Franz Xavier Mozart: The burden of genius
Mozart and his wife Constanze had six children during the nine short years of their marriage. Only two of their children, Karl Thomas and Franz Xaver, survived into adulthood and both found their Mozart legacy a debilitating burden. Genetic inheritance in the case of Mozart’s sons resulted in two quite ordinary men. They may have inherited their father’s physiognomy, perhaps some talent but absolutely none of his transcendent genius. Both sons lived in the shadow of their great father whom they revered and resented at the same time. Neither found a way to dispel from their own lives the glorious shadow under which they were born and destined to live.
It is tempting to place the lives of Mozart’s sons under a microscope and with the help of modern psychology, analyse the symptoms of their malaise. But it is not quite so simple. The analyst must forgo what he or she has learned and go back in time to when the dictates of life were very different and help for a troubled soul was not dependent on psychiatric evaluation but on the cruel realisation of one’s own irredeemable worth.
Karl Thomas, the elder of the two surviving sons was born on September 21, 1784 at the time of Mozart’s greatest prosperity. One of the wealthiest merchants in Vienna, Johann Thomas von Trattner stood as his godfather when he was christened in St. Peter’s Church. His younger brother, Franz Xaver, on the other hand, was fatherless at the age of five months and his early years were spent watching his mother struggle against all odds in order to provide for him and his brother. Yet Franz Xaver was a happy, gregarious child given to disobedience, an utterly indulged little boy in whom his mother, Constanze saw the fulfillment of Mozart’s genetic legacy.
Karl was the second child born to the Mozarts, the first child, Raimund, having died as an infant during his parents’ visit to Salzburg. Karl remained an only child for seven years. During this period his parents endured the death of three more babies whose fate would leave the household stricken with sadness until another pregnancy again heralded a renewal of life. In such an atmosphere Karl grew introspective, appearing quite content with his own company. A visitor to his parents’ home described the toddler in 1787 as wandering in the garden quite absorbed in his own thoughts.
During his visit to Vienna, Leopold Mozart testified to his grandson Karl’s amiable nature in a letter (16.2.1785) to his daughter, Nannerl, describing the baby Karl as a picture of his father…On the whole the child is charming, for he is extremely friendly and laughs when he is spoken to. I have only seen him cry once and the next moment he started to laugh. In later life Karl’s contemporaries also described him as a friendly person, with a quiet charm, stoical and completely unobtrusive. He had inherited the shyness which characterised his mother’s youth and like her, he managed to rise above his difficulties and in the end come to terms, at least to some degree, with a recognition of his own limitations.
Karl was an indifferent student. Mozart worried to the end of his life about his much loved son’s education. Apart from Constanze, Karl was the only person Mozart allowed to sit in his study when he composed. For hours on end the child would sit peacefully watching his beloved father, perhaps dreaming of the day when he would himself become another Mozart. Karl attended an expensive private school in Vienna founded by Wenzel Bernard Heeger, which cost Mozart each year more than his own father had earned as Kapellmeister at the Salzburg Court. Mozart, however, found this institution most unsatisfactory. In the last letter Mozart wrote to Constanze in Baden (14/10/1791), he described the school thus: …All they can do is to turn out a good peasant into the world…As [for] his serious studies, God Help them!…he is, if anything, less inclined to learn than before, for out there all he does is wander about the garden for five hours in the morning and five hours in the afternoon, as he has himself confessed. Mozart had already decided to send Karl to the Piarist Institute. Apparently it was difficult to enroll a child in this illustrious institution and in order to ingratiate himself with the religious brothers who ran the school, Mozart had even joined a procession in June, 1791 walking all the way to Josephstadt holding a candle in his hand. (letter to Constanze 25.6.1791) In the autumn of 1791, Mozart took Karl to the performance of The Magic Flute where the boy sat mesmerised by his father’s music and the spectacle of the special effects devised for the opera.
