Adolphe Nourrit in the role of Tarare




Biography Pt III




     When Salieri returned from Paris after the success of Les Danaïdes, he brought with him the texts for two new operas the French had requested, Les Horaces and Tarare. Over the next two years Salieri spent every spare moment he could find to setting the first of these, Les Horaces, to music. When the French requested he bring them to Paris as soon as possible in the Spring of 1786 he obtained the necessary leave of absence and excitedly departed for Paris. Salieri no doubt was hoping for a repeat of the Les Danaïdes triumph, but more importantly, Paris and French taste in opera afforded Salieri the opportunity to freely express himself in the manner of his mentor, Gluck. After all, his calling in Vienna had always been to cater to Viennese (Joseph II's) taste for light opera buffaOpera buffa - Italian comic opera. Also known as commedia in musica, commedia per musica, and dramma comico.. Mosel provides this description of French preferences in opera,

"....the French (at least on the grand stage of their National Opera) demand, not a 'concert of which the drama is a pretext,' as the abbé Amand so happily says, but a musical drama; hence no more music than serves to increase the beauty of the poem, enhance the effect of the acting, and strengthen the impression of the whole; grand arias are permitted only where their introduction will not retard the rapid progress of the action, nor jar the feeling of the moment, but rather intensify it. Hence they require no vocal virtuoso for the performance of these works but actors skilled in declamatoryDeclamation - The art of rendering words with the proper pronunciation, accentuation and expression. In music, the proper enunciation of the words. song...."  5Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
pg. 104.

     Mosel's comment not only qualifies as the perfect expression of Gluckian ideals but describes the music dramas of Wagner and Richard Strauss nearly a century later.

     The first of the two operas to be staged was Les Horaces, libretto by Nicholas-François Guillard, after Pierre Corneille. The success or failure of any work of art presented on the stage is often impossible to explain but the failure of Les Horaces, it could argued, should have been foreseen. Initially, blame was generally assigned to the singer of the High Priest's part but in truth, what had been a stimulating play did not adapt itself well to the opera stage and critics said as much. The prevailing opinion among those close to the production was that with a rework, Les Horaces could succeed. Salieri discussed this with Guillard and promised to work on the changes once back in Vienna. Before the changes could be worked out, the French revolution broke out and Les Horaces was never performed again.



Les Horaces, Overture ( Excerpt )


     Tarare was presented six months after Les Horaces. Salieri had only begun to write the opera when he departed Vienna and he devoted those six months to it's completion. The libretto was by none other than Pierre Beaumarchais
Pierre Beaumarchais
1732 - 1799
, author of the Figaro plays including Le Mariage de Figaro and Le Barbier de Séville. Salieri worked as Beaumarchais' house guest throughout that period and Beaumarchais made it clear he would leave nothing to chance. Beaumarchais had an agenda in writing Tarare; it was a thinly veiled allegory of political conditions in France at that time that prophetically portrayed the revolution that would sweep France just three years later. He was determined that it have a spectacular opening night and demonstrated such skill at publicizing the opera that on opening night wooden gates were erected in front of the Paris venue, the Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin
Théâtre de la Porte Saint-Martin
Circa 1790
and 400 policemen were posted. Thayer provides this account of the premiere of Tarare,

"At the close of the first triumphant performance of Tarare, both poet and composer were called for by the audience. Beaumarchais excused himself on the ground he was but a dilettante in poetry; but two of the leading singers led Salieri forward to receive the most gratifying proofs of the general satisfaction."  6Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
pg. 104.

     What Beaumarchais and Salieri had created in Tarare was completely unprecedented in eighteenth century opera. It was Gluckian opera pushed at last to it's ultimate fulfillment. In keeping with the philosophy of presenting 'music drama' the customary architecture of individual numbers was dispensed with and replaced by a continuous flow of music supporting the 'play'. The action switches freely between recitativeRecitative - A style of vocal delivery in an opera that combines elements of song and spoken dialog. and singing and never loses momentum.



Tarare, ( Excerpt )



Tarare, ( Excerpt )


     Salieri's share of the profits amounted to more than 4500 livres and reports of Tarare's ever growing popularity continued to reach him in Vienna well after his return.

     By July of 1787 Salieri was back in Vienna. Word of Tarare's phenomenal success had reached Vienna and sparked considerable interest. Emperor Joseph called for Salieri and da Ponte and tasked them with translating it into Italian. The two men deliberated for four days attempting to produce a translation and finally concluded a simple translation would produce unsatisfactory results. They agreed the best approach was to start over, using what they could from the French version when at all possible. The new piece would be entitled Axur, re d'Ormus (Axur, King of Hormuz).

     Joseph had big plans for Axur. It was to be performed on the occasion of the marriage of Archduke Franz
Archduke Franz
Later Emperor Francis II
1768 - 1835
and Princess Elizabeth of Württemberg
Princess Elizabeth of Württemberg
1767 - 1790
. The normally frugal Joseph spared nothing and ordered the most lavish sets and costumes available.

