Mozart Minute: Wolfgang Pounds the Pavement, Part 2

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Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to the podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.(Photo: Wikipedia)
Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to the podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.(Photo: Wikipedia)

Our previous episode left us in suspense about Mozart’s job hunting trip to Mannheim. In March 1778, Mozart left Mannheim – and a bevvy of good friends and professional contacts – still jobless, heading with his mother for the musical mecca of Paris.

Upon their arrival, Mozart was swept up in a flurry of freelance musical activity. His busy schedule continued unabated in the French capital for two months. Then he received a job offer as organist at the court of Versailles. It was a good job. But Mozart pooh-poohed it, and wrote as much to his father.

Leopold Mozart, who wanted nothing more than for his son to a) make a lot of money, b) find job security and c) bring glory to the Mozart name, was fit to be tied. Here’s part of his letter of May 28, 1778 to his son in Emily Anderson’s translation:

‘You must not throw that away so lightly. You should bear in mind that you would be earning 83 louis d’or in six months – and that you would have another six months in which to make money in other ways. Further, it is probably a life appointment, I mean, that you can hold it whether you are well or ill – and, moreover, that you can always resign it. You should remember too that you would be at Court, that is, constantly in the presence of the King and Queen; that when there is a vacancy, you might obtain one of the two posts of Kapelmeister; that in due course, if there should be a royal family, you would become clavier-teacher to the young princes, which would be a very remunerative post; that nobody could prevent you from composing for the theatre and the Concert Spirituel and so forth [...] and finally, that an appointment of this kind would be the surest way to win the protection of the Queen and make yourself popular.”

No go.

Mozart declined the offer, writing to his father in July that he had asked some friends about the gig, and that they had agreed that the pay wasn’t great, that Versailles was a cultural outpost and that, moreover, as Mozart wrote his father, “Whoever enters into King’s service, is forgotten in Paris,” adding insouciantly, “and then to be an organist!”

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