The youngest son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang, was born on July 26, 1791 barely five months before Mozart’s death. Constanze later changed his Christian names to Wolfgang Amadeus thereby sealing his fate. Franz Xaver as Wolfgang Amadeus, had thereafter to live up to his great father’s reputation. On hearing his name people searched for the real Wolfgang Amadeus but found only an ordinary young musician burdened with that famous name. Young Wolfgang never knew his real father, only a God-like figure whom at first he tried to emulate. The realisation that he lacked his father’s genius brought to an end his own aspirations and locked him into an existence of self-doubt and unfulfilled longing for a greatness he knew he could never achieve. Wolfgang searched for his father everywhere. In 1819, while visiting his mother in Denmark, he spent hours walking with her in the garden listening to her talk of Mozart. He visited his aunt, Nannerl in Salzburg during the same year and enjoyed hearing the old lady reminisce about her concert tours with his father as she spoke of Mozart’s and her own youth.
Late in 1838 the manuscript of Mozart’s famous Requiem was discovered and was bought by the Royal Court Library for their archives. The whole of Vienna buzzed with excitement at this discovery as it was believed that the entire manuscript was in Mozart’s handwriting. The Viennese newspapers announced that shortly Ignaz von Mosel, the deputy director of the Court Library, would publish a thesis on the subject. Wolfgang made a copy of what he believed was his father’s original manuscript and was deeply touched to hold in his hands his father’s last composition. Ignaz von Mosel, however, found some discrepancies in the newly purchased manuscript and he wrote to Constanze, now living in Salzburg, seeking clarification. Constanze took a long time to reply. On February 10, 1839 Constanze wrote to von Mosel, excusing herself for not answering him sooner as she did not want to spoil her son’s delight in believing that the manuscript was in his father’s handwriting. The manuscript may well have been Sussmayr’s, she said. …If the score is complete then it is not Mozart’s because he did not finish it. It should be possible to distinguish where Sussmayr continued the score because I feel that nobody can exactly imitate another person’s handwriting.
As Mozart lay dying Franz Xaver was only a baby but Karl, then seven years old, sat unobserved in the corner of the death room wide-eyed and terrified. Death had visited his home before to claim his siblings soon after they were born but his father was his strength and his refuge from his mother’s frequent pregnancies and consequent illnesses. He watched from his corner of the room his father’s final agony and described in later years the pervasive odour of death as though his father’s body was already rotting before he actually died. He witnessed his mother’s desperate attempt to cling to his father’s still body until she was physically pried from Mozart’s corpse. The scene of his father’s death was to remain imprinted in his memory.
After his father’s death, the two boys and their mother left their comfortable, large apartment and moved to smaller quarters. Karl was increasingly drawn to his merry little brother, whose light-hearted childish pranks eased the tension created by their mother’s endeavours to provide for them. Karl enjoyed the concerts and operas his mother staged in memory of his father. To keep Mozart’s spirit alive she also held Sunday soirees when his father’s and Haydn’s music were performed. During these occasions Karl again found a quiet corner where unobserved, he listened to the beautiful music. He desperately longed to emulate his father. In his loneliness, during the years following his father’s death, he grew close to his mother and little brother only to find himself torn away from them all too soon.
It was now Constanze’s sole responsibility to educate her sons. She believed, like most of her contemporaries, that her son needed a strong male role model to influence him during his teenage years. Constanze made the decision to take Karl to Prague to attend the Gymnasium (high school) there and board with Mozart’s first biographer, Franz Niemetschek, himself a professor at the Gymnasium. Franz Duschek, the noted Bohemian piano virtuoso and the husband of Prague opera’s prima donna, Josepha Duschek, had agreed to become Karl’s music teacher. Although the shy boy must have been apprehensive and fearful to be parted from his mother, as an adult he remembered the time he had spent in Prague as the happiest of his life.
Constanze and Karl arrived in Prague in early February, 1794. On February 7 they attended a concert organised by the law students at Prague University. The hall was brightly lit with Mozart’s name enshrined in a temple with pyramids on either side. A large illuminated sign read “Gratitude and Pleasure”. Madam Duschek sang Vitella’s rondo from Mozart’s opera, La Clemenza di Tito, and a gifted young pianist performed Mozart’s piano concerto in D. Two symphonies were also performed, the whole evening being dedicated to Mozart’s music. The newspapers reported that Mozart’s widow and son both wept tears of grief at their loss and of gratitude towards a noble nation.
