The Etiquette of Art

By September 3, 2010Music

In The Treasures of Mozart it is written, “Both the responsibility and the etiquette of leadership weighed heavily upon such people who, keen to demonstrate their cultured sides, typically maintained a high level of artistic engagement within their courts.”


The duty of directing the musical life and singers of the court were given to people called Kapellmeisters (masters of the music).  These positions were hard to come by and those who held them were looked upon as professionals of great distinction.

However, as John Irving notes, only a few of these Kapellmeisters are among the composers that we still listen to today.  He writes, “They looked to their princely employers for protection and dedicated their published works to them in rhetoric that might seem to us truly cringeworthy.”

One of the best examples of these “cringeworthy” dedications was actually written by Mozart’s father, Leopold.  He dedicated his textbook on the violin to his Prince-Archbishop, but it wasn’t until seven years later that he was given the rank of “vice” Kapellmeister.

His dedication was as follows:

“To the Most Worthy and Noble Prince of the Holy Roman Empire Siegmund Christoph of the House of the Imperial Counts von Schrattenbach…Archbishop of Salsburg…my most gracious Prince and Lord: Might I be permitted to dedicate to Your Grace’s renown a simple instruction book?…Rules for playing on the Violin are surely too lowly an offering for a Mighty Prince and Primate of all the German lands?…But I also know that Your Grace is keenly sympathetic towards even the smallest contribution towards the instruction of youth, especially in the Fine Arts…I have attempted, so far as my meager gifts allow, to steer a course for music-loving youth which shall certainly lead them to good taste in music…Therefore I humbly beg to commend to Your Grace’s supreme compassion both myself and my family…and declare myself Your Grace’s and My most Gracious Prince’s and Lord’s Most humble and obedient servant.”

Irving writes, “Hindsight is, of course, a wonderful thing and perhaps few of those who wrote such dedications could imagine just how soon the established social and political fabric would be swept away in the tumults that would lead to American Independence (1776) and the French Revolution (1789).”

To find out more about Mozart’s early beginnings, take a look at Kevin Sullivan’s documentary, Mozart Decoded.

Photo from Google Images.

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