Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

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Agnes Selby
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Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Apr 03, 2007 2:26 am

Adolf Heinrich Friedrich von Schlichtegroll was a professor, Privy Counselor and Member of the Academy of Sciences in Munich. He published a number of necrologs, obituaries of famous people; these were biographical sketches published in annual volumes in the relevant year of his subjects' deaths.

Schlichtegroll approached Constanze Mozart for details of Mozart's life
but she refused his request. There were two reasons for her refusal:
one was Schlichtegroll's reliance on hearsay and the other was the fact that she had already entrusted Franz Xaver Niemetschek to write Mozart's biography.

Schlichtegroll then turned for information to Mozart's sister, Nannerl.
She in turn, asked Johann Andreas Schachtner to write a report on Mozart's life. Shachtner had not seen Mozart since he departed for Vienna and knew nothing about his adult life.

Schachtner's report was highly inflamatory and was published by Schlichtegroll in 1793. It is interesting to note here that Nannerl claimed in a letter to Breitkopf & Hartel that she was not aware of Mozart's death nor the state of his affairs at the time of his death.

This is the report signed by Schlichtegroll in which one can distinctly hear Nannerl's voice.

"...This same being who, considered as an artist, had reached the highest stage of development even from his earliest years, remained to the end of his life completely childish in every other aspect of existence. Never until he died did he learn to exercise the most elementary forms of self-control. The ordering of his domestic affairs, the proper husbanding of money, temperance or the rational choice of pleasure - these were never virtues with which he had the least acquaintance. Invariably, it was the pleasure of the moment that swept away all other considerations. He always needed a father's, a mother's or some other quardian's care; he married a girl quite unsuited to him and against the will of his father and thus the great domestic chaos at and after his death".

This obituary was first published in Gotha in 1793 and Joseph Hubeck had re-printed it in Graz in 1794. Stenhal re-published it in
1814 in his "Lives of Haydn, Mozart and Metastasio".

It has to be noted here that neither Schlichtegroll nor Nannerl have ever visited Mozart's home in Vienna. Constanze attempted to buy out the entire Graz edition in 1794 and managed to get the obituary off the market. However, it was far too late.

In 1800 Nannerl Mozart sent the above mentioned letter to Breitkopf & Hartel in response to their enquiry about Mozart's compositions which they had hoped were in her possession. Her letter was published in Breitkopf & Hartel's house organ, the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung
on January 22, 1800. It was in this letter that Nannerl claimed not to have known of Mozart's death despite the fact that as early as
January 1792, newspapers in Salzburg carried notices of Mozart's death.

Mozart's reputation was thus tarnished forever. Mozart, the man who had composed the greatest music ever, who had pioneered independence
for all composers who followed in his footsteps, who had organised his
own concert series and who saw to the publication of his works and much, much more, was destined to be labeled an idiot for all eternity.

Even today, despite much evidence to the contrary, Mozart is still perceived as a child with a God-given gift which, according to the above
malicious obituary, he may not have deserved. Hence a movie like "Amadeus" and articles or books which reflect badly on Mozart's character.

The power of Schlichtegroll's Necrolog and Nannerl's venom will haunt
Mozart unjustly for ever.

Regards,
Agnes.
--------------

Teresa B
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Post by Teresa B » Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:13 am

Dear Agnes,
Thanks for this wonderful post (and congrats for having the fortitude to repeatedly type the name "Schlichtegroll" :D )!

It is a shame that Mozart's and Constanze's reputation suffered so much from being inaccurately portrayed--something that seems to be a common human foible. We hear one nasty thing from a source of "authority" and it seems to stick. But in reality it could be entirely false or ridiculously exaggerated.

Thanks again to you for clearing up a lot of nonsense in your book!
Love,
Teresa
"We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad." ~ The Cheshire Cat

Author of the novel "Creating Will"

Agnes Selby
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Schlichtegroll

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:40 am

Dear Teresa,

Thank you for your kind comments. It seems to me that the media was
no different in Mozart's time than it is today. One gentleman, by the name of Gottfried Webber (no relation to Constanze) made his living by writing nasty articles about Goethe, Beethoven and others. He also disputed Mozart's authorship of the Requiem. Another little item still embraced by some writers.

Love,
Agnes.

