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Vienna, Austria
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In 1781, when Mozart made his permanent move to Vienna, the city was a bustling centre of about 200,000 inhabitants. Within its medieval walls, Baroque palaces crowded up against apartments and commercial buildings, and narrow streets opened to plazas fronted by Gothic cathedrals. Outside the walls past the Glacis, a public park that ringed the city, the suburbs stretched out into the countryside, dotted with houses and apartments, shops and churches, and the various manufacturing concerns (chief among them the porcelain and silk industries) that provided employment for the working classes.
The political structure of Vienna was byzantine and confusing, not the least because it was the seat of two distinct, parallel governments: the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and the Holy Roman Empire. Ruled by the hereditary heir of the house of Hapsburg, the Austro-Hungarian monarchy comprised much of Central and Eastern Europe, including modern-day Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, parts of Poland and various Balkan countries, plus territories in Italy and in the Netherlands—lands that retained their individuality and customs, sometimes to the detriment of the whole. The Holy Roman Empire, an even looser conglomeration of states and principalities that encompassed most of north-central Europe and overlapped the territories of the monarchy, was headed by an Emperor elected by the rulers of the constituent states. Since the fifteenth century, these electors had unfailingly chosen the reigning head of the house of Hapsburg, so that the Empire and monarchy had come to be regarded as an indivisible unit. But when Maria Theresia succeeded to the Hapsburg throne in 1740, she upset the system, because—by law—a woman could not serve as Holy Roman Emperor. She eventually managed to get her husband, Francis of Lorraine, elected in her stead, and he ruled as Emperor until his death in 1765. The real seat of power, however, was in the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, which Maria Theresia kept under tight control. When Joseph II followed his father as Holy Roman Emperor in 1765, he had to spend fifteen years cooling his heels, working with his mother and following her lead, a role that he did not relish. After her death in 1780, he finally gained control of both monarchy and empire and ruled with pent-up fervour for a decade. He died childless in 1790 and was succeeded by his brother Leopold II, whose own promising reign was cut short by his premature death in 1792.
Thus, several different personalities governed during Mozart`s lifetime, shaping the city and society in which he chose to live. Maria Theresia instituted a series of reforms that improved the school and university system and provided better educational opportunity, not only for the aristocracy, but for the merchant and working classes as well. Her purpose had been to train young men to fill new positions in government offices and thus strengthen and centralize the administrative structure of the monarchy, but the effect was to create an educated administrative class that gradually began to participate in the cultural and musical life of the city, a realm previously restricted to the aristocracy. Joseph II continued many of his mother`s initiatives, but throughout the years of his co-regency he had been frustrated by her measured approach to governmental reform; after her death, he quickly initiated a series of radical reforms reflecting his fervent belief in the ideals of the Enlightenment. He abolished many (though not all) aspects of serfdom and decreed limited religious toleration for Protestants and Jews. However, whenever his progressive steps threatened to undermine state authority, he reversed himself, reinstating censorship laws he had lifted earlier and restricting the spread of Freemasonry. Joseph II also ran into trouble when he sought to impose his ascetic views on the customs of his subjects. In 1784, concerned with what he considered to be excessive expenditures for funerals, he decreed that the dead should be sown naked into linen sacks, transported in reusable coffins to cemeteries beyond the city walls, and buried without a coffin in a mass grave. After the outcry among ordinary citizens proved too great to ignore (the nobility had never been affected and continued to use their private tombs as before), he lifted the prohibition against individual coffins, but the practice of using common graves and simplified burial rituals lingered, influencing the decisions about Mozart`s own funeral.
