Father and Son: How Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Shaped by His Father. – Zelena Hull

Father and Son: How Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Shaped by His Father.


Hey guys I had to do a major project in college. I decided to write about how Leopold Mozart shaped his son. The prospectus will be attached at the end so you guys could see what I did. 🙂 I hope you guys enjoy!

Father and Son: How Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was Shaped by His Father. 

Zelena Hull 

            Most people only know about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and not his father Leopold. Wolfgang was born in 1756 and he was the seventh child of Leopold Mozart. That is only a small part of the saga of his life. Often his father gets glazed over. When people talk about Mozart, we most certainly are only speaking of Wolfgang. He is thought of as the great one, or the miracle child composer. It is often alluded to that his talent came into being miraculously. Even the great Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had to be taught how to play and write music. It is a gift, but not one that developed in a vacuum. We do not often ask who was the parent of this amazing composer. But people fail to realize that Leopold laid the foundation for his son’s greatness. Leopold had a gift for the arts just like his famous son. It was passed down not only through blood, but work and dedication. Leopold on his own was a gifted musican and a perfect teacher for Wolfgang. He wanted the best for his children and tried to help them along on their musical journey. No doubt that his life influenced him to be this way. Understanding Leopold is critical for understanding how Wolfgang developed. Without his father Wolfgang’s abilities, he would not have shined through at such a young age. “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart came of a family belonging originally to the artisan class.”[1] The fact that he had time and resources dedicated to him allowed him to learn and play from an early age. He actually started to play the harpsichord at age three. “The boy’s early talent for music was remarkable. At three he was picking out chords on the harpsichord, at four playing short pieces, at five composing.”[2] That would not have been possible without his father. Soon after Mozart started composing and sharing his gift with the world. How did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father impact his son? 

            Why is understanding Leopold and his parenting so important for understanding Wolfgang? Leopold had great aspirations for his son and he gave Wolfgang the tools he needed to succeed. Leopold’s life convinced him to help his children towards a musical career. He was born 1719 as the son of a book binder and he had no famous composers in his family. Leopold got an education in philosophy and law while still pursuing his music. He evidently loved music most of all because soon after graduating he fully embraced his music and started to make a living with it. Leopold’s prowess should not be taken lightly. His gift for music was remarkable and he was a genius in his own right. “Leopold Mozart, the father of Wolfgang Amadeus, was not a member of a renowned family of musicians. He can, however, by no means be placed on the same modest level as Johann Beethoven or Jakob Brahms.” [3] A major difference between Leopold and his son is that he naturally kept aiming for a higher and higher positions in life. Leopold worked well under authority because of his drive and the fact that his potential employers were all in authoritative positions in life, he adjusted early. He was impulsive, but in a different way than his son. If there was an opportunity, he would take it. Leopold had a vibrant career before he had children. He wrote Opus 1, which were six Trio Sonatas for two violins and a bass. His works are in the league of their own when comparing them to other composers from famous musican/composer families. After Leopold had published this music, he got accepted as a musician for Count Thun at Salzburg. He was the fourth violinist in the church and eventually worked his way up to second violinist. He also worked as a teacher of violin to the choirboys and eventually became vice-conductor. He got adept to teaching children because of his career and this helped him teach his own offspring. Leopold Mozart was not born into a family of privilege but created it for his son. Leopold through the years gained connections and built his own reputation. This furthers the point that his son’s fame did come to the detriment of his own. He wanted the best for his children and because his aspirations for them he was able to get them far beyond than they would have been able to on their own. Not to mention that he taught them because he loved them. He gave up his own career for them. His journey is not too different to musicians’ parents who try to help their children make it in the music industry. Leopold was a great composer and had he not had children or given so much time to them he would be the Mozart that we would remember. Some believe that his son’s fame took away from his own. “Leopold Mozart’s genius-son, far from helping his father towards fame, deprived him of it. Leopold Mozart’s achievements, remarkable though they were in themselves, could not but fade completely beside the brilliant figure of his son.”[4] But Wolfgang did not just take away from Leopold’s fame, Wolfgang took away his father’s career. It was evident that Leopold would have gone to great places had he chosen a different path than putting his all into his children. In the end it was his choice and his life. I do not believe that he would have had it any other way. 

