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Leopold (Johann Georg) Mozart
Born: Augsburg (Germany), 14/11/1719   Died: Salzburg (Austria), 28/05/1787

Roles
1. Composer
2. Violinist
Letters in which this person is cited
147 (14 December 1769) | view
148 (15 December 1769) | view
149 (17 December 1769) | view
150 (22 December 1769) | view
152 (7 January 1770) | view
153 (7 January 1770) | view
155 (11 January 1770) | view
157 (26 January 1770) | view
159 (3 February 1770) | view
160 (10 February 1770) | view
Showing the first 10 letters. Show all
Father of W. A. Mozart. Leopold Mozart, the son of an Augsburg bookbinder, Johann Georg Mozart (1679–1736), attended the Augsburg Gymnasium (1727–1735) and the Lyceum adjoining the Jesuit school of St Salvator (1735–1736); a frequent performer in local theatrical productions, he was also an accomplished organist and violinist. In 1737, Leopold broke with his family and matriculated at the Salzburg Benedictine University, where he studied philosophy and jurisprudence. He took the bachelor of philosophy degree in 1738, with public commendation, but in September 1739 he was expelled for poor attendance and a failure to show proper deference to his professors and the university establishment. It is unclear why Leopold became disenchanted with his studies and why he deliberately provoked the university officials; possibly he felt that a career in the church, chosen for him by his parents, did not suit his nature or interests. As his later correspondence shows, Leopold was a gregarious youth and a willing performer. No doubt he had always been attracted to a career in music and shortly after leaving the university he became a valet and musician to Johann Baptist, Count of Thurn-Valsassina and Taxis, Salzburg canon and president of the consistory; it was to Thurn-Valsassina that he dedicated his Sonate sei da chiesa e da camera op.1 (1740), which he engraved in copper himself.
It may have been the composition around this time of several German passion cantatas that led to his appointment in 1743 as fourth violinist in the court orchestra of Archbishop Leopold Anton Freiherr von Firmian; in addition to his court duties he taught violin to the choirboys of the cathedral oratory and, later, keyboard. By 1758 he had advanced to the post of second violinist and in 1763 to deputy Kapellmeister. During these years he composed prolifically; according to the `Nachricht von dem gegenwärtigen Zustande der Musik Sr. Hochfürstl. Gnaden des Erzbischoffs zu Salzburg`, published by F. W Marpurg in 1757, Leopold had by that time composed many contrapuntal and other church items; further a great number of symphonies, some only à4 but others with all the customary instruments; likewise more than 30 large serenades in which solos for various instruments appear. In addition he has brought forth many concertos, in particular for the transverse flute, oboe, bassoon, Waldhorn, trumpet etc.: countless trios and divertimentos for various instruments; 12 oratorios and a number of theatrical items, even pantomimes, and especially certain occasional pieces such as martial music … Turkish music, music with `steel keyboard` and lastly a musical sleigh ride; not to speak of marches, so-called `Nachtstücke` and many hundreds of minuets, opera dances and similar items.
Only a fraction of these works survive, chiefly symphonies and other occasional orchestral works (including Die musikalische Schlittenfahrt and Die Bauernhochzeit), divertimentos for strings, keyboard sonatas, sacred and secular songs, and numerous masses, litanies and offertories. Tentative dates can be established for most of this repertory but they do not answer the most intractable and significant chronological question: whether Leopold continued to compose after Wolfgang began his own career. The latest substantiated dates of composition are April 1762 for the Trumpet Concerto and August 1762 for a litany in D major. It is almost certain, however, that the fragmentary Mass K116, previously attributed to Wolfgang, was composed in Vienna in 1768 and the so-called `Lambach` Symphony, also claimed for Mozart, a year earlier, in 1767.
