Sunday, 30 December 2018


RAH is currently seeking a HEAD OF PROGRAMMING.

Posted on RAH vacancies: 06 December 2018
Application deadline: 12 noon, 04 January, 2019
Full details / Official listing: Royal Albert Hall (Jobs)
*Interviews to be held week commencing 14 January 2019

Philharmonia Orchestra is currently seeking a TUTTI D-BASS
Application deadline: 06 January 2019
Audition requirements / Official listing: Philharmonia
*Auditions to be held 12, 13 February 2019

Best of luck to all applicants!


Saturday, 29 December 2018


Fans of 18th century Italian composer Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's stunningly austere setting of Stabat Mater may be surprised with the jubilant nature of his recently discovered mass, first revealed to the international press in late March 2018.

It seems, on face value, a rather odd pairing: buoyant vocal and orchestral dynamics set against the sacred text – one which contemporary composers of the Baroque era were apt to approach with a normally reserved - solemn, even – character.

Considered lost for some 300 years, the present version of the Mass in D Major was reconstructed from fragmented scores “scattered across different libraries” under the direction of musicologist Claudio Bacciagaluppi.

Two versions exist of the work – an earlier version, and the modern transcription, dating from c. 1733, of which an excerpt (of “Gloria in excelisis deo”) can be heard below.

As per Neapolitan tradition in the time of Pergolesi, the composer opted to set only the Kyrie movement and the Gloria of the ordinary of the mass.

It's assumed age, if indeed correct, parallels the composition of the B minor mass of his contemporary, Johann Sebastian Bach, who would begin writing his setting of the ordinary in the same year, completing his work 1749 (Bach's mass is believed to have been consummated in 1859 by a performance, in its entirety, long after the composer's death in 1750.)

As some readers may already be aware, Bach counted among his musicians of influence the young Pergolesi (who died from complication arising from tuberculosis at the tender age of 26), famously arranging the latter's Stabat Mater into a non-Marian cantata based on a paraphrase of the German text of Psalm 51: “Tilge, Höchster, meine Sünden," (BWV 1083.)

Just imagine what he could have done with Pergolesi's Mass!

Listen below to the world premiere recording of Pergolesi's Mass in D major, performed by Ghislieri Choir and Consort under Giulio Prandi (on the Arcana label.) Pergolesi's recently discovered work, which went on a quiet European 'tour' prior to the 2018 pressing, includes a motetto by the composer, Dignas Laudes Resonemus - a liturgical setting of a Latin text reconstructed from multiple versions of parts, and a fragment of a score held at the libraries of the Conservatory of Milan and the Abbey of Montecassino:

..and live from the Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw, recorded 27 January, 2018:

More on this story (external links):

- Rose.

Saturday, 8 December 2018


Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma
Commuters making use of Montreal's Metro system were treated with an impromptu serenade Saturday afternoon as world renowned Chinese-American cellist Yo-Yo Ma performed Bach's six suites for solo cello gratis as part of a six-continent, 36-stop global tour (dubbed "The Bach Project") in which the virtuoso will perform what is perhaps his most critically acclaimed repertoire.

The makeshift stage on which Ma performed the very suites which made him a household name was erected at Montreal's Station Place-des-Arts and incorporated poetry readings in English, French and Spanish accompanied by Ma's signature $2.5 million “Petunia,” designed in 1733 by luthier Domenico Montagnana. The concert, which aims to unite society and overcome differences through the medium of culture, wrapped up with a rousing jig played by the cellist, followed by an encore performance (with crowd participation) of “Hallelujah” in honor of the late Montreal-born rock icon Leonard Cohen.

Speaking in fluent French[1] to the assembled crowd, Ma, a UN Messenger of Peace (a title he has held since 2006) reminded his audience:

“In the métro, you’re all linked together because you’re traveling together every day from one place to another. This is what unites us.”

The concert, which began at 2PM EST, was streamed live on the transit agency's Facebook page. President of the STM Philippe Schnobb summed up the performance quite succinctly when he quipped:

“This is art in the métro. Some people had come to the station specifically to see Yo-Yo Ma perform, while others stumbled upon the concert. They will go home and say: 'I don’t know what happened this afternoon, I went out to run some errands and I ended up singing Hallelujah with Yo-Yo Ma.' "

Ma's free concert surely must have come as something of a fortuitous surprise for fans of the revered musician who missed out on seeing their idol perform during Friday's sold-out concert at the Maison Symphonique[2]

A clip of Ma addressing the crowd and performing Bach's famous Prelude may be viewed below.

Did You Know?

This is not the first time an artist of such high stature has 'busked' in an underground rail system. American violinist Joshua Bell famously performed Bach's famous Chaconne incognito in Washington's L'Enfant Plaza in January 2007 as part of a sociological experiment on class perception in conjunction with the Washington Post, which earned a Pulitzer Prize for the stunt. Read more about Bell's appearance here on Unraveling Musical Myths.
French violinist Renaud Capuçon also performed the role of a busker two years later on line 6 of the Paris Métro in similar casual 'disguise' (Joshua wore a ballcap, while Renaud opted for a fedora.) Like Bell, who performed on his 3.5 million Strad (the “Gibson ex-Huberman,”) Capuçon “busked” with an invaluable instrument – a 1737 Guarneri (formerly owned by Issac Stern, nicknamed "Viscount de Panette.") 