            Besides his drive for his children to succeed, he still had a passion for music. Leopold wanted his children to succeed and since he had experience in music, he helped them through that avenue. He felt like it was his personal duty to his children to teach them and help them. It is a very natural thing for a parent to do whatever they can for their children.  Even though he gave up his own personal aspirations, he projected them on to his children. He wanted them to get great positions as court musicians or/and composers. Back then that was really the steadiest and best paying job that a musican could have. Leopold wanted to help his children create a stable life and income. Leopold taught his children everything he could and was the sole provider of their education. Leopold started his children’s education early. This is evident by the fact that Wolfgang started to play the harpsicord at age three. Soon after he started playing the harpsicord Wolfgang Mozart would play songs that his father wrote for him. They were kept in this little journal/ book. Leopold also taught his children how to play the violin. He had a preference for the violin because he was primarily a violinist. Once Leopold taught his children everything that he could, he focused on their careers. He took his children across Europe to perform. The family wrote many letters during this time. They performed for many possible future employers. The Mozart’s went to Germany, Brussels, Paris, London, Holland, and returned to Salzburg. All of this was possible because Leopold had connections from his work. Later in life Wolfgang felt like his father shaped every creative decision that he ever made. He felt stifled under Leopold. When he was younger this was not a problem to him. We truly will never know the extent of how much of Wolfgang’s work up to that point was really his father’s. If Wolfgang truly was smothered to the extent that he said he was, then it would prove the prowess of his father even more. Wolfgang felt controlled, but Leopold’s composing influence significantly helped Wolfgang. His father’s tutelage created a backbone for other works he would create. He is very much his father’s creation. He is an extension of Leopold, although he would never admit that. 

            Leopold’ efforts shaped more of Mozart than just his musical prowess. Leopold’s parenting shaped his son’s personality and image. “His parents were to be congratulated for knowing “so well how to unite and nurture in you the moral and the natural man. “His father, Leopold Mozart, was regarded as God’s surrogate in this matter, guiding the development of his son.”[5] Wolfgang was a child prodigy, and his reputation is due to his father’s efforts to showcase his son’s talent. Wolfgang was seen as a genius and an anomaly. He was a soft and sensitive child who listened to his father. Since He was exposed to so much music as a child, he synthesized many different elements and styles into one. “Austrian composer, son of Leopold Mozart. His style essentially represents a synthesis of many different elements, which coalesced in his Viennese years, from 1781 on, into an idiom now regarded as a peak of Viennese Classicism.”[6] A lot of Wolfgang’s style came from his father directly or indirectly. Traveling across Europe helped develop him. Wolfgang was not nearly as successful in his adult life; many people could only see Wolfgang the child prodigy not the composer. Possibly fame at such a young age might have taken a toll on young Wolfgang. His father tried to help his son, but Wolfgang had become prideful as he grew older. Like his father Wolfgang had his own aspirations. He was impulsive and followed his heart. But the fundamental difference between them was that Leopold was never born privileged and Wolfgang was. This difference in how their lives played out led to stark contrast between them. Wolfgang respected his father, but he disagreed with him early into his adult life. Wolfgang worked for the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Wolfgang felt confined by his position, although in his father’s eyes it would have been the end goal or at least an amazing job to have. Even though this was an amazing opportunity, Wolfgang sought independence and wanted to forge his own path. He could not resist his own desires, to his peril. Wolfgang due to pride felt like he was a servant under the Prince. He felt like his father was breathing down his neck and the church would not get off his back. Wolfgang felt like his music was confined and he could not express himself. Wolfgang left going to Vienna. He left his father in Salzburg and their relationship was never the same. “Leopold understood that this once devotedly obedient son had realized his independence and sought maturation in Vienna.”[7] Wolfgang felt like none of those over him could see his personal “enlightenment. His father, instead of a teacher, was an overseer in Wolfgang’s eyes. He could never truly escape his father’s influence no matter how much he wanted to. After he left, his life was not nearly as successful as it could have been. The absolute worst thing that could be taken from Wolfgang’s observations is that his father was overbearing and even then, Wolfgang’s grievances where with the church and the prince mostly. His father approving and tweaking his creative decisions where minor compared to the major stresses of authority he endured. His father did have to raise seven other children. It is amazing that he was able to do what he did for Wolfgang. There is something to be said about the differences between how son and father handled the stress of being under authority. Leopold strived believing he was creating a stable life for him and his family. His son did not. Wolfgang could only see that his creative decisions were made by people other than him. Wolfgang was very close to being a spoiled brat. His father got him the post so he could have a stable income. Leopold did possibly force his son into a box that he did not feel comfortable in, but I believe that Wolfgang should have talked it out with his father. Him leaving without telling his father and sending a letter afterwards was a bit crass. Wolfgang was most likely babied as a child, especially since he was so sensitive and sweet. After being praised as a child genius he probably developed an ego. It is evident in his wording of how the prince and church could not see his personal enlightenment. 

