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The final years.
Mozart's financial circumstances in Vienna can be measured in part by the locations and sizes of the numerous lodgings he rented there. In January 1784 he moved to the Trattnerhof, and in September of that year to an apartment, now Domgasse 5, in the heart of the town, close to the Stephansdom. By mid-1788, however, he had removed to the distant suburb of Alsergrund, where rents were considerably cheaper. It is from this time that a dismal series of begging letters to his fellow freemason Michael Puchberg survives. One refers to the poor response to his string quintet subscription, another to embarrassing debts to a former landlord, and a third to dealings with a pawnbroker; the letters continued well into 1790.
Mozart's finances during the Vienna years must be counted a mystery. Although he was never forced to do without a maid or other luxuries typical of a person of his standing, his finances were unstable. Estimates of his earnings are at best incomplete and unreliable. His main sources of income included profits from his public concerts and payments from private patrons; money earned from teaching; honoraria for publications; and, from 1788, his salary as court Kammermusicus. During his early years in Vienna Mozart's performances represented a good source of income. His subscription series of 1784 attracted well over 100 patrons at 6 gulden for three concerts, and, according to Leopold, he took in 559 gulden from his Burgtheater academy on 10 March 1785. He also must have received cash or other rewards from the princes Esterházy and Golitsïn, at whose homes he frequently performed; for his contest with Clementi Joseph II gave him 50 ducats. After 1786, however, this concert-giving income largely disappeared.
Teaching provided less, although Mozart enterprisingly formulated a scheme to ensure some regularity of payment, which he described to his father in a letter of 23 January 1782: ‘I no longer charge for 12 lessons, but monthly. I learnt to my cost that my pupils often dropped out for weeks at a time; so now, whether they learn or not, each of them must pay me 6 ducats’. Publications may also have brought in substantial sums, although the payment of 450 gulden that Mozart received from Artaria for the six quartets dedicated to Haydn was exceptional; he received less for the symphonies and the sonatas, quintets and other chamber works printed during the 1780s. On occasion he acted as his own publisher, sometimes with sorry results: a subscription for his string quintets in 1788 apparently failed. In 1791, however, he apparently sold copies of Die Zauberflöte for 100 gulden each. For the composition of an opera Mozart generally received 450 gulden; payments of this amount are documented for Die Entführung, Figaro and La clemenza di Tito (for Così fan tutte see below); his share of the profit from Die Zauberflöte, however, is unknown.
Mozart's day-to-day expenses, on the other hand, have been little explored. In addition to rent and food, his income had to cover substantial medical bills (chiefly resulting from Constanze's frequent cures), child-rearing expenses and a costly wardrobe (only some of the prices he paid for maintaining his standing in Vennese society, though gladly it seems). By all accounts he was generous to his friends, sometimes lending them money. Other expenses on other items must be taken into consideration as well, among them books, music and manuscript paper. Documents show that Mozart was in debt to the publisher Artaria throughout the 1780s, although it is unclear whether this represents monies owed before or after honoraria paid by Artaria for his published works (Ridgewell, G1999).
The estate documents are difficult to interpret. Mozart was in debt at the time of his death, but not to an excessive degree: the value of his estate, less than 600 gulden, was set against debts of about 900 gulden. However, this does not take into account a judgment of more than 1400 gulden awarded by the courts in November 1791 to Prince Karl Lichnowsky, who had sued Mozart, for unknown reasons (details of the affair and its resolution are known only summarily from an account in the Viennese archives; see Brauneis, G1991). Nevertheless, Constanze managed not only to pay off Mozart's debts but also to collect the value of the estate. It may be that she was provided for by Mozart's friends and patrons, chief among them van Swieten, or that her finances were secured by the sale of Mozart's music and the income from numerous benefit concerts.
Between 1788 and 1790, van Swieten contributed to Mozart's welfare by having him arrange for private performance several works by Handel, including Acis and Galatea (k566, November 1788), Messiah (k572, March 1789) and Alexander's Feast and the Ode for St Cecilia's Day (k591 and 592, both July 1790). But the situation in Vienna at the time was complicated by the Turkish war. One effect of this campaign was a general decline in musical patronage during 1788 and 1789, with fewer concerts than there had been earlier in the 1780s. (The war did provide Mozart with opportunities for composition, however, including the ‘Kriegslied’ Ich möchte wohl der Kaiser sein k539 and the works for mechanical organ, k594, 608 and 616, presumably composed for performance at a mausoleum established in memory of Field Marshal Gideon Laudon, hero of the Siege of Belgrade.)