Capuçon's "performance" of the gorgeous Melodie from Christoph Willibald Gluck's Orfed ed Euridice seen in the video above, was documented on camera for/featured in French filmmaker Simon Lelouch's short film 7.57 am-pm. He would perform two days following filming to a sold out crowd at Paris' Théâtre des Champs-Elysées.

[1]For my non-French speaking readers, Ma greeted the assembled crowd thusly: "Hello, ladies and gentleman, my friends! Very good? Tired, no? Thank you for your patience and for giving up your Saturday afternoon. Are you tired? (audience: NO!) But it's beautiful, yes? [pointing to screen] It's wonderful here in the metro -  for everyone! And now I want to play something for you and we’ll see what happens, ok?"

[2]Intimate appearances by Ma are a staple of the musician's "Bach Project" campaign and tour. Each "Day of Action" as Ma refers to his more subdued appearances, follow, or are scheduled before a major concert appearance. Sociological issues ranging from the integration of AI technology and personal ethics, to the use of technology and media as a viable means to increase visibility on issues plaguing minorities, (all in the context of the uniting force of high culture) are discussed. A detailed briefing of today's 'Day of Action' may be found by visiting the link to "The Bach Project," listed below.

External links:
  • For more on this story and for an extended video of the performance, visit Global News. 
  • Visit The Bach Project to learn more about Yo-Yo Ma's campaign and to keep abreast of forthcoming tour dates.
- Rose.

Friday, 7 December 2018


In light of the 227th observance of the death of Unraveling Musical Myths' favorite composer, Wolfgang "Amadè" Mozart, I have decided to launch early the first installment in my new series on the composer "The Mozart Files: Facts vs. Fiction."

I was first inspired to create this series after reading one too many articles containing often repeated, falsified accounts of Herr Mozart in both reputable news media and on educational-themed, pop-culture-slanted websites (which shall remain nameless.)

Unfortunately where Mozart is concerned, details concerning his demise and of the events that occurred post-mortem are, and have been for generations, supported by as much - or perhaps even more - grandiose tales of legend than by factual biographical data which may be quite readily cross-referenced against archival material (much of it made available for public access via the modern trend of digitizing personal letters, registers, and related memorabilia.)

Sometimes, discrepancies may be traced to poor translation from the German tongue - however more often, dubious accounts of Mozart's life have simply been passed down though the musical ages - fantastical dramatizations of otherwise unremarkable events that have permeated even the seams of modern pop-culture, often the direct result of overactive imaginations, exaggerations, and through the practice of quoting from quasi-biopic, dated material rife with fiction.

How fitting it is, then, to begin with the funeral of Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, which occurred today - on the 7th of December, in 1791. 

The reader may already be familiar with the melancholic story of Mozart, lying stiff in his coffin, the icy chill surrounding his corpse the result not just of a severe case of rigor mortis, but of an (appropriately) dramatic storm of snow, rain, violent wind (and thunder!) which raged so untameable it forced an already ill-manned procession (which may or may not have included Franz Xaver Süssmayr as a pallbearer) to turn back at the gates of St. Marx Cemetery.

You may have even bore witness to iconography depicting the same scene - or perhaps, even more pitiably, depicting a lonesome pup, it's tail tucked in between its legs and head drooped woefully toward the earth as it follows a horse-driven hearse with his friendless Master inside - together making the doleful journey toward the graveyard under the cover of a frigid, moonless night:

"Mozarts Begräbnis" - c. 1860 engraving depicting a fabled journey of Mozart's corpse w/ poem: "Mozart's Burial"
Translation of poem into English: "As the storm roars about, on the snow-covered field / On the final path, brightened by no beam of light /  He heads on alone; no eye weeps for him, / Only his loyal dog follows along, his only friend."
This portrayal, attr. Joseph Heicke bears striking similarity to an earlier coloured French Print by Pierre-Roch Vigneron, "Convoi du Pauvre" (Poor Man's Procession, c. 1800), now in Austrian archives. Ludwig van Beethoven is said to have hung a copy of Vigneron's engraving in his home as a reminder of his hero's humble burial. Even through recycled
iconography, we find material originally and wholly unrelated to Mozart take on an apocryphal association post-mortem.

Even notable early biographers have re-told their versions of the mournful scenario: an early biography by Otto Jahn has Mozart "receiv[ing] Benediction at St. Stephen's Church" on December 6th - shortly before winter's early sunset at 3 PM, before being accosted by

"a heavy storm of snow and rain [which was] raging...[which caused] the few friends who had assembled for the funeral procession [to stand] with umbrellas around the bier.. [the body] was then carried through the Schulerstrasse to the Cemetery of St. Mark. As the storm grew worse, the mourners decided to turn back at the gate, so that not a friend stood by when the body was lowered into the grave."[1]

The first known appearance of this sordid scene was recorded in the Vienna Morgen-Post on 28 January 1856 (a whopping 65 years after Mozart's death.) The story below which made it to print has been attributed to tavern owner Joseph Deiner (d. 29 May 1823) of "The Silver Snake." It was printed thusly:

"The night of Mozart's death was dark and stormy; at the funeral, too, it began to rage and storm. Rain and snow fell at the same time, as if Nature wanted to shew her anger with the great composer's contemporaries, who had turned out extremely sparsely for his burial. Only a few friends and three women accompanied the corpse. Mozart's wife was not present. These few people with their umbrellas stood round the bier, which then taken via the Grosse Schullerstrasse to the St. Marx Cemetery. As the storm grew ever more violent, even these few friends determined to turn back at the Stuben Gate, and they betook themselves to the "Silver Snake."[2]