There was however, a downside to this visit. The Prague opera company had been rehearsing Salieri’s opera, Tarare in which a young boy is offered up for sacrifice. The Mozart name spelt magic in Prague, especially in operatic circles. Mozart’s opera, The Marriage of Figaro had in the past rescued the Prague Opera company from bankruptcy. The Opera company now planned to cast Karl as the sacrificial boy. Constanze was well aware of her son’s shy and retiring nature. Karl did not possess Mozart’s love for drama and spectacle nor did he possess his father’s temperament and self assurance. All but ten years old, the thought of appearing on stage must have been frightening to the reticent little boy. Even in his old age, while attending his father’s centennial celebrations, Karl Mozart, the last Mozart alive, sat in the back row of the Salzburg Cathedral. Most people celebrating his father’s birth were unaware of his presence in their midst.
Constanze solved the problem by inserting a notice in the Prager Neue Zeitung on April 9 canceling Karl’s role as the sacrificial boy. She did this in a tactful manner for fear of offending the Bohemians who had been most supportive of her after Mozart’s death: Had the opera announcement not revealed the matter so prematurely, this announcement would not have been necessary;…a person informed according to the latest opera bill might accuse the widow Mozart, who is full of respect and gratitude towards the Prague public, of a capriciousness of which she is entirely innocent”.
Constanze returned to Vienna and Karl did not see his mother again until the autumn of the following year, when Constanze took the unprecedented decision for an eighteenth century woman to tour the German states publicising Mozart’s works. She brought with her Franz Xaver, now four years old who was also left in the care of Madam Niemetschek. This was the only time the brothers were to spend any length of time together. Their love for each other was cemented during this period.
The brothers remained in Prague until November, 1797 when Constanze returned from her publicity tour. Having succeeded beyond her own expectations, Constanze was now able to discharge all of Mozart’s debts. Due to her efforts, Mozart’s music, in danger of being forgotten by the fickle public, had experienced a revival. She could, herself, look forward to a period of less strained financial circumstances. On November 15, 1797 a memorial concert was held at the Prague National Theatre at which all the luminaries of the Prague musical establishment were present. A number of Mozart arias and chamber works were performed and by special request, little Wowie (Franz Xaver) now six years old, made his musical debut at this concert. He stood on a table to be better seen by the audience and to their delight sang the Papageno aria from The Magic Flute. Karl did not participate.
Constanze returned to Vienna with both her children. Having discussed Karl’s academic progress with his teachers, Niemetschek and Duschek, she decided to discontinue his formal education. Constanze resumed her Sunday concerts. Nobles, diplomats and musicians attended these Sunday soirees and it is believed that one such Mozart admirer was the Danish diplomat, Nicolaus Nissen. He became Constanze’s second husband and the beloved step-father to her sons.
Sometime in 1798 Karl was sent to Livorno in Italy where he was apprenticed to an English business house. It had always been Karl’s most fervent dream to continue in his famous father’s footsteps but he did not possess the divine spark of genius nor the ability to work the long, tedious hours at the piano to perfect his craft. He accepted his fate with equanimity, at least for the time being, but his old ambition haunted him and he had to have one more try to emulate his father.
It is not known at what point in time Constanze changed Franz Xaver’s name legally to Wolfgang Amadeus but henceforth he will be referred to in this narrative as Wolfgang. Wolfgang’s later portrait reveals his close resemblance to his father but even more so his resemblance to Leopold Mozart. Viewed side by side, the portraits of Wolfgang and his grand-father could easily be thought to represent the same man at different stages of life. Wolfgang possessed a good musical talent and received the best musical tuition. Haydn himself took great interest in this son of Mozart’s and Salieri, who taught him without remuneration, firmly believed in Wolfgang’s ability.
