Mozart in Vienna


by Katharina Mölk

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart1 was born in Salzburg on January 27, 1756. He was the 7th child of Leopold and Maria Anna Mozart.

His youth was very eventful: he spent about 20 years travelling throughout Europe.

His most creative years were finally spent in the imperial residence city: during the last 10 years of his life, Mozart’s residence was in Vienna.

In 1781 the 25-year-old Mozart came to the imperial city and died there 10 years later, on December 5, 1791.

During these 10 years he lived in 13 different rented apartments. This high number of moves can be explained as follows:

On the one hand, there were financial reasons. Mozart is known for wanting to have everything “that is good and beautiful”. If he could afford it, he moved with his family to beautiful apartments in Vienna. Since Mozart, as a freelance artist, always had varying income (and spent it quickly), it was quite possible that he could no longer afford his current apartment. So the family had to move.

On the other hand, Mozart was also a very sociable person who always liked to receive guests, who would often stay until late in the evening: making music and making noise. This did not please the neighbors; they suggested that Mozart should move out.

Where it all began: Singerstraße 7 (1781) – The legendary “kick in the ass”

The first accommodation that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart took in Vienna was in the Deutschordenshaus (Singerstraße 7) in today’s first district. A memorial plaque there commemorates his short stay there: from March 18 to May 2, 1781.

The apartment is not yet among the 13 mentioned, since Mozart was at that time still in the service of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg, Hieronymus Colloredo. But one thing became clear to Mozart when he lived in this apartment: he wanted to stay in Vienna and not return to Salzburg.

The relationship with Prince Archbishop Colloredo was very tense. Mozart felt that this position in Salzburg was too restrictive: he wanted to be a free artist and not be in the service of other people. Moreover, he could not sell his beloved operas in Salzburg – the demand was not great enough. This was different in Vienna.

When the prince archbishop ordered Mozart to return to Salzburg in April 1781, Mozart kept finding excuses not to leave. During an audience there were fierce arguments, in which Colloredo accused Mozart of being ungrateful: “[…] call me a <lumpen, lausbub,> a <fexen> – oh I don’t want to write anything to you – Finally, since my blood was too hot, I said – aren’t Ew:H: graces not at peace with me? – What, he wants to threaten me, he, O him, he! – there is the door, he looks, I will have nothing more to do with such a wretched boy – at last I said – and I with them nothing more either – so he goes – and I: go away – it shall remain there; tomorrow they will get it in writing. 2

Mozart then gave his letter of dismissal to the prince-archbishop’s chief kitchen master Karl Graf Arco, but the latter refused to accept it. In June, Mozart tried again: an altercation broke out, and Count Arco kicked Mozart in the buttocks and sent him outside. 3

This memorable departure marked the beginning of Mozart’s career in Vienna.

The building today:

In addition to a church, the Deutschordenshaus contains rooms of the Catholic and also the Orthodox School Office, the Center for Further Education of the KPH Vienna/Krems and the General Archive of the Teutonic Order.

In fact, one can still live in the Deutschordenshaus today. There is the possibility to stay overnight in a room of the guesthouse.

In the publicly accessible treasure chamber of the Teutonic Order, among other things, the insignia of the Order can be viewed.

On the ground floor of the house is the Sala Terrena, richly decorated with frescoes. There Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart performed several concerts for the prince archbishop and the nobility of Vienna. Today, concerts of the Mozart Ensemble take place there.

The “Figaro House”: Schulerstraße 8 (1784-1787)

On September 29, 1784 Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart changed his apartment for the 8th time. With his wife Constanze and his newborn son Carl Thomas he moved into the prestigious apartment at Schulerstraße 8 (today’s entrance via Domgasse 5).

This was the most expensive and largest apartment of the Mozart family in Vienna. It is a 100 m² apartment on the 1st floor of a house owned by Mariana Camesina4. In contrast to today, the Nobeletage was always located on the first floor; after all, there was no elevator yet. This was ideal for Mozart in that he always took his piano with him to concerts. Imagine the difficulties of dragging such an instrument down from the 4th floor and up again!

The advertisement for the apartment read as follows: “Representative noble apartment, central location, Beletage, 4 rooms, 2 cabinets, 450 gulden per year plus operating costs”.

The 28-year-old Mozart had meanwhile made himself known in Vienna and could afford such a noble apartment (after all for 2 ½ years). The 450 gulden annual rent corresponded approximately to an annual salary that Mozart had earned in Salzburg. According to various estimates, Mozart was earning between 3000 and 5000 gulden a year in Vienna at the time!

The fact that Mozart earned extremely well at that time is also shown by the fact that he had three servants: a cook, a parlour maid and the personal servant Joseph.

With the Mozart family and the servants, two pets also lived in this apartment: the dog “Gauckerl” and the songbird “Stahrl”.

From February 11 to April 21, 1785, Mozart’s father Leopold was a guest. In a letter to his daughter Nannerl in Salzburg, he wrote that he found the apartment beautiful, and about Constanze he reports “[…] the housekeeping is, as far as food and drink are concerned, highly economical”.5

Leopold also describes Joseph Haydn’s visit to the apartment: “On Saturday evening Mr. Joseph Haydn and the two barons Tindi [Tinti] were with us. The new quartets were made, but only the three new ones he made to the other three we have. They are a little lighter, but they are excellently composed. Mr. Haydn told me: I tell you before God, as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer I know by person and name. 6 The string quartets we are talking about are the so-called “Haydn Quartets”, since Mozart dedicated them to Joseph Haydn after this concert.