Memorial tablet at St. Marx Cemetery, positioned at a
location believed by some to be Mozart's grave. Image:
Invisigoth67 [CC BY-SA 2.5], Wikimedia Commons
Subsequent biographers further added their own variations to this scene: In Hugo Riemann's Musiklexikon (1882), Mozart's "few friends" would not even make it to the cemetery gate - already having turned back halfway through the journey to the graveyard due to the fury of the storm. Ernest Newman, in his Stories of the Great Operas, published in 1928, posits the inclusion of composers Johann Georg Albrechtsberger, Emanuel Schikaneder, the baron Gottfried van Swieten and even Antonio Salieri as members of the procession. "It is thought,"  Newman contests, the men were there, alongside a "faithful Süssmayr" but that "heavy snow" and "appalling" weather...drove them home."

This contradicts the account told by Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, early Mozart biographer and second husband of Mozart's widow Constanze, who reported that Schikaneder had steered clear of the procession and funeral for the latter's stated reason that "his ghost follows me everywhere, I see him wherever I look."[3] Even more curious is the allegation made by Joseph Deiner, the aforementioned owner of the Silver Snake Tavern and progenitor of the 'stormy burial' fable, who - despite the complete absence of corroborating accounts - places himself at Mozart's funeral as a member of the procession.

Such romantic, highly dramatic accounts of Herr Mozart were part and parcel of the oft-whispered tales of intrigue and scandal that surrounded the composer's final days. We have even seen Mozart depicted on the silver screen as a sort of morbid soothsayer - foreshadowing his own death through the creation of his own Requiem (for his own funeral, no less), and on both film and stage as an unwitting 'victim' of a grotesquely envious and frighteningly duplicitous Salieri. But such Doomsday-esque rumors didn't begin with Shaffer's “Amadeus,” nor even Pushkin's account of our beloved icon's demise. Like early biographers, they simply perpetuated myths, loosely based on fantastical interpretation and wild conspiracy theories. To put things into perspective, it was as recent at 1971, on the 180th anniversary of Mozart's death, that a “new” analysis into what killed the composer was published by biographers Johannes Duda, Gunter Kerner and Dieter Dalchow (“Mozart's Tod 1791-1971”) which played on an age-old hypothesis of mercury poisoning first made famous immediately following the composers death. 

*Early Mozart biographer, Franz Niemetscheck
may have had ulterior motives of the financial
ilk when he sought the testimonials of a deeply
indebted Constanze following the composers
untimely death. Much of these accounts have
since been discredited through the revelation
of contemporary registers and documentation.
His publication was the first full-length account
of Mozart's life - replacing the brief, 6000-word
mini-bio published 5 years earlier by Friedrich
Schlichtgeroll in the obituary volume "Nekrolog
auf das Jahr 1791."
It was the Czech philosopher Franz Xaver Niemetscheck who would become Mozart's first (full length) post-mortem biographer.* Mozart's widow Constanze willingly provided testimonials, both verbal and written, of her late husband's life to the critic - for Stanzi, it was a means to an economic end: Wolfgang's outstanding debts now rested squarely on her shoulders.[†] Niemetscheck certainly new how to play to a crowd - he famously printed in his biography a tale allegedly regaled upon him by the widow Mozart who claimed she had walked with a sickly Wolfgang in the Prater, whereupon he suddenly turned to face her, and, overcome with delirium, informed her “Indeed, I have been given poison.”  It didn't help matters when a delayed obituary, published one week after Mozart's death in a Berliner newspaper ("Musikalisches Wochenblatt”) announced, sight unseen, the state of his corpse: “Because his body swelled after death, it is believed he had been poisoned.”

Sensing a possible payday, aspiring writers almost immediately set pen to paper, expanding on Niemetschek's poison theory: potential assassins included disgruntled Freemasons to the wealthy baron van Swieten (who funded Mozart's third-class funeral), to Salieri, who was falsely alleged to have proclaimed himself a murderer whilst incarcerated in a mental asylum (an allegation later discounted by his around-the-clock caregivers.)

The reality is, we really don't know what killed Mozart. His cause and manner of death were never officially documented, save for a vague blip in a Viennese death register, written not by an attending physician, but rather a city official (as it was not customary for a doctor to prepare a death certificate in 1791 Vienna.) It simply reads:

“On 5 December 1791, the honorable Wolfgang Amadeus K.K. Kappellmeister and chamber composer died in a small Kaiserhouse in Rauhensteinergasse in Vienna of fevered prickly heat”[4]

Excerpt from the Official death register at St. Stephen's.
Dated 6.12.1791, this timestamp is widely believed among
modern scholars to have been an error on the part of the
city official who recorded it.  A known laxity in regard to
attention to detail combined with multiple contemporary
weather reports (both public and private) refute a
December 6 burial for Herr Mozart.
Given that the description offered forth in the official register is symptomatic – not diagnostic – compounded by the fact that no DNA exists of Mozart's corpse – his remains now lost to the world – one can only offer educated guesses, or, as has often been the case, substitute for fact outright fiction in order to fill in the blanks. Modern analyses frequently presented by physicians theorizing in absentia must therefore be interpreted with much caution. Regardless of advances in modern medicine and technology, one must be mindful of the primitive state of medicine in the late 18th century. The symptom of hitziges Frieselfieber attributed to Mozart was a common one in Mozart's time – and it ran the gamut, covering a variety of maladies, both treatable and fatal. We mustn't forget the era in which Mozart lived, thrived, and died was not far removed from medieval interpretation and treatment of disease.