            Leopold shaped his son in many ways. He taught his son how to play and compose music. Leopold shaped his son’s early personality. He gave his son the opportunity for an amazing career. Wolfgang as he got older no longer saw eye to eye with his father. His childhood fragility gave way to pride. Wolfgang felt like his father was not a guiding hand, but his father was a hinderance to his creative freedom. Without Leopold there would be no Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Leopold’s choices helped Wolfgang get into the public consciousness. Wolfgang himself couldn’t stay there. Leopold was the fundamental driving force in Wolfgang’s career and he truly wanted Wolfgang to succeed. Leopold was willing to do anything and everything to help his son succeed. Wolfgang destroyed the life that Leopold created for him. 

[1] Otto Jahn, Life of Mozart (London: Novello, Ewer, 1882), 3. 

[2] Encyclopedia Britannica, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” accessed August 20, 2020,                 https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart#ref15610. 

                [3] Geiringer, Karl, “Leopold Mozart,” The Musical Times 78, no. 1131 (1937): 401. 

[4] Geiringer, Karl, “Leopold Mozart,” The Musical Times 78, no. 1131 (1937): 401. 

[5] Solomon, Maynard, “Mozart: The Myth of the Eternal Child,” 19th-Century Music 15, no. 2 (1991): 96 

[6] Grove Music Online, “Mozart, (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus,” accessed August 20, 2020,                 https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-                9781561592630-e-6002278233. 

[7] Thomas McPharlin Ford, “Between Aufklärung and Sturm und Drang: Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart’s View of the                 Word.” (PhD diss, University of Adelaide, 2010.), 2.

Annotated Bibliography/Prospectus 

Zelena Hull 

Leopold’s influence on his son Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756.  He was the seventh child born in his family and his father happened to a composer, Leopold Mozart.  Because of Leopold’s background in music it inspired him to teach his children and have others do so as well.   Leopold would give his children pieces of music to play at a very young age.  Mozart started to play the harpsichord at age three.  Soon after he started composing and sharing his gift with the world.  Mozart as a child loved and admired his father.  Leopold had great aspirations for his son and gave his son the tools and knowledge to follow through. How did Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father affect his son musically in the early years? 

Anderson, Emily. The Letters of Mozart and His Family. 4th ed. London, England: Macmillan     Reference Limited, 1997. 

This source is a catalog of Mozart’s and his family’s letters to each other.  The letters are arranged by date and managed in sections.  The first letter is actually Mozart’s father writing someone called Lorenz.  He immediately brought up his son and how he played for the bishop.  The book is basically a catalog for the letters of the Mozart family.  There are footnotes for the reader       to understand context and what certain words mean. 