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Post by karlhenning » Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:46 am

One of the classic "hatchet-job" obituaries must have been that of Edgar Allan Poe, which was written by a rival publisher.

Thanks for the article, Agnes!

Cheers,
~Karl
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Post by Werner » Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:12 am

Well, Agnes, here is the promised Mozart post, and once again you give us something extraordinarily pertinent and informative.

Talk about sibling rivalry!

How much spite for Constanze to deal with, and for her and her second husband, Nissen, to work to sweep aside!

In a word (or two,) Thank You!
Werner Isler

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Post by Ralph » Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:48 am

Thank you so much, Agnes. More!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Image

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Post by BWV 1080 » Tue Apr 03, 2007 10:10 am

So Agnes, are we hearing the voice of Leopold through his daughter? One can imagine the family dynamics once Wolfgang finally became independent of his domination.

Agnes Selby
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Mozart

Post by Agnes Selby » Tue Apr 03, 2007 7:13 pm

BWV 1080 wrote:So Agnes, are we hearing the voice of Leopold through his daughter? One can imagine the family dynamics once Wolfgang finally became independent of his domination.
--------------

Yes, indeed we do hear the echo of Leopold's voice here. Nannerl was greatly influenced by her father. Leopold's reaction to his son's independence was that of animosity as documented by his letters to Nannerl in St. Gilgen. As an apt example is Leopold's letter to Nannerl
in which he boasts of writing to his son and refusing to look after the Mozart children, while Mozart and Constanze travelled to London. The letter, written on November 17, 1786 speaks of Mozart's opportunism, even suggesting that he, Leopold, might be left to look after the children in the event that they decided to stay in England for good. It is worth mentioning here that at this time Leopold was looking after Nannerl's son, Leopoldus, employing two servants and a nanny.

One does wonder if Wolfgang even read his father's letter as his little son, Leopold died on 15 November, 1786. The anger Mozart felt toward his father is illustrated by his refusal to inform Leopold of his namesake's death.

Nannerl's hatred of her sister-in-law is shown in her diary. Very little mention is made about Mozart's and Constanze's visit to Salzburg. The
performance of the Mass in C minor was dismissed in one sentence,
yet Constanze sang in that Mass.

It is ironic to realise that during the last years of her life, Nannerl was
totally dependent on the good-heartedness of Constanze who looked after her both physically and financially.

Regards,
Agnes.

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Post by jbuck919 » Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:06 pm

karlhenning wrote:One of the classic "hatchet-job" obituaries must have been that of Edgar Allan Poe, which was written by a rival publisher.

Thanks for the article, Agnes!

Cheers,
~Karl
You didn't really want to change the subject and invite others to comment to the effect that it is rather hard to do more of a hatchet job on Poe than he already did on himself, did you, Karl? :twisted:

For the sake of a fine thread, thank you, Agnes, I learned a lot from this.
Last edited by jbuck919 on Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:08 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Evelyn Laden
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Post by Evelyn Laden » Tue Apr 03, 2007 9:08 pm

Agnes, what a wonderful reminder of your careful descriptions of the relationships in the Mozart family. Although it's hard to forget a name like Schlichtegroll, one at least knows that peculiar name is his only claim to fame, since what he wrote was based on hearsay and he probably got paid handsomely for it. More is the injustice, and not much has changed in the past 200 plus years.
I still believe Leopold hated to lose control over his son, and blamed Constanze for it. Nannerl lost her brother (or thought she did when Mozart married), and was jealous of Constanze forever after, aside from remaining under her father's thumb during his lifetime. Good thing Mozart never knew old Schlichtegroll - if he had, an aria "Malign me not thou evil Schlichtegroll" or larger composition mught well have resulted.

Agnes Selby
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Post by Agnes Selby » Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:18 am

Evelyn Laden wrote:Agnes, what a wonderful reminder of your careful descriptions of the relationships in the Mozart family. Although it's hard to forget a name like Schlichtegroll, one at least knows that peculiar name is his only claim to fame, since what he wrote was based on hearsay and he probably got paid handsomely for it. More is the injustice, and not much has changed in the past 200 plus years.
I still believe Leopold hated to lose control over his son, and blamed Constanze for it. Nannerl lost her brother (or thought she did when Mozart married), and was jealous of Constanze forever after, aside from remaining under her father's thumb during his lifetime. Good thing Mozart never knew old Schlichtegroll - if he had, an aria "Malign me not thou evil Schlichtegroll" or larger composition mught well have resulted.
--------------

Dear Evelyn,

I love your idea of a composition dedicated to Schlichtegroll's chicanery.
Perhaps even an opera with some evil spirits transporting Schlichtegroll
to the tombs in Egypt and locking him up in a pyramid for eternity.