But what can be ascertained – and most certainly has been ascertained through the discovery of archival material are the circumstances surrounding Mozart's funeral. We now know, thanks to the revelation of contemporary documents, that Mozart's funeral did not occur on the 6th of December, nor was a violent storm brewing that afternoon. An entry in the diary of Saxon-Austrian civil servant Karl von Zinzendorf, well known to Mozart, dated 6th December 1791 (the day of the alleged funeral) describes "mild weather and frequent mist" – a far cry from a thunderous storm or frigid blizzard. Additionally, a weather report which appeared in the court sanctioned Wiener Zeitung (Vienna Newspaper) speaks only of a "light north wind and temperatures hovering slightly over freezing."[5]

In other words, the skies were clear.

Groundbreaking research by Dr. Carl Bär in the late 20th century would uncover even more documented evidence refuting the accounts of a December 6th burial. In an erudite report, "Mozart, Krankheit, Tod und Begräbnis" (1967, 2/ 1972), Bär would expose in detail the fine minutiae of Josephine law in regard to burials. Chiefly, Mozart's body could not have been buried in daylight hours. If "Benediction" truly occurred at 3PM, even a leisurely walking pace 4.1 km south to St. Marx would have taken under an hour, placing the funeral party at the cemetery just before 4PM.  Even with the early sunset brought upon by the winter season, the sky would not have been devoid of light - the procession would have arrived at Stuben gate well before Twilight. Furthermore, a law, enforced by Joseph II strictly forbade even the parking of hearses in front of local taverns before sundown. Bodies were only permitted to receive burial following sunset (after 6 PM) - a by-product of an not-always irrational fear of being buried alive which had seized Vienna and even permeated the Imperial court (such events did occur - this was the 18th century.) The Emperor's new law decreed that a mandatory 48 hour period must elapse before a body could be interred – an exercise in overabundant caution against the potential of an unfortunate soul being buried whilst in a coma.[6]

Not Mozart's grave: this mid-19th century lithograph, after an
original engraving, depicts the result of an official inquiry into
the "disappearance" of Mozart's corpse. Held in 1855, it relied
on the testimonies, provided no earlier than a half-century post
mortem, of an auditor (who offered memories from his youth
of being told of the location of the grave by his mother), the
dubious assertion by the Sexton at St. Marx, who claimed to
have been in possession of "Mozart's skull" (which he later
alleges he transferred to the anatomist Josef Hrytl), and from
the word of flautist Carl Scholl, whose shaky credibility lay
only in the fact that he knew Mozart personally whilst the
composer was alive. This engraving may be arguably viewed
an early example of the type of rumor, built on confusion, that
enabled later inquirers to plant the seeds of a "mass grave
theory." Note the numerous, unnamed crosses which dot the
surface of a large mound. (see: footnotes)
- "Grab von Wolfgang A. Mozart," anon., Österreich.
This would have placed Mozart at St. Marx Cemetery on the evening of the 7th December. Eyewitness accounts to the composers' Consecration survive which place his body at a side chapel (the Crucifix Chapel) adjacent St. Stephen's Cathedral though the night of the 6th,[7] yet the dramatic account of an afternoon burial that day continue to persist even today. Such apocryphal legends do have their place, however, in painting a picture of Mozart: a bright light, burning like a seemingly unquenchable flame – violently snuffed out by King Death storming in on his black steed, clawed hook at the ready to snatch away the bright beacon on the hill, resigning his soul to an empty fate within the depths of a lonely, dark abyss.

We see this pitiable picture painted anew with a fresh coating as Mozart's corpse is said to have been callously tossed into a mass grave to rot among strangers – all of them too poor to have afforded a casket and individual grave, too destitute for anyone to claim them. Lost to the world.

Except, nothing could be further from the truth.

Mozart may have had a third-class funeral (note: not a "pauper's funeral" as it is frequently described), and one which was funded through a former colleague (by the baron van Swieten), however he was not, by modern, or even by contemporary standards, “poor.” Mozart's final year on earth was shockingly productive, and he earned a handsome enough wage to live comfortably in Vienna.[8] His debts, on the other hand, were insurmountable – he frequently borrowed more than he could pay back, his wages being spent on both frivolous (such as on a horse and carriage and an expensive apartment far larger than was necessary to house his small family) and on arguably necessary means: the sudden death and hasty burial of infant daughter Anna Maria two years previous and Constanze's spa treatments at Baden alone were enough to set Wolfgang's ledger askew.

Dramatic depictions and even Deifications of Mozart after death were not solely relegated to the literary sphere.
In this engraving by Amadeus Wenzel Böhm "Apotheose W. A. Mozart," we witness, alongside a weeping
Constanze and the couple's infant son, Franz Xaver, the "Apotheosis," or divinization of Mozart, as he transcends
the invisible barrier between earth and heaven, and between mortal man and immortal god. Note the flowing
Roman-esque coiffure sported by Mozart on his 'graveside' cameo (a nod to the god of music, Apollo, with whom the composer was often compared) and the Marian-like draped garments worn by Constanze. It is hardly a surprise that little Franz is depicted in the nude - Böhm's engraving is drenched in both pagan and religious symbolism. The presence of nine stars which form a halo (the colloquial "Crown of Immortality") around Mozart's cranium may also contain Masonic significance.
A similar depiction of an
antiquated Mozart could be formerly found in a medallion of red wax over moulding, fashioned in ca. 1788 by the composers' confidante Leonhard Posch. That medal, which also depicts a long-tressed Mozart, disappeared from the Mozart Museum in Salzburg in 1945.