At the age of eleven Wolfgang delighted Constanze by composing a Rondo for piano for her name-day. In 1805 Constanze decided to present the fourteen year old Wolfgang to the public. She planned a concert for Haydn’s seventy-third birthday on March 31 at the Theater-an-der-Wien. Constanze publicised the concert in the Wiener Zeitung on 16 March and her advertisement contained the following sentiment: May indulgent connoisseurs discover some traces of his father’s talent in the son’s endeavours! Constanze sent printed invitations to the most influential people in Viennese musical circles as well as to Mozart’s many old friends.
The concert had to be postponed and took place on April 8. The theatre was full and Constanze herself led Wolfgang onto the stage where they were greeted with thunderous applause. Wolfgang played Mozart’s piano concerto in C major and a Cantata that he, himself had composed especially for Haydn’s birthday. Haydn who sat in the audience was moved to tears.
Wolfgang’s concert brought forth many favourable reviews but the Allgemeine musikalische Zeitung cautioned him: …may he not forget that for now the name Mozart will inspire leniency, in the future it will entail great expectations. Over the next two years Wolfgang became a highly successful performer and was much sought after in Vienna. A number of his early compositions were published at this time by Andre and Breitkopf & Hartel. In May 1808, an overview of the state of music in Vienna, published by Ignaz von Mosel, named Wolfgang amongst the outstanding pianists and composers of the time. He was included in the list with such luminaries as Beethoven, Streicher and the blind pianist, Theresia Paradis. As he grew older, however, Wolfgang realised that as a musician, he would forever be compared to his immortal father. It was a crippling discovery that thwarted his musical development and prevented him from discovering his own individuality. In the era of Beethoven, Schubert, Liszt and Schumann, Wolfgang floundered, imprisoned by his father’s musical legacy.
At the age of seventeen Wolfgang accepted a position as music teacher in Galicia, Poland. He could not have buried himself farther from the musical stimulus of Vienna than in this northernmost corner of the Habsburg Empire. Clearly in Vienna the burden of being Mozart’s son hindered him both professionally and emotionally. He left Vienna in search of his own identity and his mother, who understood his dilemma, was unwilling to thwart his quest. By this time she too had realised that Wolfgang could never fulfil the expectation that the public had of a Mozart.
On October 22, 1808 Wolfgang departed for Poland. There in Podkamien, 60 miles from the city of Lemberg, he took up employment with a Count Baworowski as music teacher to his daughter, Henrietta. Wolfgang wrote to Karl on Janury 22, 1809 from Podkamien that he was paid well, receiving 1,000 florins per year plus lodging, heating and light. Nevertheless, it is hard to imagine a cheerful young man choosing to be buried alive in such a stultifying environment.
Meanwhile in Livorno, although he had spent five years learning business procedure, Karl was unhappy with his life. He once again wanted to study music to follow in his father’s footsteps. At the end of 1805 he moved to Milan to study music at the new Milan Conservatoire. Haydn sent his personal recommendation to Professor Asioli in Milan. It is still extant: My dear Colleague, I should like Carlo Mozart to have the honour to be one of your students…Allow me to recommend this youth to you as the son of a friend of mine, now dead and the heir to a name which should be dear to all connoisseurs and friends of art… The lack of self-esteem Mozart’s sons continued to experience throughout their lives is due to just such recommendations. Their father’s illustrious name opened every door, but it was the sons who allowed these doors to be closed. Constanze and Nissen agreed to support Karl financially but Constanze cautioned her son: “…no son of Mozart can be second rate so that he does not bring shame rather than honour to his name. If you have taken all this into consideration then I am happy for you but hope that you will be doubly diligent…”
For the next two years Karl’s studies progressed well. Constanze corresponded with Professor Asioli and received good reports from him about her son. By the third year, however, Constanze began to worry about Karl’s dedication to his work. She suggested he return to Vienna and study with the respected composer, Albrechtsberger. She would have preferred to have him live with her and Nissen in order to look after him and supervise his studies. However, by early 1809 Albrechtsberger died and in May the French army occupied Vienna. Under these circumstances, Karl decided to remain in Milan. In 1810 Karl gave up his music studies. He obtained a position as clerk to the Viceroy of Naples in Milan. In a letter to her son Constanze remained supportive if somewhat surprised. She was glad, she said, that he was settling down to a more secure lifestyle without financial worries. This would allow him to study and enjoy music without the need of having to support himself by it.
