Dr. Pei-Gwen South
As one of the most recognized composers of the Western musical canon, the music and reputation of Mozart is as celebrated today as it was disregarded in his own time. In fact, the eminent status he has come to enjoy, both in print and performance, has become so entrenched as to deflect any question or criticism of its deservedness; by its very magnitude (and the notion of value it invokes) it has cast a pervasive, and consequently detrimental, influence over the tone and direction of Mozart scholarship. But what if the image we have of the composer is a myth? And what if the assessment of his achievement has been inaccurate? Like so many myths, separate the fact from the fiction, the truth from the untruth, and there remains little of substance that is worthy of all the adulation. One has only to consider the authenticity of his works, the contradictions and incongruities which musical scholarship has uncovered (but largely failed to pursue), and the man himself, and the myth begins to crumble before our very eyes.
Regarding authenticity, it is not a question of whether or not Mozart composed all that has been attributed to him we know for certain that he did not, and that many of the works once thought to be his were actually written by other composers. The question is the extent to which this is the case. To date, musicologists and music historians have identified these spurious and doubtful Mozart works into their hundreds, among them songs, symphonies, serenades, concertos, chamber pieces, masses, requiems and smaller church works, an incomplete listing of which was published in the sixth Köchel edition in 1964. Since then, the number of Mozart works found to be spurious has continued to grow, and, as has now been acknowledged, includes many works that are well-known and cherished by musical audiences, such as the Sinfonia Concertante for four winds K.Anh. 9, the 'Paris' Overture K.Anh.8, the Missa Brevis in G K.140, and the 'Twelfth Mass', the latter of which is actually by the little-known German composer Wenzel Muller (Robbins Landon 1991: 351-352). To this list might be added Idomeneo and the 'Haffner' Symphony. Prior to Idomeneo Mozart had written La finta giardiniera (1775), an opera which received only three performances, and in which he failed to show "control of the libretto and of the dramatic structure". It has been said that "too much of it is a sequence of arias, the characters' arbitrary ways repeat the clichés of dozens of comic operas, and it all goes on too long" (Roselli 1998: 81). Given that in the intervening years he wrote no other operas, the jump in quality from La finta to Idomeneo is not only curious but inexplicable, unless of course one considers that he had help with the latter's composition, something that is entirely possible considering that his father acted as intermediary between Mozart and the opera's librettist, Varesco. Similarly noteworthy is Mozart's often-quoted remark regarding the 'Haffner' Symphony. Upon receiving the score from his father in 1783, he commented, "'My new Haffner symphony has quite astonished me, for I had forgotten every single note of it. It must certainly make a good effect'" (Eisen 1991: 257). Scholars have made light of this remark, contending that Mozart was surely joking. Yet if we consider for a moment that Mozart did not in fact compose it (it was, after all, composed for a family friend at Leopold's suggestion) then the remark makes much more sense.
The seemingly ever-increasing list of works now known to be unauthentic comprises both compositions "by 'foreign' composers that were simply copied by Mozart" (Robbins Landon 1991: 352), as well as many that were written by his contemporaries, including Michael Haydn (younger brother of Franz Josef Haydn), K.F. Abel, Johann Neubauer, Joseph Myslivecek, Joseph Schuster, François Devienne, Henri Casadesus, Ernst Eberlin, Franz Novotny, F.X. Süssmayr (his pupil), and, most significantly, his father, Leopold Mozart.
The fact that a substantial number of Leopold's works were once mistaken for Mozart's is an interesting one that may be explained, in part, by the difficulty in distinguishing between their respective handwritings, and by the striking similarity between the compositional styles of father and son; the latter is perhaps to be expected, it was after all from his father that Mozart received his musical education. But the likeness necessarily begs the question of how much of a hand Leopold really had in his son's compositions, and just how much of the repertoire now recognized as Mozart's actually belongs to him. Numerous sacred works (including masses and litanies), symphonies and songs from this repertoire have now been correctly attributed to Leopold, and these include not only manuscript copies, but the autographs for numerous compositions, such as the Masses K.115 and 116, and the songs K.149 -151 (Eisen 1991: 173). Certainly, the notion that Leopold's contribution may be far more extensive is not only conceivable, but supportable.
The first issue that bears consideration is the fact that Leopold was a prolific and accomplished composer. He composed some 70 symphonies, numerous serenades, overtures, divertimenti, sacred works, concertos, occasional works and dance music, most of which have been lost, and "the creation of an important repertory of independent orchestral music in Salzburg must be credited to [him]" (Eisen 1989: 173). Nor did he lack creative daring. He was amongst the first to begin his symphonies with a slow introduction that set the tone of what was to follow, and in his keyboard sonatas achieved a more varied texture that sought to circumvent the banality of the commonly-employed Alberti bass (Wyn Jones 1991: 79-80). He was moreover an accomplished pedagogue, and in the year of his son's birth published his famous violin treatise, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, which was reprinted several times and translated into other languages (Steptoe 1991: 102).
Secondly, let us consider the role Leopold played in Mozart's life and his influence on his formative career. From 1760, Leopold turned from his own career path to nurture that of his young son and daughter, Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), who was four-and-half years older than Mozart and also an extremely gifted pianist. It is well known that Leopold was meticulous and resourceful in promoting his children as musical prodigies on their tours across Europe from 1762 to 1766, and, later, in facilitating Mozart's transition from child performer to composer (Steptoe 1991: 103). Many of the letters written by Leopold to friends and family during this period, detailing the children's success and achievements, were purposefully written "for public circulation", and, it has been noted, were probably intended for the biography of Mozart he planned to write (Eisen 1991:160). Carefully crafted notices describing their phenomenal abilities were placed in the press to generate interest and publicity, and every advantage was sought from the contacts they made. Leopold had envisioned a formidable future for Mozart, and all his efforts were geared toward this end.
