11/4/2021

Mozart And Salieri

1 day ago  Mozart’s gift comes too easily, Salieri laments. He did not earn it. Salieri is tormented by a question we have all, at some point, asked ourselves: if such a gift exists, why was it not given. The death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1791 at the age of 35 was followed by rumors that he and Salieri had been bitter rivals, and that Salieri had poisoned the younger composer, yet this has been proven false, and it is likely that they were, at least, mutually respectful peers.

  1. Well before the movie Amadeus, the imagined rivalry between Mozart and Salieri inspired Pushkin’s poetry, which Rimsky-Korsakov set as a haunting chamber opera. While there is, in fact, virtually no evidence that the relationship between the two composers was contentious, the death of Mozart at the age of 35 was followed by rumors that he.
  2. See full list on classicfm.com.
Mozart and Salieri
by Alexander Pushkin, translated from Russian by Genia Gurarie and Wikisource
  • sister projects: Wikipedia article, Commons category, Wikidata item.
Written in 1830, and translated from Russian

Scene 1[edit]

(A room)

Salieri
Some people say: there is no right on earth.
Not in the heavens, neither! This to me
Appears as clear as any simple scale.
I came into this world in love with art.
Yet on a childhood day, when in the heights
Of our old church the lofty pipes resounded,
I listened, and was lost in listening -- tears
Were pouring out, involuntary, sweet!
In early years I spurned all idle pastimes;
All sciences extraneous to music
Disgusted me; with obstinate disdain
I soon rejected them and gave myself
To music only. Hard the initial step,
And dull the initial path. I overcame
The first adversities. I put up craft
To constitute the pedestal of art.
I turned into a craftsman: to my fingers
I taught submissive, dry dexterity;
My ear, precision. Having stifled sounds,
I cut up music like a corpse. I measured
Harmony by arythmetics. Then only,
Well-versed in science, dared I give myself
To the sweet languor of creative fancy.
I started to compose, but still in silence,
Still secretly, not dreaming yet of glory.
Quite often, having sat in my mute cell
For two, three days - both sleep and food forgotten,
The thrill and tears of inspiration savored -
I burned my work, and frigidly observed
How my ideas, the sounds I had begotten,
Took flame and disappeared with the light smoke.
And what of that? When star-enchanted Gluck [1]
Arose and opened up to us new secrets
(What candidly profound, what charming secrets!),
Did I not leave all I had known before,
And loved so much, and trusted with such fervor,
To follow him, submissively and gaily,
Like one who has gone errant yet encounters
A man to set him on a different course?
By arduous, ever-earnest constancy
At last in the infinity of art
I reached a high degree. Now glory smiled
Upon me finally; in people's hearts
I found strings consonant to my creations.
I was content; at peace I took delight
In my own work, success and glory -- also
In works and in successes of my friends,
My gentle comrades in the wondrous art.
No, never did I know the sting of envy!
O, never! -- neither even when Piccini [2]
Knew how to charm the savage ears of Paris,
Nor when I got to hear for the first time
The initial harmonies of 'Iphigenia'... [3]
Who'd say that proud Salieri would in life
Be a repellent envier, a serpent
Trampled by people, gnawing sand and dust
In impotence? No one! And now -- I'll say it --
I am an envier. I envy; sorely,
Profoundly now I envy. -- Pray, o Heaven!
Where, where is rightness? when the sacred gift,
Immortal genius, comes not in reward
For fervent love, for total self-rejection,
For work and for exertion and for prayers,
But casts its light upon a madman's head,
An idle loafer's brow... O Mozart, Mozart!
(Enter Mozart.)
Mozart
Aha! You saw me! Damn - and I was hoping
To treat you with an unexpected joke.
Salieri
You here! -- since long?
Mozart
Just now. I had
