November 14, 2017
Leopold Mozart started out as a violinist at the court of the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg and rose through the ranks to become court composer and vice kapellmeister (“chapel master” – director of church music). He also wrote “A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing”, which became an important guide to violin studies that was circulated throughout Europe.
Despite holding his own as a performer and composer, he is best known for being the father, teacher, and “artist manager” of his children, Nannerl and Wolfgang. When they were children, they embarked on extensive careers through Europe, both playing the harpsichord, and Wolfgang sometimes playing the violin. In today’s world, Leopold would have hit the talk show circuit, having his kids perform on Ellen and The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon; he would have posted footage to YouTube, enjoying it go viral.
Leopold was a control freak. He tried to manage every aspect of his children’s lives, including not allowing Nannerl to marry her first beloved and opposing Wolfgang’s choice in Constanze (whom he married anyway). He maintained a reasonably good relationship with Nannerl (she was the responsible first born) whereas things were more tense with Wolfgang (the party animal youngest born) who defied him constantly.
Like most earnest stage parents, Leopold put his children’s careers, especially Wolfgang’s, ahead of his own, and was therefore never was promoted beyond Vice Kapellmeister to Kapellmeister. He was away on tour too often with his kids. Very often in the world of precociousness, be it music, acting, sports, or academics, you hear of parents who make incredible sacrifices for their gifted children, with strained relationships as the result. We can, at least, enjoy the bounty left to us in terms of great music, by both father and son.
Listen to Leopold Mozart’s “Toy Symphony” performed by Ensemble Metamorphosis (and quite a clip, I might add).
Leopold Mozart was born November 14, 1719 in Augsburg, Germany, and died May 28, 1787, in Salzburg, Austria.