonata k454. (Mozart is said to have performed from a blank or fragmentary copy; it is clear from the autograph that the violin part was written first and the piano one added later.) The Tonkünstler-Societät gave the cantata Davidde penitente (k469, arranged from the unfinished Mass in C minor k427) in March 1785; Mozart played a concerto for the same group in December. These works and performances brought Mozart considerable acclaim. A review of the December Tonkünstler-Societät concert noted ‘the deserved fame of this master, as well known as he is universally valued’ (Wiener Zeitung, 24 December). Earlier that year Leopold Mozart, who visited Wolfgang in Vienna in February and March 1785, wrote to Nannerl describing a quartet party at Mozart’s home at which Haydn told him, ‘Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition’.
His publications were numerous. Torricella brought out the three sonatas k333, k284 and k454; in July 1784 Lausch advertised manuscript copies of six piano concertos; and in February 1785 Traeg offered copies of three symphonies. The most significant publications, however, were possibly the three concertos k413–15, published by Artaria in March 1785, and the six quartets dedicated to Haydn, brought out by Artaria in September of that year. The success of these works seems to have brought about a fundamental shift in Mozart's attitude to composition and publishing. After mid-1786, several works were planned primarily with a view to publication rather than public performance; these include the piano quartets k478 and 493, the three piano trios k496, 542 and 548, the C major and G minor string quintets k515 and 516, the Hoffmeister Quartet k499 and the Sonata for piano and violin k526.
Although opera remained central to Mozart's ambitions throughout this period, there was no opportunity to build on the success of Die Entführung: by late 1782, Joseph II decided to close down the Nationaltheater (which he had founded in 1776 to promote German-language culture) and to re-establish Italian opera. Mozart was quick to capitalize on the change, although he had little luck in finding a suitable text; on 7 May 1783 he wrote to his father, ‘I have looked through at least a hundred librettos and more, but I have scarcely found a single one with which I am satisfied’. He therefore asked Leopold to have Varesco, the Salzburg poet and librettist of Idomeneo, provide a text. This was L'oca del Cairo, which Mozart received from Salzburg in June 1783. He may have worked on it during his visit to Salzburg, but the project was apparently abandoned by the end of the year, by which time he had sketched out seven pieces, including a large sectional finale. In 1785, or possibly earlier, he began work on Lo sposo deluso, ossia La rivalità di tre donne per un solo amante, which he based on the libretto used by Cimarosa for his opera Le donne rivali of 1780 (see Zaslaw, in Sadie, B1996), but this too was left incomplete: of the five surviving numbers – an overture, a quartet, a trio and two arias – only the trio, ‘Che accidenti, che tragedia’, is completely orchestrated. A one-act comedy, Der Schauspieldirektor k486, was given early in 1786 in the Orangery at Schloss Schönbrunn, together with Salieri's Prima la musica e poi le parole (both were commissioned for a visit by the Governor-General of the Austrian Netherlands), and in March a private performance of a revised version of Idomeneo was given at Prince Auersperg's; among other changes, Mozart wrote the duet ‘Spiegarti non poss'io’ (k489) to replace ‘S'io non moro a questi accenti’ and the scena and rondò ‘Non più, tutto ascoltai … Non temer, amato bene’ (k490) to replace the original beginning of Act 2.
The topic of Mozart's first documented collaboration with Lorenzo da Ponte, Le nozze di Figaro (fig.7) was no doubt carefully chosen: Beaumarchais' play, La folle journée, ou Le mariage de Figáro, had been printed in German translation in Vienna in 1785, although performances by Schikaneder's theatrical company had been banned; further, it was a sequel to Beaumarchais' Le barbier de Séville, ou La précaution inutile, of which Paisiello's operatic version, given at Vienna in May 1784, had been a great success. Work on Figaro was started by October or November 1785, and the opera came to the stage of the Burgtheater on 1 May 1786. The initial run was a success: many items were applauded and encored at the first three performances, prompting the emperor to restrict encores at later ones to the arias. Letters from Leopold to Nannerl Mozart make it clear that there was a good deal of intrigue against the work, allegedly by Salieri and Vincenzo Righini, while a pamphlet published in Vienna in 1786 (Ueber des deutsche Singspiel des Apotheker des Hrn. v. Dittersdorf; see Eisen, A1991) similarly claims that ‘[The foreign partisans] … have completely lost their wager, for Mozart's Nozze di Figaro … [has] put to shame the ridiculous pride of this fashionable sect’. An equally biting comment appeared in the Wiener Zeitung for 11 July: ‘Herr Mozart's music was generally admired by connoisseurs already at the first performance, if I except only those whose self-love and conceit will not allow them to find merit in anything not written by themselves’.