Some of Joseph II`s reforms, though laudable in their intent, had a deleterious affect on music and musicians. When he moved to dissolve the religious organizations known as lay brotherhoods in order to secure their property for building schools and parish churches, he was working to improve the educational and religious opportunities of his subjects. However, some of the brotherhoods had made extensive use of music, and their dissolution threw the musicians involved out of work. Any hopes that the creation of new parish churches would take up the slack would have been dashed by the liturgical reforms of 1783. Driven partly by Joseph`s mania for economizing, but also by his basic distrust of splendour and ceremony, these reforms sought to simplify the divine service and enhance congregational singing, and to this end prohibited orchestrally-accompanied music in the mass and offices. Though the prohibition was lifted after his death in 1790, and perhaps not universally observed even when in effect, it did serve temporarily to choke off sacred music composition and further limit employment opportunities for musicians. Perhaps because of these circumstances, Mozart wrote almost no sacred music during his Viennese years. Had he lived to succeed to the position of Kapellmeister at St. Stephen`s, as he was slated to do, he might well have led a Viennese renaissance in sacred composition.
Ultimately, Joseph II`s greatest impact on the musical world may have resulted not from any decree or proclamation, but from his insistence on cutting the ceremony of his court to a bare minimum. In the early eighteenth century, rulers still demonstrated their power and significance by elaborate, expensive court festivities, which often included the lavish production of operas and other musical events. During the reign of Maria Theresia, economic necessity had forced some curtailment of patronage, but a court appearance was still the necessary prelude to musical success in the city. When the Mozart family travelled to Vienna in 1762, they gave a private performance at her favourite palace of Schönbrunn, for which they received the princely sum of 450 florins. By the time they returned to Vienna in 1767, Joseph II had assumed the title of Emperor, and their obligatory court appearance brought them only the gift of an inexpensive medal. In the absence of traditional royal interest, other institutions and levels of Viennese society began to assume a leading role in the musical world, a process well underway by the time Wolfgang made the city his permanent home.
Mozart`s fortunes were guided by the audience he needed to cultivate, the infrastructure that provided practical support, and the institutions that would feature him and his music. The potential audience during Mozart`s lifetime came from a very small segment of society, one dominated by the upper aristocracy, those holding the titles of Fürst (Prince) or Graf (Count) in families whose patents of nobility extended back many generations. Most had country estates farmed by serf (or near-serf) labour that brought them substantial annual incomes. In addition, many held high-level positions in the court bureaucracy, which brought them even more income and influence. Though they typically retreated to their country estates in the summer, the majority spent the winter season at palatial residences in Vienna where, in imitation of the (pre-Joseph II) court, they undertook the patronage of cultural and musical events. By the 1780s, these families were increasingly joined in this endeavour by members of the lower aristocracy (the Barons, Ritter and the Edler von), who held titles of more recent vintage, often conferred for service to the empire. Mozart found students and patrons at both levels, from the Lichnowskys, the Thuns, and the Johann Esterházys to the Trattners, the Auernhammers, and the Arnsteins.
Nipping at the heels of the lower aristocracy were the city`s wealthy business and finance class and the growing numbers of educated civil servants who filled the lower echelons of the court administration. As a cultured, educated, quasi-middle class, they were, by the end of Mozart`s life, beginning to make their influence felt. Most of the city`s professional musicians would have belonged, by virtue of their education and income, to this level of society. Together with the aristocracy, however, they constituted less than ten percent of the Viennese population. The remaining ninety-plus percent (the small merchants, the factory and construction workers, the domestic servants) would simply not have had the money to purchase even an occasional ticket to a concert or an opera. Not that the city`s population lived in abject poverty: food was plentiful and affordable, and most visitors to Vienna commented on the relatively high standard of living of its inhabitants. Nor did the working classes existed in a state of musical deprivation. Especially before the liturgical upheavals of the 1780s, near-operatic masses and vespers resounded in cathedral vaults, and elaborate festive music accompanied the processionals of the lay brotherhood through the city streets. At night, a serenade presented underneath the window of a princess would have wafted upwards to the rooms of her chambermaid or the garret of a starving student. But the world of opera and concerts—the world to which Mozart aspired and for which he wrote most of his music—was simply not a part of the lives of most Viennese citizens. Thus, he had to concentrate his efforts on winning over the aristocracy and the educated middle class.
