There are a number of examples of rivalries that were heightened by royalty in the name of entertainment. For example, as John Irving states in “The Treasures of Mozart,” Emperor Joseph II arranged a “piano contest” in 1781 between Mozart and the Italian musician Muzio Clementi, who was a piano virtuoso. In letters that Mozart wrote following the contest, it appears he felt there was no question that he had won the contest. He states that Clementi was “a mere mechanicus without taste or feeling”. Mozart felt that Clementi was gifted in technique, but was lacking in imagination.
Popular films like Amadeus, made in 1984 by Milos Forman, have centered on the relationship between Mozart and the Italian composer Antonio Salieri. Theatrical treatments of the relationship between the two make Salieri out to be extremely jealous of Mozart’s gift. He is shown as a man who will stop at nothing to undermine the musician, blaming God for making him witness to such genius and proclaiming himself to be the Patron Saint of Mediocrity.
However, the question of whether this rivalry actually existed has been an age-long debate. Letters from Mozart’s father, Leopold, suggest that Salieri was behind attempts to block Mozart from staging certain operas or obtaining posts in Vienna. On the other hand, at one point, Mozart and Salieri collaborated on a cantata for voice and piano, called Per la Ricuperata salute di Ophelia. The competitive rivalry between Mozart and Salieri has even been spoofed in the animated comedy series, The Simpsons. But the truth of the matter might never be fully known.
Check back for upcoming blogs about Mozart and his music as part of this week’s “music” theme at Sullivan Entertainment.
Source: The Treasures of Mozart