Yes, Nannerl was a dutiful daughter, a woman perhaps a bit on the stupid side. Her diary reveals a most simple-minded woman. Her "duty" led her to give her son, Leopoldus to her father to be brought up as another genius as Leopold believed that Wolfgang's talent was of his won creation. She gave birth to her son in her father's house and returned without him to St. Gilgen. Letters from Leopold indicate that he was creating another genius. What a pity Leopold did not live long enough to meet the adult Leopoldus, who turned out to be an ordinary but decent public servant. He even gave his cousins, Carl and Franz Xaver Mozart
the gifts their father received during his early travels. These were left to him in Nannerl's Will and were originally given to her by Leopold.

Mozart detested Salzburg but one may come to the conclusion that he detested his father even more. It seems that Salzburg is benefiting from Mozart just as his father did from Mozart's early fame.

Regards,
Agnes.
----------------

Agnes Selby
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Post by Agnes Selby » Wed Apr 04, 2007 2:22 am

jbuck919 wrote:
karlhenning wrote:One of the classic "hatchet-job" obituaries must have been that of Edgar Allan Poe, which was written by a rival publisher.

Thanks for the article, Agnes!

Cheers,
~Karl
You didn't really want to change the subject and invite others to comment to the effect that it is rather hard to do more of a hatchet job on Poe than he already did on himself, did you, Karl? :twisted:

For the sake of a fine thread, thank you, Agnes, I learned a lot from this.
-----------------

Thank you Karl and thank you John for your kind remarks.

Regards,
Agnes.
----------------------

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Re: Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by davidzalman » Thu Apr 05, 2007 2:33 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:Even today, despite much evidence to the contrary, Mozart is still perceived as a child with a God-given gift which, according to the above malicious obituary, he may not have deserved. Hence a movie like "Amadeus" and articles or books which reflect badly on Mozart's character.
I've read this sort of comment about the Shaffer-Forman Amadeus from those who ought to know better more times than I can count, and have never understood it. First, the play-movie is NOT biography, but fiction. Second, the fictional account is told as seen through the eyes not of an unbiased, scholarly witness, but through the eyes of a deranged old man, Salieri, who's convinced he's murdered Mozart, and his telling is the story of how and why. To my way of thinking (and I know Mozart biography fairly well, and was also well aware of the here quoted excerpt from the biased Schlichtegroll necrology), Amadeus is a superb and essentially accurate portrayal of the central sense of both Mozart the man and Mozart the transcendent genius no matter that Shaffer turned historical fact into fiction by his brilliant and true to the essential sense of the thing manipulation of the actual timelines and events of Mozart's life, and by that fictional-poetic representation made Mozart the man and Mozart the transcendent genius come fully and accurately alive for millions who before knew Mozart simply as a synonym for child prodigy.

Agnes Selby
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Re: Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by Agnes Selby » Thu Apr 05, 2007 6:02 pm

I've read this sort of comment about the Shaffer-Forman Amadeus from those who ought to know better more times than I can count, and have never understood it. First, the play-movie is NOT biography, but fiction. Second, the fictional account is told as seen through the eyes not of an unbiased, scholarly witness, but through the eyes of a deranged old man, Salieri, who's convinced he's murdered Mozart, and his telling is the story of how and why. To my way of thinking (and I know Mozart biography fairly well, and was also well aware of the here quoted excerpt from the biased Schlichtegroll necrology), Amadeus is a superb and essentially accurate portrayal of the central sense of both Mozart the man and Mozart the transcendent genius no matter that Shaffer turned historical fact into fiction by his brilliant and true to the essential sense of the thing manipulation of the actual timelines and events of Mozart's life, and by that fictional-poetic representation made Mozart the man and Mozart the transcendent genius come fully and accurately alive for millions who before knew Mozart simply as a synonym for child prodigy.
------------------

Dear David,

I am glad you see Amadeus as a worthy presentation of Mozart's life.