To begin to understand Mozart's burial – in a shaft grave, not a “common” or “mass” grave - we must first seek to comprehend the strict by-laws enforced by Joseph II at the time of the composer's passing.

On 23 August 1784, the emperor issued his “Burial Regulations of Joseph II” (Josephinische Begräbnisordnung.)[9] For reasons believed to be related to sanitation, not forgoing the possibility of being interred alive, the Emperor felt it necessary to stipulate how the body of a deceased individual could be properly disposed. His propositions included being wrapped in a linen sack and being covered in quicklime in order to aid in decomposition. By this logic, not only would the application of a caustic compound free up much needed space, the practice of dumping of corpses in linen sacks in lieu of coffins would provide the Emperor leeway to levy what he felt were fruitless expenses.

These regulations, however, ignited a furore among Viennese citizens, still reeling from the scandal decades earlier of mass graves filled with victims of the plague,[10] leading to the eventual revocation of the linen sack clause, which gained legal authority on 20 January 1785 in the revised K.K. Erblande.[11] The emperor was forced to decree the burial of corpses in coffins. These were not the apocryphal “false bottomed” coffins of lore, but individual coffins, which were to be stacked, five to six on top of another in a deep vertical pit known as a shaft grave.
This was not, by any means, an instruction to dig a large mass grave for the burial of untold numbers of bodies.

By the time of Mozart's death in 1791, the laws governing lackluster burials previously attempted by the Josephine leadership in 1784 had been made redundant for more than half a decade - quite simply, they were no longer - and never had been - enforceable.

"Allegorie auf den Genius Mozarts" (Allegory on the Genius
of Mozart) by Stich von Johann Adolf Roßmäßler depicts an
angelic putto crowning the 'god' Mozart, with a musician-angel
dictating music from the heavens to an earthly being - a play
on the age-old belief that Mozart's compositional gifts were
channeled from up on high by means of divine intervention.
As is the case with Böhm's engraving above, this too, depicts
the "apotheosis" of Mozart after death. | Österreich, 1794 |
A 3 tiered "class"-system remained in effect,[12] however - it dictated the level of ceremony (and, to an extent, the location of burial) for Viennese citizens. At the top of the hierarchy was the aristocracy - although a first class burial could be purchased even by a civilian for the right price. This has been colloquially referred to as a "Class One" funeral (not an official designation.) "Class Two" was reserved for public figures who could afford, through a last Will and Testament, donation, or other source of income a respectable "showing" (Beethoven was Class Two), and lastly and most common, there was "Class Three," to which most citizens, including Mozart belonged.

By the time of Mozart's death in 1791, the shaft grave was not at all an uncommon form of burial. It was economic for both Crown and state, and, foregoing dissolving bodies in quicklime, saved precious space. These vessels, however, often proved problematic - the graves would be cleared and re-used every nine years, leading to many a lost corpse. As of the writing of this post, we still do not know the precise location of Mozart's remains.

Further compounding the issue of shaft burial was Joseph II's decision to shutter all graveyards within the city wall, and build new ones outside of it for "health concerns" at the end of the 18th century, citing a mid-sixteenth century ordinance on the same grounds. Some bodies were shifted, many were lost (Vivaldi's corpse was lost this way). This left Vienna with very limited space to bury it's increasing population. As such, the vertical shaft grave was preferred en masse, and tombstones identifying the deceased were discouraged, although memorial tablets could be affixed to the perimeter wall.

Mozart's burial was not one performed in disgrace, but in necessary custom, enforced by a government seeking to rein in unnecessary expense, and was directly proportional to one's status and wealth at the time of death.

This concludes this installment of Mozart Myths: Facts vs. Fiction.

Be sure to check back in periodically for the next episode!

Enjoy below an English rendition of Mozart's aria "Ruhe Sanft, Mein Holdes Leben" (Safely Rest, my chosen lover.) English soprano Dame Felicity Lott sings an exquisite Zaide for the fabulous - yet fictional - masterpiece, "Amadeus," under maestro Neville Marriner.


[†] It must also be mentioned that the widow Mozart, quite in contrast to her rather demure visage and unremarkable artistic talents, possessed an impressively shrewd business acumen.

Whilst Mozart lay under the frozen earth at St Marx - unattended by his wife - Constanze was busy amassing what would eventually become a sizeable sum and liveable wage on Terra firma. Her activities following her husband's untimely demise were carefully orchestrated to both exploit her status as the lonesome widow of a remarkable genius, and to fully capitalize, to the best of her efforts, on Mozart's legendary status.

