1. Mozart, the improvisation and
the keyboard works left unfinished
2. Mozart and Gluck, the silent feud
3. Mozart and Gluck, a reconciliation?
4. The fear of Gluck and the dating
of K.236/588b
5. The Gluckian Undertext in Mozart's
music (Nozze di Figaro & Don Giovanni)
6. Conclusions
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Mozart, the improvisation and the keyboard works left unfinished
It is well known how the original Mozartian production for keyboard was much more abundant than the actual music we have today under the name Mozart.
      The habit of Mozart of improvising during public concerts and soirées and, only in a second moment (and sometimes after days, weeks and even years), of writing, on score paper, what he had improvised, unfortunately, has created a sort of typological dichotomy in the keyboard production by Mozart.
      On the one hand, in fact, we have keyboard scores complete and written in full and, on the other, we have keyboard scores which look, so to say, just improvised and sometimes evidently left unfinished.
      The Andantino K.236/588b for keyboard belongs to the second group and is among the extra rarities for keyboard by Mozart. It was published for the first time in 1830 in London by Clementi & Cramer and then published in MW as XXII, no. 15.
      Being a free partial transcription of the theme from the Aria Non vi turbate from the opera Alceste (1767) by Gluck, this piece was probably the first part of a series of variations based on such theme. And the fact that we have not the variations, does not mean that Mozart did not use this transcription as a sort of a memorandum for his famous extemporaneous improvisations during his concerts and that he did not compose the remaining parts with all the variations (but, of course, in this case only by improvising at the keyboard!). It means only that Mozart, for some reason, just didn't want to take the time to write all the variations on score paper.
      The dating of this piece is also problematic. According to the MW Edition, this piece dates to 1773, then other possible years have been assigned to it, also 1789 or 1790 (?).
      Nevertheless, by an accurate analysis of other similar works by Mozart, it is probably possible to consider another date, the years 1782-1783.
Mozart and Gluck, the silent feud
The role of Gluck as a leading figure in the Viennese music world implies, unfortunately, to be obliged to recognize how much personal power and money proved important and fundamental to this man, and clearly with art itself being of scarce interest.
      It is a fact that Gluck and Gassmann assumed a leading role in Vienna, a role not without shadows, and that even a few of their former pupils and protegés, like Dittersdorf and Vanhal, were badly treated by their musical patrons and even eventually forced to leave Vienna itself or to change their musical ambitions into a much more silent presence in the music world, just writing only for piano or chamber music, leaving the orchestra and the opera business to the big names. Already Burney in 1773 could witness the existence of two fundamental musical parties in Vienna, Hasse-Metastasio and Gluck-Calzabigi. In the same year, 1773, Hasse, who had helped Leopold and Wolfgang in Italy, was obliged to leave Vienna.
      Wagenseil and Hasse, instead, proved to have been much more elevated spirits. It is well known how both the great masters supported the young Wunderkind Mozart, even when everyone in Vienna was against him in 1768. Hasse, who somehow disliked Leopold Mozart, truly appreciated the great talent of the young Mozart to such an extent that he wrote letters of recommendations for him so that he could continue with his musical studies with the best Italian masters and music theorists.
      Instead, for Dittersdorf the journey with Gluck across Italy (and then the mysterious one to Paris?) (1763-1764) ended de facto in the worst way possible. When back in Vienna, Dittersdorf who had a role of prestige as first violin and chief conductor of the Imperial Theatre Orchestra, had to leave Vienna rapidly and to accept the position of Kapellmeister in Grosswardein, on the outskirts of the Empire. Moreover his relationship with Gassmann was openly difficult and undermined by serious feelings of rivalry and jealousy of Gassmann against Dittersdorf and this situation is well documented.
      Also the mysterious brief activity of Vanhal in the world of the great opera production, limited to the Italian years (1769-1771) under the patronage of Gassmann (?), as it seems to result from some sources, ended in the worst way possible. When back in Vienna, Vanhal who was a former pupil of Dittersdorf, the enemy of Gassmann (sic!), found himself in a somewhat difficult position and could never accept the position of Kapellmeister in Dresden and, without perspectives on the future, had to invent, for himself, a career as freelance professional, to continue with his music production.
