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September 2020

Mozart : Religious but “in a different way”


I - 1784, the Freemason turn

 On December 14, 1784, (between the fourth and the fifth and sixth Quartets) Mozart performs an act which
is of the utmost importance to him: he enthusiastically adheres to Freemasonry and is initiated as Apprentice in the Lodge Viennese « Zur Wohlthätigkeit » (Beneficence). He invited his two fathers there: Leopold, initiated as apprentice in March, then elevated to the grade of companion on April 16, 1785 after "Daddy Haydn" was himself initiated on February 11.
This adhesion is not the result of thoughtless impulse. Mozart had early contacts with members of the Masonic Order. He who has traveled through the capitals of the Europe of Enlightenment is sensitive to rationalist ideas, religious tolerance and fraternity.
Between 1772 and 1774, he is said to have composed his first Masonic song, a festive hymn for the Lodge of Saint-Jean “O heiliges Band” (K.148). At the end of 1777, he met with Theobald Marchand, one of the founders of the Mannheim Lodge and Otto von Gemmingen[1], another Freemason from this city who set up in Vienna on February 11, 1783 ”The Beneficence” lodge and invite Mozart to join. Mozart sent his letter of application in November 1784.

So the spirit of Freemasonry was very close to him for a long time ... but in the way the spirit of a religion can be very close to the thought of a man in the months and years before his conversion. It is the works of the last seven years of his life that will bear witness to the fruits of this "conversion", to the depth and intensity of his life as a Mason. Was this conversion reflected in his life? The care with which his correspondence has been largely withheld since December 1784 suggests the contrary. The dishonesty or the foolishness of the witnesses certainly made the documents disappear, but, if the biography admits its relative powerlessness, it is then necessary to refer to the documents[2] which remain, its music and in particular "The magic flute / Die Zaubeflöte" (cf. next episode)

Its rise was rapid but by no means exceptional for the time. He was promoted to the rank of companion in the Lodge « Zur wahren Eintracht » (True Concord) on January 7, 1785 and was elevated to the position of Master before April 22 of the same year. This lodge was founded when Mozart moved to Vienna when Emperor Joseph was just beginning to implement his program of reforms inspired by the philosophy of the Enlightenment.
On December 4, 1791, "at midnight, Mozart sat up on his bed, his eyes statics, then he leaned his head against the wall and seemed to fall asleep again"[3]. On December 5 at 0:55 am, misery with its procession of deprivation, anxiety and overwork ended its work. At thirty-five years, ten months and eight days, Mozart's heart ceased to beat. The death certificate reads: "acute military fever". The body is put in a coffin according to the Masonic ritual (black hooded coat).


The Freemasons of Vienna as a whole realize the loss they have just suffered. At a meeting of « Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung » the (New Crowned Hope) lodge, the Grand Master delivers Mozart's eulogy: "It pleased the Eternal Architect of the universe to tear from our fraternal chain one of our most loved and deserving members. Who has not known him? Who has not esteemed him? Who did not love him, our worthy brother Mozart? ... The untimely death of Mozart remains an irreparable loss for art ... Fairness demands that we remember his skill for the art; just as we must not forget to bring a legitimate offering to his excellent heart ... He was a good husband, a good father, a friend for his friends, a brother for his brothers, and he only lacked wealth to make people happy, hundreds according to the wish of his heart”.  

The controversy over Mozart's last moments seems irrelevant, as mentions Philippe Sollers: "According to Sophie Haibel[4], priests would have refused to come to assist him (bad reputation, masonry….). Religious, not religious? The question does not make any sense. Religious in a different way that's for sure. Just listen to what he wrote about the Requiem: no one has ever done better forever and ever"


But it must be acknowledged that Mozart himself, during the last 7 years of his life, has turned away from church music in favor of Freemasonry music. Apart from the Ave verum corpus (K. 618 Baden June 1791) and from the parts of the Requiem he composed, Mozart's last religious work is the Mass in C minor (K. 427) composed from 1782 to 1783. For 8 years, Mozart has not written church music. This does not mean that he does not express religious feelings when he composes religious music ... He has kept deep inside him feelings which remain in tune with religious sensitivity ... He did not believe them incompatible with the rest of himself or especially with his Masonic convictions.