His performing capabilities aside, much has been made of Mozart's apparent ability to compose at this young age, and the works that he supposedly wrote and published while on tour. It was, in fact, one of the selling points of his father's campaign to boost the reputation of his son. An advertisement from 13 May 1765, while they were in London, invited audiences to hear a "'Concerto on the Harpsichord by the little Composer and his Sister, each single and both together'", and engraved sonatas and portraits were offered for public purchase (Heartz 1995: 506). Just a few months earlier, in February, Mozart had also apparently performed some of his first symphonies in concert. However, by their very importance to the family's activities and success at this time, the validity of such works and compositional claims is necessarily questionable, for in building up his son, one has to wonder how much Leopold exaggerated his talent, and how much of his compositional achievement was manufactured for the public. It is known that the harpsichord sonatas composed during their stay in Paris from 1763-64 were written "with the ever-present help of his father" (Heartz 1995: 498), and that his father's assistance was again required for the Gallimathius musicum K.32, written for the Dutch court, the autograph for which shows parts written in Leopold's hand. There is also some controversy amongst experts as to the extent of Leopold's contribution to the symphonies composed during the trip to Italy in 1770, further to his involvement with their copying (Heartz 1995: 507,556).
Certainly, the argument that Leopold ghost-wrote Mozart's early compositions because it was expedient is a likely one that warrants serious consideration. Given the rigours of travel, especially in those days, and the constant round of social engagements they undertook, the toll on the young Mozart must have been enormous, and extensive documentation indicates that he was frequently ill. During these years alone he was stricken with erythema nodosum, rheumatic fever, angina, small-pox, scarlet fever and intestinal typhoid, the latter of which afflicted him for two months, and during which time it is claimed that he also published six sonatas for keyboard and violin K.26-31 allegedly of his own composition. These illnesses were in addition to minor maladies such as colds. It is indeed difficult to imagine that under these circumstances Mozart would have had the time, vigour or inclination to compose, let alone to compose works worthy of public performance or publication. But for someone of Leopold's skill it would have been easy. Leopold's presence looms large in Mozart's juvenile church works, such as the Masses K.66 and K.139 and the Litany K.125, which are said to have been modelled on Leopold's compositions and to be thus indebted to them, but which could just as easily have been written by the older composer, thus accounting for their style. Certainly, Leopold's predisposition towards employing horns in his sacred music (he was probably the first composer in Salzburg to do so) is a feature that is also found in Mozart's works in this genre (Eisen 1989: 171).
The appearance of Leopold's (as well as Nannerl's) handwriting in various parts of surviving manuscripts, including the concertos K.449 and 451 (Eisen 1991: 180), is another potentially telling detail that has otherwise been attributed to their helping to copy out the music from Mozart's autographs. But the fact that numerous autographs once thought to be Mozart's have now been shown to be by his father makes the authenticity of the autographs themselves highly suspect. Moreover, besides being an exceptionally gifted performer, Nannerl also dabbled in composition and was apparently quite skilled at it Mozart on several occasions complimented her on her works and encouraged her to write more often, asking that she send him the completed pieces. The idea that she may have contributed to some works is thus not inconceivable. Indeed, the existence of such interpolations in the manuscripts could well be evidence that, at the very least, many of Mozart's works were the product of familial collaboration that have thus far failed to be acknowledged as such. Such a concept is by no means as foreign to Mozart scholarship as might generally be supposed. Musicologists have already discovered that in his later Vienna years, Mozart drew on the help of his pupil, Süssmayr, in the composition of certain works. For example, it was Süssmayr who composed the secco recitatives of La Clemenza di Tito the opera commissioned for the coronation of Leopold II and we are told that Mozart was so pressed for time that both he and Süssmayr worked in the coach en route to the ceremony. The other famous work from this time, the Requiem K.626, owes even more to Süssmayr. Left incomplete at his death, Mozart had composed only fragmentary sketches for the Offertorium and part of the Dies Irae, the only movement to be fully scored being the Introitus; the Sanctus, Benedictus, Agnus Dei and Lux aeterna were later completed by Süssmayr at the request of Mozart's wife, Constanze, who was keen to collect the commission for the work, and, as John Roselli rightly points out, "the work as a whole ought to be known as 'by Mozart and Süssmayr'" (1998: 159).
The documented changes in Mozart's handwriting throw a further shadow over the authenticity of his works. Careful study of the autographs from the period 1770-1780 in particular has revealed clearly discernable changes in Mozart's script that have largely been accepted as legitimate developmental changes, even though it has been acknowledged that "these changes do not occur simultaneously or with rigorous consistency", and that they sometimes occurred quite suddenly. For instance, notational symbols that appeared fairly consistently throughout 1769 changed considerably in the following year, and, interestingly enough, with the autograph for the Litany K.125 from 1772 (a piece whose authenticity is questionable), it changed once again (Eisen 1991: 173). Could it be that the numerous changes and inconsistencies in Mozart's handwriting over his lifetime were the result of many hands masquerading as one? Further to the undeniable affinities with the music of his father, if one also considers the extent to which other composers' compositions found their way into Mozart's works, the answer becomes a resounding 'yes'.