Perhaps in an effort to alleviate his financial woes, or even to escape what he may have perceived as an oppressive Viennese atmosphere, Mozart undertook a concert tour of Leipzig, Dresden and Berlin in the late spring of 1789. Details of the journey are scarce. At Dresden he played chamber music privately and performed at court, in addition to playing in an informal contest with the organist J.W. Hässler, while at Leipzig he reportedly improvised at the Thomaskirche organ in the presence of the Kantor, J.F. Doles, a former Bach pupil. Mozart may have sold some compositions in Potsdam and Berlin, and he attended a performance of Die Entführung. Nevertheless, the journey was not without its rewards. In Leipzig Mozart renewed his acquaintance with Bach's music, obtaining a score of the motet Singet dem Herrn ein neues Lied! (bwv225); its impact is evident not only in the chorale of the Armed Men in Die Zauberflöte but also, more substantially, in the contrapuntal disposition and character of the finales of his two last string quintets, k593 and 614. And he was probably invited by King Friedrich Wilhelm II, an amateur cellist, to compose quartets and keyboard sonatas. Almost certainly he started work on this commission on the return journey to Vienna: the score of k575 (see fig.10) and part of that of k589 are written on manuscript paper originating from a mill between Dresden and Prague. When the quartets were finally published by Artaria in 1791, however, they lacked a dedication altogether. Mozart wrote to Puchberg on 12 June 1790, ‘I have now been obliged to give away my quartets … for a pittance, simply in order to have cash in hand’.
His continuing financial problems notwithstanding, Mozart's circumstances were beginning to improve by late 1789. In addition to the first of the ‘Prussian’ quartets, he wrote two replacement arias for a new production of Figaro on 29 August (‘Al desio di chi t'adora’ k577 and ‘Un moto di gioia mi sento’ k579, first heard at a Tonkünstler-Societät concert in December), as well as substitute arias for productions of Cimarosa's I due baroni (k578), probably for a German-language version of Paisiello's Il barbiere di Siviglia (k580), and for Martín y Soler's Il burbero di buon cuore (k582 and 583). His work attracted international interest: the poet Friedrich Wilhelm Gotter intended to offer Mozart his opera libretto Die Geisterinsel (in the event not set until 1796, by Friedrich Fleischmann), and in April 1791 Mozart was apparently offered a pension by two groups of patrons, one in Amsterdam, the other in Hungary.
His main energies, however, were given to the composition of Così fan tutte, his third collaboration with Da Ponte and the only one of the Da Ponte operas for which there is no direct literary source (although, like Don Giovanni, it has sources in Tirso de Molina). It may be that the libretto was wholly original to Mozart and the poet, for the subject is sometimes claimed to have been suggested to Mozart and Da Ponte by Joseph II himself, allegedly on the basis of a recent real-life incident. However, it is known that the libretto was initially offered to Salieri, who set some early numbers and then apparently abandoned it (Rice, J1987). Così fan tutte is widely reckoned to be the most carefully and symmetrically constructed of the Da Ponte operas. The three men (the two officers Ferrando and Guglielmo and their friend don Alfonso) and the three women (the sisters Dorabella and Fiordiligi and their servant Despina) each have an aria in each act; and the ensembles are calculated so that the four principals are kept in their pairs (officers and sisters), and given relatively little personal identity, until well on in Act 2, by which time the sisters are emotionally affected by their disguised lovers. At this point, the pervasive element of parody characteristic of the opera gives way to music more personal in tone, reflecting the characters' differing moral dilemmas.
Little is known of the opera's genesis. It was rehearsed at Mozart's home on 31 December and at the theatre on 21 January 1790 (Puchberg and Haydn probably attended both); the première was on 26 January. There were four further performances, then a break because of the death of Joseph II in February, and five more in the summer. Mozart apparently expected to receive 900 gulden for its composition, twice the usual amount, but documents survive only for a payment of 450 gulden (Edge, G1991). Although the opera was a success – receipts from the court theatre box offices show that it was one of the most heavily attended of the season (Edge, G1996) – it soon came to be criticized for its apparent moral shortcomings: female fickleness, in particular, was found shocking, and it is made more so by the convention (standing equally in Figaro and Don Giovanni) that the action should span no more than 24 hours. The opera is susceptible of other interpretations, however. Its appeal to commedia dell'arte traditions explains some of the characters and their behaviour, including the use of poison, disguises and elevated rhetoric (Goehring, J1993), while its balance of sympathy and ridicule presents a commentary on the strength and uncontrollability of amorous feelings and the value of a mature recognition of them.
Joseph II died on 20 February 1790, and with the accession of a new emperor, Leopold II, Mozart hoped for a preferment at court; none was forthcoming. Unlike his predecessor, Leopold (who until his coronation had ruled in Florence as Grand Duke of Tuscany) had musical tastes that were thoroughly Italian. During the two years of his reign he transformed Viennese musical theatre: he planned to replace the old Burgtheater with a magnificent new house, he reintroduced the ballet and revived opera seria, and he reformed comic opera. Although these changes were seemingly reactionary, they nevertheless looked to the future: they were responsible at least in part for the composition of Die Zauberflöte and La clemenza di Tito, both of which were influential in the early 19th century (Rice, J1995).
