ASCAP-Deems Taylor Award winner
A fresh look at the life of Mozart during his imperial years by one of the world's leading Mozart scholars.
"I now stand at the gateway to my fortune," Mozart wrote in a letter of 1790. He had entered into the service of Emperor Joseph II of Austria two years earlier as Imperial-Royal Chamber Composer—a salaried appointment with a distinguished title and few obligations. His extraordinary subsequent output, beginning with the three final great symphonies from the summer of 1788, invites a reassessment of this entire period of his life. Readers will gain a new appreciation and understanding of the composer's works from that time without the usual emphasis on his imminent death. The author discusses the major biographical and musical implications of the royal appointment and explores Mozart's "imperial style" on the basis of his major compositions—keyboard,chamber, orchestral, operatic, and sacred—and focuses on the large, unfamiliar works he left incomplete. This new perspective points to an energetic, fresh beginning for the composer and a promising creative and financial future.
At the end of 1787, Mozart reported to his sister, Nannerl, that Emperor Joseph II of Austria had appointed him as Imperial-Royal Chamber Composer. As distinguished music historian Wolff points out in this elegant study of the last four years of Mozart's life, this new appointment provided the great musician with a regular salary and very few obligations. In spite of the great economic and political instability in the empire, Mozart proved to be astonishingly productive. Narrating Mozart's life and recreating the cultural atmosphere of these years, Wolff focuses on Mozart's tremendous accomplishments during this time and not on those of his autumnal years, as so many biographers have done. Mozart's major musical pieces from 1788 to 1791 include the Vienna production of Don Giovanni, with some newly composed material (1788), and the writing and premier of three new operas: Cos fan tutte (1790), La clemenza di Tito (1791), and Die Zauberfl te (1791). Wolff demonstrates that Mozart's tremendous influence on the history of music grows out of this period primarily because of Mozart's ability to harness an extraordinary diversity of motives, rhythmic textures, and harmonic ideas into a focused, organic whole. Far from a time of resignation and hopelessness, Wolff argues, these years were a new beginning for Mozart, and the music of The Magic Flute and the Requiem represent a point of departure for genuinely new horizons.