Happy Birthday, Herr Leopold Mozart!

Johann Georg Leopold Mozart was born on 14 November 1719 in Augsburg and spent the largest part of his life in Salzburg. A talented and hard working composer, conductor, teacher and violinist, he received the degree of Bachelor of Philosophy and wrote a comprehensive treatise on violin playing, Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule – A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, a work which was influential in its day and continues to serve as a scholarly source concerning 18th century performance practice.

But above all he was the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.  

“God, who has been far too good to me, a miserable sinner, has bestowed such talents on my children that, apart from my duty as a father, they alone would spur me on to sacrifice everything to their successful development. Every moment I lose is lost for ever. And if I ever guessed how precious for youth is time, I realize it now. You know that my children are accustomed to work. But if with the excuse that one thing prevents another they are to accustom themselves to hours of idleness, my whole plan would crumble to pieces. Habit is an iron shirt. And you yourself know how much my children and especially Wolfgang have to learn. But who knows what plans are being made for us after our return to Salzburg? Perhaps we shall be received in such a way that we shall be only too glad to shoulder our bundles and clear out. But at least, God willing, I am going to bring back my children to their native town. If they are not wanted, it is not my fault. But people shall not get them for nothing.”   

Leopold MozartLetter from Munich, November 15th, 1766    

His Princely Highness does not keep in his service liars or charlatans or cheaters of people, who would travel to all places with his Grace’s permission and deceive people, but honest men who, to honor the homeland and its Prince, are announcing to the world a miracle which God allowed to be born in Salzburg.

I owe this to God Almighty, otherwise I would be the most ungrateful creature. And if it would ever be my duty to convince the world of this miracle, then I would have to do it right now, when all that is called wonder is laughed at and every miracle is contradicted. So I will have to convince them! Wasn’t it a great joy and victory for me to hear a follower of Voltaire tell me in astonishment: “It is the first miracle I’ve seen in my life! 

Leopold Mozart – Letter from Vienna, July 13th, 1768 

Leopold Mozart has brought to completion God’s Work. Without his attentive, meticulous and loving guidance, maybe Wolferl would not have become Mozart – the sublime musician! The family letters are priceless moments stolen from Time. They let us have a glimpse into the life of Wolfgang and Nannerl, of Leopold and Anna Maria. And looking at Mozart as a child, we can see an exceptional educator-father beside him. Leopold Mozart was an advocate of the Enlightenment ideals of the time, attaching much value to high education, for both his son and his daughter. In modern terms we could say that Leopold Mozart was a teacher who applied the principles of non-formal education: that education in which the child learns through self-discovery, an education which privileges the child, his/her talent, natural inclinations and abilities, discovers and cultivates them.  

Leopold was the first to understand that in his family a miracle had been born, and that he owed it to the world to cultivate that miracle! Wolferl had a happy childhood, unlike Ludwig van Beethoven. Leopold Mozart instructed his son not only with professionalism and method, but also with affection and care. Nannerl confesses, in a letter written after her brother’s tragic death, that never in their childhood had Wolfgang been obliged to study, but on the contrary, he had to be taken away from the piano after many long hours in which he would not do anything but play or write music! His children’s natural gifts only made Leopold’s work more pleasurable, but even so, his qualities of a teacher were proven extraordinary by the outcome of his endeavour. 

Years after having seen the two Mozart children perform in London, violinist Stephen Storace, impressed by “the Mozart Model”, would raise his own son and daughter in the light of the same principles and methods that Leopold Mozart had used. Stephen junior and Anna (who would become the famous singer Anna Storace, Mozart’s first Susanna) learned to play the piano and read musical scores, in addition the son had violin lessons and the daughter harp and guitar lessons, and also learned Neapolitan songs and popular arias from Italian operas, thus bringing into light her innate passion for singing. The two Storace children grew up in the musical and theatrical environment, they assisted in performances and rehearsals and had social relations with the artists in their father’s circle of friends. After a few years they left for Italy, to continue the improvement of their artistic talent in the Naples Conservatory, where their father had also studied. 

Neither of the Storace children became “a second Mozart”. Since 1756 no second Mozart was born, and will never be again. But Mozart is alive in every human being who is guided to discover him! It is the way in which his spirit, his soul, his divine creation will be preserved for ever! 

Happy Birthday, Herr Leopold Mozart. Thank you! 


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