Something to show you; I was on my way,
But passing by an inn, all of a sudden
I heard a violin... My friend Salieri,
In your whole life you haven't heard anything
So funny: this blind fiddler in the inn
Was playing the 'voi che sapete'[4]. Wondrous!
I couldn't keep myself from bringing him
To treat you to his art. Entrez, maestro!
(Enter a blind old man with a violin.)
Some Mozart, now!
(The old man plays an aria from Don Giovanni; Mozart
roars with laughter.)
Salieri
And you can laugh?
Mozart
Ah, come,
Salieri, aren't you laughing?
Salieri
No, I'm not!
How can I laugh when some inferior dauber
Stains in my view the great Raphael's Madonna;
How can I laugh when some repellent mummer
With tasteless parodies dishonors Dante.
Begone, old man!
Mozart
Hold on a moment: here,
Take this to drink my health.
(The old man leaves.)
You, my Salieri,
Seem squarely out of sorts. Well, I'll come back
Some other time.
Salieri
What did you bring me?
Mozart
This?
No, just a trifle. Late the other night,
As my insomnia was full upon me,
Brought some two, three ideas into my head;
Today I jot them down... O well, I hoped
To hear what you may think of this, but now
You're in no mood for me.
Salieri
Ah, Mozart, Mozart!
When am I ever in no mood for you?
Sit down; I'm listening.
Mozart
(at the piano)
Picture... well, whom should you?..
Say, even me -- a little younger, though;
In love -- not much, just lightly -- having fun
With a good-looking girl, or friend -- say, you;
I'm merry... All at once -- a deathly vision,
A sudden gloom, or something of that sort...
Well, listen.
(He plays.)
Salieri
You were bringing this to me
And could just stop and listen at some inn
To a blind fiddler scraping! -- Oh, my goodness!
You, Mozart, are unworthy of yourself.
Mozart
So, it is good then?
Salieri
What profundity!
What symmetry and what audacity!
You, Mozart, are a god -- and you don't know it.
But I, I know.
Mozart
Well! rightly? well, perhaps...
But My Divinity has gotten hungry.
Salieri
Then listen: how about we dine together,
Say, at the Golden Lion's Inn?
Mozart
So be it;
I'm glad. But let me first drop in at home
And tell my wife not to expect me later
For dinner.
(He leaves.)
Salieri
I am waiting; don't you fail me!
No, I cannot withstand it any longer,
Resist my destiny: I have been chosen
To stop him -- otherwise, all of us die!
All of us priests and votaries of music,
Not I alone with my faint-sounding glory...
What use is there in Mozart living on
And reaching yet to new and greater heights?
Will he thus lift up art? Not really: art
Will fall again as soon as he will vanish.
He will bequeath us no inheritor.
What use is he? Like some celestial cherub,
He came to bring us several tunes from heaven,
To rouse within us, creatures of the dust,
Wingless desire and fly away thereafter.
So fly away! the sooner now, the better.
Here's poison -- late Isora's final gift.
For eighteen years I've carried it with me,
And life since then has seemed to me quite often
A wound unbearable; and oft I sat
At the same table with a carefree foe,
And never to the whisper of temptation
Have I inclined -- although I'm not a coward,
Though I can feel profoundly the offense,
Though small my love for life. I kept delaying,
As thirst of death excruciated me.
Why die? I mused: perhaps yet life will bring
Some sudden gifts before me from her treasures;
Perhaps, I will be visited by raptures
And a creative night and inspiration;
Perhaps, another Haydn will create
New greatnesses -- wherein I will delight...
As I was feasting with a hateful guest --
Perhaps, I mused, I'm yet to find a worse,
More vicious foe; perhaps, a worse offense
Will crash upon me from disdainful heights --
Then you shall not be lost, Isora's gift.
And I was right! and I have found at last
My greatest foe, and now the other Haydn
Has filled me wonderfully with my rapture!
The time has come! Prophetic gift of love,
Transfer today into the cup of friendship.[5]

Scene 2[edit]

(A special room at an inn; a piano. Mozart and Salieri at a table.)