The allegedly seditious politics of the opera may be overstated: Da Ponte was careful to remove the more inflammatory elements of Beaumarchais' play, and the characters and events of the opera are well situated within the commedia dell'arte tradition. Nevertheless, social tensions remain, as in Figaro's ‘Se vuol ballare’, the Act 2 finale, and the Count's music early in Act 3. Individual arias also reflect the social standing of the various characters: this may be exemplified by a comparison of Bartolo's blustery, parodistic vengeance aria ‘La vendetta’ and the Count's ‘Vedrò, mentr'io sospiro’, with its overtones of power and menace, or between the breadth and smoothness of the Countess's phraseology as opposed to Susanna's. Ultimately, however, Figaro may be no more than a comic domestic drama, though not without reflecting contemporary concerns about gender and society (see Hunter, J1999).
The presumed political implications of Mozart's masonic activities may also be overstated. On 11 December 1784 he had become a freemason at the lodge ‘Zur Wohlthätigkeit’ (‘Beneficence’), which in 1786, at Joseph II's orders, was amalgamated with the lodges ‘Zur gekrönten Hoffnung’ (‘Crowned Hope’) and ‘Drei Feuern’ (‘Three Fires’) into ‘Zur neugrekrönten Hoffnung’ (‘New Crowned Hope’) under the leadership of the well-known scientist Ignaz von Born. The society was essentially one of liberal intellectuals, concerned less with political ideals than with the philosophical ones of the Enlightenment, including nature, reason and the brotherhood of man; the organization was not anti-religious, and membership was compatible with Mozart's faith (Landon, G1982, suggests that an anonymous oil painting showing a meeting of a Viennese lodge includes, in the lower right corner, a portrait of Mozart; fig.8). Mozart frequently composed for masonic meetings: the cantata Die Maurerfreude k471, for tenor, male chorus and orchestra, was written to honour Born, and various versions of the Maurerische Trauermusik k477 were given in 1786 (Autexier, L1984); several songs and other occasional works, too, were composed for lodge meetings. The masonic style is not restricted to music intended exclusively for lodge performance, but appears elsewhere in Mozart's works, with respect to both general themes, as in Die Zauberflöte, and specific musical constructions: Sarastro's aria ‘O Isis und Osiris’, with its strophic, antiphonal structure, is identical in form with other Viennese masonic songs of the 1780s.
Mozart had first made his way in Vienna by taking pupils, and he continued to do so throughout the mid-1780s: the most important of these was Johann Nepomuk Hummel, who lodged with him between 1786 and 1788. Mozart also taught the English composer Thomas Attwood, whose surviving exercises (now in GB-Lbl; ed. in NMA, X:30/i) testify to Mozart's careful, systematic teaching methods, and perhaps carry hints as to how Mozart himself had been taught (see Heartz, H1974). The ‘English’ connection was already strong at the time of Figaro: the first Don Curzio was Michael Kelly (in fact an Irishman), and the first Susanna the soprano Nancy Storace; it is likely that Nancy's brother, Stephen – who later pilfered part of the ‘Rondo alla turca’ of the Sonata k331 in his opera The Siege of Belgrade – also consulted informally with Mozart on matters of composition. (After his return to London, Storace prepared a series of publications which included in 1789 the first edition of the Piano Trio k564, in a text that differs from the first Viennese edition of 1790; he probably received a copy of the work from Mozart himself.)