First of all, Salieri was not a deranged old man obssessed with Mozart
music making. This is a great problem in the movie and play Amadeus as it is also in the original story put to music by Rimsly-Korsakov, entitled "The Murderer Salieri". This has reflected on Salieri reputation almost to this day except for some brave individuals in Germany and France who are performing Saleri's music and recording it.

Secondly, Schaffer did indeed turn fact into fiction and once the fiction takes over fact, it is difficult for people without your Mozartean knowledge
to actually know the facts. Unless one is truly interested in Mozart as a man and finds this man in his letters and deeds during his lifetime, viewers of the film "Amadeus" will only learn what Shaffer presents to them on the screen. Mozart's transcendent genius in Amadeus comes through only as a God given gift to an idiot savant. How many people left the movie theatres pondering about Mozart's trascendent genius and how many left the theatre giggling about silly Mozart under the table with his equally silly Constanze or immitating the actor's crazy laughter?

Also, I would like to point out that to many theatre goers Amadeus was an accurate description of Mozart's life. Nowhere is there a warning notice in the introduction to the film to alert viewers that the film is in fact an imaginary presentation of Mozart's life as seen through Shaffer's eyes. Somehow, I have missed the poetry in the film but I did not miss its crasness.

Please do not forget that not many people are so well versed in Mozartean history as you are yourself.

Regards,
Agnes.

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Re: Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by davidzalman » Thu Apr 05, 2007 7:38 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:First of all, Salieri was not a deranged old man obssessed with Mozart music making. This is a great problem in the movie and play Amadeus as it is also in the original story put to music by Rimsly-Korsakov, entitled "The Murderer Salieri".
In the Pushkin play, as with the Rimsky opera and the Shaffer play both based on it, Salieri was indeed a deranged man. Again, all three are creations of art, not history or biography. Once that's understood, as it should be by any intelligent audience, the "great problem" simply doesn't exist.
Secondly, Schaffer did indeed turn fact into fiction and once the fiction takes over fact, it is difficult for people without your Mozartean knowledge to actually know the facts.
In Amadeus, Shaffer (N.B., not "Schaffer") didn't so much as turn fact into fiction vis-a-vis Mozart's life both as man and composer as he imaginatively and poetically and without so much as a hint of "crassness," as you put it, telescoped and dovetailed those facts to epitomize the core truths of Mozart as man and as creative genius. One needn't know anything about Mozart biography to understand those core truths as epitomized in Shaffer's play and the Forman movie that followed. That certain naive audiences took the play and movie as straightforward history and biography is a fault of those audiences, not Shaffer, not Forman, and not the play or the movie based on the play.
Mozart's transcendent genius in Amadeus comes through only as a God given gift to an idiot savant. How many people left the movie theatres pondering about Mozart's trascendent genius and how many left the theatre giggling about silly Mozart under the table with his equally silly Constanze or immitating the actor's crazy laughter?

I'm sorry, but I never saw Shaffer's Mozart as "an idiot savant." Not even vaguely an idiot savant. Neither did intelligent audiences. They saw Mozart as the transcendent genius Shaffer portrayed him as, and left the theater in awe of that genius, and loving Mozart, truly loving him, for it. And there was nothing the slightest bit "silly" about Shaffer's Mozart under the table. Rather it was Shaffer's way of epitomizing Mozart's sometimes (but not always) ribald childlike qualities; a childlikeness, ribald and otherwise, that was very much a part of Mozart's personality his whole life long. And while Constanze's under-the-table play was equally ribald and childlike in that scene, Shaffer's and Forman's overall picture of Constanze in Amadeus portrays her as anything but silly or childish. She's portrayed rightly as a grown-up, stabilizing, and tough-minded practical force in Mozart's life. And as to Mozart's wild laugh, there's eyewitness (earwitness?) testimony to that wild laugh in the historical record. Throughout Amadeus, Shaffer uses that laugh symbolically -- and brilliantly -- to epitomize Mozart's attitude toward life as did Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf decades before him.

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Re: Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by Agnes Selby » Thu Apr 05, 2007 8:44 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:First of all, Salieri was not a deranged old man obssessed with Mozart music making. This is a great problem in the movie and play Amadeus as it is also in the original story put to music by Rimsly-Korsakov, entitled "The Murderer Salieri".
(Salzman)
In the Pushkin play, as with the Rimsky opera and the Shaffer play both based on it, Salieri was indeed a deranged man. Again, all three are creations of art, not history or biography. Once that's understood, as it should be by any intelligent audience, the "great problem" simply doesn't exist.