Salieri
You seem a little down today?
Mozart
Me? No!
Salieri
You surely are upset with something, Mozart?
Good dinner, glorious wine, but you keep quiet
And sit there looking gloomy.
Mozart
I should own,
My Requiem's unsettling me.
Salieri
Your Requiem!--
You've been composing one? Since long ago?
Mozart
Long: some three weeks. A curious incident...
I haven't told you, have I?
Salieri
No.
Mozart
Then listen:
About three week ago, I came back home
Quite late at night. They told me that some person
Had called on me. And then, I don't know why,
The whole night through I thought: who could it be?
What does he need of me? Tomorrow also
The same man came and didn't find me in.
The third day, I was playing with my boy
Upon the floor. They hailed me; I came out
Into the hall. A man, all clad in black,
Bowed courteously in front of me, commissioned
A Requiem and vanished. I at once
Sat down and started writing it -- and since,
My man in black has not come by again.
Which makes me glad, because I would be sorry
To part with my endeavor, though the Requiem
Is nearly done. But meanwhile I am...
Salieri
What?
Mozart
I'm quite ashamed to own to this...
Salieri
What is it?
Mozart
By day and night my man in black would not
Leave me in peace. Wherever I might go,
He tails me like a shadow. Even now
It seems to me he's sitting here with us,
A third...
Salieri
Enough! what is this childish terror?
Dispel the empty fancies. Beaumarchais[6]
Used to instruct me: 'Listen, old Salieri,
Whenever black thoughts come into your head,
Uncork yourself another Champagne bottle
Or reread 'Le mariage de Figaro.'
Mozart
Yes! I remember, you were boon companions
With Beaumarchais; you wrote 'Tarare' for him --
A glorious thing. It has one melody...
I keep on singing it when I feel happy...
La la la la... Ah, is it right, Salieri,
That Beaumarchais could really poison someone?
Salieri
I doubt he did: too laughable a fellow
For such a serious craft.
Mozart
He was a genius,
Like you and me. While genius and evildoing
Are incompatibles. Is that not right?
Salieri
You think so?
(Throws the poison into Mozart's glass.)
Well, now drink.
Mozart
Here is a health
To you, my friend, and to the candid union
That ties together Mozart and Salieri,
Two sons of harmony.
Salieri
But wait, hold on,
Hold on, hold on!.. You drank it!.. Without me?
Mozart
(throws his napkin on the table)
That's it, I'm full.
(He goes to the piano.)
And now, Salieri, listen:
My Requiem.
(He plays.)
You weep?
Salieri
Such tears as these
I shed for the first time. It hurts, yet soothes,
As if I had fulfilled a heavy duty,
As if at last the healing knife had chopped
A suffering member off. These tears, o Mozart!..
Pay no respect to them; continue, hurry
To fill my soul with those celestial sounds...
Mozart
If only all so quickly felt the power
Of harmony! But no, in that event
The world could not exist; all would abandon
The basic needs of ordinary life
And give themselves to unencumbered art.
We're few, the fortune's chosen, happy idlers,
Despising the repellent cares of use,
True votaries of one and only beauty.
Is that not right? But now I'm feeling sick
And kind of heavy. I should go and sleep.
Farewell then!
Salieri
See you later.
(Alone.)
You will sleep
For long, Mozart! But what if he is right?
I am no genius? 'Genius and evildoing
Are incompatibles.' That is not true:
And Buonarotti[7]?.. Or is it a legend
Of the dull-witted, senseless crowd -- while really
The Vatican's creator was no murderer?

THE END

Footnotes[edit]

  1. An innovative 18th-century composer
  2. An 18th-century composer
  3. An opera by Gluck
  4. An aria from Le nozze de Figaro
  5. Russian idiom for 'loving-cup'
  6. author of The Marriage of Figaro, Tarare and other celebrated plays
  7. Michelangelo: rumors say he murdered his model to
    portray the sufferings of Christ more realistically
This work is a translation and has a separate copyright status to the applicable copyright protections of the original content.
Original:

This work was published before January 1, 1926, and is in the public domain worldwide because the author died at least 100 years ago.

Translation:

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The Terms of use of the Wikimedia Foundation require that GFDL-licensed text imported after November 2008 must also be dual-licensed with another compatible license. 'Content available only under GFDL is not permissible' (§7.4). This does not apply to non-text media.

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The movie Amadeus made Mozart a household name. It did more to bring his music into everyday life than a thousand concerts and compact disks. Peter Shaffer’s screenplay is an inspired piece of storytelling. It tells of how Antonio Salieri plotted to defeat Mozart. It is full of imagination and intrigue. Unfortunately, it is not 100% true. Let us separate fact from fiction regarding Mozart’s death.