Much has been made by biographers writing on Constanze about a free-verse poem, allegedly written in her own hand, in Wolfgang's Stammbuch (visitor album) adjacent a dedication made by the composer himself to a fallen friend and former doctor who had recently passed. That poem, which reads:

"What you wrote long ago, in honor of your friend, I repeat here for you, weighed down as I am by grief.
Beloved husband! Mozart! Immortal for me and for the whole of Europe, you too, are at rest, now - forever!!
At one hour after midnight, during the night of December 4 to 5th of this year,
He departed, in his 36th year - too soon, Oh! how much too soon -
eight years bound us together with an affectionate, indelible bond!
Oh! that I may soon be united with you forever.

your wife, distraught with grief

Vienna, December 5th, 1791

Constanze Mozart née Weber."
Mozart's widow Constanze proved to be
ever the shrewd businesswoman following
her famous husband's death.

has clearly been "pre-dated" (i.e. written at a much later date following Mozart's funeral, and subsequently added to the Stammbuch under the date of his death on the 5th December.)

What this proves is that much like the old adage which decrees a morsel of truth must lay behind every fiction, accounts of Constanze's noticeable absence at her husband's funeral (as regaled by Joseph Deiner) were in fact, correct.

But then, there were more pressing matters at hand for Stanzi - chief among them included the welfare and education of her two young sons with Wolfgang: Karl Thomas, aged 7, and 5 month-old Franz Xaver (the latter of whom would later receive an all-star tutorship under Antonio Salieri, Georg Joseph Volger, Johann Georg Albrechtsberger and Johann Nepomuk Hummel, financed through the generous donations of her late husband's former colleagues and friends - both boys would also receive education in Prague under Niemetschek, in whom Constanze would collaborate on the first post-mortem biography on Mozart.)

In less than one week following Mozart's death, Stanzi petitioned Leopold II for a pension in spite of restrictions which prohibited a bereaved party from receiving one should the deceased spouse have been in the Emperor's employ for under the mandatory 10 years required. It would be at the insistence and under the influence of the residing Minister of Finance, one Count Chotek, who pointed out that

"it would seem unbecoming for the imperial court to reduce to a beggar's state the widow of a man of such rare talent who had been in the Emperor's service"

Constanze after her marriage to Herr
von Nissen. This miniature by
Thomas Spitzer showcases Mozart's
former spouse clad in a lavish gown
and donning resplendent pearls.
that Leopold conceded. Constanze was granted a small percentage of her husband's annual salary (1/3, or 800 gulden) during his tenure as Imperial Chamber Composer, which was to begin retroactively, to 1 January, 1792.

Additionally, despite playing up the role of an impoverished widow (as a potential means of avoiding paying an inheritance tax), Mozart's debtors, would by all appearances, offer a fresh start for Stanzi - Wolfgang's chief creditor (and friend), the merchant Michael Puchberg (of whom Mozart owed 1000 gulden) refused to file a claim against the deceased composer's estate, setting a trend that would be followed by Mozart's remaining creditors. According to Nissen, theirs - and Puchberg's - names and claims were unanimously absent from the customary  "Notice to all Creditors." Constanze, would, however, re-reimburse Puchburg, albeit at a much later date, thanks in part to finances earned whilst holding a series of memorial concerts in her late husband's honor.

The remunerations received by Constanze via the Imperial court paled in contrast to the sizable fortune Mrs. Mozart would soon make through these concerts, launched throughout Vienna and Prague with sister (and Wolfgang's former love interest) Aloysia Lange as the star attraction (performing gratis, as it were, so that all profits went straight to Stanzi and her sons), and even billing on one occasion Ludwig van Beethoven - who adored Mozart -  to perform Wolfgang's piano concerto in D minor.

In addition to selling her husband's manuscripts and collaborating with Franz Xaver Niemetschek in addition to future husband #2, (Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, a Danish diplomat) on a biographies detailing the life of her first (the latter work she would sell in 1828, two years following Nissen's death), Constanze was able to enjoy a comfortable, well-traveled life post-Wolfgang. Outliving Mozart by 51 years, Stanzi would perish on 6th March 1842 at the age of 80.

With Mozart having passed some nine days earlier at his home in Vienna and with his Requiem left unfinished, it fell to the Bohemian composer in Prague, Antonio Rosetti (Anton Rösler) to provide the customary Mass for the Dead at a memorial service held in the Czech capital, where a ceremony was all but expected for the celebrated departed. 

Mozart had strong ties to Prague and had been in the city mere months before his untimely death – he had been commissioned to write an opera for Emperor (Leopold II's) coronation festivities. La Clemenza di Tito would premiere at the still-standing Estates Theatre on the the 6th of September – three months and a day prior to Wolfgang's death. By this time, Mozart was already sickly - he would fall bedridden shortly after his return to Vienna. 

News of Mozart's eventual death spread like a tidal wave back in Prague. A memorial service was at once organized in the city, which took place on the 14th of December, 1791 at the Lesser Town parish Church of St. Nicholas, led by its residing regens chori, Jan Joseph Strobach. It was here, under Kapellmeister Strobach, that Rosetti "premiered" what would become known as his “Requiem for Mozart” (it was originally his Requiem in E Flat, composed to mark the death of the Princess of Oettingen-Wallerstein in 1776.) 

The citizens of Prague so loved Mozart, that the 100-plus musicians performing the mass did so without accepting a fee. Some 4000 spectators flooded the Church and surrounding area to hear the Requiem, and to bid farewell to their idol.