Response: The Salieri of Pushin, Rimsky Korsakov and Shaffer is a figment of their imagination and may be so perceived by an "intelligent" audience but not by the general public who were the main object of this money making exercise. They do not have the factual knowledge that Salieri fought the rumour of murdering Mozart to the end of his life. On the contrary, Salieri performed many of Mozart's works and taught Mozart's son, Franz Xaver, free of charge.

Creation of art for art sake is nonsense when an innocent man is accused of murder. The idea was a money spinner for Pushkin, Rimsky Korsakov and equally for Shaffer and Foreman. It has taken 200 years for Salieri to shake off the yoke of insanity. His works had not been performed until recently. If art is presented as art, it is O.K. to present a story without actual names. But, of course, it would not then be a money spinner. Amadeus was made for general public viewing not for music connoisseurs who would know all about Mozart. The ordinary public went away from this film with an image of Mozart, admittedly composing wonderful music, but behaving like an idiot. And if you know all about Mozart, then you do know that that is not who he was.
---------------------
( A.S)Secondly, Schaffer did indeed turn fact into fiction and once the fiction takes over fact, it is difficult for people without your Mozartean knowledge to actually know the facts.
In Amadeus, Shaffer (N.B., not "Schaffer") didn't so much as turn fact into fiction vis-a-vis Mozart's life both as man and composer as he imaginatively and poetically and without so much as a hint of "crassness," as you put it, telescoped and dovetailed those facts to epitomize the core truths of Mozart as man and as creative genius. One needn't know anything about Mozart biography to understand those core truths as epitomized in Shaffer's play and the Forman movie that followed. That certain naive audiences took the play and movie as straightforward history and biography is a fault of those audiences, not Shaffer, not Forman, and not the play or the movie based on the play.



Response: What was "telescoped" was based on gossip and not fact. Hence it becomes an imaginary tale. Where is the poetry? Accusing one man of murder and the other of inanity does not represent poetry. Poetry may be in Mozart's music and the film may have found some converts to his music, but as the film was made not only for an "intelligent" and well read audience, it presented the wrong picture of both Mozart and Salieri.
Wherever the film is shown today it emphasises the idiot Mozart and the murderer Salieri. There are more people than not who know nothing
about Mozart but now they know he was some kind of an idiot who wrote pleasing music.
------------------
Mozart's transcendent genius in Amadeus comes through only as a God given gift to an idiot savant. How many people left the movie theatres pondering about Mozart's trascendent genius and how many left the theatre giggling about silly Mozart under the table with his equally silly Constanze or immitating the actor's crazy laughter?

I'm sorry, but I never saw Shaffer's Mozart as "an idiot savant." Not even vaguely an idiot savant. Neither did intelligent audiences. They saw Mozart as the transcendent genius Shaffer portrayed him as, and left the theater loving him (Mozart), truly loving him, for it. And there was nothing the slightest bit "silly" about Shaffer's Mozart under the table. Rather it was Shaffer's way of showing Mozart's sometimes (but not always) ribald childlike qualities; a childlikeness, ribald and otherwise, that was very much a part of Mozart's personality his whole life long. And while Constanze's under-the-table play was equally ribald and childlike in that scene, Shaffer's and Forman's overall picture of Constanze in Amadeus portrays her as anything but silly or childish. She's portrayed rightly as a grown-up, stabilizing, and tough-minded practical force in Mozart's life. And as to Mozart's wild laugh, there's eyewitness (earwitness?) testimony to that wild laugh in the historical record. Throughout Amadeus, Shaffer uses that laugh symbolically -- and brilliantly -- to epitomize Mozart's attitude toward life as did Hermann Hesse in Steppenwolf decades before him.[/quote]



Response: I am glad you did not find anything silly in Mozart's portrayal under the table. The "sensible" Constanze also appears with her "silly" mother and sisters gawking at Mozart. Why were these women portrayed like some stupid geese when one was the most important singer of the German Opera, the other a diva at Schikaneder's theatre and also Constanze without whose effort in publishing and propagating Mozart's works, we would have to look for Mozart's music in wrapping paper in German butcher shops.

