Filthy Lucre …

Small Successes, but No Position or Commission for Mozart

Mozart gave a concert at the Prussian court in Berlin City Palace on 26 May 1789

Engraving c. 1750 (private collection) Source: Wikimedia
Mozart as portrayed during his visit to Dresden in April 1789

Mozart as portrayed during his visit to Dresden in April 1789

Silverpoint drawing by Dora Stock (1759–1832) 1789 (International Mozarteum Foundation, Salzburg) Source: Wikimedia

1788 was a hard year for Mozart. Plagued by a constant lack of money, the family was struggling. Wolfgang Amadeus was exhausted, burnt out and always hunting for commissions. Most Viennese, who were only interested in light music for entertainment, had little love for his challenging music. The famous Mozart Jupiter Symphony was created at this time. It was never performed during Mozart’s lifetime.

Still, Mozart’s reputation abroad grew. When his fellow Freemason Prince Karl Lichnowsky invited him to join him on a journey to the court of the Prussian king Friedrich Wilhelm II in Berlin, Mozart once more set out with high hopes.

At first the journey led to Dresden via Prague. Here he performed his “Coronation Concerto” for the elector prince of Saxony, and was rewarded with one hundred ducats and a precious tin - but no commission. In Leipzig he indulged in a fanciful play on the organ of his idol Johann Sebastian Bach (“For once this is something, from which one can learn”) and conducted a concert at the Gewandhaus in Leipzig, which turned out to be a financial disaster.

On his Own to Berlin

Before Mozart could continue his journey to Berlin, he and Lichnowsky went their separate ways and Mozart had to come up with his travel expenses. He performed for the Prussian court and received a lucrative commission for string quartets and piano sonatas – which he never finished. Also, Mozart never gave a public concert in Berlin. Low entrance fees dispelled his hopes of big earnings. Finally, he returned to Vienna in July 1789, exhausted and without money. One year later Constanze was expecting her fifth child and fell ill again. The endless struggle for Mozart’s existence continued.