From the many discussions and analyses of his music, it becomes apparent that Mozart was remarkably susceptible to the influence of other composers, in spite of his self-righteous confidence in his own abilities, and his habit of making disparaging remarks about his contemporaries frequently and often. These 'influences' were numerous and varied, and have given rise to observations of Mozart's 'indebtedness' to this or that work or composer in a considerable number of his compositions. Many features of his symphonic writing can be thus accounted for, such as the presentation of themes in reverse order in the recapitulation (found in many opening movements by Johann Stamitz), the inversion of sixths into thirds and vice versa and an abundance of trills in the opening theme (typical of Wagenseil), and finales that burst forth with orchestral brilliance that is quickly over (another Wagenseilian trait). Amongst his keyboard juvenilia, scholars have contended various borrowings or imitations from Carl Philip Emmanuel Bach, Johann Gottfried Eckard and Johann Christian Bach all of whom were accomplished keyboard players and composers of their day and his early sacred works were similarly derivative, if not more so. Besides his father, the two main composers whose music Mozart drew from during the Salzburg years were Johann Ernst Eberlin and Michael Haydn, both of whom were in the employ of the Archbishop of Salzburg. Eberlin, the older of the two and the "earliest Salzburg Kapellmeister whom Mozart could have known personally and the first in whose music he took any interest" (Humphreys 1991: 86), was a seminal figure in the city's musical transition from Baroque to Rococo style. It is known that Mozart copied out much of Eberlin's sacred music, extant copies of which have previously led to false attributions to Mozart himself (Humphreys 1991: 86), though why he did so has less satisfactorily been addressed. It has largely been assumed that he did so for purposes of study, an explanation that could be contrived as plausible given the time frame concerned. Yet, beyond the context of formative development the credibility of such an explanation falters badly, and the fact that Mozart continued to copy out the music of other composers throughout his career renders the motive behind the practice suspect. Mozart made transcriptions of several of J.S. Bach's keyboard fugues and reorchestrated a number of vocal works by Handel after coming into contact with their music in the 1780s. It should be noted that both Bach and Handel were "little-known in Vienna at the time" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 221), making it highly likely that, after such minor tweaking, Mozart intended to pass these works off as his own, and it is only by virtue of his reputation today and the high profiles of both Bach and Handel that his actions have not aroused suspicion. At the most, it has been recognized that his music became more contrapuntal after his exposure to these Baroque masters. In these Vienna years, Mozart also copied out church works by the prominent Viennese musician Georg Reutter the younger (1708-1772) (Humphreys 1991: 84), and requests for copies of works by other of his contemporaries appear often in his correspondence to his father and sister, among them, requests for copies of music by Michael Haydn.
It has been noted that upon returning to Salzburg in 1769, Mozart became "increasingly receptive to the music of Michael Haydn" (Heartz 1995: 538), and that even after his move to Vienna in 1781, he "showed consistent interest" in the latter's church music (Stone 1991: 153). It thus comes as no surprise that Haydn's "strong influence" is conspicuous in many of Mozart's Salzburg works, such as his Te Deum K.141 (66b) and the Offertory Sub tuum praesidium, "which is closely related to Haydn's Offertory in Honour of the Most Blessed Virgin" (Humphreys 1991: 86). When, in February 1773, Haydn completed his Notturno in C for string quintet with two violas, Mozart followed suit by writing his Quintet in Bb K.174 for the same combination a short time afterward. In Haydn's subsequent Notturno in G, again with two violas and dated 1 December 1773, it has been said that certain passages "could easily pass for Mozart" (Heartz 1995:540), but it is an observation that is surely more accurate the other way round given the direction of influence: that in striving to imitate and emulate his contemporary, Mozart thus sounded like Haydn. Haydn's Symphony in G, composed in May 1783, is a case in point. It has been ascertained that early in 1784, after returning to Vienna from Salzburg with the scores for Haydn's Symphony no. 17 in Eb and Symphony in G in hand, Mozart added a slow introduction to the later, and, consequently, the "entire work long passed as Mozart's Symphony no. 37" (Heartz 1995: 543). Certainly, the mimicry in Mozart's subsequent compositions underlines a level of dependence unbefitting of creative genius. His Serenade in Eb for winds, K.375, contains a precadential passage in the first movement "that duplicates Haydn's gesture for gesture" (Heartz 1995: 540), whilst the similarities between Haydn's Requiem for the Archbishop von Schrattenbach, composed in 1771, and Mozart's own Requiem K.626, composed some 20 years later, have long been recognized. Indeed, further to the material borrowed from Haydn, the Mozart work also bears the stamp of Florian Gassmann (another prominent Viennese church composer) in the Kyrie, which betrays "strong thematic links" with Gassmann's own Kyrie from his Requiem left incomplete at his death in 1774 (Humphreys 1991: 84). Further to such appropriations between similar types of works, Mozart also utilized borrowed material across the genres. The main thematic idea of the overture to La Clemenza di Tito (1791) has close associations with the Gloria of Michael Haydn's Missa sancti Hieronymi, and we know that when Mozart was composing the C minor Mass (1783) he asked his father to send him "'some of [Michael] Haydn's fugues'" (Humphreys 1991: 86). Mozart's Symphony in D K.84 provides an earlier example, the opening of which bears a striking resemblance to the overture of Jommelli's opera Armida abbandonata, the premiere of which Mozart had attended in 1770.
In turning to opera, a genre in which Mozart supposedly produced some of his greatest masterpieces, this pattern of derivation continues. In addition to the overture's echo of Haydn's Missa sancti Hieronymi and the previously mentioned contribution of Süssmayr, in the choruses of La Clemenza di Tito one can hear similarities with the majestic choruses of Gluck's Alceste (1767), and in "the demonic violence of the second-act finale of Don Giovanni" (1787) resounds the music for the furies from Gluck's Don Juan and Orfeo (first performed in 1761 and 1762 respectively) (Rice 1989: 133). The Marriage of Figaro, composed in 1786 "with a nudge from Paisiello's The Barber of Seville and King Theodore in Venice" was similarly obliged, both of Paisiello's operas having been performed in Vienna in the previous three years to great acclaim (Roselli 1998: 90). Unlike their predecessors, however, neither Don Giovanni nor Figaro were a success with Viennese audiences. What becomes increasingly clear is that Mozart exploited a myriad of sources in creating his body of works, but the most prominent of these, and also the most commonly cited and discussed, was Franz Josef Haydn, Michael Haydn's elder brother.
Haydn's 'influence' on Mozart has been well documented and established. Yet, what is curious is that nothing more has been made of Mozart's overt and habitual imitation of the older master's works other than to say that Mozart admired and respected him. So frequently did Mozart express his 'admiration', and such was the degree of closeness between his works and Haydn's, both musically and chronologically, that one must wonder if Haydn was more annoyed and frustrated than flattered by these events, and if Mozart's intentions were other than virtuous. A closer look at some of Mozart's symphonies and chamber music over the course of his career reveal the nature of this copying.