      And here comes the third illustrious victim of this feud, Mozart: in 1767-1768 Gluck publicly boycotted Mozart and his opera La Finta Semplice, propagating lies of any sort against Mozart and his father Leopold throughout Vienna; in 1781 Mozart could not bring upon the stage his Idomeneo in Vienna, in order not to disturb Gluck's work; in 1781 and 1782 the production of his Die Entführung aus dem Serail experienced many delays up to one year (!), before its official premiere, again, delays caused by Gluck who needed all the resources of the Viennese Theatre for his projects, nothing to leave to Mozart.
      In addition to what said so far, the complicated Intrigue of the Flute (then mysteriously resurfaced in 1804 as a public announcement about a mysterious manual Flötenschule) by the pseudo-Vanhal (to be identified as a certain Rüsche) and the consequent public quarrel against Dittersdorf, who was publicly accused to have mistreated the pseudo-Vanhal (an infamous lie!) who was once one of his pupils in composition, had the manifest intent to ruin again the musical career of both Dittersdorf and Vanhal, once also protegé of Gassmann and then brutally discarded (?), and throws further light on the musical factions in Vienna.
      As a matter of fact, it is documentarily evident that Gluck and Gassmann, who worked for the Imperial Court and were also linked to it through complicated bank liaisons (Gluck and the family of his wife), did not allow, if not deliberately ruined, the Viennese musical career of Dittersdorf, Mozart and Vanhal, and especially in the field of the production of great operas, whereas they openly supported and made the life and public career of Salieri somewhat easy, Salieri, who became the most important opera composer in Europe in those years, only thanks to Gluck, who kept him under his protective beneficent wing as his best promising protegé, and to Gassmann who, once his first patron and music teacher, left, to him, Salieri, his much desired high-prestige position at Court in 1774, when Gassmann suddenly died. In 1774 Salieri became (1) court chamber musician and assistant of the Hofkapellmeister Bonno, with a final salary of 300 ducats/year, (2) Kapellmeister of the Italian opera, with a salary of 300 ducats/year, (3) and, moreover, was able to give music lessons and compose other works, with a further income of 300 ducats/year. In 1774 or in 1775 (there's some discrepancy in the sources), following the example of Gluck, Salieri married Therese Helferstorfer, the daughter of a financier and official of the court treasury.
      Unfortunately, many words have been spent, and sometimes also without serious documentation, only on Mozart and Salieri. However, the real Viennese musical world, at a first documentary glance, proved highly competitive and dominated by musical factions and silent feuds, which should be better investigated, also to comprehend the network of musical relations and influences.
      Just to have an idea of the kind of rivalry among these people and which level it could reach, let us remember the famous words: «[...] whilst the Prince was putting [the Cross of the Order of the Golden Spur] on with his own hands, he said laughingly: "Now you [Dittersdorf] are just as much a Chevalier as Gluck himself, and whenever you are in Rome, you have as much right as every born Chevalier of the first rank to enter the Pope's palace, and to be present at every public function as Eques aureatus ac Sacri Palatii et aulae Lateranensis Comes"». The subtlety of this passage by von Dittersdorf is due to the fact that, as far as we know, Gluck (or, better, von Gluck) was only a Knight of the Golden Spur of third or second rank (or third or second grade), while von Dittersdorf and von Mozart himself (for the habit of Mozart of exhibiting his own von with the Austrian public authorities, see Lorenz) were both Knights of the Golden Spur of first rank (or first grade)!
      Eventually, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal, instead, remained profoundly linked to Joseph Haydn, also as his personal close friends (Mozart and Dittersdorf), and this is why the four friends were remembered by Michael Kelly in such an affectionate way, while playing a quartet together during a soirée in 1784.
      In conclusion, the very fact that Gluck and Gassmann musically chose Salieri as the real music master of their times and discarded Mozart and the others is meaningful by itself.
Mozart and Gluck, a reconciliation?
It is well known that the main interest of Mozart in using the music by Gluck dates back rather to the period between July 1782 and March 1783.
