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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: What Leopold Really Thought of Wolfgang

If you've seen the film Amadeus or have followed the previous episodes of The Mozart Minute podcast, then you know that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and his father, Leopold, had an intensely complicated relationship. Mozart's wedding to Constanze Weber in August 1782 helped extricate him from the clutches of his emotionally needy father and set him on the path of his own adulthood. But Leopold must have known that, however genuinely besotted with Constanze Wolfgang may have been, their wedding was as much Wolfgang's escape from him as it was Constanze's rescue from her mother.

Wolfgang had freed himself from the toxic vortex of Leopold's emotional manipulation. And it seems Leopold was left with spite as his only weapon. On August 23, 1782, three weeks after Wolfgang's last-minute wedding, Leopold wrote the Baroness von Waldstätten to thank her for hosting Wolfgang and Constanze's wedding festivities. Leopold also took the opportunity to disparage his son, calling him "far too patient or rather easy-going, too indolent, too proud," and adding that "he has the sum total of all those traits which render a man inactive." Leopold's litany continued; he called Mozart also "too impatient, too hasty [...], indolent (again) and lazy," and wrote that "if he has to bestir himself, then he realizes his worth and wants to make his fortune at once." (trans. Emily Anderson) Beyond this invective, Leopold, now without any emotional control over Wolfgang, kept trying to hold on to whatever vestige of his son's life he could. "... may I ask you," Leopold wrote to the baroness, "to let me have your opinion of his circumstances?"