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Fevruary 2021

Léopold Mozart, the biological father
Joseph Haydn, the spiritual father?
Part I

If Léopold Mozart (1719-1787) is the biological father of Wolfgang Amadeus, is Franz Joseph Haydn (1732-1809) his spiritual father? This is what we will seek to find out in this seventh letter and the next.

Let us first look at the progenitor, his contribution, his authority, his complex relationships with his son as they emerge from their discussions, especially from 1777

I - The tribulations of Wolfgang under the authority of Leopold.

The following are represented in this print[1] : seated at the harpsichord, Wolfgang, the son and the pupil; Léopold Mozart[2] appears there standing on the violin, he is the father, the master, he will be his teacher, his confidant and his agent ...

Léopold is the first musician of his family. Her father is a bookbinder. Further upstream, his ancestors were masons on the paternal side or of peasant origin on the maternal side. After three years in the service of Count Thurn und Taxis, he was hired in 1743 by the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg[3], first as a fourth violin. Promoted to the rank of violin master in 1744, his activity as a composer led him to be appointed court composer in 1757. In 1763 he became vice-kapellmeister.

Although he was already known in his time and left numerous compositions in all musical genres (sonatas, concertos, symphonies, operas ...), Léopold was very far from the genius of his son. Among his best-known works there are many church works and a lot of stage music, special music, entertainment, turquerie, dances, minuets ...

The Toy Symphony remains one of Leopold's most often mentioned works, if not the most often performed. However, long attributed to Haydn, it is now his Mozartian paternity that is in doubt.


[1] Print made in 1764 after the portrait of the Mozart family by Carmontelle. The original portrait dates from Mozart's first stay in Paris.
[2] Next to the print by Carmontelle, a portrait of Leopold Mozart by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni
[3] Hieronymus Colloredo (1732-1812) that Mozart will nickname “the mufti H.C.” in some of his letters

In fact, we must remember from Leopold his teaching skills. In 1756 (year of Wolfgang's birth) he published a "Book on a fundamental method for the violin". Renowned, disseminated, and translated throughout Europe, this work would still be authoritative today among specialists and performers of the baroque repertoire.

From 1762 to 1773 Léopold had one idea in mind: to show off his offspring, to get out of his province, to increase his reputation and rank there, to earn money and undoubtedly live one day thanks to this son with a promising career.

Thus, he often accompanied his children to show their talents as virtuosos, organizing from 1762 (Wolfgang was only six years old) tours during which he exhibited the child prodigy much like a bear trainer.

From 1763 to 1766 it was the great trip to Europe; the pace of travel is accelerating at the risk of exposing children to fatigue and the vagaries of illness (5) ...

Then the family moved to Austria from the time of 1767 to 1769 Vienna, Brno, Olmütz.

Return to Salzburg for a year and departure for a first major tour of Italy from December 1769 to March 1771 followed by two other Italian trips until March 1773.

The following tables summarize the main stages of the European tour and the Italian tours but we must imagine about 70 cities crossed or visited in the “European tour”, 35 in the Italian tours

[4] Cf. Ph. Sollers - Mysterious Mozart
[5] In 1765 while traveling to Holland, nine-year-old Wolfgang first contracted "a very bad cold", his sister suffered a very bad bronchitis. In a letter of September 19, Leopold wrote "the disease is now our fate". He doesn't think so well put it, the bronchitis worsens into a congestion of the lungs and Leopold makes him administer the holy sacraments. Then, Nannerl healed, it was Wolfgang's turn to fall ill, victim of a sort of typhoid fever. At the age of 11 Wolfgang will contract smallpox. In Vienna it is panic, Léopold (who refused in Paris the smallpox "vaccination" of Jenner) only thinks of fleeing, to safeguard the health of his children 
(Cf. a medical look at Mozart by Dr Lucien R. Karhausen and Mozart by Jean & Brigitte Massin).