In the vast family correspondence that still survives there is no further reference made to Karl’s decision not to pursue music as a profession although it must have been a heart-wrenching experience for him. He continued to enjoy music, to teach piano to his friends’ children and to organise musical soirees in his home. He remained a bureaucrat for the rest of his life, achieving in the end a high position in this capacity. He was also the only one in his family to enjoy the music of Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Schumann and other contemporary musicians, whereas Constanze and Wolfgang found their compositions difficult to understand and remained faithful to Mozart and the musical style of the eighteenth century. It was Wolfgang’s tragedy that he, a child of the Romantic era, did not explore the musical idiom of his own century. An interest in the Romantic movement might have freed him of the shackles imposed on him by his heritage. He might even have left his own mark on nineteenth century music.
Wolfgang chose, however, to bury himself in Podkamien. The high musical standards he had brought with him into his self-imposed exile were the standards of his teachers, Haydn, Salieri and Albrechtsberger. These were indeed the highest musical standards anyone could aspire to. Wolfgang, however, remained so closely wedded to the ideals of his teachers that he was unable to grow beyond their instructions. In Podkamien, and even later in Lemberg, the new and exciting musical developments that his contemporaries enjoyed in Vienna completely passed him by. When finally he left Podkamien for Lemberg and contemplated returning to Vienna, he encountered a completely new situation which would influence his decisions for the rest of his life.
In order to support himself while he explored the possibility of a solo career, Wolfgang became the teacher to the two young daughters of the Chief Government Councillor, Ludwig Cajetan von Baroni-Cavalcabo. Their mother, Josephine was three years older than Wolfgang, a beautiful woman, married to a man many years her senior. Josephine also possessed a beautiful singing voice and Wolfgang often accompanied her on the piano. The Baroni-Cavalcabos gave musical soirees which needed rehearsals. Alone during these sessions, Wolfgang and Josephine fell in love, a love which would last all their lives. Except for two concert tours, undertaken by Wolfgang to test the waters of a concert career, Josephine and Wolfgang never parted. Thus Wolfgang became locked in a menage a trois for the rest of his life.
In May 1819 Wolfgang undertook a grand concert tour. He wanted to prove himself not only as a composer but also as a virtuoso pianist. His diary during this concert tour was addressed to Josephine and revealed his desire to prove himself able to support her and establish himself as an international artist, so that she could leave her husband and marry him. At the back of his mind was also his desire to visit his mother and father (Nissen) in Denmark. Nissen had retired from the Danish diplomatic service and the couple had settled in Copenhagen in 1810.
As a reward for his long service to Denmark, Nissen was made Councillor of State and given the position of Censor of newspapers. This position placed him at odds with newspaper editors who firmly believed in the freedom of the press whereas Nissen, trained as a diplomat, believed that some things were better kept secret from the public. If Constanze and Nissen were already contemplating leaving Denmark at the time of Wolfgang’s visit, he was not aware of it. He had an emotional reunion with his mother which he described in his diary: “I cannot describe how emotional I was. I was shaking all over as the long awaited moment approached. Finally they led me into a room where I saw a woman whom I did not recognise as I was looking into the light. She did not recognise me either as she told me later, and yet we rushed into each other’s arms. It was a truly spiritual moment! To see each other after nearly eleven years of separation! I found both of them, especially my mother kind beyond expectation.
During his long walks with his mother he learned more about Mozart. He also found that he could talk to her about Josephine and their love for each other. It was like discovering a long-lost friend. This close and adult relationship would continue for the rest of his parents’ lives. He had always been close to Nissen, who was the only father he had ever known but, in his youth, Constanze was a demanding task mistress. He confided to his dairy: “…she has become a real mother to me, something that she has always been but did not always show me”.