The impending departure of the English contingent from Vienna, planned for the spring of 1787, led Mozart to consider a journey to London during late 1786, but that idea foundered when Leopold took a strong stand against the proposed journey and refused to look after Mozart's children (of Mozart's six children, only two, Carl, born in 1784, and Franz Xaver, born in 1791, survived to adulthood). Mozart did, however, accept an invitation to Prague, where Figaro had been a great success. He spent approximately four weeks there, from 11 January 1787, and clearly relished his popularity in the city. He directed a performance of Figaro and gave a concert including a new symphony written for the occasion (the Prague, k504 – there is reason to believe that Mozart originally intended to perform the Paris Symphony with a new finale, but, having written it, decided to compose an entirely new symphony altogether; see Tyson, D1987). And it was about this time that the Prague impresario Pasquale Bondini commissioned Mozart to write an opera for the following autumn. On his return to Vienna, Mozart asked Da Ponte for another libretto.
The plot of Don Giovanni, based like that of Figaro on tensions of class and sex, dates back at least to the time of Tirso de Molina (1584–1648), although Da Ponte drew on the most recent stage version, a one-act opera with music by Giuseppe Gazzaniga and a libretto by Giovanni Bertati, given in Venice in February 1787. Mozart left for Prague on 1 October; the première was planned for 14 October 1787, but because of inadequate preparation, Figaro was given instead and the new opera was postponed until 29 October, when it earned a warm reception. Mozart directed three or four performances before returning to Vienna in mid-November. During this time he also visited his friends the Dušeks at their villa outside Prague; he wrote the difficult aria Bella mia fiamma k528 for Josefa, an old Salzburg friend. Don Giovanni was staged in Vienna in May 1788, with several adaptations: Leporello's escape aria in Act 2 was replaced by a duet with Zerlina; Ottavio's ‘Il mio tesoro’ in Act 2 was replaced by ‘Dalla sua pace’ in Act 1, and Elvira was given a magnificent accompanied recitative and aria, ‘In quali eccessi … Mi tradì quell'alma ingrata’.
The two Da Ponte operas, along with the increasing success of his publications, initiated a new phase in Mozart's career. Not only did he now give fewer concerts – a grand academy at the Burgtheater on 7 April 1786, less than a month before the première of Figaro, was his last in that venue (the programme probably included the C minor Piano Concerto k491) – but other genres came to the fore in his output, including the symphony. The final symphonic triptych, composed between June and August 1788, was apparently intended for a concert series that autumn (Eisen, L1997); it is striking that Mozart chose these works, rather than concertos, for what may have been his first public concert appearance in two years. Whether these changes were also related to Mozart's appointment the previous December as court Kammermusicus, however, is unclear. Apparently he was required to do little more than write dances for court balls; nevertheless, Mozart welcomed the appointment, both for the dependable income it provided and for its advancement of his standing in Viennese musical circles. There is little reason to think that the relatively small salary of 800 gulden (Gluck, the previous incumbent, was paid 2000 gulden) was an insult to Mozart, for the post was superfluous to begin with; Joseph II later remarked that he had created the vacancy solely to keep Mozart in Vienna.
The death of Leopold Mozart in May 1787 may have initiated a fallow period for the composer, albeit at some months' distance: Mozart wrote relatively few works immediately following the Prague première of Don Giovanni, among them dances and piano music, songs and arias and at least part of a piano concerto (k537) in addition to the three new items for the Viennese première of his opera. A similar fallow period had followed the death of his mother in Paris in July 1778. Leopold's death also marked the final breakdown of the Salzburg Mozart family. Only Nannerl, who in 1784 had married the magistrate Johann Baptist Franz von Berchtold zu Sonnenburg and moved to St Gilgen, remained, and except for settling their father's estate, Mozart apparently failed to keep in contact with her (his last known letter to her is dated 2 August 1788). Nannerl was hurt by Mozart's lack of attention, so much so that when asked in 1792 to describe his life in Vienna, she pleaded ignorance, despite the fact that she had become personally acquainted with Constanze in 1783 and still had in her possession numerous letters from her father, many of them detailing Mozart's activities at the time.
Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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