Of course, the audience (well a certain audience) is there, and marvels at the prowess of the little virtuoso. Of course, Wolfgang's performances, his concerts, his piano games can bring in a lot of money (for example 1200 pounds for a concert in front of the royal family)[6]. As an "agent," Leopold meticulously calculates every single step in his children's triumphant progress across Europe, weighing the cost and likely profit of each engagement, delivering sound advice in the press and leveraging any relationship[7]. But travel across Europe involves considerable expense. The balance is therefore not positive and the Mozarts are often forced to borrow


During this period, the relationship between Leopold and his son was marked by respect and love. Until 1768 the correspondence, mainly from Leopold, describes the activities and successes of Wolfgang, the events, the local characters encountered. During the campaigns in Italy (1770-1773), Leopold wrote mainly to his wife Anna Maria. The first writings of Wolfgang appear, often addressed to his dear sister "carissima sorella", Marianne whom he nicknames Nannerl.

On March 13, 1773, Wolfgang returned to Salzburg at the age of 17. "Almost half of his life is behind him, his happy childhood is now a thing of the past, his wanderings on all the roads of Europe will be nothing more than memories ...

Aside from a summer vacation that Leopold takes advantage of to return to Vienna with Wolfgang, and another trip to Munich during the winter of 1774 to represent “la finta Giardiniera” there, Wolfgang will now stay from 1773 to 1777 (from 17 at age 21) in Salzburg, under the yoke of Prince Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo[8].

If, nowadays, Salzburg is the epicenter of Mozart worship, this was not the case when Wolfgang returned there in 1773. The whole of society - as Jean Massin still maintains - tends to think that after all, the young Mozart is only one very gifted musician among many others ... nothing more ... This is also what Colloredo thinks exasperated by the publicity of the father. For the prince-archbishop, it is about taming this sassy, ​​pretentious and unruly young servant whom he hired as "Konzertmeister" but whose music he really does not appreciate, too Germanic for his taste.

Wolfgang composes there in particular his 5 concertos for violin and the concerto for piano n ° 9 written for Mademoiselle Jeunehomme.


[6]  Converting into euros is not easy. Some sources would convert 1,200 pounds into 18,000 euros. To have a more precise idea we can refer to the annual salaries: between 100 and 300 pounds / year for a worker, laborer, servant / from 300 to 1000 pounds / year for "professional" wages / a cabinetmaker can earn 400 pounds, a priest between 300 and 500 pounds, a beginning professor at the Royal College 600 pounds ... According to testimonies 1000 pounds per year allows to live without more. From 1000 to 3000 pounds / year, one finds to 1800 pounds / year university professors during their career. Diderot received at the bookseller Le Breton a quarterly salary of 500 pounds, a princely family tutor could earn between 2000 and 3000 pounds / year.
(Cf. J. Sgard - Eighteenth Century, At the turn of the Enlightenment - Edit. Garnier Frères).
[7] See Mozart Dictionary edited by H.C. Robbins Landon
[8]Cf. Jean & Brigitte Massin, - Mozart 1958

For Léopold, he has to get out of Salzburg, get back in touch with other musical circles ... He would therefore like to go back with Wolfgang ... But as Colloredo would be satisfied with Wolfgang's departure, he refuses Leopold outright, despite his three requests, the possibility of accompanying his son.

Colloredo will no longer allow any absences! Leopold is dismayed, he has no faith in Wolfgang's practicality.


II - Viva la liberta !

 That's it, September 23, 1977 Wolfgang and his mother Anna-Maria leave the family home ... To us Paris![9] 

[9] They will not reach Paris until March 23, 1778.

Nannerl is not part of the expedition. Wolfgang feels freer, more independent, master of his actions despite being chaperoned by his mother: "I'm always in my best mood. My heart is as light as a feather since I have been away from these baffles, "he wrote on September 26. Anna-Maria's presence will be less of a burden than her father's, he's sure. Long live the liberta!

The relationship between Mozart and his son will weaken but for the moment it is still daddy dear once arrived in Mannheim pre-Parisian step:

Daddy dear!