He remained with his parents until September 29 giving one successful concert in Copenhagen. He continued his concert tour, performing in Berlin where he met the Beers, parents of the composer, Meyerbeer and Felix Mendelssohn who became his friend for life. In Dresden he met his mother’s cousin, Carl Maria von Weber, who was most affectionate toward him and Wolfgang spent many happy days in the Weber home. In Carl Maria von Weber’s biography, written by his son Max, it appears that Carl Maria felt sorry for Wolfgang, sensing that he remained in the shadow of his immortal father despite all the success he had had during his concert tour.
Wolfgang arrived in Milan on August 21, 1820. He stayed with Karl for a month. The brothers spent joyous days together and reminisced about their childhood. While on tour, Wolfgang had heard that Karl had married but this proved to be untrue. Instead, Wolfgang found that Karl, like himself, was living in a menage a trois. Nothing more is known of Karl’s private life except for Constanze’s letter to him in March, 1833 in which she grieves with him over the death of his Constanza. It is not known who this Constanza was. Some writers believe she was Karl’s love-child; some others believe she was his lover. There is no documentary evidence to support either claim. An intensely private person, Karl took this secret with him to the grave.
In 1820 Constanze and her husband left Denmark in search of a cure for Nissen’s ill health. For a long time it was believed that they had settled soon thereafter in Salzburg, in order to be close to the spas that Nissen found were beneficial to his health and to allow him to write his monumental opus, Mozart’s first documentary biography. More than four years in the Nissens’ lives, however, remained undocumented. Recently, the Danish author, Viggo Sjoqvist, discovered in the Danish National Archives a letter, written in December 1823 in Milan, from Constanze to Danish composer, S.E.F. Weyse, stating that she had been living in Italy for two years. The letter reveals Constanze in a happy frame of mind, being tormented by her son, Karl with performances of modern compositions which were but noise to her ears. She begged Weyse to send her his own compositions so that she could show her son what a good composer could do! It seems that mother and son were reunited after a long period and that they truly enjoyed each other’s company.
The first evidence of the Nissens’ presence in Salzburg is a note written by Mozart’s sister, Nannerl, in the diary of Andreas Stumpff on September 21, 1824 when this gentleman stopped over in Salzburg on his way from London to Vienna to visit his old friend, Beethoven. Both Constanze and Nissen had added their signatures to Nannerl’s greeting. From this we can surmise that Constanze and Nissen may have spent the unaccounted years in Milan with Karl. Constanze had not seen her eldest son for more than twenty years but once she had settled in Salzburg, Karl visited her at regular intervals.
The most revealing portrait of Wolfgang’s character comes from Vincent and Mary Novello who visited the once again widowed Constanze in Salzburg in 1829. Vincent Novello was the founder of a publishing company in London which still exists today. He was a most influential member of the then ruling London intelligentsia, a writer and organist of no mean achievement. Mary, his wife was also a writer and her notes about Mozart greatly influenced Edward Holmes, Mozart’s first English biographer. The Novellos’ meeting in Salzburg with Constanze coincided with Wolfgang’s visit to his mother. The Novello diaries were published in 1955 by their descendant, Nerina Medici Di Marignano, edited by Rosemary Hughes. Entitled A Mozart Pilgrimage Being the Travel Diaries of Vincent & Mary Novello, it paints in fine detail Constanze’s up-beat personality which contrasts sharply with Wolfgang’s self-pity and his complaints about the burden of his Mozart heritage. Vincent Novello found “…young Mozart a melancholy thoughtful-looking person…He is (unfortunately, I think) a Professor of Music and seems to be impressed with the idea, that everything he can possibly do, will be so greatly inferior to what was accomplished by the wonderful genius of his illustrious father, that he feels disinclined to write much, or to publish what he produces.” Mary Novello’s observations: “…her younger son, who though somewhat resembling his father seems to have no genius and his feelings perhaps may cast a shade over his countenance rendering it rather heavy, and damps the ardour of his musical works reducing them to mediocrity, something of this despair of effecting anything worthy of his father’s name seemed to hang over him…” This is a recurring theme in the record of Wolfgang’s conversations with Vincent and Mary Novello.