There is no documentation of Mozart's laugh in all of Mozartean literature.
If there is, please be kind enough to tell me where it can be found.
Has anyone actually RECORDED his laugh? Another bit of gossip on which, it seems, all of Amadeus is based.

I can assure you that Members of the Mozarteum
did not regard "Amadeus" as a work of art. Some saw it as historical nonsense and some found it insulting to the work they themselves
did in researching Mozartean history.

-----------------------------

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Re: Schlichtegroll's Mozart Necrolog.

Post by davidzalman » Thu Apr 05, 2007 9:26 pm

Agnes Selby wrote:The Salieri of Pushin, Rimsky Korsakov and Shaffer is a figment of their imagination.... Creation of art for art sake is nonsense when an innocent man is accused of murder. The idea was a money spinner for Pushkin, Rimsky Korsakov and equally for Shaffer and Foreman. It has taken 200 years for Salieri to shake off the yoke of insanity. His works had not been performed until recently. [...] The ordinary public went away from this film with an image of Mozart, admittedly composing wonderful music, but behaving like an idiot. And if you know all about Mozart, then you do know that that is not who he was.
Once again, I'm sorry but I can't agree with you. In the film, Mozart at no time "behav[ed] like an idiot," unless one equates childlikeness in a grown man with idiocy. The Salieri myth vis-a-vis Mozart was neither Pushkin's, Rimsky's, nor Shaffer's creation, but the creation of common gossip almost from the moment of Mozart's death; gossip that Mozart himself was in part responsible for. And as to "money spinning," I can't speak to Pushkin and Rimsky, but for Shaffer Amadeus was first and foremost a work of love, not a way to make money.
What was "telescoped" was based on gossip and not fact. Hence it becomes an imaginary tale.
That's patently false. Almost all of the film was based on fact, not gossip, save the central Salieri as Mozart-killer myth.
I am glad you did not find anything silly in Mozart's portrayal under the table. The "sensible" Constanze also appears with her "silly" mother and sisters gawking at Mozart. Why were these women portrayed like some stupid geese when one was the most important singer of the German Opera, the other a diva at Schikaneder's theatre...
Those women played bit parts in the film, and the film presented them within the bounds of poetic license based on Mozart's own description of them to his Papa. Those women played no meaningful part in the Amadeus story whatsoever.
... and also Constanze without whose effort in publishing and propagating Mozart's works, we would have to look for Mozart's music in wrapping paper in German butcher shops.
Amadeus portrays a Constanze who would be *expected* to do just that. As portrayed, her hardheaded business sense and the proprietary interest she took in Mozart's scores would almost guarantee it.
There is no documentation of Mozart's laugh in all of Mozartean literature.
I'm sorry, but you're quite wrong about that. I think the cite was in Solomon, but I'm not 100% sure of that. I'd have to go looking for the cite in the various texts I have here.
I can assure you that Members of the Mozarteum did not regard "Amadeus" as a work of art. Some saw it as historical nonsense and some found it insulting to the work they themselves did in researching Mozartean history.
My oh my. What a surprise. Academics who didn't get the art in Amadeus. Go figure.

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Post by John F » Sat Apr 07, 2007 12:10 am

Agnes Selby is absolutely right about "Amadeus," especially the movie. Full of location shots and historically correct clothes, and with a revised script by Shaffer, it's apparently a docudrama but actually no such thing. This has confused and misled many who didn't already know better and couldn't fairly be expected to, including not a few of my music-loving friends.

As for Salieri, he evidently did go looney in his last years, and in his dementia was said to have "confessed" to having murdered Mozart. (Word of this reached Beethoven.) So at least part of "the Salieri myth vis-a-vis Mozart" apparently originated with Salieri himself, though Pushkin and then Shaffer took it literally and elaborated it as if it had actually been true.

Pace davidzalman, Shaffer himself has declared time and again that "Amadeus" is no factual docudrama but a dramatic fantasy that uses selected biographical and historical facts for Shaffer's own purposes, which were fictional. (Besides reading this, I heard him say it in person in a talk at Lincoln Center.) His theme is the mystery of artistic inspiration and the gulf that can exist between an artist's personal character and his/her achievement. I suppose he might be defended against charges of falsehood and slander (against both Mozart and Salieri) by rationalizing his story as the deranged, untrustworthy recollections of the demented elder composer. But neither the playscript nor the movie does this; the "Salieri" of the main action comes across as not just sane but intelligent and articulate, a reliable and sharp observer and narrator.