      In fact, after the public success of his opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, Gluck manifested some appreciation of the work by Mozart, as a consequence, giving way to the possibility of a reconciliation between the two composers. Mozart, famously sealed this special event, after almost fifteen years of silent conflict, with a composition based on a theme from Gluck's opera La rencontre imprévue, (known also as a Turkish singspiel as Die unvermuthete Zusammenkunft oder Die Pilgrimme etc.) Unser dummer Pöbel meint: the Piano Variations K. 455, firstly performed, as an improvisation, in concert in March 1783 and then written on score paper only various months later and officially printed only in August 1784. And it is well known how Gluck, to thank Mozart for the homage, invited him, his wife Constanze and her sister Aloysia Weber Lange and her husband Joseph Lange to dine with him on a Sunday in March 1783.
      The choice of Mozart seems particularly important and well studied for the occasion and seems almost to hear the thoughts of the young composer.
      After the well documented clash against Gluck in 1768 and probably also that, indirect, in Milan in 1771, which cost Mozart a stable job position as Opera Composer in Italy (and the subsequent earnings and a possible new family stability for the Salzburgers), various letters by Mozart and his father still exist as a documentary evidence of the general sense of mistrust the two men cultivated towards Gluck (see, for example, the letter of 9 February 1778 and especially those of the same period by his father Leopold, through which he even invited Wolfgang «to keep a safe distance from his colleagues, especially avoiding Gluck»). Moreover. the fact that Salieri was the public protegé of Gluck and was also his designated heir and successor as the Grand Master of Opera must have made Mozart consider the sudden generous and amicable behaviour of Gluck as certainly strangely welcome but rather suspect.
      So the choice of Mozart of composing a series of variations on a theme from an opera, the title of which sounds in English like The Unexpected Encounter (i.e. Die unvermuthete Zusammenkunft or La rencontre imprévue), seems rather a clear evidence of Mozart’s own feelings towards the sudden benevolent behaviour of Gluck, the Viennese man of power and money.
      In addition to such considerations, the very German title of the theme Unser dummer Pöbel meint sounds in English like Our stupid common people (or populace) think etc.: it seems as if Mozart were cautiously thinking «How stupid I was that I thought Gluck was against me» or also, instead, «Do you think I am a stupid person? I know who you are!» etc.
The fear of Gluck and the dating of K.236/588b
The Andantino K.236/588b, known also as Albumblatt for Johann Baptist Cramer and dated by Czerny to 1790, is a charming piece, through which we can explore the other style of Mozart's pianism, a complicated mix of horizontal melodic lines, sequences of vertical chords and sophisticated counterpoint, the whole cast in a nicely thin and transparent frame.
      This work by Mozart is technically a free partial transcription of the theme from the Aria Non vi turbate from the opera Alceste (1767) by Gluck and, for this reason, it has a special position in the NMA (X/28/Abt. 3-5/2 - Arrangements and Completions of Works by Various Composers).
      However, the considerations so far presented rather lead us to support the proposals of a few Mozart scholars, who see this piece in strict relation to the Viennese period 1782-1783 (see also now NMA: um oder nach 1782).
      As a matter of fact, again the choice of a theme from Gluck's operas seems particularly eloquent. The fear of Gluck and of his destructive negative influence on the Mozart's family is, unfortunately, well documented by the 1768 Viennese events and by the various letters by Wolfgang and Leopold, as we have demonstrated previously, and so, if Mozart chose the theme of an aria the words of which are, in Italian, Non vi turbate (that's to say, Don't worry), we are, consequently, induced to think that the sudden benevolent behaviour of the old Gluck towards Mozart and his family must have made Mozart believe, for a moment, that he had nothing to fear any more from Gluck and the people of his group.
