Leopold Mozart

Leopold Mozart

Composer

• 1719 1787

Editor's Choice

Less supportive parents than Leopold Mozart might have bristled at their career being overshadowed almost entirely by their child’s, but, despite their famously scratchy relationship, Leopold seems to have invested all his energy into Wolfgang’s musical education. Leopold, born in 1719, had established himself as a successful composer, violinist and teacher by the time the Mozart was born in 1756. Young Wolfgang and older sister Nannerl joined their father in performances across Europe, by which time Wolfgang’s dazzling ability as a composer was already overshadowing Leopold’s not insubstantial efforts. Leopold’s most famous works include the Toy Symphony, further sinfonias and a Trumpet Concerto; some were later misattributed to others, including the substantial Missa Solemnis, restored from near-obscurity by this 2019 performance from conductor Alessandro De Marchi, the Bayerische Kammerphilharmonie and Das Vokalprojekt, good enough to have been mistaken for the work of the illustrious son.

Biography

Leopold Mozart is primarily known as the father and mentor of his son Wolfgang, but he was a composer of importance in his own right. His output was massive, taking in symphonies, concertos, cantatas, oratorios, masses, various chamber works, songs, sonatas, and numerous other works. Unfortunately, much of his oeuvre has not survived and an accurate assessment of it is thus impossible. Among Leopold's best-known works is the Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys (Toy Symphony), a witty piece that has appeared on numerous recordings. Ironically, listeners may be more familiar with Leopold's music than they are aware: many of Wolfgang's early compositions were actually collaborative efforts fashioned with his father's help. Leopold undoubtedly would have achieved greater significance had he continued to focus his attention on his own career instead of on the development Wolfgang. After 1760 Leopold began intensive training of Wolfgang, whom he recognized as a genius of the rarest talent. And after 1771 he ceased composition altogether.

Leopold Mozart was born in Augsburg, Germany, on November 14, 1719. He developed musical talent early on, becoming an accomplished violinist and organist. In 1737 he relocated to Salzburg for theological studies at Salzburg University. Expelled in 1739, he turned to music, composing prolifically and holding several minor posts in the Court of the Salzburg Archbishop.

In 1747 Leopold married Anna Maria Pertl, who would bear him seven children, with only Wolfgang and Nannerl, his older sister, surviving. By 1760, Leopold, now the Court orchestra's second violinist and well-known in much of Europe for his compositions, decided it was his duty to educate and develop God's "miracle" (Wolfgang).

In 1763 Leopold was appointed deputy Kapellmeister at Court. By this time he was actively editing his son's musical compositions and would continue to do so until the early 1770s. In the 1760s and 1770s Leopold regularly traveled with his son (and sometimes with Nannerl, who was also a gifted, though lesser talent) throughout Europe on their concert tours. The relationship between Leopold and Wolfgang in the 1770s and '80s was sometimes strained, and Leopold's last years at Court were often spent trying to assuage the Archbishop over actions by Wolfgang that were seen as disrespectful. A widower in his last years (Anna died in 1778), Leopold lived to witness most of his son's triumphs, but also to endure a measure of estrangement from him.

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