Other compositions that Mozart worked on in this apartment were “Der Schauspieldirektor”, “Die kleine Nachtmusik “7 , the “Maurerische Trauermusik”, two Masonic songs, a sonata for piano and violin, various opera interludes and three piano concertos. This was an incredible number of compositions in a relatively short time – it was calculated that Mozart composed 6 pages of 12 lines each on a daily basis.

But the most famous work he wrote here is what gives the building its name today: since Mozart composed his opera “Le nozze di Figaro” here, the building is also called the “Figaro House”.

Excursus to the opera “The Marriage of Figaro”:

The model for the opera was the time-critical French comedy “Der tolle Tag oder Figaros Hochzeit” by Pierre-Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais (1784). The librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, who had also written the text for Mozart’s operas “Cosí fan tutte” and “Don Giovanni”, translated the text into Italian, shortened and depoliticized the play: the dispute between citizens and nobles now became a conflict between men and women: the nobility of the heart triumphs over the nobility of privilege. This was the only way to escape censorship and obtain approval for the performance. On May 1, 1786, the opera was premiered in the Hoftheater on Michaelerplatz.

Today, Mozart’s “Le nozze di Figaro” is one of the most famous and popular operas, but in 1786 it failed to achieve success. The Viennese did not like the piece. The aristocracy did not like the play very much, because the cunning servant Figaro triumphed over Count Almaviva. But which people afforded opera tickets in the 18th century? Mainly nobles. Could it really be that Mozart wanted to expose the nobility?

The “Wiener Realzeitung” wrote: “What is not allowed to be said in our times is sung. The newspaper also reported disturbing actions during the performance, but praised the music. After only 10 performances, the opera was taken off the program.

All the more the Prague audience liked the opera. There the piece was a great success, which is why Mozart from now on made frequent trips to Prague. He wrote to his friend Gottfried von Jaquin: “I watched with great pleasure how all these people jumped around so intimately and happily to the music of my Figaro, transformed into loud contrasts and Germans. For here nothing is spoken of but the – Figaro. Nothing played, blown, sung and whistled – as Figaro. No opera visits as – Figaro and eternally Figaro. Certainly, great honor for me.”

But now back to Schulerstraße 8:

Many guests, servants, hairdressers, piano tuners, dealers, “child and cone” went in and out of the Mozart house. It must have been an incredibly busy apartment. Leopold Mozart complains in a letter that he could not find the time to write because “the terrycloth or floor jerk was dancing around the room. In addition, Mozart regularly had students as guests.

Since he needed many sources of income as an independent artist, he also gave music lessons in his apartment. Famous students of Mozart were, for example, the Englishman Thomas Attwood 8 and the “wunderkind” Johann Nepomuk Hummel. Mozart accepted the 7-year-old Hummel as a student for 2 years and even taught him for free.

His son Johann Thomas Leopold Mozart was born in this apartment on October 18, 1786, but died on November 15. 9

It is still being discussed whether the young Beethoven met Mozart during his first stay in Vienna. Should this have been the case, this meeting could have taken place at Schulerstraße 8. But there is no evidence for this. Beethoven was a great admirer of Mozart, but there is no written evidence of a meeting.

On April 23, 1787, the family moved out of the apartment at Schulerstraße 8. They spent 2 ½ years in this apartment. It doesn’t sound like much, but it was actually the longest time the Mozart family lived in an apartment in Vienna.

The building today:

This apartment is the only Mozart apartment still preserved.

In 1906 the Wiener Männergesang-Verein had a commemorative plaque put up on the building.

Since 2006 the “Mozarthaus Vienna” has been located there (entrance via Domgasse 5). The museum extends over 3 floors, whereby the Mozart apartment on the 1st floor is curated by the Wien Museum.

1 … Actually he was baptized under the name Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus. Mozart himself later decided to change his name to the one known today. Amadeus is the Latin form of Theophilus (in English: Gottlieb).

2 … Mozart’s letter to his father, May 9, 1781, Bibliotheca Mozartiana: International Mozarteum Foundation

3 … This is said to have happened on June 9, 1781. Mozart himself wrote in a letter to his father Leopold: “Well, that means in German that Salzburg is no longer for me; except when there is a good opportunity to give the Count the same kick in the ass, and if it should happen in public […]” Letter from Mozart to his father, June 9, 1781, Bibliotheca Mozartiana: Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum

4 … The building is also called “Camesina House”.

5 … Letter from Leopold Mozart to his daughter Maria Anna (“Nannerl”), February 14, 1785, Bibliotheca Mozartiana: International Mozarteum Foundation

6 … See above

7 … Actual name “Serenade No. 13 for Strings in G Major (KV 525)”. It was given the nickname “Eine kleine Nachtmusik” because of Mozart’s entry in his catalog of works: “Eine kleine Nachtmusik, consisting of an allegro-minuet and trio romance-minuet and trio, and finale -2 violini, viola e bassi. Nachtmusik is the German translation of the term “Serenade”. A serenade is a musical genre that was mostly played in the evening and outdoors.

8 … Today English is “THE world language”, but this is a development of the last 100 years. When Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) was still Empress Elisabeth (1837-1898) conversed with her sisters when they visited the Viennese court in English, as only a few could understand this language. One proof that Mozart spoke English in addition to German, Italian and French is the following note he left to one of his students: “This after noon I am not at home, therefore I pray you to come to morrow at three & a half”.

9 … Mozart and Constanze had 6 children in total. Only 2 sons became adults. The high infant mortality rate was not unusual at the time: hunger, poor hygiene and diseases (e.g. smallpox) contributed to it.

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