Wolfgang was deeply affected by Nissen’s death in 1826 and thereafter spent a considerable time in Salzburg. His conducting of Mozart’s Requiem in honour of his stepfather in the Universitatskirche was considered the best performance of the Requiem to date in Salzburg. On December 5, 1826 he repeated the performance of the Requiem in Lemberg on the anniversary of Mozart’s death, thus celebrating the revered man who had fathered him and also his recently departed stepfather who had loved and cared for him as though he had been his own child.
When Nicolaus Nissen died in 1826 his Mozart Biography remained unfinished. Constanze undertook the enormous task of having the biography completed. Although the book did not sell as well as she had expected, due to a renewed interest in Mozart, his birthplace Salzburg began to enjoy a revival. Since the Napoleonic wars Salzburg had suffered from neglect but during the 1830s visitors began arriving in Salzburg in search of Mozart. Vincent Novello testified that at the time of his visit, Salzburg did not have a decent orchestra, the elegant buildings that once graced the town, stood like orphans clad in shabby clothes. Constanze kept an open house and supplied the visitors with cake, coffee and information about Mozart and his music. She conducted a vast correspondence with lovers of Mozart’s music and there even exists a visiting card with her name on it and on the verso, in English and in her handwriting there appears the following: I wish to greet with great pleasure all Mozart admirers and tell them that if they ever come to Salzburg to give me the satisfaction of visiting me.
Having Constanze in their midst to remind them of the glory of their native son, the city fathers soon realised that by encouraging this Mozart revival their city and their businesses would benefit. A Mozart Committee was formed and the decision taken to erect a monument in Mozart’s honour. Constanze played a pivotal role in this undertaking, writing personally to European monarchs asking them for contributions. The result was so overwhelming that in September 1837 Constanze published a circular in various newspapers expressing her thanks for all the contributions that were pouring into Salzburg. In August 1837 she had gone to Munich at the invitation of King Ludwig of Bavaria to attend a Memorial Festival for the benefit of Mozart’s monument. Her presence there elicited great interest and resulted in a profit of 600 florins for the memorial, that sum representing at the time the annual income of a physician at a leading Vienna hospital.
The Mozart Committee in time became the Dom-Music-Verein whose major undertaking was the erection of the Mozart monument. On October 1, 1841 the Dom-Music-Verein and Mozarteum began its activities as a music school. Constanze did all she could to ensure that Wolfgang was appointed the first director of the Mozarteum but the position went to Alois Taux, a young man of twenty-two.
Wolfgang was now fifty years old and ailing. He was given the title of Honorary Kapellmeister of the Mozarteum, a title he cherished. He was by then living in Vienna together with Josephine and her husband. Taux’s appointment relieved Wolfgang of the anxiety of having to be separated from Josephine. In Vienna he spent his time teaching and organising soirees for Josephine’s salon. The composer, Robert Schumann became his friend and always visited Wolfgang when he was in Vienna. In one of his letters to his wife Clara, Schumann wrote that when in Vienna one was always assured of excellent concerts at the Cavalcabos’ as they were planned by Mozart’s son.
On December 6, 1841 a memorial service was held at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Mozart’s death. The Requiem Mass was performed and in the evening, in the Great Hall of the Casino and before a large gathering of artists, musicians and poets, Wolfgang performed his father’s Fantasy and Sonata in C minor. This was the crowning moment of his life. At the same time in Salzburg, the seventy-nine-year old Constanze, with the help of the Dom-Music Verein organised to have the Requiem performed in the Salzburg Cathedral.
Constanze died on March 6, 1842. It now fell to her sons to represent the Mozart family at the erection of Mozart’s monument. Mozart’s two sons were guests of honour and Wolfgang was asked to compose a hymn for the Festival celebrations. Instead, Wolfgang brought along a Festival Cantata in three movements based on themes from his father’s opera, La Clemenza di Tito.