As an example from his formative years there is the Symphony no. 15 in G (K.124), written after his trip to Milan and dated February 1772. The first movement, Allegro, begins in 3/4, but after only twelve bars appears to shift into 6/8 for the appearance of the second theme. Heartz notes that "It is highly unusual for Mozart to make the modulation so quickly", and further observes "something else unusual about this second theme besides its metrical quirks. It resembles in several particulars the opening of Joseph Haydn's brilliant Symphony No. 28 in A, dated 1765" (1995: 558). Known for his intellectual and witty humour (a quality that was to come to the fore in his later works, particularly the op. 33 string quartets), Haydn's Symphony begins with a musical joke encapsulated by confusion over the metre that is both surprising and refreshing. Mozart's imitation of this opening was clearly deliberate, and, as Heartz further contends, "The passages are too close to be explained by coincidence or fortuity" (1995: 558).
Subsequently, Mozart composed his first symphony in a minor key, the Symphony no.25 in g K.183 (1773), only after Haydn's succession of minor-key symphonies in the late 1760s and early 1770s. The first movement of Mozart's symphony, Allegro con brio, begins with a first subject consisting of four semibreves, G D Eb F#, played by the oboes and the violins in syncopation with the bass. It has been noted that "The use of this kind of 'pound-note' subject is certainly central to Haydn's minor-mode works of the late 1760s and early 1770s" (Heartz 1995: 571). Mozart then follows this subject with a repeated turn figure, and again we note that "the figure itself occurs twice as a climactic shudder at the very end of Haydn's Symphony No. 52 in c. Mozart ends his first group with V of g, then plunges without further ado into the relative major for the second. So does Haydn in both outer movements of his Symphony No. 39 in g (which uses four horns, similarly disposed)" (Heartz 1995: 571). But the similarities do not end there. Mozart affirms the new key of Bb major by canonic imitation between violins I and II, and continues this canonic discourse into the development section, something found time and again in the works of Haydn, who was fond of utilizing canonic dialogue in his development sections throughout his life (Heartz 1995: 571). Then, in the Symphony's third and fourth movements, a Menuetto and Allegro finale respectively, Mozart breaks with tonal convention by setting the Menuetto in a minor key and the trio in the major to provide temporary release, whilst the finale ends in g minor. However this key structure was not of Mozart's invention. The use of a minor key for the last two movements of a symphony "was virtually non-existent in the mid-eighteenth century", but it was a practice that Haydn employed in his minor-key symphonies of the 1760s and 1770s, right down to the setting of the trio in a major key for momentary contrast. The similarity has prompted Heartz to question, "Would Mozart have created such a serious work in the minor mode were it not for Haydn's similar works? Probably not" (1995: 572). Many have also heard Haydn in the second and third movements of Mozart's Symphony no.30 in D, written shortly after the g minor Symphony, and have rightly acknowledged that the apparent development in Mozart's symphonic writing during the early 1770s undoubtedly stemmed from "his indebtedness to Haydn" (Heartz 1995: 576).
Mozart's last three symphonies, written in 1788 and widely considered to be the crowning achievement of his symphonic output, also denoted a new departure in his style. But it was a departure that was once again instigated from without. Their correspondence with Haydn's 'Paris' Symphonies nos. 82-87 published the previous year, far from being coincidental, clearly indicates that the creative impulse behind these works was, once again, not Mozart's own. The case of the Agnus Dei from Mozart's Mass K.337, the ending of which is quite unlike any he had previously written, can be similarly accounted for by the fact that it sounds remarkably like the ending of Haydn's Missa St. Joannis de Deo (c.1775) (Heartz 1995: 669). Haydn's Symphonies nos. 82-84 were in Eb major, g minor and C major Mozart adopted the same key scheme for his Symphony no. 39 K.543, Symphony no. 40 K.550 and Symphony no. 41 K.551 (the 'Jupiter') respectively. The correspondence between Haydn's Symphony no. 82 ('L'ours') and the 'Jupiter' is most apparent in the scoring, both using trumpets and timpani in the tradition of symphonies written in C major. However, in the other two symphonies the similarities are more than superficial. The second movement of the Symphony no. 40 resembles that of Haydn's Symphony no. 83 ('La poule') in many respects: "E flat major, andante, piano dynamic, string scoring (later supported by horns in the Mozart), repeated tonic notes to open the theme and gently emphasized discords (including supertonic seventh in bar 3 in Haydn, bar 2 in Mozart)" (Landon and Jones 1988: 226). Regarding the Eb major Symphonies, both begin with a slow introduction and include a minuet third movement with "exaggeratedly regular phrasing patterns". In the Mozart, the music following the slow introduction also reflects Haydn's Symphony no. 85 in its dotted note figuration, metre and mood, whilst the finale to the work is overtly Haydnesque. It is no small wonder that scholars have looked at Mozart's symphonic works from the 1780s and conceded that, "In general, Mozart's music absorbed some of the argumentative features of Haydn's style, obviously evident in Mozart's increasing interest in monothematic sonata form in the second half of the decade" (Landon and Jones 1988: 226).
The same derivative pattern is to be found in Mozart's chamber music, in particular, in his attempts in the string quartet genre. In 1771 and 1772, Haydn published two sets of string quartets, his op. 9 and op. 17 respectively. Each set comprised six quartets, each in different keys and with four movements, the third movements being minuets and trios, with one movement in the minor mode and another a theme and variations. Within two months of their publication, Mozart wrote his own set of string quartets that followed this same scheme in every particular. He further drew on Haydn's most recent quartets composed in 1772 (and subsequently published as op. 20) by similarly including fugal finales in the first and last of his quartets. Even more audaciously, in his Quartet in F major K.168, Mozart took the fugal theme from the finale of Haydn's Quartet in f minor op. 20, changed the metre and gave it canonical treatment, and used it for the second movement of his own work, which he also set in f minor. Unlike Haydn's quartets, however, Mozart's failed to bring him acclaim and were not published (Heartz 1995: 564).
When Mozart again attempted a series of string quartets in the early-to-mid-1780s he modelled them on Haydn's newly published op. 33 string quartets from 1781. This time, however, he openly acknowledged the source of his material by dedicating them to the older composer, also noting that their composition had been difficult and lengthy for him. Consequently known as the 'Haydn' string quartets, their similarities with Haydn's op. 33 quartets have been widely commented on, "not only in terms of incidental thematic similarities, but also in the equal importance of the four instruments, the contrapuntal finales of K.387 and K.464, and in detailed motivic relationships within and between movements" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 223).