     Da Ponte had his hands full at this time working on three libretti simultaneously. Axur for Salieri, Don Giovanni for Mozart and L'arbore di Diana for Vicente Martin y Soler
Vicente Martin y Soler
1754 - 1806
. Martin or Martini was a Spanish composer living in Vienna who was as highly praised at the time as Salieri and Mozart. The reader will recall it was Martin's Una cosa rara that pushed Figaro off the stage the previous year. Two of these libretti, Axur and L'arbore di Diana were being undertaken by way of royal commission for Joseph II. Don Giovanni was to be premiered in Prague and da Ponte was working on it as a favor to Mozart.

     The first of the three operas to be performed was Martin's L'arbore di Diana on October 1, 1787 and was wildly received. Da Ponte then departed for Prague to assist Mozart with the rehearsals for Don Giovanni. Before the first performance however, he received an urgent letter ordering his return to Vienna. The wedding of Archduke Franz was imminent and Axur was being hurried into rehearsal. Da Ponte was now a salaried appointee of Joseph's court and was obliged to leave Prague and return. An impending state event, not rivalry as some have suggested, called for the immediate return of da Ponte. Ironically, shortly after his arrival in Vienna, the wedding was postponed.

     Though much of Axur's message was sanitized in it's translation from French, it did retain some of Beaumarchais' revolutionary flavor. Joseph was making great strides in reforming his land into something more enlightened and wanted Axur to serve as a warning to the nobility and clergy both of whom he was systematically stripping of power.

     During the preparations for Axur, Gluck died on November 15, 1787. Salieri had lost another dear friend; one who had contributed greatly to his rise in European opera. There is an anecdote from this time of Salieri consulting with Gluck as to the appropriateness of using a high tenor in the role of Christ. Gluck approved of this idea and added, "I shall in short time be able to inform you with certainty from the other world in which clef the Savior speaks [sings]." Four days later Gluck was dead.

     Immediately after Gluck's passing, Mozart was appointed to KammercompositeurKammercompositeur - Court chamber music composer. in December of 1787 with an annual salary of 800 gulden. His responsibilities consisted of writing dance music for the royal ball during carnival season. Joseph had given Mozart this appointment as a strategy to keep him in Vienna as there had been rumors that he was considering a move to London.

     The Archduke was married on January 6, 1788 and Axur re d'Ormus was premiered on January 8. It went on to become as successful as Tarare being translated into several languages as it swept the continent. A decade later, as Napoleon's forces were overwhelming Italy, Axur would be produced on both sides of the conflict.

     The festive occasion of the Archduke's wedding was one of the few bright spots for the year 1788. On February 8, a month after the royal marriage, Joseph II declared war on the Ottoman Empire. The Austro-Turkish war quickly became unpopular in Austria and it's debilitating economic impact was soon felt in Vienna.

     In February of 1788 Salieri was elevated to the position of Imperial Hofkapellmeister, as Guiseppe Bonno had become too feeble to discharge his duties. Salieri was now responsible for all state music affairs and for the Tonkünstler Society. On this second occasion of Salieri receiving an important appointment, the court opera once again slowed to a near stop. The war with the Turks had escalated to such a state that life in Vienna was becoming unbearable. Inflation had risen to a point that food prices had doubled and many were fleeing the city to avoid conscription. The cultural life of Vienna suffered as well. The number of concerts in Vienna dwindled and the court opera shared this burden. At the end of the month, the Emperor departed Vienna for his war camp near the front lines.

     It was in these conditions that Mozart's Don Giovanni finally came to the stage in Vienna on May 7, 1788. The apparent delay in staging Don Giovanni was due to the necessities of a war economy and not machinations on the part of the new Imperial Hofkapellmeister as some have suggested.

     After his return from the front the Emperor was gravely ill with hemoptysisHemoptysis - The coughing up of blood from the respiratory tract., as was most of his army, but managed to attend a performance of Don Giovanni. His presence displeased the audience so much that he left the opera early and later discontinued Don Giovanni altogether. Mozart's greatest opera had been given to the world in less than ideal conditions and Joseph II never actually heard it in it's entirety.

     Like any newly appointed administrator, Salieri was eager to prove himself capable. He was however, handicapped from the outset by the above mentioned economic circumstances. Additionally, the Emperor had earlier sent word from his war camp that the Italian opera would once again be dismissed and that only the German opera theater, being cheaper to maintain, would remain open. The general understanding was that the Italian opera at court would have their contracts terminated at the end of the season.

     While attempting to keep the opera running smoothly Salieri decided to recycle an old work with new trappings. In 1779 Salieri had written an opera in Milan called Il Talismano. At the time, Salieri had graciously permitted Giacomo Rust to write the second act of this two act piece. He now had Da Ponte rework it into three acts and wrote the additional music. Il Talismano was premiered in September of 1788 and oddly, the makeshift project pleased Viennese audiences and it was performed regularly for more than a decade afterwards.

     At about the same time that Salieri received his new posting, he had completed an opera that might have helped shore up the weak season schedule but would not receive it's premiere until June of 1998. You read that correctly, 1998. Cublai, gran kan de' Tartari was so politically volatile that Joseph could not allow it to be staged. In writing the libretto, Casti had created an indictment of the regime of Catherine II in Russia and Joseph could not, in any way, afford the displeasure of such a strong ally. Cublai was avoided like the pox until it was forgotten.