In order to take advantage of the coronation festivities, in which he had no official role, Mozart went in September 1790 to Frankfurt, taking his brother-in-law Franz de Paula Hofer and a servant. They arrived on 28 September, and Mozart gave a public concert on 15 October; though musically a success it was poorly attended and financially a failure. On the return journey Mozart gave a concert at Mainz, heard Figaro at Mannheim, and played before the King of Naples at Munich. He reached home about 10 November, joining Constanze at their new apartment in central Vienna, to which she had just moved.
A trip to England became a possibility again that autumn. Mozart was tendered an invitation for an opera, but declined (he was also promised an engagement like Haydn's by J.P. Salomon). During the winter months he composed a piano concerto (k595, possibly performed on 9 January 1791 by his pupil Barbara Ployer at a concert held by Prince Adam Auersperg in honour of the visit to Vienna of the King of Naples; see Edge, G1996) and the last two string quintets (k593 and 614). He played a concerto at a concert organized by the clarinettist Josef Bähr and an aria and a symphony were give at the Tonkünstler-Societät concerts in April. That same month Mozart secured from the city council the reversion to the important and remunerative post of Kapellmeister at the Stephansdom, where the incumbent Leopold Hofmann was aged and ill; he was appointed assistant and deputy, without pay, but in the end Hofmann outlived him.
It was for the festivities at Leopold II's coronation in Prague that Mozart composed La clemenza di Tito. Reports published soon after his death suggested that it had been written in only 18 days, some of it in the coach between Vienna and Prague, although it is more likely that it written over a period of six weeks. The impresario Domenico Guardasoni signed a contract with the Bohemian Estates on 8 July, and his first choice to compose a coronation opera (either on a subject to be suggested by the Grand Burgrave of Bohemia or, if time did not permit, on Metastasio's La clemenza di Tito, 1734), was Salieri. But Salieri refused the commission and the work fell to Mozart. Possibly this was in mid-July: the fact that Guardasoni's contract included an ‘escape clause’, allowing him to engage a different composer, suggests that he may already have expected Salieri to decline and discussed with Mozart the possibility of composing the opera. The text was arranged by Caterino Mazzolà, who cut much of the dialogue and 18 arias while adding four new ones, as well as supplying two duets, three trios and finale ensembles. In his catalogue, Mozart described Tito as ‘ridotto a vera opera’. The première took place on 6 September.
Mozart's works were widely published in 1791 – Viennese dealers produced nearly a dozen editions of his works in that year alone – and were intended for audiences that ranged far beyond court circles. Among them were the string quintets k593 and 614 (December 1790 and March 1791, respectively), the Concerto k622 for Anton Stadler (for whose basset-clarinet, with its downward extension of a major 3rd, Mozart also probably intended the Quintet k581), the Masonic cantata Laut verkünde unsre Freude k623, the aria Per questa bella mano k612, the piano variations on Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding k626, the motet Ave verum corpus k618, Die Zauberflöte k620 and the Requiem k626. Die Zauberflöte, written for Emanuel Schikaneder's suburban Theater auf der Wieden, was well under way by 11 June, as a reference in a letter to Constanze makes clear; possibly it was complete in July except for three vocal items, the overture and the march. The opera has several sources, among them Liebeskind's Lulu, oder Die Zauberflöte, published in Wieland's collection of fairly tales, Dschinnistan (1786–9); this was a source for other operas given at the Freihaustheater and its rival, the Leopoldstädter-Theater (including Benedikt Schack's Der Stein der Weisen, to which Mozart may have contributed several passages in addition to parts of the duet ‘Nun, liebes Weibchen, ziehst mit mir’ k625; see Buch, k1997). Many of the ritual elements are derived from Jean Terrasson's novel Sethos (1731), which has an ancient Egyptian setting, from contemporary freemasonry and possibly from other theatrical works of the time. The whole belongs firmly in the established traditions of Viennese popular theatre. C.L. Giesecke, a poet, actor and member of the lodge ‘Zur neugekronten Hoffnung’, later claimed to be the author of the libretto, but his assertion lacks plausible support. The arguments in favour of Schikaneder's authorship seem incontrovertible.