The Festival took place over a period of three days in September 1842. The city was beautifully decorated; the statue stood covered, awaiting the unveiling in Michaelsplatz which was renamed Mozartsplatz. When Wolfgang arrived he was greeted by a fanfare from the newly formed Salzburg orchestra. The Empress Carolina Augusta and the King of Bavaria were seated on especially erected platforms. That evening a memorial service took place in memory of Constanze in St. Sebastian’s Church.
After Wolfgang returned to Vienna he dedicated his Festival Cantata to the King of Bavaria. As much as the King admired Mozart and in every respect supported Constanze and her efforts on behalf of Mozart’s music, he rejected Wolfgang’s Cantata. In the end the King of France took pity on him and accepted the Cantata in 1843.
During the winter of 1843 Wolfgang became ill with a stomach ailment and in the spring of 1844 went to Karlsbad seeking a cure. He was accompanied by his friend and pupil, Ernest Pauer. Wolfgang’s condition worsened and Josephine hurried to Karlsbad to be at his bedside. He died in Karlsbad, with Josephine by his side on July 29, 1844. Memorial services, with performances of Mozart’s Requiem were held in his memory in Salzburg, Vienna and Lemberg. He left his entire estate, most of it inherited from his mother, to Josephine who in turn donated all Mozart memorabilia to the Mozarteum.
After the Festival, Karl returned to Milan and corresponded frequently with Alois Taux who had become his friend. He had reached a high position as a civil servant but the death of his mother and brother in such quick succession, left him increasingly lonely and unhappy. He had amassed a goodly fortune, enlarged by his inheritance from Constanze. On his return to Italy, Karl had learned of the great success of The Marriage of Figaro at the Theatre Lyrique in Paris. He was surprised to receive a payment of 8,000 francs as the heir and legitimate owner of Mozart’s intellectual property. Karl had a good relationship with Josephine Cavalcabo and when he visited her in Vienna in 1849 he saw the newly completed Mozarthof in Rauhensteingasse where he had witnessed his father’s death.
In 1855 Taux formed a committee to plan a large festivity to celebrate the 100th anniversary of Mozart’s birth. Karl donated the family bible and his father’s forte-piano to the Mozarteum. “…The instrument is so dear to me, he wrote, that I can only part from it with deep sorrow as every time I look at it, I recall my father playing on it, especially that in the last year of his life, I often sat in his study for days on end because my mother was sick…”
Karl arrived in Salzburg in late August, 1856. He was feted everywhere he went and on August 23 the Mozarteum Orchestra serenaded him. Many dignitaries descended on Salzburg and performers from German-speaking lands took part in the festivities. It was the beginning of the Mozart Festival and it continues to be celebrated to this day. Karl met many of his father’s worshippers, among them Ludwig Ritter von Kochel in whose diary Karl expressed his gratitude for the tireless work Kochel undertook in cataloguing Mozart’s works.
Karl Mozart died on 31 October, 1858 with his father’s portrait in his hand. Modest to the end, Karl requested a second class funeral but in Salzburg the passing of the last Mozart was honoured by Alois Taux with the performance of the Requiem in the Salzburg Cathedral.
Neither of Mozart’s sons ever married and there were no descendants to carry on the famous name. In 1856 Karl wrote to his friend, Popelka: “…Sons should not follow their father’s profession in which the father excels”. By the same token they should not marry because he believed that the perpetuation of a famous man’s genetic line is not without risk. There may have been many other reasons why Mozart’s sons did not marry and why both of them formed liaisons with married women of high social standing. Both suffered from a lack of self-esteem but Mozart’s sons felt that they could not marry just anyone. Yet neither could afford to support a wife accustomed to a privileged life. The feeling of inadequacy, the burden of their heritage and their complete inability to cope with what they believed was expected of them as the sons of a brilliant father, caused them to lead unhappy lives, probably more so in Wolfgang’s case as Karl had in the end accepted the fact that his father could not be emulated.