Eisen, Cliff, and Stanley Sadie. “Mozart, (Johann Chrysostom) Wolfgang Amadeus.” Grove Music Online. 2001; Accessed 20 Aug. 2020.             https://www.oxfordmusiconline.com/grovemusic/view/10.1093/gmo/9781561592630.001.0001/omo-9781561592630-e-6002278233. 

This source goes offers broad strokes and some detail about Mozart’s entire life.  The work talks some about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s family.  I will primarily use section one of the article “Ancestry and early childhood”.  The section starts with the baptism of Mozart and then ends with the family going back to Salzburg. 

Ford, Thomas McPharlin. “Between Aufklärung and Sturm und Drang: Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart’s View of the Word.” PhD diss, University of Adelaide, 2010. 

This source goes over the entirety of Leopold’s and Wolfgang’s relationship and world views. I will use information from chapters 1 and 3 mostly. Chapter 1 goes over Leopold Mozart and how he was shaped. It starts off with his early life and ends with the birth of Wolfgang. Chapter 3 starts off with Mozart’s birth and ends with Mozart’s 1777 trip to Paris. I will mostly use the later parts of chapter 1 and the earlier parts of chapter 3. The entire thesis is about the world views of both the Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart. This thesis also talks about the progression and regression of their relationship. 

Geiringer, Karl. “Leopold Mozart.” The Musical Times 78, no. 1131 (1937): 401-04. 

This article starts off with saying that Mozart’s fame took away from his father’s. It goes into a basic introduction into his life. The article says during his last twenty years he stagnated. It talks about how when he wrote “Violin School” the he reached his zenith. The article goes into a basic overview about Leopold’s church compositions. It continues on with some of Leopold’s impact on his son and how their relationship got strained and cold over time. 

Jahn, Otto. Life of Mozart. 3 vols. London: Novello, Ewer, 1882. 

This source covers a large portion of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life starting with his childhood.  I will primarily use Chapter 1 for the paper.  It covers Mozart’s childhood in detail.  It also bit of his father’s childhood and gives some inkling about both of their characters. 

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. The Letters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1769-1791). Translated by Grace Wallace. 2 vol. New York: Hurd and Houghton, 1866. 

This source has a catalog of Mozart’s letters.  The letters are arranged by date.  This source also has an author that gives more information about Mozart, his upbringing and father in pages three through six.  The author then continues on with the letters.  Between the letters the author explains relationships and events to the reader to understand the context of the letters.  I will search for different pieces in the book that talk about Leopold and his son’s relationship. 

Sadie, Stanley. “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – The Central Viennese Period.” Encyclopedia Britannica, Encyclopedia Britannica, inc., 23 2020, www.britannica.com/biography/Wolfgang-Amadeus-Mozart/The-central-Viennese-period. Accessed 20 Aug. 2020. 

This covers some of the basics about Mozart’s and his father’s life. I will use information from the “Introduction and Quick Facts” and the “Early Life and Works” section. The article describes aspects about Mozart’s personality and how musically gifted he was. At three years old he started playing the harpsichord. It then starts to go into some of his compositions. 

Solomon, Maynard. “Mozart: The Myth of the Eternal Child.” 19th-Century Music 15, no. 2 (1991): 95-106. 

This article goes over the perception’s others had of Mozart as a child. It has flowery descriptions of Mozart’s abilities. It says that Mozart was talented, but he also was a bit of a trickster. When sight reading a piece, he would make up certain parts if what was written was too hard for him. His father went on in the article about how much he loved Mozart and how perfect Mozart was. Leopold suspected that his child might not even make it to adulthood. Apparently, Mozart was very ill looking. The article goes on about how as Mozart aged; they only immortalized the younger childhood version of himself. Mozart’s gifts also benefited his father’s reputation.