The C Minor Mass
Wolfgang A. Mozart
Presbyterian Church
Eugene Sirotkine
From the Met Chorus
The Hudson Valley Singers
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The Inextricable Opposites A Family Torn Asunder The C Minor mystery
Wolfgang came into this world on January 27, 1756. His father Leopold — a reasonably accomplished musician — soon saw that his son's musical talent dwarfed all others, including his own. Wolfgang's older sister, Maria Anna (known affectionately as 'Nannerl'), was also quite gifted, but not nearly to her brother's extent.

Leopold had a powerful intellect, was a keen judge of character and did not suffer fools gladly. He wasn't very popular, but he was quite ambitious. It was clear to him that his son was destined for greatness and that he was destined to provide the means toward that end.

His employer, Prince Archbishop Schrattenbach of Salzburg, was very supportive of Leopold and his two young prodigies as they began touring around Europe to delight the aristocracy. Wolfgang was only six at the time.

For years, Leopold the Impressario was in his prime - he controlled every last detail of his children's lives. He was father, educator and business manager.

Throughout his teens Wolfgang played in and composed for the court orchestra at Salzburg under the watchful gaze of his father, who was Deputy Court Composer.

Twenty-one and chafing in Salzburg

The Archbishop Schrattenbach passed away in 1772 and was replaced by the Prince Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo — an egotistical man of dictatorial temperament who viewed musicians as mere servants, nothing more.

Although he agreed to put the young Wolfgang on salary as a member of the court orchestra, Colloredo either could not or would not appreciate the musical talent that was before him. And, in Leopold's case, the Archbishop was uncomfortable with having a servant with an intellect superior to his own. In the eyes of the Archbishop, the Mozarts' behavior borderlined on insubordination. So, despite Leopold's talent and tenure, Colloredo repeatedly refused to promote him to Court Composer.

By 1777, both Mozarts were chafing beneath the Archbishop's rule. Leopold knew his extraordinary son was ready to seek his rightful place as Court Composer for a highly visible and appreciative patron. Escape from Salzburg was essential.

Even in this, the Archbishop spitefully intervened, denying Leopold permission to accompany his son on a multi-city job hunting expedition. So, on the second day of Autumn in 1777, Wolfgang's mother Anna Maria took his father's place, leaving Salzburg on what became a most fateful journey.

Wolfgang's first love

They spent the first month trying to arrange a position in Augsburg. But after many promising discussions, it became clear that no offers were forthcoming.

So they moved on to Mannheim hoping to land something with the vaunted Mannheim Orchestra.

Wolfgang very quickly befriended many of the orchestra and chorus members, most notably a bass vocalist named Fridolin Weber. He and wife Maria Cäcilie had four musically talented daughters. (Three of whom would become professional opera singers.)

Wolfgang was about to turn 22. By the time he did, he had fallen madly in love with the Weber's second-eldest and most talented daughter, Aloysia. She was only 16, yet by all accounts a remarkable coloratura soprano and quite accomplished at the clavier. She performed regularly with the orchestra and chorus.

Though she expressed no outward affection for Wolfgang, Aloysia was quite flattered to have him write her aria after aria that "fit her voice like a well-tailored dress." All told, he wrote eight of them for her, personally accompanying her performances for most.

Leopold goes ballistic

Wolfgang and his father remained in constant contact through the mail. Leopold was thus able to meticulously manage the expedition in absentia. (For he knew Wolfgang was not able to manage such affairs for himself.)

In January '78, Herr Weber mapped out a plan for he and Wolfgang to showcase his two eldest daughters on a tour of the operatic centers of northern Italy. When Leopold got wind of this he could not contain his rage. Such a diversion was absolutely unacceptable on both moral and business grounds. Leopold stood his ground and the plan was dropped.

His letters of condemnation so crushed his son that Wolfgang dejectedly referred to himself as "a born wood-tapper who can do nothing put pound the clavier a little."