Mozart's last two string quintets K.593 (1790) and K.614 (1791) have likewise been described as "amongst the most Haydnesque music [he] ever wrote". Many of their features can easily be identified with Haydn's style: the use of a slow introduction, monothematicism, the inclusion of a movement in 6/8 metre, intricate thematic development and motivic construction (which is highly uncharacteristic of Mozart), a rondo movement, and a cantabile slow movement. Moreover, Mozart's quintets betray "telling thematic resemblances" with Haydn's Quartets in D and Eb major and certain other of his works (Landon and Jones 1988: 227). The quintet K.614 is truly a pastiche. Its opening movement, which one writer labelled "'a bad arrangement of a wind piece in mock-Haydn style'" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 230), is highly and unusually motivic, the slow second movement evokes the corresponding movement of Haydn's Symphony no. 85, the Trio of the third movement shows the influence of the Trio from Haydn's Symphony no. 88, and the rondo finale recalls the corresponding movement in Haydn's Quartet op. 64 no. 6. The theme of the quintet K.593 resembles that from Haydn's Quartet op. 64 no. 5 ('The Lark') (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 230; Landon and Jones 1988: 227). Some commentators have called K.593 and K.614 Mozart's final tribute to Haydn, but to do so wrongfully validates his unimaginative and shallow imitation. Indeed, Mozart's inclusion of a dedication to Haydn on a single occasion (in his 'Haydn' string quartets) does not vindicate or convincingly explain his earlier or subsequent appropriations, nor is it proof of a life-long admiration for the composer as many have surmised. If one subscribes to that line of reasoning that equates borrowing with admiration, one would then logically have to conclude that Mozart admired many different composers over his lifetime a notion that does not resonate with what is known about his character and disposition. In fact, his history of multifarious borrowings is in itself unequivocally indicative of a lack of originality and true creativity. Even allowing for a degree of influence from predecessors and contemporaries that is inevitable in any compositional process, the amount of overt imitation in Mozart's music is considerable, one might even say excessive, to the extent that it reveals a clear pattern that cannot be ignored: upon being exposed to a new work or group of works by another composer, Mozart's next compositions, written shortly after his exposure, betrayed thematic, harmonic, motivic and/or rhythmic similarities with, or borrowings from, these predecessors. This is not the practice of a talented composer endowed with musical genius, especially as Mozart did not, in the majority of cases, use these 'influences' as a springboard to create his own individual expression. To emulate or borrow from the music of another composer once, even twice or three times, might be considered an homage, but to do so repeatedly, not just from one but from many different composers, cannot be considered anything but plagiarism, and in plagiarizing from Haydn, Mozart knew he was taking from the very best the musical world had to offer at that time.
As such, Mozart's competence as a composer is necessarily disputable, and one is forced to question the quality of his output. It has been observed that Mozart's church music of the Salzburg period "is full of internal contradictions", and that much of it "appears to juxtapose the serious and the deeply felt with the flippant and the superficial". This incongruity has been attributed to Mozart's antipathy towards his employer, the archbishop Colloredo, and his "ambivalence toward Church dogma", which supposedly manifested itself in an inconsistent and eclectic output motivated by retaliation. It has been argued that Mozart "quite often allows the effect of a work to be marred in one way or another, almost as though he cannot resist the impulse to mock his employer, even though it may mean spoiling his own creation". Yet, the explanation does not ring true for many reasons. A true artist would not intentionally and repeatedly ruin his work for the sake of getting back at someone to do so would be incredibly childish and stupid, not to mention unpropitious, especially if, as in Mozart's case, the security of his post was dependent upon him providing suitable and acceptable music that satisfactorily fulfilled the stipulated requirements. Moreover, given that Colloredo was the only one willing to employ him, regardless of his feelings towards the archbishop, Mozart simply did not have the luxury to indulge in antics of this sort, and, indeed, the contradictions in his music are rather better explained by the adage, "Do not ascribe to malice that which is adequately explained by incompetence". Certainly there were those amongst his contemporaries and subsequent generations who viewed Mozart as incompetent, and various other instances in his works and career that strongly suggest the same. From the beginning, a discerning critic wrote "that his compositions showed such 'early fruit' to be 'more extraordinary than excellent'" (Roselli 1998: 16), and this notion of mediocrity was one that would continue to resurface throughout his life. Upon hearing his quartet K.465, Mozart's contemporary, Giuseppe Sarti, concluded that Mozart lacked compositional skill, and modern-day critics have noted the incongruity within the work as a whole (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 223). Mozart's apparent inability to develop his thematic material was probably symptomatic of this lack of skill. His treatment of sonata form, characterized by short development sections that are typically devoid of any real development or working out of the material, but are rather brief periods of tonal instability that merely serve to separate the outer two sections, is a case in point. By comparison, the best composers of the period were experimenting with thematic manipulation and development of ideas, something that would be more fully realized in the Romantic period.
Mozart's music for the Freemasons has also come under scrutiny for being lack-lustre and ordinary, and various scholars have conceded that "these compositions, 'all but one, never rise above a middling artistic level'; some are 'banal'. 'Four-square' and 'routine' also fit these songs, duos and cantatas; some of the choruses (male only, of course) evoke a German glee club" (Roselli 1998: 116). To justify their mediocrity by arguing that the recipients of such music had little or no musical inclination is to not only ignore the fact that many members of the Freemasons were professional musicians, or at least musically cultured, but an attempt to dismiss Mozart's failure to produce music correspondent with his posthumous reputation. Even in such a work as Ein musikalischer Spass, with its allegedly deliberate musical ineptitude, the parody is neither subtle, intelligent nor witty (as in Haydn), but is crude and clumsy, with "unusual bar lengths and tedious strumming on tonic and dominate … instrumental entries which seem to come in too soon or too late, and conspicuous lack of motivic development" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 224). It is the kind of parody to be expected from a musical simpleton, and a work that Einstein called "a negative 'key' to Mozart's whole aesthetic" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 224). "The danger, as Jahn has observed, is that 'it is only by context that we can be assured that no actual mistake has happened, and that the composer does not deserve to be hissed at on his own account'" (Cavett-Dunsby 1991: 225). Otto Jahn was one of the first important Mozart scholars, and the conditional nature of his observation is important. What if the incompetence exhibited was not entirely intentional, but only partially so, concealed by the nature of the context?
