Sunday, March 20, 2011

New Novel: "The Mozart Conspiracy"

In the wake of Dan Brown's The Lost Symbol comes a new novel by Welsh author Scott Mariani. The Mozart Conspiracy is the first of six thrillers in his series about British Special Air Services officer Ben Hope.

While Brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's official cause of death has long been blamed on rheumatic fever (or on Antonio Salieri as depicted in Amadeus), Mariani's new novel finds a different villain. You guessed it: the Freemasons. Or at least a vaguely Masonic group called the "Order of Ra." The tale goes that the brethren were peeved at Mozart for spilling Masonic beans in his opera "Die Zauberflöte" (The Magic Flute), and poisoned him. Apparently, Ben Hope is hot on the trail of this horrid conspiracy.

From the advance publicity for the book:
Ben is on his way home from a mission when he receives a message from Leigh Llewellyn, an old flame and international opera star, saying she needs his help. Leigh is the sister of Ben's late friend, Oliver, who was at work on a book on Mozart when he died under mysterious circumstances. When Ben takes Leigh to the English countryside to guard her, deadly thugs attempt to kill them both. A lost Mozart letter, written in 1791 shortly before the composer's death and first discovered by Leigh's father, implicates a shadowy European group known as the Order of Ra, which remains a powerful secret force in Europe today. None of this matters much to either Ben or the reader as he singlehandedly kills his way to the top of the evil cabal.
Don't get your history from novels and movies.

Mozart became an Apprentice in Vienna's "Zur Wohltätigkeit" ("Beneficence") Lodge on December 14th, 1784. He was passed to the Fellow Craft degree less than a month later. He was raised to the Master Mason degree sometime before April 22, 1785 in Lodge "Zur Wahren Eintracht" ("True Concord"), considered to be the most aristocratic lodge in Vienna, and the mother lodge of Ignaz von Born.

Mozart's Mother lodge, "Zur Wohltätigkeit" was forced to consolidate in 1785 with two other lodges because of a royal decree by King Joseph II on December 1st, 1785 (the Freimaurerpatent, or "Masonic Decree") that was issued in reaction to the the breakup of the Illuminati in Bavaria, and the subsequent scare throughout France, Austria and the German states. The capital city of each province was allowed to have just one lodge, and each one was forced to report its membership list to the secret police on a regular basis. Vienna was allowed just two. After Christmas, "Zur wahren Eintracht" Lodge merged with the "Zu den drey Adlern" and "Zum Palmbaum" Lodges to form the "Zur Wahrheit" Lodge.

Meanwhile, Mozart’s mother lodge "Zur Wohltätigkeit" merged with "Zur den drei Feuern" and "Lodge Zur gekrönten Hoffnung," under the new name "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung" (New Crowned Hope). Joseph's decree was lifted in 1789, but many members left, spooked about being associated with "secret societies" the King was suspicious of.

Mozart's father, Leopold, became a Mason in 1785, and Mozart wrote "Fellow Crafts Journey" for his father's second degree ceremony. His brother-in-law Joseph Lange was also a Mason, as were many of his friends and patrons.

Mozart was an incredible hypochondriac, and while it's largely accepted that fever killed him, there's also a theory that he might very well have over-medicated himself to death with a deadly patent medicine. Interestingly, in the last year of his life, Mozart's wife Constanze became alarmed that the chronically depressed composer believed he was being poisoned, and he told her he was writing his famous "Requiem," not for a commission, but for his own death. She persuaded her husband to set the depressing work aside and instead to complete the "Freimaurerkantate," a cantata he was working on for the dedication of a new lodge building for "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung" on November 15, 1791. He happily finished the Masonic work, but soon fell into depression again afterwards, when he returned to working on the "Requiem."

Mozart died at 35 on December 5, 1791 in his home at No. 4 Rauhensteingasse in Vienna. The building was demolished in 1849, but a plaque marks the spot today. His lodge met at Rauhensteingasse Number 3 near the corner of Ballgasse. There is a clothing store in the building today, but there is still a small Masonic rough ashlar hanging over the arched doorway in an iron frame.

Apart from the hoary theory about being killed for breaking his oath of secrecy by putting Masonic secrets in his opera, some have also suggested Mozart was in debt up to his eyeballs from gambling with lodge brothers, who may have gotten tired of waiting for repayment. But there is another Masonic conspiracy, of a sort, associated with Mozart's death. It seems he may have been dallying with Magdelena Hofdemel, the 23-year old wife of lodge brother Franz Hofdemel. The day after Mozart's funeral, Hofdemel slashed his wife with a razor, then cut his own throat and died. Magdelena somehow survived the attack, and gave birth four months later to a bouncing baby boy, whom she named after both her dead husband and Brother Mozart. But the rumor was that Franz Hofdemel discovered the affair, and then poisoned Mozart as Step One of his murder/suicide plot. Magdelena's child was a walking billboard for Mozart's purported indiscretion, and Ludwig Von Beethoven, reputed to be a Vienna Freemason as well, refused to play in any venue Magdelena was attending.

Tales of an evil Salieri bent on destroying Mozart seem to be largely an artistic invention, as well. Salieri was a pallbearer and one of only five people at Mozart's burial. In fact, after Mozart's death, Constanze hired the composer to tutor her youngest son, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart. Salieri was scarcely the hack he was portrayed as in Amadeus, and his many pupils included Beethoven, Franz Liszt and Franz Schubert.

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