       Da Ponte describes Mozart's personal situation in those years (1783-1786) in this way: «Volfango Mozzart [...] due to the cabals of his enemies, was not able to exercise his divine talent in Vienna, and was so unknown and obscure, like a precious gem, that, hidden in the womb of Earth, keeps concealed the bright nature of its splendour. [...] after having told him what happened with Casti, Rosenberg and the Emperor [...] Mozart replied immediately: "But I'm sure that I will never receive the permission [of composing an opera for the Theatre]". I said: "I'll handle this!"». If we follow the account by Da Ponte faithfully, after the first success (and the enduring popularity among the common people), in fact, evidently, Die Entführung was not generally kept in high esteem as opera, in Vienna, and especially at Court: according to the Emperor himself it was not a particularly brilliant nor a well made work («e questo non era gran cosa!»; since the Emperor calls this opera «dramma vocale», the opera in question should be, most likely, Die Entführung and not Der Schauspieldirektor, as suggested by Abert and others).
The Gluckian Undertext in Mozart's music (Nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni)
As we have seen, the quotations of Gluckian music in Mozart seem to have been marked by the special personal situation (and particularly the professional one) of Mozart and by the somewhat consequent negative attitude of Leopold and Mozart towards Gluck himself.
      Therefore, the use of Gluckian music and themes in the compositions by Mozart seem meaningful in a peculiar manner and it certainly deserves a closer look.
      According to the famous account by Da Ponte, the Gluckian circle of Salieri and friends was incredibly angry with the Finale of the Act III of the Nozze di Figaro, and invoked immediate censorship. In the original account by Da Ponte, the real actors of this cabal against Mozart were: Bussani, an anti-Mozart spy, working on the stage of the Viennese Imperial Theatres; Count Rosenberg, who even immediately burnt the ballet sections; the librettist Casti, a personal enemy of Da Ponte and Mozart.
      If we analyze the score of this Finale, we discover that Mozart re-used and re-worked here music by Gluck himself, especially music from his famous ballet Don Juan. Moreover, the whole section Eh già, solita usanza is a Mozartian re-elaboration of the Gluckian Moderato (Fandango) from Don Juan no. 19. The anger of Salieri (not directly involved by Da Ponte in this episode, but if we consider him the leader of the Viennese Gluckian party and certainly the mind behind Rosenberg; see infra and Michael Kelly about Nozze di Figaro production difficulties: Salieri was «a clever shrewd man, possessed of crooked wisdom» and with the help of a few performers «formed a cabal [against Nozze di Figaro] not easily put down») and of the others with this finale was rather aroused by the patent quotation of the Don Juan ballet by Gluck, considered as somehow provocative and insulting, than, as it is still generally thought, by a real concern for the fact that it was a ballet and so, as such, probably somehow prohibited. A similar conduct of Salieri (something like «Mozart wants to correct/misuse Gluck!») towards Mozart had been already witnessed a few years before, when Mozart wrote some music as integration for an opera by Anfossi and Salieri played various tricks against Mozart, so that Mozart's music could not be performed («They say "Mozart wants to correct Anfossi's opera." I heard it. So I sent a message to Count Rosenberg... it was only a trick on Salieri's part.» Letter, Mozart to Leopold, 2 July 1783). A strange choice that of Salieri, in a world where it was a common use to re-write, substitute and add new arias also to well known operas (even J. Haydn produced such works; for a possible alternative interpretation of this episode, see Rice). In conclusion, it's not important so, if Salieri was really in Vienna when the fact of the ballet occurred, the most important thing, instead, is that the Gluckian circle probably felt that the finale of the Act III and the ballet sections were a deliberate provocation against themselves and Gluck. In any case, one must take into consideration another point, usually not well scrutinized: if Da Ponte and Mozart were well aware of the existence of some Imperial will against ballets (according to Da Ponte the Theatre, de facto, had not dancers on contract at that time), they deliberately created that number against the Imperial will and even used ballet music by Gluck for the ballet itself and, that's to say, to infringe His will/law (!): so try to prohibit this, if you really want to prohibit it! Are we before dirty (?) jokes and counter-jokes between two groups of rivals? And also the action of the ballet Act III may be considered somehow allusive to the renowned court cabals (to be danced on Gluck's Fandango music evidently...!): the original complete libretto version was even stronger (and also, in Italian, rather sassy!), then softened by Mozart's cunning setting into music: Eh, già, [si sa]; solita usanza: le donne ficcan gli aghi in ogni loco... Ah! Ah! Capisco il gioco. (in English: Ah, sure, [it is well known]; it's the usual habit: women [...] Ah! Ah! I know this game.)!