References in the family letters show that Leopold Mozart considered himself a `modern` composer and his extant works, both early and late, bear this out. The church music, including the sacramental litany in D major, the litany in E-flat major and the Missa Solemnis in C, is surprisingly dramatic, juxtaposing traditional stile antico counterpoint with arias based on models from Italian opera. The symphonies, too, are generally finely wrought and the most mature of them stylistically approximate German symphonies by composers a generation younger than Leopold. It speaks for itself that several of his works were at one time thought to be compositions by Wolfgang. The `popular` bias frequently cited as characteristic of his style affects only a small part of his output and is of little significance; in general it is more a reflection on the demands of his patrons and the particular occasions for which the works were written. Curiously, Leopold seems to have written little for his own instrument; no violin concertos by him are known. The Violinschule of 1756, however, was highly regarded. It was revised by Leopold for second and third editions published in 1769–1770 and 1787 respectively. A Dutch translation appeared in 1766, and a French edition, by Valentin Roeser, apparently not authorized, in 1770; elsewhere, revisions of Mozart`s text continued to be published as late as 1817. Based chiefly on the Italian method, and Tartini in particular, the Violinschule nevertheless shows Mozart`s acquaintance with a broad range of music theory from Glarean on. While not universally applicable as a guide to pan-European eighteenth-century performing practices, the work nevertheless represents the source closest to Mozart and is the most valuable guide to the musical and aesthetic education of the younger composer.
Mozart married Maria Anna Mozart (née Pertl) on 21 November 1747; of their seven children only two, Maria Anna (`Nannerl` Mozart, b. 1751) and Wolfgang Amadeus (b. 1756), survived to adulthood. And while Leopold continued to compose and teach throughout the late 1750s, there is no doubt that the `miracle which God let be born in Salzburg`, as he later described Wolfgang, changed his life. It is not true, as Nannerl later reported, that he `entirely gave up both violin instruction and composition in order to direct that time not claimed in service to the prince to the education of his two children`; even after Wolfgang`s musical talents became apparent, Leopold continued to perform his works, to direct the court music, to teach violin, to arrange for the purchase of music and musical instruments, and to attend to numerous other details as part of his court duties. Nevertheless, the recognition of this `miracle` struck Leopold with the force of a divine revelation and he felt his responsibility to be not merely a father`s and teacher`s but a missionary`s as well; at least in part this was the motivation for the journeys that he undertook, at first with his entire family but after 1769 chiefly with Wolfgang alone.
Leopold`s collaboration in Wolfgang`s early works up to about 1770 was probably considerable; in addition to editing the manuscripts, he frequently made compositional suggestions, at least one of his works, the trio of the serenade in D major, appears as Menuet II in Wolfgang`s sonata K6, and scarcely a single autograph of Wolfgang`s is without additions or alterations in his father`s hand. Even later, the attributions and dates on Mozart`s autographs are frequently by Leopold, who apparently preserved his son`s manuscripts with painstaking orderliness. Thus the elder Mozart fulfilled a universal function as teacher, educator and private secretary to his son, and when necessary also served as valet, impresario, propagandist and travel organizer.
During the 1770s, when the Mozarts travelled less and Wolfgang began to assert his independence, Leopold felt increasingly distant from Salzburg`s musical life; a letter of 4 September 1776 to Padre Martini, written by Wolfgang but composed by Leopold makes this clear: `My father … has already served this court for thirty-six years and as he knows that the present Archbishop cannot and will not have anything to do with people who are getting on in years, he no longer puts his whole heart into his work, but has taken up literature, which was always a favourite study of his`. And his final decade was one of rebuffs, setbacks at court and personal tragedy. His wife died in Paris in 1778 while accompanying Wolfgang on tour and Leopold was subsequently compelled to mediate in the ever worsening relations between his son and Archbishop Colloredo. Although he managed to secure a temporarily satisfactory resolution of this conflict—in 1779 Wolfgang was appointed court and cathedral organist—his efforts finally came to nothing when in 1781 Mozart left the Archbishop`s service and took up permanent residence in Vienna. Wolfgang`s marriage to Constanze Mozart (née Weber) was seen by Leopold as a misalliance and he became increasingly alienated from his son, although in the spring of 1785, while visiting Vienna, he experienced at first hand Mozart`s triumphs and heard with pride and satisfaction Haydn`s famous words in praise of Wolfgang: `Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name. He has taste and, what is more, the most profound knowledge of composition` (letter of 16 February 1785). But after this visit especially, Salzburg must have seemed remote and isolated to him. Earlier, in August 1784, Nannerl had married Johann Baptist von Berchtold zu Sonnenberg and moved to St Gilgen, the birthplace of Mozart`s mother; one consolation was the birth in July 1785 of his grandson, Leopold (Nannerl and Berchtold`s first child), who was brought to Salzburg to live with the elder Mozart, then 66 years old.