Various aspects concerning the composition of Abduction from the Seraglio seem to indicate that incompetence on Mozart's part had a hand in shaping the final product, and the curiosities noted in John Roselli's account certainly begin to make sense with this in mind. The opera's librettist was Johann Gottlieb Stephanie, and, on more than one occasion, Mozart demanded that Stephanie rewrite the libretto to accommodate music which he had already composed, a demand which it was Stephanie's prerogative to refuse, and one which should not have been necessary for someone of Mozart's reputed ability. Roselli states that, "It was almost certainly [Mozart] who demanded a lavish quartet as the new Act 2 finale; the quartet, marvellous in itself, put in the shade the climax of the story in Act 3 the failed abduction itself, now reduced to speech" (1998: 87). That Mozart should have composed the music first without apparent consideration for the words is strange, especially given that the words are what define the plot, and the plot is the central feature of an opera without it, there can be no opera. Moreover, the fact that Mozart's quartet diminished and overshadowed the climax is an absurd and critical error, which shows in no uncertain terms not only an utter lack of appreciation for the dynamics of the story, but also that he lacked the ability to bring forth that story in an effective musical sense a shortcoming already observed in La finta giardiniera. One can only surmise that Mozart adopted this practice because he could not compose to suit the libretto, and perhaps even had to procure parts of the music from other sources. Aside from arrogance, it offers the most likely explanation for his subsequently unreasonable and inappropriate interactions with his librettists. A case in point: following Seraglio, he commenced on another opera with Varesco, to which Mozart demanded, "if the opera was to succeed Varesco 'must alter or recast the libretto as much and as often as I wish'". As it turned out, however, Mozart eventually gave up on the work (Roselli 1998: 89). In terms of Seraglio's arias, Mozart composed a coloratura aria ('Martern aller Arten') for the heroine, Konstanze, in quick succession to her aria of sorrow, and prefaced it with a ritornello 60 measures in length, during which time "she and her captor (who has just threatened her with torture) have to stand glaring at one another" inducing an unnecessary and ill-timed suspension of the drama. Whilst Roselli states that the reason behind this may have been to accommodate the singer, he further contends "A more fundamental reason for his writing 'too many notes' in 'Martern aller Arten' and elsewhere was sheer delight in the orchestra", and that "In Seraglio music-making at times got out of hand" (1998: 87). It could otherwise be argued that a true artistic talent would have shown greater sensitivity to the other components of the opera and behaved more responsibly, and that it was incompetence rather than zeal which produced the work's shortcomings.
Mozart's attempt to compose for Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario) in 1786, to another libretto by Stephanie, is yet another telling incident. The opera was to be presented at court together with one by Salieri, the plot of which similarly involved rivalries amongst operatic artists. But, where Salieri was able to deliver a successful score, "All Mozart could get out of his was a sparkling overture, two mock-display arias, and a brisk little trio" (Roselli 1998: 89). It has been postulated that Mozart had the poorer libretto to work with, but his failure was more likely a reflection of the disparity between himself and Salieri, the latter being an accomplished composer, even by modern standards, who was much more successful.
Then, in his penultimate year, Mozart composed an opera that surpassed the level of disfavour with which Don Giovanni and Figaro were received, and which, with its middling musical score, was accepted "as a routine comic opera" and nothing more Cosi fan tutte (1790) (Roselli 1998: 98). Criticized for being degrading to women, censure and derision of the opera from both musicians and the public continued well into the nineteenth century, as did the poor opinion of the music; Wagner himself considered it no better than mediocre (Roselli 1998: 99). Only in recent times have attempts been made to revive it.
Thus, far from being a compositional genius and creative force, one is left with the undeniable impression of Mozart as rather a master of appropriation and imitation, and a musical hack, who was guilty of fraud and deception. The doubtful might well ask if Mozart was indeed capable of this, and if it was even in keeping with his character, and the answer to this is most definitely 'yes'.
Mozart's boorish and vulgar nature is a little-known fact amongst the public at large, and one that is seldom publicized or mentioned even within musical circles. It was this crude demeanour that Milos Forman aptly captured in the film, Amadeus, though, judging by all accounts, his portrayal of the composer was a somewhat watered-down version of his real personality. Mozart's correspondence, littered with obscenities, well testifies to this fact, and it has been noted that not until he was 24 years of age did he even manage to write "for the first time… his favourite 'little cousin' ('Bäsle') Maria Thekla Mozart a letter that was not a cascade of nonsense language ferrying obscenities and innuendos, must of them cloacal" (Roselli 1998: 23). However, Mozart's questionable character extends beyond him simply being a lout. There is ample evidence that he was morally corrupt, untruthful, lazy, unreliable, irresponsible, arrogant and a generally unsavoury person.
Mozart was not always truthful in his letters to friends and family, and it is known that on more than one occasion he deliberately misled his own father about his activities and lied about how many works he had composed to conceal his idleness. Leopold frequently had need to reproach his son on various counts throughout his life, including Mozart's negligence and thoughtlessness, and whilst his remonstrances have in the past garnered negative criticism, it has now been acknowledged that "There is evidence that … Leopold was right" and fully justified in his treatment of his son. In many of his letters, Leopold repeatedly had to urge his son to make the effort to secure employment, instead of whiling away his time on pleasure and frivolous pursuits. After his tour to Munich in 1777, it had been decided that Mozart should go on to Paris where the opportunities were probably greater, but, instead, Mozart informed his father that he was going to follow the Weber family in pursuit of their daughter Aloysia, who neither cared for him and was otherwise engaged. Leopold warned him about their financial straits and the need to be hard working, and in response Mozart penned a thoughtless letter, "Half of it nonsense greetings to the whole alphabet" (Roselli 1998: 31). Then, in a subsequent letter to his father, Mozart back-pedalled, stating that he had never intended to follow the Webers, and eventually did go to Paris. However, "There he failed. His failure was professional and social". Quite simply, Mozart refused to do what was required to find a post. There was apparently some talk of a possible position as court organist at Versailles, but such was his arrogance and sense of self-importance that "he would have none of it: he must be court composer or nothing" (Roselli 1998: 33,34). In Paris, Mozart was reliant upon the hospitality of an old patron of the family, Baron Melchior Grimm, who provided him with house and board. He too disapproved of Mozart's conduct, and, when Mozart began to quarrel frequently with him, effectively "bundled him out of Paris". This was upsetting, but certainly not surprising, to Leopold, who was well aware of his son's flaws. In 1782 he wrote that his son was "far too patient, or rather easygoing, too indolent, perhaps even too proud, in short, that he is the sum total of all those traits which render a man inactive", and that "if he is not actually in want … becomes indolent and lazy" (Roselli 1998: 28,29).