His task was made easier by the attitudes and education of the Viennese aristocracy; many had at least a modicum of musical training, and some reached a level of performance that compared favourably to their professional counterparts. These amateur performers sought out Mozart as a teacher and as a composer of pieces they could play, particularly sonatas and string quartets (genres intended for private, rather than public performance). Mozart and other musicians also benefited from the fact that attendance at musical performances was considered a de rigueur part of the aristocratic social calendar. Even the most profoundly unmusical count or princess would have routinely attended one or two musical events each week during the winter season.
By Mozart`s Viennese decade, the city`s musical infrastructure had also begun to provide many essential support services. In the 1760s and 1770s, for example, most fortepianos had to be imported. But beginning around 1780, when Anton Walter opened his shop, keyboard players could, like Mozart, have an instrument built locally. Musical scores had always been relatively easy to acquire, either in manuscript from one of the many professional copyists or in mostly foreign prints from retailers like Trattner and Kurzböck. In the late 1770s, the local firm of Artaria & Co. seriously entered the music publishing business and, along with several other newly-founded music publishers, eagerly snapped up new sonatas and quartets by Mozart, adding substantially to his income. But Vienna did lack one critical infrastructure component: an active daily press that reported on music and musical performances. Composers and performer could advertise new compositions or concerts in the back pages of the main local paper, the Wiener Zeitung, but unless they happened to appear at a court function, they had no hope of any mention in the regular columns. Occasionally smaller papers like the Realzeitung or the Wiener Blättchen would comment on an opera production, but otherwise musical reporting did not exist in Vienna.
The primary way to cultivate patrons was to enter the world of private performances: full-scale opera productions and orchestral concerts produced in the chambers and private theatres of the city`s upper crust and funded by their substantial incomes. Patrons undertook private sponsorship for a variety of reasons. For some, it stemmed from a sheer love of music, as one suspects was the case with the oratorio performances of the 1780s, co-sponsored by Baron van Swieten and the Count Johann Esterházy. For aristocratic dilettantes, private events provided an opportunity to perform public genres like operas or concertos in a socially acceptable setting. Others used musical productions to demonstrate their largesse and create good will, no doubt a major factor in the concerts sponsored by foreign ambassadors. Finally, for many the impulse stemmed from a desire to imitate the court. As Joseph II withdrew from the patronage arena, he theoretically left the field wide open for other aristocratic patrons, but also, paradoxically, removed one of their main incentives. Moreover, with the increasing participation of the lower aristocracy and middle class, the whole enterprise became much less exclusive, certainly a disincentive for patrons whose efforts had been mainly status driven. Still, during Mozart`s lifetime, private performances made up a substantial part of Vienna`s musical world, and he took full advantage of them, particularly during his most active virtuoso years.
For Mozart and other professional musicians, private performances provided a source of income (albeit an uncertain one dependent on the whims of the patron) but also an opportunity to cultivate an audience and create a public, who might then eagerly purchase tickets to a later public concert or opera performance. Though public events were theoretically open to anyone who wished to purchase a ticket, in reality the potential audience was the same as that for private ones. Most concert tickets cost between one and two florins, prohibitively expensive for a schoolteacher earning only 250 florins a year. A six-month lease on a box at the Burgtheater, the city`s Italian opera venue, went for 450 florins (making them the exclusive provenance of the upper aristocracy), a seat in the parterre noble for about 25 florins per month. Though the cheapest balcony seats could be had for as little as a sixth of a florin per performance, bringing them within the reach of a larger percentage of the educated middle class, for the most part the audiences of public and private performances were the same.
