Mozart and his Father

Like father, like son? Not in the Mozart family …

The Mozart family

Lithography by Eduard Friedrich Leybold (1798–1879) after Johann Nepomuk della Croce 1856 (University Library Salzburg) Source: Wikimedia
Leopold Mozart

Leopold Mozart

Oil painting by Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni (1721–1782) 1765 (International Mozarteum Foundation, Salzburg) Source: Wikimedia
Leopold Mozart's

Leopold Mozart's "A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing", published in Augsburg 1800 (first edited in 1756)

Source: Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections, Cornell University Library Commons

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was tremendously lucky to have an experienced musician as a father with Leopold Mozart. Leopold immediately recognised the potential in Wolfgang. He dedicated his life to supporting his son’s talent.

Both experienced their ups and downs. The arduous journey to different noble courts was no walk in the park. Wolfgang loved the applause and his capricious character and arrogant disdain for musicians of lesser talent became evident for the first time. Leopold Mozart saw this with worry. As a good, dutiful employee at court it was difficult for him to show empathy for the genius of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his behaviour. Nevertheless, both men shared an intense, life-long correspondence: “You think, just because I am little and young, nothing great and old can reside within me, but you shall see very soon,” Wolfgang once wrote to his father.

Strong Father, Genius Son

Despite, or perhaps because, of their different characters, Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart were dependent on each other. It is understandable that Leopold viewed the antics of his son with scepticism – after all, he saw in him security for the entire family, which had surrendered so much for his sake. When Wolfgang fell in love with Aloysia Weber and tried to escape the influence of his father, Leopold Mozart had to watch on helplessly as his son became independent.

For the remainder of his life, when Wolfgang had been working and living with his wife Constanze in Vienna for a considerable period of time, Leopold Mozart continued an uninterrupted dialogue with his son by writing letters. However, Wolfgang only allowed as much influence as he was comfortable with. Let’s be honest: a normal father-son relationship.

Leopold Mozart’s Fight for his Son Wolfgang

In Paris Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had to eke out a living for the first time and deal with the death of his mother without his father. These circumstances made him more mature. At the age of twenty-one he insisted on gaining more independence from his father – who wanted to secure his return home to Salzburg at all costs. He obtained a position at the court of the prince-archbishop for Wolfgang. But what did the rebellious brat do? He declined, saying: “…Salzburg is not a place for my talent,” and: “The archbishop could not pay me enough for the slavery in Salzburg.”

It is clear: the balance of power between father and son had begun to shift. The aging father lost the influence over his growing son, who wanted to take his life into his own hands. Leopold Mozart was deeply worried. How could his son, in his eyes unfit for life, survive? Had he not taken care of him from the very beginning, both as a father and his manager? How on earth would Wolfgang get by on his own?

Wolfgang Begins to Cut the Cords – and Will Do So for the Rest of his Father's Life

Leopold Mozart would retain this caring and thoughtful attitude towards his son for the rest of his life. He was always worried but was equally interested in the things his son had to say. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart would have felt under his father’s control numerous times, complaining about his meddling. But still, Leopold Mozart had only the best in mind for his son and he was capable of appraising his achievements and supporting him with his constructive advice. With Leopold’s death in May 1787, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart not only lost his father, but also his best friend.