Listen to Rosetti's Requiem for Mozart below. The Prague Singers and Camerata Filarmonica Bohemia perform under Johannes Moesus:

The results of the official inquiry into the location of Mozart's remains were announced in 1855, to
coincide with the upcoming 100th anniversary of the composers' birth. It concluded the following:

"The place where Mozart's body was buried on 6 December 1791 is a long shaped quadrilateral at St. Marx' cemetery which is in the direction of the cemetery's cross adjoining the entrance, on the right of the main path and in the fifth row of the common grave. It is planted with young willows."
[1]Slonimsky, Nicolas: "The Weather at Mozart's Funeral," The Musical Quarterly Vol. 46 No 1 pp. 12, Jan. 1960, after Jahn, Otto: Life Of Mozart, Vol. III, 1856
[2]Deutsch, Otto Erich, Mozart: A Documentary Biography tr. Noble, Jeremy, 1965
[3]Nissen, Georg Nikolaus von: Biographie W.A. Mozarts, Leipzig, 1828, p. 572
[4]Bär, Carl, Mozart: Krankheit, Tod und Begräbnis, 1966 pp. 7-10
[5]Abert, Hermann tr. Spencer, Stewart, ed. Eisen, Cliff: W.A. Mozart, 2007, p. 1310
[6]Bär, Krankheit, pp. 126-157
[7]Abert, W.A. Mozart, p. 1310
[8]Keefe, Simon P.: Mozart 1st ed. (The Late Eighteenth Century Composers, excerpt: "Mozart in the Market-Place," Moore, Julia: Journal of the Royal Musical Association, 64, 1989, pp. 18-42)
[9,10,11]Lorenz, Michael: "Mozart and the Myth of Reusable Coffins," 1 July, 2013
[12]Stafford, William, after Bär, Carl: The Mozart Myths: A Critical Reassessment, 1991, p. 50
[†]Gärtner, Heinz: Constanze Mozart: After the Requiem, 1991, pp. 10-19; Cantagrel, Gilles: Mozart: Letters and Manuscripts, 2005, p. 202; Servatius, Viveca: Constanze Mozart: Eine Biografie (auf Deutsch), 2018, p. 136

- Rose.

Wednesday, 5 December 2018


Did You Know?

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart surrounded by angelic putti.
Today marks the 227th anniversary of the death of Western classical music's most celebrated icon: Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, who passed away at the tender age of 35 of causes that remain undetermined: the description noted in a Vienna death register of "hitziges Frieselfieber" - or high intermittent fever accompanied by rash, otherwise known as miliary fever - left much to the imagination. 

Owing to custom at the time of Mozart's death, attending physicians were not required to provide a death certificate for the recently deceased - in Mozart's case, that task was left to a Viennese city official, whose curious entry created more questions than provided answers: "hitziges Frieselfieber" amounted to little more than a vague description of the sympoms experienced by the composer before death - it did not conclusively answer what killed him.

Most of us will be familiar with the legend of a highly romanticized image of Mozart, bedbound and sickly, dictating his Requiem to an duplicitous former colleague in the much-beleaguered Italian émigré and Imperial Kapellmeister Antonio Salieri - a popular, fictional fable made famous in the writings of Alexander Pushkin (in the famous Russian playwright's 1830 poetic drama "Mozart and Salieri" ), in the subsequent operatic adaptation by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov in 1897, and most notably in filmmaker Miloš Foreman's 1984 epic "Amadeus,"  after the play by Peter Shaffer.

Unraveling Musical Myths has debunked the delicious folklore of each of these masterpieces in detail in previous posts, and will thus spare the reader any repetition here. Suffice to say, although Mozart's glorious, unfinished Requiem in D minor was in fact worked on by the composer up until the time of his passing (although not alongside Salieri), the mass was not, in the truest sense of the word, Mozart's de-facto final work.

That honor lay with the composer's final, completed work: a cantata in honor of his Freemason brethren entitled “Eine Kleine Freimaurer-Kantate” (A Little Masonic Cantata, K.623), written during the composers surprisingly productive, final year on earth.[1]

The brief cantata, entered in Mozart's own hand into his catalogue of works (his “Verzeichnüss aller meiner Werke”) on 15th November 1791, would be conducted by the composer himself three days later at its official premiere before an intimate gathering of Freemasons at the opening of the new temple of the “New-Crowned Hope” Lodge, marking the last time Mozart would appear in public as a performer-composer. The works debut would come during an all-too-brief period of remission from the final, mysterious illness which would force the composer to take to his bed two days later (on the 20th of November), and which would ultimately rob the musician of his life at the tender age of 35.

Am unknown Viennese Freemason Lodge, formerly identified as Mozart's New-Crowned Hope Lodge:
"Innenansicht der Wiener Loge," c.1790, attr. Ignaz Unterberger (Wien Museum Karlsplatz)

The Freimaurer-Kantate would briefly hold the distinction of semi-legendary status prior to that of the composer's final, unfinished work, the famous Requiem,[2] which would by all measures eclipse the heaps of critical praise rightfully awarded the jubilant cantata. Where Mozart's Requiem bid farewell to life in the melancholic key of D minor, the “Little Masonic Cantata” – which opens with a chorus which sings of how its fellow Masons “Loudly Proclaim Our Joy” - does just that: in the exultant key of C major, the cantata celebrates life itself – it's primary recitative a proclamation of the efforts of the Freemason brotherhood of 1791[3] - which fancied itself a gathering of the intellectually and morally elite – to uphold and extol into the world extreme virtue:

“Sweet are the feelings of a mason on such an auspicious occasion, when the chains of brotherhood which binds us are forged anew; sweet the feeling that humanity has come again to dwell with mankind; sweet the remembrance of that former place where every Brother's heart show what he was, and what he is, and what he may become; where truest love and brotherhood are found, and where the queen of all the virtues, the greatest, highest of virtues, Beneficence, is enthroned in quiet radiance.”