Public concerts were a relatively new phenomenon in Europe and thus lacked the physical and administrative apparatus of older cultural institutions like the theatre. Partly because of the strong private realm, they got an especially slow start in Vienna; we have, for example, no record of any public appearances during the Mozart family`s visits in the 1760s (though that could simply reflect the absence of extant sources). Even by the 1780s, however, Vienna still had no hall intended specifically for concerts and no agency or institution to organize and present them. The Tonkünstler Societät (a type of musician`s union) did sponsor four fund-raising concerts each year; Mozart made his earliest documented Viennese public appearance there. For the most part, though, the initiative lay in the hands of individual performing musicians, who faced considerable logistical challenges in addition to any musical ones. For example, Viennese concerts (except for oratorios)—whether organized by a composer, an instrumental virtuoso, or a singer—generally opened and closed with symphonies, which meant the organizer had to find, and pay, an orchestra. All included an instrumental concerto and several numbers from operas. Thus a singer wishing to concertize needed not only an orchestra, but also an instrumental virtuoso to share the stage, and vice versa. For someone as versatile as Mozart, this format, however problematic, allowed him to show off his dazzling array of abilities. The programme for his 1784 concert at the Burgtheater included three symphonies, a piano concerto, and a piano fantasy—all of his compositions—plus three arias by unspecified composers, but which may have been his as well.
The variety of concert spaces utilized by performers in the absence of a dedicated concert hall offered very different atmospheres for the audience and posed different challenges for the musicians. During the early 1780s the two court theatres, the Burgtheater and the Kärtnerthortheater, were available during Lent, when law and custom proscribed the performance of stage plays and operas. Most performers preferred them over the city`s other venues, in part because of their better acoustics and greater seating capacity (at more than 1000), in part because they had an already assembled orchestra, but also because aristocratic society`s habit of attending the theatre regularly might help to boost attendance. Mozart took full advantage of these locations, presenting regular, mixed genre concerts during Lent of 1783-1786. Other concert locations offered a smaller, more intimate atmosphere, but correspondingly lower receipts from ticket sales and a possibly less exclusive atmosphere. The publisher Johann Thomas, Edler von Trattner, maintained a hall which he leased for concerts. Judging from the subscription lists for the series Mozart presented there in 1784 (he gave others in 1786 and possibly again in 1788), the audience included many of the upper and lower aristocracy, a possible indication of its status as a prestigious location. Other venues included the Mehlgrube, a Gasthof and ballroom that catered to the middle class, and, beginning in the late 1780s, a restaurant run by Ignaz Jahn. In addition to rooms where patrons could dine and gamble, both establishments had a hall (seating a few hundred listeners) intended for dancing and concerts. There are few reliable descriptions of either place and it is impossible to know the likely social status of the audience. Though it might be supposed that these locations would have attracted fewer of the upper aristocracy, the ticket prices were similar to those for the court theatres. Mozart did not disdain to appear at either place: he gave several concerts at the Mehlgrube in 1785, and made his last documented public appearance as a pianist at a concert given by the clarinettist Franz Joseph Bähr at Jahn`s in 1791.
For the most part, the concert season in Vienna was concentrated during the winter months, but during the summer, Viennese audiences could enjoyed garden concerts, held in the cool early morning hours, when they could be combined with breakfast and a stroll along shady pathways. Most probably, these concerts attracted those from lower aristocracy and educated middle class, in part because many of the upper aristocracy retreated to their country estates during the summer to escape the heat and dust of the city. In 1782, Mozart joined forces with the entrepreneur Philipp Jakob Martin to organize a dozen Sunday morning concerts in the Augarten, at a price of less than a florin for each concert. The opening performance featured one of Mozart`s symphonies, his E-flat concerto for two pianos, various arias, a violin concerto, and a symphony by Baron van Swieten, a programme no less substantial than might have been found at a Lenten concert at one of the court theatres.