As for the composition of "his" Requiem, Mozart will constantly postpone the work on this order, however well paid. It was towards the end of July 1791, around the time when he inscribed the almost completed score of the Flute in his catalog a little prematurely, that Mozart received in a strange and mysterious way the order for the composition of a Mass for the dead.
As Jean and Brigitte Massin write "the day after the Flute, Mozart did not rush to the completion of the Requiem". On the contrary, after the composition of the Introït, the Kyrie and a draft of the Dies Irae, he interrupts this work to immerse himself around August 15 in the writing of an opera ordered urgently and intended to celebrate the coronation of Leopold. II as King of Bohemia[5].
Then will come to crown the work of his life, first on October 7, 1791 his sublime Concerto in A major (K. 622) written for his friend, virtuoso performer and brother mason Anton Stadler as well as for the basset clarinet which the latter has co-invented[6].

Then, on November 15, 1791, 20 days before his death, already greatly weakened by illness, he completed his Masonic Cantata in C major with the evocative title “Das lob der freundschaft” (K. 623) “Praise of friendship” which he composed with a song in F major (K. 623a) “Lasst uns mit geschlungen haenden” (Let’s join our hands) farewell song that Mozart made his brothers sing and which ended with these words: “ To venerate virtue and humanity, to learn the love of oneself and the love of others, that this is always the first duty. Then, and not only in the East and the West, but also in the South and the North, the light will flow ".
So, it is really on these two Masonic compositions that his entire work ends, and the title of the cantata K. 623 alone therefore takes on a meaning that any commentary would weaken.

Amadeus, loved by God ..., but also loved by Masons ... Religious in a different way

[1] Le baron Otto H. von Gemmingen was the translator for Germany of JJ. Rousseau. 

[2] J & B Massin suggest that the virulence of Mozart's enemies, and slanderers towards the end of his life, would have prompted witnesses, friends, and perhaps even Constance to destroy part of his Masonic correspondence and other documents deemed compromising.

[3] Cf. Joseph Deiner, Mozart’s friend and first of his closest allies.

[4] Sophie Haibel (born Weber) sister of Constance Weber, Mozart’s wife.

[5] La Clemenza di Tito was represented on September 6th 1791.

[6] Anton Stadler was a renowned clarinetist. It is for the basset clarinet that Mozart composes his Quintet K.581 and the Concerto K.622 as well as the clarinet and basset horn solos in "La Clemenza di Tito". Basset clarinet, basset horn and solemn trombones are privileged wind instruments in the orchestrations of Masonic pieces.


On January 10, 1785 he completed the Quartet in A major (K. 464) whose andante refers to the reception ritual.

On January 14, 1785 he completed the “Dissonant Quartet” in C major (K. 465) which relates to his elevation to the second grade (companion).
On March 9, 1785 he completed the Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (K. 467), the beautiful andante of which alludes to the third grade (Master).
On March 26, he completed the Lied “Gesellen Reise” (K. 468), probably related to his father's candidacy.
On April 20, he completes the cantata for tenor, male choir and orchestra "Die Maurerfreude" (K. 471) "Joy of the freemason".
In July, he composes the Master Music (K. 477) for male choir and orchestra.
On December 11, the Emperor ordered the merger of the eight lodges of Vienna.
In January 1786 Mozart put two poems into music, the first celebrating the benevolence of Joseph II, the second in praise of the dignitaries of "The newl crowned hope" Lodge. He composed two adagios for its inauguration, including the adagio in Bb (K. 411) which simultaneously expresses the commitment of Mozart's entire intimate being in the Masonic mysteries ...
On September 28, 1791 Mozart completed Die Zauberflöte, the premiere of which he conducted on September 30 at the Schikaneder theater.
On October 7, 1791 he completed the Concerto in A major for clarinet.
On Novembre 15, 1791 he completes his Masonic Cantata in C major “Das lob der freundschaft” (K. 623) “In praise of friendship” with a song in F major (K. 623a) as a closing “Let’s join our hands”.

Biographical references: Most of the texts have been written:
Jean and Brigitte Massin, Mozart 1958 - CFL.
Philippe Sollers, Mystérieux Mozart 2001 - Plon.
Philippe A. Autexier (music historian) for the Dictionnaire Mozart - Lattes - bringing together articles by several authors under the direction of H.C. Robbins Landon.
Jean-Victor Hocquard, Mozart 1958 - Seuil.

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