Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Key to Musical Genius

Many have been considered great when we think of composers and artists in the music industry, yet there are some that have been more impactful than many of the artists that we consider great in our time period. One of these more impactful names in the world of music is that of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. It is my great pleasure to discuss the key in our collection that is related to such a musical visionary as Mozart, especially since we have the key to his wine cellar in Salzburg, Austria.

Wolfgang was born on January 27th in 1756 to Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria in Salzburg, Austria. He was only two of seven children to the Mozart parents that actually survived into adulthood with the other five never surpassing infancy. His father was a minor composer and appointed to be the fourth violinist in the musical company for Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg in 1743.

Even early on, his older sister Maria Anna recalled that he was able to pick out thirds in scale as well as by age five being able to compose as his father wrote the notes down. His father was a great encourager of Wolfgang’s talents and soon focused primarily on teaching his children and gave up composing. While he and his sister were still very young, Leopold took them on several different European excursions in which Wolfgang and Maria Anna would perform as child prodigies for a plethora of dignitaries in a variety of cities including Munich, Paris, London, Zurich, and even parts of Italy.

In 1773 Wolfgang was employed as a court musician in Salzburg until 1777 when he resigned and looked for different work but unfortunately could not find a position to his liking and fell into debt. During this traveling period of Mozart’s life, his mother died on July 3rd 1778. He returned home in 1779 and took a position as a court organist and concertmaster. This was not to last long, however, for in 1781 he set off again, this time for Vienna.

When visiting his employer in Vienna he actually tried to resign his post and was refused, but then granted permission of dismissal and he settled in Vienna as a freelance performer and composer. There became a dispute due to him leaving the court of the Archbishop in Salzburg and it ran deeper than just being dismissed because Leopold Mozart sided against Wolfgang on the matter. When he did not return with the Archbishop it was considered the revolutionary step for Mozart, one that drastically changed his career.

It was in Vienna where he pursued Constanze Weber ,and the couple married in 1782, the day before his father’s letter of consent arrived in the mail. The Mozart couple had a total of six children over the next nine years with only two of them surviving infancy. A year after their marriage they visited Salzburg and prompted one of the more famous pieces by Mozart, Mass in C Minor, with his new wife singing one of the solo parts. In Maynard Solomon’s book, Mozart: A Life, he says this about Mozart’s time in Salzburg, “a harmonious connection between an eager composer-performer and a delighted audience, which was given the opportunity of witnessing the transformation and perfection of a major musical genre.”

It is here where our key comes in. Due to its unique nature and origin the key to Mozart’s wine cellar is quite rare in our collection. It is said that the wine cellar was given to Mozart as a gift since he was a popular visitor to the wine cellars made by the priests. During the early stages of his career as he became up and coming, Mozart was a prodigy and it seems that due to the already small amount of stature his father had acquired in Salzburg, Wolfgang was able to break through and this, his birthplace, was proud to call him one of their own. So when he returned and during the composing of Mass in C Minor, the citizens of Salzburg gave this key and the wine cellar it opened to him.

Over the next several years he created some of the most inspirational and genre-changing music that has ever graced the earth’s inhabitant’s ears, and yet life was cut short. At the age of 35, Mozart fell ill and while being nursed by his wife and daughter, wrote his final masterpiece, Requiem. He died on December 5th, 1791 and was laid in a commoner’s grave. While having changed how so many look at music and composing, Mozart had a glimpse of fame during his lifetime. In death, however, he inspired and continues to do so. Even I, a very amateur musician, have found the power of his music lifting and even can bring me shivers down my back if performed eloquently. I hope that this brief piece can induce a curiosity to look up and listen to some of his compositions.

Once again I will make a note here at the end that on July 9th I will be presenting ten of some of the more famous keys in our collection during the Summer Encahnted Evenings at 7 pm. I hope that many of you are able to come out and enjoy the variety of history we have here in the Baldpate Inn Key Room.

Until next time,
Key Room Curator