Most of Mozart`s documented concert appearances, both public and private, took place during his first five years in Vienna, with a sudden decline after 1786. At the same time, however, there was an upswing in his operatic activity. Even more than concerts, theatre and opera lay at the very centre of the city`s cultural and social life, particularly the offerings of the Burg- and Kärtnerthortheater. The Burgtheater had originally been the court`s private theatre, but the financial difficulties of Maria Theresia`s early years had forced her to lease it to a series of entrepreneurs, who opened it to the public. It retained its elite status, however, and remained a place to see and be seen; a theatre-loving aristocrat might well spend several nights there each week, watching the performances and visiting friends in adjoining boxes. In 1776, however, Joseph II had taken steps that would ensure its offerings appealed to a wider range of people: he placed the Burgtheater back under direct court control, renamed it the National Theater, and installed a theatrical company that would present plays in German instead of the French drama favoured by the aristocracy. In 1778, a Singspiel company was formed as an outgrowth of this push for German-language theatre. Just a year after his arrival in Vienna, Mozart secured one of the lucrative commissions to write a new work for the company, and the resulting Die Entführung aus dem Serail premiered in July of 1782 to great popular acclaim. But the following year, the company was disbanded (and replaced by an Italian opera troupe), only to be reconstituted briefly during 1785-1788, with performances held at the Kärntnerthortheater. Die Entführung remained a popular staple of the repertory in these seasons, but aside from the one-act Der Schauspieldirektor, Mozart did not return to Singspiel composition until about 1790. By that time he had more options, for during the 1780s, several private theatres had opened in the city`s ever-expanding suburbs. Smaller, less expensive, and thus accessible to greater numbers of people, these theatres specialized in popular entertainment: farces, low comedy, and Singspiel. In 1790 Mozart began to collaborate with the staff of the Theater auf der Wieden, possibly contributing several numbers to Der Stein der Weisen, a fairy-tale opera with many parallels to Die Zauberflöte, which premiered at the same theatre the following year. With these productions, Mozart`s music began to reach a wider audience.
Nevertheless, Italian opera was still the most prestigious genre for any composer and had long been one of Mozart`s greatest ambitions. Though he had conquered the Singspiel establishment relatively quickly, it took him longer to gain entry to the exclusive circle that received Italian opera commissions. The Burgtheater`s opera company operated on a repertory system, alternating performances of a number of different works, with each season featuring a mixture of new operas (normally between five and seven each year) and revivals of older pieces. For a newly-commissioned work, the composer received 450 florins and sometimes part of the box office receipts for a performance or two. Mozart wrote Le nozze di Figaro (1786) and Così fan tutte (1790) on such commissions and prepared a revised version of Don Giovanni for the 1788 season, for which he received 225 florins. These three commissions represented a genuine triumph, not just for their artistic quality, but because, at the time, Italian opera in Vienna was almost exclusively the provenance of Italian composers. Of the seventy-seven Italian operas documented during the 1783-1792 seasons, sixty-two, or 80 percent, were by Italian-born composers such as Giovanni Paisiello, Domenico Cimarosa, and Antonio Salieri. Only four composers from the territories of the Austro-Hungarian Empire received commissions, for a total of seven operas, or nine percent of those presented. Mozart leads this list with his three. In the 1788-1789 season, Don Giovanni, with sixteen performances, ranked second only to the Salieri/Da Ponte Axur, and the revival of Figaro the two following seasons ranked in the top five. In addition, box office receipts from the 1789-1790 and 1790-1791 seasons indicate a strong demand for tickets at Mozart`s operas, especially for Così, which took in the highest average receipts per performance of the 1789-1790 season. Given these circumstances, Mozart`s operatic career in Vienna must be judged a success. Lit.: Beales, `Court, Government and Society in Mozart`s Vienna`; Blanning, Joseph II; Csáky and Pass, Europa im Zeitalter Mozarts; Link, The National Court Theatre in Mozart`s Vienna; Morrow, Concert Life in Haydn`s Vienna
Si prega di utilizzare il seguente riferimento quando viene citato questo sito:
Eisen, Cliff et al. Con le Parole di Mozart, 'Vienna, Austria' <http://letters.mozartways.com>. Version 1.0, pubblicato da HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.
Con le Parole di Mozart. Version 1.0, pubblicato da HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676