As for the real Mozart, there are anecdotes about his sometimes eccentric behavior in his friends' company, and the letters to his cousin "the Bäsle" are full of playful scatology. But Wolfgang was not the only Mozart with an earthy sense of humor and a liking for verbal foolery. His mother ends a letter home from Munich to her husband Leopold, "Addio, ben mio. Keep well, my love. Into your mouth your ass you'll shove. I wish you good-night, my dear, but first sh*t in your bed and make it burst. It is long after one o'clock already. Now you can go on rhyming yourself." Just clean family fun. <grin> Their son knew very well by training and from long experience how to behave at court and in polite society, where he was very welcome. In this respect too, "Amadeus" falsifies biography to serve the playwright's purposes.

The movie's portrayal of Constanze Mozart does not correspond with Mozart's description of her to his father. He desperately wanted Leopold's consent to their marriage, knew it would not be easy to get, and wrote accordingly. Shaffer's Constanze seems to me more like the Bäsle. That may make for a better story, perhaps, but it doesn't fit the facts.

A theatrical entertainment is not exactly testimony under oath, and Shakespeare's history plays aren't always accurate either; "Richard III" may be even more libelous than "Amadeus." But Shakespeare was largely faithful to his historical sources. Shaffer selected and "shaped" the facts about Mozart and Salieri in full knowledge of what he was doing.

The prosecution rests. <grin>

What's positive about "Amadeus," I think, is that it did promote interest in Mozart's music, which many moviegoers were hearing for the first time along with "Salieri's" high praise of it. Seems like that vogue has rather ebbed away, and this summer's "Mostly Mozart" weeks at Lincoln Center actually include very little Mozart, a lot of Beethoven, and a surprising amount of Osvaldo Golijov. But the Mozart boom was nice while it lasted.

Reliable current biographies of Mozart are surprisingly few. Solomon over-psychoanalyzes his long-dead subject; Gutman overinterprets his facts without trying hard enough to get them right; Hildesheimer, a novelist, creates his own Mozart, and doesn't believe in chronology or indeed chapters; and so on. For Mozart's crucial years of maturity, I like Volkmar Braunbehrens, "Mozart in Vienna," which sets his life and achievement in a very rich and sometimes surprising context which explains, for example, his financial difficulties in the late 1780s, and H.C. Robbins Landon, "Mozart: The Golden Years" and "1791: Mozart's Last Year." For the story of Mozart's youth, we're lucky that Stanley Sadie finished that much of his biography-in-progress before he died: "Mozart: The Early Years."

True Mozarteans will also want to read his and his family's copious letters, which are not just informative but very entertaining, and Otto Erich Deutsch's invaluable "Mozart: A Documentary Biography," printing almost every document of Mozart's time and shortly thereafter in which he or his work is mentioned (other than the letters). There's a supplement, Cliff Eisen's "New Mozart's Documents."

Badly needed is a new edition of the Köchel thematic catalog of Mozart's works. Neil Zaslaw has been working on it for many years but I've seen no news that it's to be published any time soon. Meanwhile, his "The Compleat Mozart" and "The Mozart Repertory" include a lot of information about works that will be added or removed and especially about dates of composition. A lot more is known about these matters than when Köchel was last revised, lightly, in 1964.
John Francis

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Post by Corlyss_D » Sat Apr 07, 2007 1:47 am

John F wrote: Badly needed is a new edition of the Köchel thematic catalog of Mozart's works. Neil Zaslaw has been working on it for many years but I've seen no news that it's to be published any time soon. Meanwhile, his "The Compleat Mozart" and "The Mozart Repertory" include a lot of information about works that will be added or removed and especially about dates of composition. A lot more is known about these matters than when Köchel was last revised, lightly, in 1964.
Yes. I've been waiting as well. It will probably turn out to be like Winton Dean's Handel's Operas, which was supposed to be a companion volume to his Handel's Dramatic Oratorios and Masques, published in 1959. In the early years, I feared Dean was going to die before he finished the Operas. I managed to console myself with his series of lectures published as Handel and the Opera Seria published in 1969. But as the decades dragged on, I feared I would die before he finished. I'd probably still be waiting if he hadn't enlisted the aid of J. Merrill Knapp.
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