After the Paris failure Mozart was to return to Salzburg, where his duties in service of the archbishop awaited him. But, against his father's wishes once more, Mozart went to Nancy, Strasbourg and then to Mannheim, in the hopes of running into the Webers (who had by then already left). Leopold was furious, and with good reason. He had had to finance all of Mozart's tours, and, instead of gainfully applying himself, "His son was driving him further into debt while building 'castles in the air'" (Roselli 1998: 35). Mozart claimed to love his father, yet time and again let him down and failed in his duties as a son, promising to support him and send money (as was done in those days), but never in fact doing so; nor did he recognize that he owed his early touring successes to his father's "careful planning and painstaking arrangements", or care about the strain he was now placing him under (Steptoe 1991: 106).
For his part, Leopold tried on numerous occasions to secure a good post for his son, but to no avail no one would have him. Despite such dismal prospects, Mozart was neither grateful for his Salzburg employment nor diligent in carrying out his duties there. The loaded remarks found in Michael Haydn's Salzburg contract hint at the extent of Mozart's negligence: "Michael's duties were to be the same as 'young Mozart's', 'with the additional stipulation that he show more diligence, instruct the chapel [choir] boys [in keyboard playing], and compose more often for our cathedral and church music'", instructions which Mozart had failed to comply with (Roselli 1998: 40). In 1775, Mozart arrogantly requested his discharge from the service of the archbishop "with a reference to the parable of the talents in the Gospel: it would not do to leave his talents hidden", and to which the archbishop replied, "'Father and son herewith granted permission to seek their fortune according to the Gospel'" (Roselli 1998: 45). Fortunately, Leopold was able to save his own position, and even subsequently managed to get Mozart reinstated for after the above-mentioned Paris tour, showing, as Roselli contends, that the archbishop was not a vengeful man, and that Leopold was dedicated to helping his son. Yet, as has been seen, Mozart clearly did not appreciate his father's efforts or the archbishop's generosity, choosing instead to blow it off in favour of chasing after Aloysia Weber, and, after eventually returning to Salzburg, showing that he was nothing but ungrateful. He frequently complained about not being able to reach his full potential in Salzburg's poor musical climate, a criticism which, like so many other things he wrote, was not only exaggerated but untrue (Roselli 1998: 80), and insisted that his duties were holding him back from achieving greater success elsewhere. He also frequently insulted his colleagues and showed nothing but contempt and disrespect for the archbishop in letters that he surely knew would be checked. What is clear is that Mozart had no respect for the conventions of the time concerning the place and duties of a musician, conventions that all composers of the day, including Haydn, did abide by. It was only a matter of time before this kind of inexcusable behaviour would no longer be tolerated by the archbishop. That time came in 1781.
In March 1781, the archbishop took Mozart with him to Vienna, during which time Mozart became further disgruntled at being seated "below the personal valets and above the cooks" (Roselli 1998: 46). When it was time for them to leave, Mozart moved to the Webers (who happened to be in Vienna) and refused to return to Salzburg. He questioned, "Was he to give up all this [i.e. the prospect of being in Vienna] 'for the sake of a malevolent prince who plagues me everyday and only pays me a lousy salary'"? (Roselli 1998: 46). Yet, it should be remembered that this "malevolent prince" was the only one in the whole of Europe who would employ him, and who had seen fit to take him back once before, and whose "lousy salary" had sustained him for many years. The archbishop consequently fired Mozart, calling him a "'rascal'" and "'dissolute fellow'", and Mozart remained in Vienna, completely unconcerned that his behaviour may have jeopardized his father's employment as well.
Now left to his own devices, Mozart tried to secure a permanent position in Vienna. But, true to form, failed to do so. It is clear that he was widely viewed as a liability rather than an asset someone who was unable to act with decorum or perform his duties properly. The Empress Maria Theresa had called him "useless", and had warned her son off people like him, saying, "'If they are in your service it degrades that service when these people go about the world like beggars'" (Roselli 1998: 39), sentiments which Colloredo had also expressed. Mozart dealt with his continual failure by casting blame on others and complaining of not being appreciated. Yet the idea that Mozart was perpetually hard done by at every turn (which only arises from the reputation he holds today), wears thin, and begs the question of whether in fact his treatment was well deserved, which, it becomes increasingly evident, it was. The disparity between his own expectations and self-image and the reality of the situation suggests that he was both arrogant and deluded. His international aspirations and desire for fame clearly indicate that he was not really interested in composition, but rather hungered for wealth and prestige, and was resentful when he did not get it. His resentment towards the aristocracy was not borne of any sense of injustice at class distinction per se, but a sense of injustice at not being one of them. It really was a case of sour grapes, because, as was widely known, he had expensive tastes and frequently aspired to their level and affluence, but failed. His joining the Freemasons in 1784 was very much motivated by the chance to interact on equal footing with some of Vienna's leading aristocracy and most influential officials, rather than any lofty ideals. It has been acknowledged that he certainly did not share any of their esoteric interests and was not a spiritual man. His "Zoroastrian riddles", written in 1786, are "not so much arcane as bawdy; …. The riddles confirm Mozart's delight in … obscene jokes" and "what is certain is that they do not show Mozart delving into the occult" (Roselli 1998: 113).