I cannot write a poem, I am not a poet. I cannot arrange my sentences artistically enough so that they alternately diffuse shadows and lights, I am not a painter. I can't express my feelings and thoughts with gestures and pantomime either, I'm not a dancer. But I can do it by sounds, I am Musikus. So tomorrow I'll be playing the piano at Cannabich's[10], a big compliment for your birthday. For today, I can only wish you with all my heart, my dearest Father, everything I wish you every day, morning and evening - health, long life and good humor. I also hope that you now have less inconvenience than when I was still in Salzburg, because I have to admit that I was the only cause. People were behaving badly to me, I didn't deserve this. You naturally took your share - but not too much.

This is the main and most important reason why I left Salzburg promptly. And I hope my wish is fulfilled today. "

(...) I kiss your hands 1000 times and remain, until death, my very dear Father, Your obedient son ",

What baffles is Wolfgang referring to? Who was behaving badly with him?

This is obviously Colloredo. Moreover, Léopold explains the situation as follows:

"It has been five years since my son has served our prince for low salary, in the hope that he would gradually gain recognition for his efforts and his accomplished knowledge,his great diligence and his ever-lacking zeal. But we were wrong. (...) Suffice it to say that he (Colloredo) was not ashamed to say that my son doesn't know anything, should go to the Naples Conservatory to study music, and all that for what? to give the impression that he no longer deserves either salary or recognition ... "Cf. Léopold on December 22, 1777.

When leaving Salzburg, Mozart was therefore not fleeing Leopold but Colloredo.

In Mannheim it’s enchantment, a blessed moment. From a musical point of view, he is celebrated everywhere, taken seriously, attending receptions, he is commissioned for works. He meets Christian Cannabich with whom Wolfgang enjoys a warm friendship, with whom he dines regularly.

But this independence annoys Leopold who finds that Wolfgang does not know how to promote himself and who urges him to show off more: "This is duty and policy. None of this is intrigue and deceit. " Wolfgang doesn't care. He is unable to “lather” himself. In front of the ignorant or the amateurs, he feels the disgust of this rowdy advertisement with which his father surrounded him throughout his childhood. In Mannheim, far from his father, his friends and his city, finally surrounded by real and excellent musicians, he knows that he doesn't need any sort of juggler to make himself known[11].

But relations between Leopold and Wolfgang end up straining. The correspondence between father and son is indicative of the souring of their relationship or, at the very least, of a misunderstanding. She first relates the many professional failures of Wolfgang which seem to prove Leopold right. All attempts by Wolfgang to find a stable job have failed. In Munich, Prince Elector Maximilian III alleges the absence of a vacant post ... In Mannheim, his attempts with Prince Elector Karl Theodore were unsuccessful. Despite his esteem for the young musician, he dares not take into his service a musician dismissed by Colloredo and already dismissed by Maximilian III.

Leopold gets carried away, scolds, advises, reasons. We cannot blame him:

A trip is no joke. You haven't yet understood that you have to have other thoughts than crazy jokes (...) You have to be careful to plan for a thousand different things (...) When you have no money, it turns out that we no longer have any friends; this even if you give a hundred free lessons (...) I hope you will think about all this by yourself; because on whom do all these worries finally fall? About your poor father (...) I am telling you all this as it comes to me, from the bottom of my heart. You will first have to recognize that it is no joke to take such a trip and live on hazardous financial returns, (...). Cf. Léopold on November 24, 1777.

Moreover, Léopold quickly senses that he is losing his investment, his pension fund:

"I have devoted each of my hours to both of you (his children), in the hope that in due time you will not only be able to provide for yourself, but also allow me to pass a quiet old age…[12]

There were two goals assigned to your trip: to find a stable and well-paid service or if that is not possible to get to an important center where there is a lot of money to be made. In both cases, the end goal was both to support your parents and help your sister to continue on her path ... ”. Cf. Léopold on February 12, 1778.

"You must first of all think of your parents, otherwise your soul will go to hell! ". Cf. Léopold on February 12, 1778 op. cit.

And then, with 1778 comes the conflict over the Weber family.

In Mannheim there is the Weber family or more exactly Aloysia[13] with which Wolfgang fell in love. Aloysia “sings remarkably, her voice is beautiful and pure; she is only fifteen years old, all she needs is action to be able to be a prima donna. " Cf Wolfgang, January 17, 1778.