      Thanks to the accounts by Hüttenbrenner, we are sure that, even many years after the death of Mozart, Salieri kept telling his pupils and friends, on various occasions, that Mozart was not in any case Gluck's superior and that in Mozart's operas, especially, there were patent errors, caused by some awkward attempts by Mozart, trying to imitate the unattainable perfect style of Gluck.
      The Mozartian reminiscences of Gluck's musical material is much more striking and somehow disquieting if we draw our attention to the opera production of Don Giovanni. Apart the fact that the very idea of writing an opera on Don Giovanni in Vienna put Mozart in direct conflict or comparative contrast with Gluck and his famous, however old fashioned, ballet Don Juan (1761), but if we consider the musical texture of certain parts of this work (where, moreover, the Gluckian Fandango no. 19 re-appears under another musical disguise), we discover again a well aimed use of Gluckian music by Mozart. As a matter of fact, strictly musically speaking, the Commendatore in Don Giovanni, a character who almost always sings, using a re-elaboration of well known musical sections from Gluckian operas (even the very famous first notes of his appearance as ghost are from Alceste), seems to be rather a joke on the figure of Gluck as a composer (evoked from the musical tomb he belongs to?), than an anachronistic psychoanalytical projection of the stern paternal figure of Leopold Mozart, as famously suggested by Schaffer in Amadeus. The odd decision to make the final scene shorter for the, not happy! (Da Ponte: «...deggio dirlo? il Don Giovanni non piacque! [...] vi si cangiarono [...] e il Don Giovanni non piacque». The Emperor himself, in conclusion, said: «this opera is not food for the teeth of my Viennese».), Viennese premiere of 7 May 1788 («Il foco cresce. D. Gio. si sprofonda: nel momento stesso escon tutti gli altri: guardano, metton un alto grido, fuggono e cala il sipario», for example, from the second Viennese libretto), thus positioning the accent of the theatrical action unto the Commendatore and the Damnation to Hell seems to be again a deliberate intention of creating a work more similar to the dramatic structure of the Don Juan by Gluck. An important choice (and, in the end, not a happy choice by Mozart and Da Ponte, even if suggested by someone as better for the Viennese audience?!), in any case, if we take into consideration the fact that the old master Gluck had just died a few months before (15 November 1787), approximately a month after the successful premiere of Don Giovanni in Prague (29 October 1787). So do the two operas contain in reality examples of satire in music similar to Le Carnaval des Animaux (for satire and jokes in music in the 18th century, see Carpani p.112 et seqq.)?
      And this may be a little suggestion to the many modern opera directors and producers who always try to find the oddest motivations behind the Commendatore scene (?) but not the real philological and musical one: Mozart and Gluck, one before the other... , in any case.
According to the available documentary sources, it is somewhat clear that the musical interest of Mozart, in the field of keyboard composing, for the music by Gluck dates rather to 1783 than to other periods of his life.
      Even though Gluck's conduct with Mozart appears benevolent and generous since 1783, Mozart's attitude towards Gluck seems to be based on mistrust, suspicion and fear, as the titles of the Gluckian works chosen by Mozart seem to reveal.
      According to Da Ponte, in fact, while the, now benevolent (?), Gluck was officially presenting Salieri as his legal heir and successor in Vienna, in Paris and everywhere (1783-1786), Mozart had been literally left aside and without any important opera commission for nearly four years. Only the intervention of the Viennese banker Baron Raimund von Wetzlar von Plankenstern (a close friend of Mozart of Jewish origin, who had been the godfather of one of his children and his landlord and who kept helping Mozart, as he could, until his death, see Letters 1791) made the professional encounter between Da Ponte and Mozart possible, won the Imperial obstats on opera production and opened the way to the miraculous project of Nozze di Figaro.
      Anyhow, a new interest in this beautiful, somewhat intimate and meditative Andantino for keyboard can certainly be an important occasion of considering the complicated relationship between Mozart and Gluck, which probably has not been investigated in detail with a sufficient work of sifting.
S. & L.M. Jennarelli