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Monday, November 29, 2010

New Light on Mozart's Financial Woes

An article in yesterday's New York Times discusses new research into the financial woes of Brother Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's at the end of his life, and it seems he was sued by a fellow Mason.

From Scholar Has Theory on Mozart the Debtor By Danial J. Wakin:

(A)n aristocratic friend and fellow Freemason, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, had sued Mozart over a debt and won a judgment of 1,435 florins and 32 kreutzer in Austrian currency of the time (nearly twice Mozart’s yearly income) weeks before the composer died.


Mozart scholar, Peter Hoyt, has come up with a theory about the details: that the judgment stemmed from a loan of 1,000 thalers in Prussian currency made on May 2, 1789, the day the prince and his coach departed Berlin without Mozart, leaving him in need of money for his own transportation.

If true, the conclusion could add depth and texture to our understanding of Mozart’s anxieties over financial problems at the end of his life and of his reception during one of his last journeys. At the least, the research shows the nearly obsessive attention scholars pay to the most minute aspects of Mozart’s life.

“It gives us a concrete picture of the misery level that Mozart lived with in the last two and a half years of his life,” Mr. Hoyt said in a recent interview. He said he hoped the theory would narrow the focus for other scholars to find documents connected to the loan.

Mozart expressed financial desperation in letters of the time, and scholars have long sought to interpret their tone. Was he being deliberately theatrical? Did they reflect some other anguish?

“Without your help, the honor, peace of mind and perhaps the life itself of your friend and brother Mason will perish,” Mozart wrote to another Freemason, Michael Puchberg, in July 1789. The research, Mr. Hoyt said, “ratchets up our understanding of how desperate his letters really were.”

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