Mozart’s Escape from Patronage

By June 20, 2011Music
Portrait of young Mozart

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In some instances, Mozart complained that the Archbishop Colloredo of Salzburg, his employer, looked upon him as a servant. At the mercy of such an attitude, Mozart was desperate to escape from patronage and all it implied.  In The Treasures of Mozart, John Irving writes, “Mozart began in these letters to articulate his developing self-awareness as a genius against what he saw as an inappropriate and unfair backdrop of courtly employment.  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.”

Irving is not sure whether Mozart personally felt that he was above this system, but he definitely believed his music to be.  Mozart would include examples of his own genius in letters to his father, which suggests that he was preparing his father for the drastic lifestyle change he was planning – going freelance.

During the spring of 1871, he suggested that there were openings at Vienna’s Imperial Court and that while he waited for one, he could certainly make enough money by teaching, especially if he had one or two Royal students.   He believed he would make more money doing that than by staying in Salzburg.  Mozart also anticipated giving a large number of concerts in Vienna and composing his own operas.

In answer to these ideas, Mozart’s father was always conservative and realistic.  He worried that Imperial court posts usually went to Italians and that it cost a great deal of money to promote concerts in the first place.

For some time, Mozart was pressured into continuing to work under the Archbishop.  Even his request to resign was refused.  Irving writes, “Perhaps Mozart’s headstrong character became too much for Arco [the archbishop’s chamberlain] (only Mozart’s side of the story survives in letters); in any case it is no surprise that he was effectively sacked for insubordination…”  In fact, Mozart claims that Arco physically removed him from the premises with a kick to the bottom.

From then on, Leopold suffered from the notion that perhaps Mozart was not living a most productive existence and often accused his son of “loose living”.

For more insight into the life of Mozart, take a look at Kevin Sullivan’s documentary, Mozart Decoded.

Source: The Treasures of Mozart

Photo: Portrait of Archbishop Colloredo by Franz Xaver König, 1773.

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