Although the opera was well received – contemporary opinion on the music was universally favourable – critics found the text unsatisfactory (the Staats- und gelehrte Zeitung of Hamburg reported on 14 October that ‘the piece would have won universal approval if only the text … had met minimum expectations'). One hotly disputed point concerns a possible reshaping of the plot while composition was in progress. The opera begins as a traditional tale of a heroic prince (Tamino) rescuing a beautiful princess (Pamina) at the bidding of her mother (the Queen of Night) from her wicked abductor (Sarastro). In the Orator's scene, however, it transpires that the abductor is beneficent and that it is the princess's mother who is wicked. Although it is tempting to think that this shift can only represent a change in plan by Schikaneder and Mozart (traditionally explained as an attempt to avoid duplicating a rival production, Wenzel Müller's Kaspar der Fagottist, oder Die Zauberzither), the moral ambiguities that demand explanation if it does not – Sarastro's employment of the evil Monostatos, for example, or the Queen and her Ladies' gifts of the benevolently magical flute and bells to Tamino and Papageno, or Pamina's fear of Sarastro – are not out of line with Viennese popular theatrical traditions, nor with symbolic interpretations of the work. It has also been argued that Tamino's confrontation with the Orator represents a recognition scene, a standard operatic situation also found in Figaro, Don Giovanni and Così fan tutte (Waldoff, J1994).
Much has been written about freemasonry in the opera. It is unlikely, as has been asserted, that the authors intended the characters to stand for figures involved in the recent history of the movement. They are better understood as generalized and symbolic figures: for instance, Tamino and Pamina are ideal beings seeking self-realization and, especially, ideal union. In this Die Zauberflöte may be thought to pursue the theme of selfconscious knowledge predicated in Così fan tutte. More broadly, the opera is susceptible to interpretation in light of the philosophical, cosmological and epistemological background of 18th-century freemasonry as an allegory of ‘the quest of the human soul for both inner harmony and enlightenment’ (Koenigsberger, J1975, and Till, J1992). Such interpretations help to explain how what may superficially seem a mixture of the musically sublime and the textually ridiculous melds into an opera not only theatrically effective but also of a philosophical or religious quality. Goethe tried to write a sequel to it, and Beethoven pointedly quoted from the opera in his Fidelio.
Probably in mid-July, Mozart was commissioned by Count Walsegg-Stuppach, under conditions of secrecy, to compose a Requiem for his wife, who had died on 14 February 1791; work on this was postponed at least until October 1791, after the completion of La clemenza di Tito and Die Zauberflöte. It is likely that Mozart was aware of Walsegg's identity: his friend Puchberg lived in Walsegg's Vienna villa, and the inclusion of basset-horns in the score suggests that Mozart could count on the participation of specific players, who would have been booked far in advance for a date and place already known to him. Later sources describe Mozart's feverish work at the Requiem, after his return from Prague, with premonitions of his own death, but these are hard to reconcile with the high spirits of his letters from much of October. Constanze's earliest account, published in Niemetschek's biography of 1798, states that Mozart ‘told her of his remarkable request, and at the same time expressed a wish to try his hand at this type of composition, the more so as the higher forms of church music had always appealed to his genius’. There is no hint that the work was a burden to him, as was widely reported in German newspapers from January 1792 onwards.
By the time of Mozart's final illness, he had completed only the ‘Requiem aeternam’ in its entirety; from the Kyrie to the ‘Confutatis’, only the vocal parts and basso continuo were fully written out. At the ‘Lacrimosa’ only the first eight bars are present for the vocal parts, along with the first two bars for the violins and viola. Sketches for the remaining movements, now mostly lost, probably included vocal parts and basso continuo. Mozart was confined to bed at the end of the November; he was attended by the two leading Viennese doctors, Closset and Sallaba, and nursed by Constanze and her youngest sister, Sophie. His condition seemed to improve on 3 December, and the next day his friends Schack, Hofer and the bass F.X. Gerl gathered to sing over with him parts of the unfinished Requiem. He was possibly also visited by Salieri. That evening, however, his condition worsened, and Closset, summoned from the theatre, applied cold compresses; the effect was to send Mozart into shock. He died just before 1 a.m. on 5 December. The cause of his death was registered as ‘hitziges Friesel Fieber’ (severe miliary fever, where ‘miliary’ refers to a rash resembling millet-seeds) and later diagnosed as ‘rheumatische Entzündungsfieber’ (rheumatic inflammatory fever) on evidence from Closset and Sallaba. This seems consistent with the symptoms of Mozart's medical history (Bär, G1966, 2/1972), more so than various rival diagnoses, such as uraemia (favoured by Greither, G1970, 3/1977), and Davies, G1989); there is no credible evidence to support the notion that he was poisoned, by Salieri or anyone else.
Mozart was buried in a common grave, in accordance with contemporary Viennese custom, at the St Marx cemetary outside the city on 7 December. If, as later reports say, no mourners attended, that too is consistent with Viennese burial customs at the time; later Jahn (F1856) wrote that Salieri, Süssmayr, van Swieten and two other musicians were present. The tale of a storm and snow is false; the day was calm and mild.
Mozart: (3) Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
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