Mozart’s Career Under Patronage

By May 21, 2010Music

In the letters Mozart was writing from Vienna in 1781, it was clear that he felt he was being treated like a servant under the patronage system, and that it was restricting his genius.


“This was not self-importance so much as a realization that the system of patronage within which he was required to earn a living put a price on his activities, rather than a value.  He may not necessarily have thought he was above that personally (though perhaps he did), but his art most surely was.”

Mozart pleaded his case to his father, Leopold, and expressed his desire for a position at the Imperial court in Vienna and in the meantime, he was more than happy to teach wealthy pupils or even royal ones.  Ultimately, Mozart wanted to be a freelancer and give his own concerts while composing operas at the same time.

But Leopold was concerned about how stable and costly a plan this would be and, without his son’s knowledge, made it very hard for Mozart to release himself from his current standing with the Archbishop.  Eventually, Mozart was “let go” from his position due to his “insubordination” and according to Mozart, he was physically removed from the estate with “a kick to the bottom”, as Irving describes.

Mozart then embarked on a freelance career in the early 1780’s, a period of time in which he flourished creatively.  Mozart, and other musicians like himself, were some of the last artists to work under the patronage system, as public sponsorship and the reality of larger audiences began to support musicians in other ways.

How hard do you think it is for musicians to get started in their careers today? Would a patronage system, or the best elements of the system, be any helpful for artists now?

Be sure to check back next week for our in-depth blogs about Mozart’s music!

Source: The Treasures of Mozart

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