The ceiling of Mozart's bedroom. The apartment is now part of 'Mozarthaus Vienna', a three-story museum right behind St. Stephen's Cathedral.

For many years it was believed that Mozart was poisoned. These rumors started as early as New Year’s Eve, 1791. An obituary in the Berlin’s Musikalische Wochenblatt reported Mozart is—dead. He was sickly when he returned home from Prague and remained ailing since then . . . Because his body swelled up after his death, it is even believed that he was poisoned.

At times Mozart even believed this. When he was working on the Requiem he told his wife, “I feel it very acutely. It won’t be long now: I’ve surely been given poison! I can’t let go of that thought.” Constanze never believed it.

Rauhensteingasse 8, where Mozart died, with St. Stephen's in the background.

The story strengthened when Salieri “confessed” that he poisoned Mozart. Salieri was delusional in the last years of his life. But few of the people who heard his “confession” believed him. Shortly before his death, Salieri put the record straight. He said, although this is my last illness, I can assure you on my word of honor that there is no truth to that absurd rumor; you know that I am supposed to have poisoned Mozart.

The Russian dramatist Aleksander Pushkin must have believed the rumors. In 1830, he wrote a short play in which Salieri does poison Mozart. It is aptly titled “Mozart and Salieri.”

Mozart And SalieriAnd

If Mozart was not poisoned, then how did he die? The cause of death was first thought to be “feverish prickly heat.” Later it was thought to be a “liver condition with terminal uremia.” Currently two theories exist. A 1972 report suggests rheumatic fever. A more recent study proposes that Mozart had the following sequence of illnesses in his final three weeks: streptococcal infection, Schönlein-Henoch Syndrome, renal failure, venesection(s), cerebral hemorrhage, terminal broncho-pneumonia.

A Fiaker (Viennese Horse-Drawn Carriage) in front of the Crucifix Chapel, site of Mozart's consecration.

Finally, let’s look at the Requiem. Was the commission conceived by Salieri as a way to drive Mozart mad? No. Was it some malicious plot to make Mozart believe he was writing a requiem for himself? No. Was it commissioned by an anonymous messenger? Yes, and that is where we need to begin.

Count Franz Walsegg-Stuppach was a music lover and wealthy landowner from Lower Austria. On February 14, 1791, his young wife died. He came up an idea. He would commission Mozart to write a requiem mass that he would pass off as his own. It would be performed on the anniversary of his wife’s death. Walsegg-Stuppach asked a neighbor to be an anonymous messenger and contact the composer. The neighbor was Turkish. The foreign accent may have confused Mozart.

Even after Mozart’s death, the Walsegg-Stuppach persisted with his deception. He copied the music (which had been completed by Mozart’s students) into his own handwriting. On December 11, 1793, he conducted it. It was entitled, “Requiem, composto del Conte Walsegg”!

Sites to visit:

Rauensteingasse 8

The site where Mozart died on December 5, 1791. Now a modern (and rather ugly!) department store with a plaque dedicated to Mozart.

St. Stephen’s Cathedral

Mozart’s memorial was at the Crucifix Chapel, at the exit of the catacombs tour. There is a small memorial you can see from the outside of the building.

Domgasse 5

A three-floor museum called “Mozarthaus Vienna”. Mozart lived here 1784-1787. It was his home that was depicted in “Amadeus” although he died in another home (Rauhensteingasse 9, above). This museum is one of my Top 5 Musical Sites in Vienna.

Michaelerkirche (St. Michael’s Church, across from the entrance to the Hofburg)

The parts of the Requiem that Mozart completed were performed here just five days after his death. You can see two plaques commemorating this to the right as you enter the church.

Mozart And Salieri Play

Prater

Vienna’s largest park. Mozart and his wife were walking here when he told her that he felt he had been poisoned.

Mozart And Salieri

Mozart and salieri facts

Mozart And Salieri Opera

Vienna has some of the most famous coffee houses in the world, but you can still go to Starbucks across from the Hofburg!