Powerful Austrian Composer Mozart
According to Fisher (15), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a powerful Austrian composer, whose success can precisely be dated from his childhood. The composer was born in Salzburg, in 1756, and died in 1791, having written over 600 pieces of work. Of all the works he wrote, many have remained popular to date. Mozart could play clavichord at the age of three and even began writing short compositions at the age of four. When he was 5, he gave his first public performance at Salzburg University. Between 1763 and 1766, Mozart, Nannerl, who was his sister and was also talented in music, together with their father, who was a musician as well, toured Europe. They visited Paris, London, among several other places, where Mozart gave several successful concerts, even performing before royalty. This research paper examines the crucial role Mozart played during the Enlightenment. It further highlights the contribution made by the Austrian composer in the transition to the Romanticism from the Enlightenment.
Before and during the time of Mozart, composers served the royal courts or church as highly-skilled servants. In the same manner, he began his carrier by working for Salzburg’s Archbishop. Notably, his travels to France as well as England gave him an exposure to the ideals of equality and independence, as well. This exposure prompted him to sever his loyalty to the master, who employed him to offer services, in a substantially rigid manner. He left for Vienna, where he found more freedom and engaged in public concerts and commissions for a living. In his time, salons often attracted friendly gatherings of philosophers as well as thinkers, and Mozart occasionally took advantage of this and performed in such salons. Among Mozart’s 600 works, there are over 30 string quartets, 27 piano concertos, 41 symphonies, and sensational operas among others (Fisher 15).
The Enlightenment Period
The Enlightenment period was characterized by radical changes in numerous aspects. The changes that took place during this period were not restricted to human attitude and religion, science and technology, but extended to music. In essence, music played a significant role in employing sound to express ideas of the Enlightenment. In its role, music expressed the people’s craving for knowledge, as well as their strong belief in rational thinking that signified change in ideas. Music emerged as an instrument of non verbal communication that relayed crucial information between the thinkers and the middle class of the Enlightenment period. It helped people of that time in solving problems, as well as gaining confidence in them. Actually, the role of music in the birth of the modern world cannot be overlooked (Karakelle 27).
The life of Mozart coincided with the era of dramatic historical changes. During this period, the previous system, in which music was restricted to the court precincts, was being replaced by patronage of concert halls. The transformation from the old patronage was drifting towards pleasing the middle class audience. Mozart and Rousseau, being advocates of equal rights of that time, deserted their aristocratic patrons and stood on their own. As a talented and intelligent musician of this period of transition, Mozart did not allow a monetary gain to dilute his artistic vision. Having been influenced by the ideas of his time, he proved to be instrumental by influencing the growing sociological and political status of the middle class and the eventual collapse of the aristocracy. The works of Mozart were popular and widely accepted by the middle class. His influence on his audience contributed largely to changing attitudes of the period of Enlightenment, including the issues of women and religion (Karakelle 26).
The Maturation of Mozart’s Musical
The maturation of Mozart’s musical as well as political sensibilities is clearly expressed in some of his operas such as Le Nozze di Figaro. This opera, which translates to The Marriage of Figaro, was composed in 1786 for the Viennese court; it was based on the writings of Beaumarchais. Due to its controversial content, police banned Beaumarchais’s writings. Although he was a playwright, Beaumarchais supplied American revolutionaries with arms in order to supplement his income. He wrote a play that attacked the nobility for the privileges they were entitled to and advocated for equal rights for the middle class (Karakelle 26).
Marriage of Figaro
Another notable work of Mozart is his opera The Marriage of Figaro that foreshadowed the transition that characterized the Enlightenment. Mozart employs his dramatic and musical genius to transform this operatic comedy to a living, breathing drama, in which the characters are skillfully transformed into real human beings. In this opera, Mozart relays information, in which he argues that the correctness of an individual’s actions can no longer be justified by the person’s noble origin. The opera successfully illustrates the philosophy of Mozart that views the Enlightenment as a move in the whole world, rather than solely belonging to Europe (Karakelle 26).
Another essential aspect to note is the duration, during which Mozart lived and continued with his music composition in the house of Salzburg’s Archbishop. While he worked as a house composer and musician to Archbishop of Salzburg, Mozart was treated like a servant rather than an artist. As a servant, he was meant to eat below the stairs with other servants. This period was, however, useful to his career development, since he deeply understood the ordeal that servants of his time went through, while serving their masters. This was seen later, when he skillfully composed some of his operas, in which he advocated for the rights of servants. In the opera The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart gave servants a central role by epitomizing on the new way of thinking that was being ushered in the society. This is opposed to the state that existed previously, during which servants were viewed as comic figures, who could just be laughed at. Mozart skillfully built on Beaumarchais’ play to argue out the fact that just as a noble aristocrat deserves an attention, servants are also worthy of a serious attention within the society (Wilson and Reill 432). In his writing, he seems to remember a kick at his buttocks that he sustained from one of the attendants of the Archbishop, when he decided to desert him. By highlighting such events, his works brings out a true reflection of what servants are going through in the hands of their masters.
