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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: The Archbishop

Of all the characters who inhabit Mozart's correspondence, perhaps none figures so oppressively as Mozart's erstwhile employer, the Salzburg Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. Mozart joined the archbishop's court orchestra as concert master in 1772. He endured years of annoyance with his employer, who had limited musical sensibilities but unlimited musical authority at his court, who drastically restricted musical activities and payment for them and who remained willfully ignorant of Mozart's gifts. In short, Mozart thought Colloredo was a boor, and the archbishop, in all his authority, was affronted by Mozart's obvious disdain. Their mutual antagonism played out over the nearly ten years Mozart served Colloredo's court and is documented in countless letters. Enflamed in part by a number of insulting episodes between Mozart and Colloredo, in August 1777, Leopold Mozart wrote in the authorial voice of his son, asking the archbishop to grant Wolfgang leave to travel and seek employment elsewhere. The archbishop granted the request, and Mozart set off with his mother to Southern Germany, then to Paris. While on his travels, Mozart pined for permanent release from Salzburg. In August 1778, he wrote from Paris, "Salzburg is no place for my talent." In December 1780, he wrote from Munich, "I should be delighted were (the archbishop) to send me word in writing that he no longer required my services." Three months later, the archbishop ordered Mozart to Vienna, where he wanted to show off the musical talent of his court while on a family visit. Mozart obliged, and took the opportunity to try to schmooze with prospective patrons in Vienna. But in letters to his father, Mozart claimed the archbishop was actively thwarting his access to the Viennese power players. Things came to a head on March 24, 1781 in a classic you-can't-fire-me-I-quit scenario. Mozart submitted his letter of resignation the next day, but the archbishop would not accept it without Leopold Mozart's consent. That consent never materialized. Various people tried to persuade Mozart to retract his resignation. And in May 1781, the archbishop's steward, Count Karl Joseph Felix Arco, became so fed up with Mozart's repeated requests for release from the court's service, that, according to Mozart, Arco flung a couple of epithets at him and dismissed him once and for all, with a swift and now famous kick on the composer's backside.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.