What is more, he apparently did not hold to any spiritual or moral values. His father suspected and feared that he was a womaniser who had compromised innocent girls, including his young cousin, to which Mozart defensively replied, "'If I had to marry all those with whom I have jested I should have two hundred wives at least'". The comment, Roselli notes, was "to deny perhaps untruthfully any serious entanglement with Constanze Weber" (Aloysia's sister) (1998:61), whom he was eventually obliged to marry, and whom, evidence suggests, he was subsequently unfaithful to.
Besides his infidelity, Mozart also gambled, and it was this vice which undoubtedly put him into debt, explaining his "sudden, repeated borrowings of amounts large and small" (Roselli 1998: 72). It has been calculated that "though Mozart's estimated income would not have brought wealth, it should have been enough to support him and his family in some style and leave him reasonably free from care. Nevertheless the earliest evidence dates from February 1783, six months after [his] wedding Mozart frequently borrowed money, often in a hurry and pleading urgent need" (Roselli 1998: 71), and his records show that he had "outstanding debts and heavy expenditure" beyond everyday living expenses (Roselli 1998: 71).
This financial circumstance has caused doubts to be raised over the truthfulness of Mozart's reports about his tours to his father, and whether the accounts of his earnings "masked his gambling losses". Many have acknowledged that Mozart "was apparently willing to misstate his earnings" to suit his purposes, both to family and friends. His attempt to borrow money in December 1789 is a commonly cited example: "he told his friend and long-suffering creditor Michael Puchberg, from whom he urgently wished to borrow 400 florins, that he would soon collect a fee for Cosi fan tutte of 900 florins, but the imperial accounts show only a payment of the standard fee for an opera of 450 florins" clearly, "Mozart, in a tight corner, lied to his friend" (Roselli 1998: 72).
Given this and other misdemeanours, and his obvious dissolute character, it is not surprising that eyewitnesses and early biographers "talked of Mozart's 'weaknesses', 'human failings', 'hazardous' contacts, and 'debaucheries'", words with serious implications both then and now. What we are faced with is a man who was lewd and behaved like an imbecile, who frequently lied, who lacked any sense of morality or moral responsibility, who practiced deceit, and who was ambitious, but lacked any real or exceptional talent. It is inexplicable that such a person could be capable of writing spiritual or uplifting music, or of eloquent and deeply felt expression. That Mozart was deliberately underhanded in his musical practices indeed seems certain, and it is patent that what has been called 'indebtedness' and 'influences' were actually symptoms of his creative poaching and thievery. Indeed, his habitual practice of copying the works of other composers can have no other reasonable explanation other than he wished to plagiarize from them and/or pass them off as his own, which is in fact what happened in a number of instances. The argument is further strengthened by the fact that, viewed within the context of his own time, Mozart was, for all intents and purposes, nothing more than a run-of-the-mill composer who failed to rise above mediocrity, and whose status reflected as much. How such a composer could be elevated to greatness and subsequently inducted into the canonic ranks is the issue that remains to be addressed. The explanation has to do with the formation of the musical canon itself.
The western musical canon is essentially an Austro-German musical canon, the invention of which took place over the course of the nineteenth century, and whose "ideological significance" issued from its association "with a dominant national culture, perceived as both specifically German and at the same time representative of universal values, a paradox well in tune with German classical art and the new philology" (Samson 1995: 96). Integral to the formation of this canon was music publishing, the leading firm of which was Breitkopf and Härtel. Beginning in 1850, Breitkopf began publication of an extended series of collected editions of the works of major composers that centred almost exclusively on the Austro-German school. Completed over a 40-year period, it helped to consolidate the notion of a German musical tradition, and effectively gave "official" recognition to its chosen composers, bestowing upon them the status of a "great" composer and the connotations of prestige and value the title carried with it. Mozart's transition from mediocrity to greatness was facilitated by his inclusion in this series. Left to deal with his outstanding debts following his death, Mozart's widow, Constanze, campaigned and lobbied publishers to buy her husband's autographs, to the extent that, "within a few years she consolidated Mozart's reputation by selling many of his works to leading German publishing houses" (Roselli 1998: 158). Among these were Breitkopf and Härtel, who purchased about 40 autographs for their projected collection, the rest of the autographs going to the publisher Johann Anton André. Mozart's inclusion in the Breitkopf series cannot be viewed as anything other than ideologically convenient, and a necessary stylistic bridge between Bach and Handel, and Beethoven and Schubert for the sake of continuity. His inclusion was nonetheless fortuitous. As is widely known, the Austro-German canon wielded tremendous influence throughout Europe, and commentators have remarked on its "practical and ideological force". It facilitated the promotion of certain composers and the marginalization of others, whilst "Ideologically it manipulated an innocent repertory to confirm the social position of a dominant group in society" (Samson 1995: 96). By inclusion, Mozart automatically garnered universal approval and so the myth was born, to be augmented and coloured by the Romantic ethos. For instance, it has now been acknowledged that "Mozart as a spontaneous artist who composed music in his head and wrote it down without a second thought is a romantic fiction" (Roselli 1998: 42). It is also worth noting that the phraseology that has been used to describe his music is not grounded in any truth, but rather belongs to this Romantic vocabulary that has been passed down and repeated over the centuries with little thought for its validity; in the same breath critics have widely pronounced that Mozart changed the course of musical composition, yet was a traditionalist "who took the musical language of the day as he found it" (Roselli 1998: 4), without realizing the contradiction and incompatibility of the two statements.
Thus, the connotations of greatness that surround the name of Mozart stem from a reputation that was created posthumously, and which was conveniently bolstered by his notoriety as a child prodigy. It is this wrongful inclusion and elevation into the canonic ranks that has led to musical talent being erroneously equated with compositional skill and creative genius qualities that are neither correlative nor equivalent. This misconception, and the skewed historical perspective it has spawned and influenced, represents one of, if not the greatest transgressions in musical history. It is high time that scholars and Mozartians take off the rose-coloured glasses and view the facts without reference to an image or ideal of the composer which is not only illusory but fraudulent, and give due credit to the real masters of the Classical period.
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