Indeed, even Mozart himself is said to have considered the Masonic Cantata as one of his finest works. According to his widow Constanze, the composer, upon finishing the work, quipped:

“If I didn't know that I had written better things, I would regard this as my best work.”

Referred to by contemporary critics as his “Swan-song,” Mozart's Freimaurer-Kantate, set for three-part male-voice chorus with tenor and bass soloists, and orchestral accompaniment of strings, flute, oboes and horns begins with a chorus hailing the consecration of the New-Crowned Hope Lodge, followed by the recitative translated above (in which two tenors compare the Freemason “Brotherhood” to the goddess of wellness, Beneficence – a double entendre of sorts in which the invocation of the Divinity simultaneously pays indiscreet homage to the Zur Wohltätigkeit Lodge in Vienna in which Herr Mozart was initiated into the degree of 'Apprentice' in 1784.)

The comparison of the noble attributes shared by the members of the 'Brotherhood' (and the aspirations of mankind as a whole) with the charitable, virtuous Divinity continues on into the first aria of the cantata – an homage to the goddess extolled by two tenors – with a libretto that embraces the shared qualities of temperance and servitude. This is quickly followed up a recitative and aria in which a solo tenor and bass re-assert the Freemason code of honor: to “banish forever from [their] breasts...envy, greed and slander” and to continue to renew oneself in the virtuous tenets of love, and of harmony.

In effect, Mozart's Freimauer-Kantate is a song of fraternity and of noble aspiration. It was the cantata which found itself the subject of awe, and of raving reviews immediately following the composer's untimely death: an obituary published in the Bayreuther-Zeitung on the 13th of December reads:

“Music has suffered an irreparable loss. He died too early for his family and for art, to which he would have presented still more moments to his abilities. His last work was the composition of a cantata which he had supplied to the local Freemasons, of which he was a member...said to be a masterpiece of noble simplicity.”


Listen below to Mozart's Freimauer-kantate. Chorus Viennensis and the Wiener Akademie perform under Martin Haselböck.

[1]Works during this year included two full length operas: Die Zauberflöte (K.620) and La Clemenza di Tito (K.621), three concertos in the same year (a personal feat not accomplished since 1786); an adagio and rondo for the glass armonica, flute oboe, viola and cello (Benjamin Franklin's new instrument, designated K.617); string quintet, concert aria (“Io ti lascio, oh cara, addio,” K.621a); a contrapuntal study (K620b); two cantatas ("Eine kleine deutsche Kantate,” K 619 and the presently aforementioned cantata on which this article is based, K.623); 160 bars of an incomplete andante for piano four hands, and an unfinished Requiem. A full listing of Mozart's output in his final year may be found in the Köchel catalogue, or via Mozart's own Thematic catalogue, recently digitized for online access by the British Library.

[2] At the time of his passing, Mozart had completed of his Requiem the Introit in full score, and vocal parts, continuo and some instrumental passages had been written for the Kyrie, Dies Irae, Tuba mirum, Rex Tremendae, Recordare, Confutatis, (eight bars of) the Lacrimosa, Domine Jesu and Hostias. Realisations of the Requiem were first attempted by the Austrian composer Joseph Leopold Eybler, who had partially orchestrated the Sequence before returning the score to Mozart's former pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr, who completed it in February 1792. The alleged hand of Mozart's former pupil Franz Jacob Freystädtler having authored the orchestral parts of the Kyrie (with the exception of the trumpet and timpani parts) remain a subject of derision among modern scholars. An incomplete version of the Requiem as Mozart had left it before death has been attempted in modern times – Conductor Christoph Spering issued a recording of the unfinished work in 2002 through the OPUS 111 label. Listen to it here (note that the tempi used by Spering may not be Mozart's own.)

[3]The Freemasons in 1791 existed as a society far removed from its present establishment. Described as an “anti-Catholic/non religious” group of  “..closely-united men who, employing symbolical forms borrowed principally from the mason's trade and from architecture, work for the welfare of mankind, striving morally to ennoble themselves and others, and thereby to bring about a universal league of mankind, which they aspire to exhibit even now on a small scale" - quotes by E.J. Dent, Mozart's Operas, edition II, pp. 230

Graphic: Unraveling Musical Myths
Mozart's beloved opera “Die Zauberflöte” (The Magic Flute), composed in his final year, is set to receive for the first time, the Hollywood treatment with a big-budget adaptation directed by German filmaker Roland Emmerich (of Independence Day and Godzilla fame.) Presently in pre-production, a detailed synopsis and further information on the film's production may be viewed at Pantaflix Group.

Mozart recently played second wheel in another film portrayal,  "Interlude in Prague" in 2017.  In that production, Welsh actor Aneurin Barnard (who bears an uncanny resemblance in the film to the infamous Lange portrait of the composer) plays the romantic adversary of the fictitious Baron Saloka for the affections of a young soprano - a love triangle which unfolds against the backdrop of the creation of Mozart's dramatic opera Don Giovanni. 

Although Emmerich's upcoming film will feature characters and a storyline which fall oustide of Mozart's Magic Flute, the production team promises the film will be a "music-driven, full-length feature film."

'Game of Thrones' VFX firm Pixomondo joins Emmerich produced adaptation of Mozart's Die Zauberflöte; shooting to commence mid-summer.

- Rose.