Wolfgang would like to take his "dear Weberin" on tour with him in Italy ...

Wolfgang's mother is worried, she considers herself abandoned and complains in secret to her husband:

"You could have seen that when Wolfgang made a new acquaintance, he immediately took fire and flame for these people ... It is true that she sings wonderfully. But he must not at the same time forget his own interests (...) As soon as he got to know the Webers, he immediately changed his mind. In short, he likes to be with others better than with me; I think about what doesn't suit me every now and then, and he doesn't like it. (...) I'm writing this in the utmost secrecy, while he's gone to eat, because I wouldn't want to be caught. Farewell, I remain your faithful wife ”. Cf. Anna Maria on February 4, 1778.

Leopold is furious. In his very long letter of February 12 (op. Cit.), He notably writes about Wolfgang's project with the Webers: “Your proposal (I am barely able to write when I think about it), your project to take a trip with Mr. Weber and his two daughters almost drove me crazy. My dear son! How can you be seduced, even for an hour, by an idea as absurd as you have in your head? Your letter is nothing more than a novel ".

Leopold suspects the girl and her mother are interested: Wolfgang is famous in Mannheim, his support may be important for her future career. He might not be wrong: Having become famous and engaged in Munich, Aloysia would eventually marry actor Joseph Lange[14]. Spouses Weber-Lange and Mozart-Weber will remain friends despite everything.

In Salzburg, where Wolfgang has returned to Colloredo's service, nothing is going well. The prince-archbishop still hates him as much, calls him a moron, their exchanges are speckled foil. Colloredo ends up expelling him from the court but still refuses his resignation. Wolfgang does not have the support of Leopold who bends his spine.

"... I must admit that in no sentence in your letter do I recognize my father! - a father certainly, but not the best, the most affectionate, the most concerned about his honor and that of his children! In short, not my father! (...) you say, I can only save my honor by renouncing my resolution? How then can you still formulate such a paradox? (...) If it is satisfaction to be rid of a prince who does not pay you and who balls you to death[15], then yes I am satisfied (...) To please you, my excellent father, I I would gladly sacrifice my happiness, my health and my life, but my honor is mine, and it must be above all for us ”. See Wolfgang on May 19, 1781.

Wolfgang staysin Vienna, at the home of the Weber family[16]. He will tie up Constanze the third Weber daughter, to the delight of Maria Caecilia her mother who maneuvered for this result[17], but to the chagrin of Leopold opposed to this union.



[10] Christian Cannabich (1731-1798) is a German composer, Kapellmeister with whom Mozart shared many dinners in 1977. He conducted the Mannheim Orchestra, renowned for its size (up to ninety-five musicians) and the quality of its instrumentalists.

[11] Cf. Jean & Brigitte Massin - op. cit.

[12] Cf. Letter from Léopold of February 5, 1778 (taken up in Mystérieux Mozart by Ph. Sollers op.cit).

[13]Aloysia Weber (1760-1839) is the second daughter of Fridolin Weber, copyist, and the sister of Constance Weber (1762-1842) his future wife.

[14] Aloysia was a bit like Wolfgang the foster child of his family. To obtain the possibility of marrying Aloysia Joseph Lange had to agree to pay his mother a life annuity of 700 florins.

[15] Cuionirt in the text.

[16] The building is called "The Eye of God" (Zum Auge Gottes).

[17] A bit like she maneuvered for Aloysia's wedding (see note 14). Wolfgang married Constanze on August 3, 1782

The departure of Wolfgang from Salzburg, his hometown, in 1781 and his marriage to Constance Weber in 1782 will sign the rupture between the two men.

Leopold has often been criticized for his extreme severity, a conservative influence. Historians and biographers evoke its authoritarian and narrow-minded character. Discipline, Christian faith and morals were essential values ​​for Leopold. Wasn't there a bit of "Commendatore" in this one?[18]  .

We would like to reproduce this exchange between Leopold and Wolfgang:

My dearest son!