The play revolves around Figaro and Suzanna, two servants, whose plans for marriage was underway. During this time, a medieval custom gave Counts right to break their female servants’ virginity just a night before a woman was wedded to join her husband. Before Suzanna weds Figaro, their boss, Count Almaviva, asserts that he wants to have sex with her in the light that it is his right over all his female servants. Mozart uses this custom to unveil the cruel side of aristocracy, in which servants are dehumanized. He paints them as villains rather than heroes. Almaviva, who is the boss, is made to appear ridiculous and unprincipled. This is because despite being married, he pushes to have sex with a servant. Mozart exposes his preference to infidelity. However, in a twist of events, Figaro stands strong and challenges his master. Mozart uses this scenario to depict the evident clash that occurs between the rights of a master with that of a servant. The concert reveals a conflict of wills in the servant, Figaro eventually outwits the Count (Wilson and Reill 432).
The Position of Women in Society
In The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart also addressed the position of women in society, an issue that most of his fellow composers failed to address. In the 18th century, not much had been accomplished regarding the rights of women. Most women then were limited in education and knowledge, and this formed the basis of their low status in the society. They were unable to challenge the patriarchal society, since their educational as well as economic resources were insufficient to withstand their counterparts standing. With the advent of the industrial revolution, men began to leave their houses for work. As factories increased in number, the demand for male workers went high. Consequently, the society generally perceived that women had their place solely in the house and had limited rights, as well (Karakelle 26).
On the other hand, the male society was believed to have their jobs reserved for them in the public and had rights to act independently. This explains why Figaro in Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro clearly expresses this opinion as he strongly attempts to assert his authority over the wife, Suzanna. In return, Suzanna, who is already becoming enlightened, impatiently proclaims her independence. During this period, the enlightened understanding of people voiced the need for self-expression. In turn, Mozart extends this understanding to signify the plea of women by employing Suzanna’s case to demonstrate it. In the opera, Suzanna strives to obtain freedom to enable her express herself freely without suppression or fear of repression (Karakelle 26).
Indeed, The Marriage of Figaro was quite successful, despite the resistance that it received from the Emperor. This was followed by another opera Don Giovanni, which was written in 1787 and was much better than The Marriage of Figaro. In the opera, Don Giovanni was an anti-social person, whose main job was to seduce women, an undertaking he often done successfully. This opera was written just two years before the French revolution, a time, when the aristocracy was all over Europe, but they were performing no useful function in particular to the society. Mozart uses this opera, particularly Don Giovanni, to depict the uselessness of aristocratic figures. Don gives Mozart’s audience the detestable version of the Aristocrat, a person, who always consumes, yet he does nothing significant in return. The man drinks, eats, seduces, all as if he is under compulsion, but in this entire pleasure, he finds no joy (Eisen and Keefe 123). Mozart was more or less a prude, a catholic who was devoted to his religion. However, he vehemently resisted the old traditional way of life. This was evident, when he challenged the rulers of the church, whom he viewed as oppressive. At some point, he decided to write a letter to his father, explaining to him why it is better for a young man to marry, rather than misbehave as many of them are found of in Vienna. Mozart also wrote a series of letters to his wife, highlighting on the significance of morality as well as modesty (Eisen and Keefe 335). The Enlightenment loosed people from the strict control of church on morality and ushered in the era of sexual freedom. This gave way to several rational arguments that ensured more active and even varied sexuality.
The era of Enlightenment has been regarded as that of reasoning. Classical music that characterized this consisted of a carefully coordinated melody, harmony, as well as rhythm, which made music better than that of the Baroque era. Mozart was a composer in the classical era. His music was so beautiful that several musicians believed they flowed automatically from a super natural source to his soul. Despite the fact that he used chromatics, concertos and symphonic argument, his music still remained simple. He perfected his carrier and advanced in the classical music to an extent that he successfully put a full stop to this era of music by the time of his death. This pushed the musicians to think beyond the classical music. In turn, it led to the birth of the Romantic era as the artists set out to search for new aesthetic. However, unlike Beethoven, Mozart did not cross the line from the Enlightenment to Romanticism. It is, however, observed that some of the works he did towards the end of his carrier had Romantic spirits, which influenced a number of romantic composers. The artistic works that came in place, immediately after the end of the Enlightenment era, are referred to as Romantics. The artists of this era employed their own emotions, such as political and social consciousness, in order to interprete issues. The Romantic era coincided with the social upheavals and revolution, during which society as a whole struggled for a say in the world that was first evolving (Fisher 17).
Mozart did not only influence the people of his time with his perfection in music. The influence of his work is felt to date. During the Enlightenment, the work of Mozart among others played a crucial role that saw the principles of reason and equality that are widely accepted in Europe currently and have substantially influenced the public consciousness. In fact, these concepts also form the philosophical basis, on which the United States was anchored. This is in the nation’s Declaration of Independence, which voices the equality of all men right from creation. The declaration further recognizes the fact that every individual is given unalienable rights. Mozart did so much, yet he died at an early age of 35. What remains hidden is the musical treasures that never materialized because of his demise.