Leopold Mozart died in May 1787 and was buried in the cemetery of St Sebastian. On the same day, Dominicus Hagenauer, Abbot of St Peter`s in Salzburg and a long-time family friend, noted in his diary: `Leopold Mozart, who died today, was a man of much wit and wisdom, and would have been capable of good services to the state beyond those of music … He was born in Augsburg, spent most of his days in court service here, and yet had the misfortune always to be persecuted and was far less beloved here than in other great places of Europe.`
Mozart`s personality could not be more accurately summarized, nor his misrepresentation at the hands of later biographers more strikingly contradicted. A man of broad cultural achievement, a passionate reader of literature and natural science, an admirer of Gottsched, a correspondent of Gellert`s and a friend of Wieland, Leopold Mozart may have been haughty, difficult to please and at times intractable, but even his contemporaries gave him full credit for Wolfgang`s development; Hasse, who once described him as `equally discontented everywhere` also wrote to Ortes, `you will not be displeased to know a father who has the merit of having known how to form and give so good an education to a son`. There is no compelling evidence that Leopold was excessively manipulative, intolerant, autocratic or jealous of his son`s talent. On the contrary, a careful reading in context of the family letters reveals a father who cared deeply for his son but who was frequently frustrated in his greatest ambition: to secure for Wolfgang a worldly position appropriate to his genius.
W. Baer, ed., Leopold Mozart zum 200. Todestag, Stadtarchivs Augsburg, 23 May–16 Aug 1987 (Augsburg, 1987) [Exhibition catalogue] C. Eisen, `The Symphonies of Leopold Mozart: their Chronology, Style, and Importance for the Study of Mozart`s Earliest Symphonies`, Mozart-Jahrbuch 1987/88, 181–183 R. Halliwell, The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context (Oxford, 1998) L. Mozart, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (Augsburg, 1756/R, 2/1769–1770, enlarged 3/1787/R, 4/1800; Dutch trans., 1766/R; French trans., 1770; numerous other unauthorized reprintings and edns; Eng. Trans., 1948, 2/1951) [L. Mozart, presumed author], `Nachtricht von dem gegenwärtigen Zustande der Musik Sr. Hochfürstl. Gnaden des Erzbischoffs zu Salzburg im Jahre 1757`, in F. W. Marpurg, Historisch-kritische Beyträge zur Aufnahme der Musik, 3 (Berlin, 1757/R), 185–198; Eng. Trans. In N. Zaslaw, Mozart`s Symphonies: Context, Performance Practice, Reception (Oxford, 1989), 50–57 W. Plath, `Zur Echtheitsfrage bei Mozart: 2. Leopold Mozart`, Mozart-Jahrbuch 1971/72, 19–36; repr. In W. Plath, Mozart Schriften, ed. M. Danckwardt (Kassel, 1991), 179–201 F. Posch, `Leopold Mozart als Mensch, Vater und Erzieher der Aufklärung`, Neues Mozart-Jahrbuch 1941, 49–78 M. H. Schmid, Mozart und die Salzburger Tradition (Tutzing, 1976)
Please use the following reference when citing this website:
Eisen, Cliff et al. In Mozart's Words, 'Leopold (Johann Georg) Mozart' <http://letters.mozartways.com>. Version 1.0, published by HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.
In Mozart's Words. Version 1.0, published by HRI Online, 2011. ISBN 9780955787676.