I must send you my wishes for your birthday ... You know me, I am neither a pedant, nor a false brother, and even less a tartuffe. This is why you cannot refuse a prayer to your father! Here it is: take care of your soul! Do not be not for me an occasion of anguish at the hour of my death. May I not have at this difficult time to reproach myself for having neglected anything in the concern for the salvation of your soul.

... Love me as I love you. I am your loving father ”. Cf. Léopold on October 23, 1777.

To which Wolfgang will respond with, as Jean Massin[19]  suggests, his usual tone of reciting his catechism whenever he finds himself obliged to deliver a boring speech:

I respectfully thank Papa for his birthday wishes. May he live without worry! I always have God in front of me. I recognize his omnipotence and I fear his anger. I also recognize his love, compassion and mercy for his creatures ... Of course, I will do my best to follow exactly the recommendations and advice that you were kind enough to give me. " See Wolfgang on October 25, 1777

We would almost be tempted to end with an Amen!

Almost 10 years after this exchange, 5 months before the premiere of Don Giovanni, Léopold passed away in Salzburg.[20] 

More than Don Giovanni, is not Wolfgang rather the Papageno of the Magic Flute whom he loved so much and whose tune he will hum, the day before his death, - Der Vogelfänger bin ich, ja.

If Wolfgang owes Leopold his life, Leopold owes him posterity, by "coaching" his son Leopold will have managed to leave a mark and gain posterity that he would probably never have had.

Even if the tension between Wolfgang and Leopold is perceptible in their exchanges (especially between 1778 and 1782), are they not rather the result of a generational conflict and a great lack of understanding.

To conclude, we will take a less manichean analysis of the relationship between father and son from Jean-Victor Hocquard[21] :

"No, Leopold was not a torturer in leading Wolfgang around the world ... Professionally, he was divided between two duties: that of his charge (and he was conscientious) and that of developing the talents that God imparted to his son. He encouraged him to take off elsewhere than in Salzburg and at the same time wanted to keep him ...

The conflict between the two temperaments erupted from mutual incomprehension. Wolfgang wasn’t used to thoughtful initiatives and it was on a whim that he broke with Colloredo. And, thereupon, he triumphantly announces his irreversible project to his father. His dad takes it very badly and the son feels as much painful disappointment as he feels irritation. They are aiming at each other. To top it off, here is Wolfgang marrying a Weber girl! [22]  ...

Peace between the two men will be final in 1785 when Léopold will come to Vienna and join Freemasonry.

One thing that critics of Leopold should remember is that Wolfgang recognized the full extent of his musical debt to him. The proof is that he always communicated a copy of his works to ask for his opinion. Mozart therefore venerated his father: no event had an echo in his heart as painful as the death of Leopold on May 29, 1787 ".

And then how sweet to Leopold's ears will be the compliment that Franz Joseph Haydn will address to him on February 12, 1785 during a session where three of the six quartets which will be dedicated to Haydn were performed in private.

"I must tell you before God, as an honest man, your son is the greatest composer that I know, in person and by name, he has taste and, moreover, the greatest science of composition".

Biographical references:
Most of the texts used have been taken from:
Jean and Brigitte Massin, Mozart 1958 - CFL.
Philippe Sollers, Mystérieux Mozart 2001 - Plon.
Jean-Victor Hocquard - Mozart 1959 - Seuil

[18] In any case, this is the connection Milos Forman makes in his film Amadeus by imagining that the Commander and Don Giovanni are doubles of Leopold and Wolfgang. In fact, the opera premiered on October 29, 1787, 5 months after Leopold's death on May 28. In the scene from the film featuring Mozart conducting the last act of Don Giovanni, Milos Forman introduces a still shot of a painting of a severe Leopold before the Commander, invited to dinner, appears.
[19] Cf. Jean & Brigitte Massin, - Mozart 1958
 [20].Death of Léopold Mozart on May 29, 1787 / Creation of Don Giovanni in Prague on October 29, 1787.
 [21]Cf.Jean-Victor Hocquard - Mozart - Seuil (1959)
 [22] Not to mention the earlier conflict with the Weber family

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