Joseph Lange's 1783 unfinished portrait of Mozart
With the exception of Chopin in Paris, few of the great composers were so profoundly affected by a city as was Mozart by Vienna, a preeminent center of cultural life in Europe of the late 18th century. Mozart produced most of his greatest masterpieces in Vienna during his residence there between 1781 and his death in 1791.
Musicologist and pianist Daniel Freeman looks at the relationship between the glorious city and the composer, illuminating sites that were showplaces of the Habsburg dynasty and that were important in Mozart’s personal life. Freeman also explores the great musical works Mozart created in the city he loved more than any other, through presentations highlighted by musical recordings, film clips, and piano performance.
9:30–10:45 a.m. Flirtations (1762–1773)
Mozart visited Vienna from his native Salzburg three times by the age of 17. The most magical trip took place at the age of 6 at the end of 1762, when he was lionized by the imperial family of Austria at Schönbrunn Palace and created a sensation for his musical talents. On the other hand, a visit in 1767 resulted in a bout of smallpox that nearly killed him, and one in 1773 was very disappointing for the lack of professional opportunities.
11 a.m.–12:15 p.m. The Early Years of Residence (1781–1785)
Mozart was finally able to escape the impoverished musical environment of Salzburg with a move to Vienna in 1781. A specialty of the early years was music for the piano, including the start of a brilliant series of piano concertos (Nos. 13–25) and various compositions for solo piano. He was married in St. Stephen’s Cathedral and competed with Salieri for the emperor’s favor at Schönbrunn Palace.
12:15–1:30 p.m. Lunch (participants provide their own)
1:30–2:45 p.m. The Imperial Court (1786–1791)
During the second half of his residence in Vienna, Mozart was able to obtain permanent employment at court. In this period, he matured as an opera composer and produced The Marriage of Figaro, Così fan tutte, and The Magic Flute for Viennese theaters, works that brilliantly transcended the existing traditions of Italian and German vocal music. He also produced an extraordinary series of three symphonies in 1788, among them the famous Symphony No. 40 in G minor.
3–4:15 p.m. The Requiem (1791)
At the time of his death, Mozart was working on his Requiem in D minor, a stirring choral composition that reflected on death, damnation, and redemption. A funeral service in his honor was organized at St. Stephen’s, and he was buried at St. Marx Cemetery. The modest commemorations of his death organized by music lovers in Vienna and the failure of any of his family members to attend his funeral are still regretted by Mozart’s devotees.
Freeman is a music lecturer at the University of Minnesota.
S. Dillon Ripley Center
1100 Jefferson Dr SW
Metro: Smithsonian (Mall exit)