Now, Wolfgang was either very determined or a total sucker for punishment. For, barely a month later, he writes home to Leopold for permission to ask Aloysia's hand in marriage.

This time Leopold pulls a major guilt trip on his son, waxing soulfully about all of his sacrifices and his poor financial condition. (He went deeply into debt to pay for the trip.) In the end, Leopold adds his frustration and bombast to the guilt trip he's laid on Wolfgang and succeeds in moving the job hunt out of Mannheim and on to Paris.

Disaster strikes in Paris

Arriving in Paris in late March, 1778, Wolfgang makes quick work establishing the contacts engineered by Leopold. Commissions open up, but not any permanent positions.

Three months into their stay in Paris, Anna Maria takes ill. Due to her stoicism, financial concerns and her distrust of French physicians, she refuses medical treatment until it's too late. Wolfgang watches powerlessly as she sinks deeper into darkness. After two short weeks her life "went out like a light," as Wolfgang painfully reports to his father on July 3, 1778.

Leopold was devastated. He and Anna Maria had been very happily married for 31 years. He was convinced that Wolfgang's lack of resolve was to blame for her death. As he said in a letter to his son, Leopold believed "things would have turned out differently" had he been there.

Wolfgang also took the loss very hard. But he rationalized that she merely succumbed to destiny. The relationship between father and son was now permanently scarred .

The long road back to Salzburg

For two and a half months Leopold exhorted, implored and cajoled Wolfgang to return to Salzburg. The father had submissively beseeched the Archbishop to hire his son as Court Organist. It was a major blow to the egos and ambitions of both Mozarts, but at least it was a steady source of income.

Wolfgang finally relented. On September 26 — nearly a year to the day from his departure from Salzburg — he left Paris to return and toil in the Purgatory that was Colloredo's court.

But he doesn't arrive in Salzburg. In his greatest act of independence to date, he diverted his trip to Mannheim in search of his beloved Aloysia with intent to wed. Father be damned!

Wolfgang arrived there only to find that Aloysia was now singing for the German Opera in Munich, where the entire Weber clan now resided. Wolfgang lingered for weeks in Mannheim, dreading his return to Salzburg. Leopold pulled out all the stops, making it painfully clear that Wolfgang not only killed his mother, but would soon bear the blame for his father's early demise as well.

Beaten, the newly independent Wolfgang agreed to return. But en route to Purgatory he got an unexpected opportunity to divert to Munich and Aloysia, which he did.

Love unrequited

Now at least in the vicinity (if not the arms) of his beloved, he wrote her another aria as a token of his affection. Bear in mind that Wolfgang had yet to actually come out and tell her he loved her — neither in person nor by letter.

On December 29, 1778, he finally worked up the courage to propose. Mortified, Aloysia rejected the notion without a moment's hesitation.

Wolfgang was crushed. Her total rejection cut him to the quick. He retreated to a friend's house where he cried uncontrollably. First his mother, now this. It was all too much.

When he finally regained his composure, he marched over to his friend's clavier, banged out a short melody and sang out, "May the wench who does not want me kiss my ass!"

Resilience indeed.

Without alternative, Wolfgang finally returned to Salzburg on January 14, 1779, barely two weeks before his 22nd birthday.

Neither Mozart is happy, but at least they are together.

Would two free tickets to the C Minor Mass make you happy?

Thus ends Chapter 1 — The Inextricable Opposites.

While Chapter 1 is still fresh in your mind, why not play Round 1 of C Minor Mastery? Just click on the button below and have fun answering the questions. If you play well, you may just find yourself sitting in the front row on January 19th as the Mozart Pointmeister of Westchester.

But just in case, don't forget to order your advance tickets. If you purchase by December 1st, you'll get a nifty 10% discount.

Also on December 1st we'll be publishing Chapter 3 — The C Minor Mystery. If you'd like to have it delivered to your inbox, simply sign up for our newsletter. It'll only take a few seconds.

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