Cublai, gran kan de' Tartari, "Fra i barbari sospetti" ( Excerpt )


     An idea was then taken up by Salieri, though it is unclear where it originated, to have the opera separate from the court and financed by subscriptions and donations. The Emperor, seeing the general eagerness to keep the opera alive, decided not to disband it and reasoned that keeping it might ease the concerns about the economy.

     The rest of that season was a fight for survival. New operas were very few so Salieri and da Ponte dashed out a quick piece in the hopes of maintaining interest at the opera. The result their efforts was an adaptation of an existing libretto, Pastor fido. It went into oblivion after three performances. The season was concluded with a sort of talent show were those singers who were remaining performed a program of favorite arias from many different composers.

     For the 1789 season Salieri constructed the schedule around a core of operas he felt would please the audience. First were two already proven operas, Mozart's Figaro and his own Axur. He also presented two new operas, Mozart's Cosi fan tutti and his newest piece, La Cifra. The season went off without incident and Figaro received 29 performances, presumably under Salieri's baton.



La Cifra, "Non vò già' che vi suonino" ( Excerpt )


     Emperor Joseph II died on February 20, 1790 of the illness that had plagued him since his return from the war with Turkey. The loss was equally felt by both Salieri and Mozart since Joseph had shown himself to be a friend to both. With his passing, music at the Hapsburg court changed drastically. His successor, Leopold II, was not in the least inclined toward musical matters. He is not known to have attended the opera nor was he a musician like his brother, Joseph II. As Hofkapellmeister, Salieri carried out his duties in connection with the various installation ceremonies of Leopold in Frankfurt-am-main, Pressburg and Prague. Salieri did not write anything new for the ceremonies but it is known that he arrived in Prague with some of Mozart's masses in his possession.

     It would be useful at this point to provide a measure of Salieri's appeal during this period and after. From Thayer's Salieri: Rival of Mozart,

"From a pretty wide examination of the annual reports of the principal German theaters of those days, I draw the conclusion that in the original Italian or in German translations, the more important works of Salieri were far more popular and much oftener given than those of Mozart, while the Grotta di Trofonio was at least as much performed as Mozart's EntführungIn other words, with the exception of the Entführung, Mozart's operas were less to the taste of the monarch and the public in Vienna than those of Salieri, and it was the same way all through Germany. Whatever the appreciative few may have thought of The Marriage of Figaro or Don Giovanni, to the general operatic public Salieri was certainly the greatest of then living composers!"  7Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
pg. 127.

     Though Leopold was not interested in music, he did however start making changes to the court's music organization. When the new Emperor began replacing appointees with people of his own liking, Salieri preemptively requested he be relieved of his duties as Hofkapellmeister. Having served the court for twenty four years and contributed his own compositions for twenty of those years, it was as good a time as any to step down. The new Emperor relieved Salieri of the burden of administering the affairs of the court opera but stipulated that he would remain Kapellmeister of the court chapel and provide the court one opera per year. Da Ponte also left the court after a bitter disagreement with Leopold.

     Then something curious happened at this time between Salieri and Mozart. With Salieri freed from his connection with the court, he and Mozart developed an amicable relationship. A documented example of this new comradery involves Mozart inviting Salieri and Madame Cavalieri to a performance of the Magic Flute where it was playing at the Theater auf der Wieden. In a letter to his wife Konstanze
Konstanze Mozart
1762 - 1842
, Mozart describes at length how much Salieri enjoyed the music. Braunbehrens offers the following appraisal of the letter's implications.

"These spontaneous comments of approval, perhaps even enthusiasm, were too real to be mistaken for suppressed envy or love-hate feelings. And Mozart was too sensitive not to discern hidden flattery or other hypocrisy, especially in Salieri, whom he had known for so long. The fact that Mozart invited Salieri to see Die Zauberflüte suggests friendly, collegial intercourse between them. After all, Salieri was no longer the feared Kapellmeister with whom one had to ingratiate oneself, but where the new Emperor was concerned, was now on an equal footing with Mozart. Besides, the composer of Axur had no reason to consider himself overshadowed by Mozart."  8Volkmar Braunbehrens,
Salieri: Ein Musiker im Schatten Mozarts
pg. 179.

     In another example of these new relations, Salieri conducted one of Mozart's last three symphonies, most likely the Symphony No 40 in g minor, K.550 at the Lent performance of the Tonkünstler Society on 16-17 April, 1791. For this program, Mozart had provided a new revision of the symphony featuring clarinets.

     Yet a further example comes from Anselm Hüttenbrenner in the Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung, November 1825,

"He [Salieri] always spoke of Mozart with exceptional respect. Mozart the unexcelled one, often came to Salieri with the words, 'Dear Papa, give me several old scores from the Court Library; I want to leaf through them with you.' - and while doing so, he many times missed his lunch."  9Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
Appendix F
pg. 177.

     Though it is doubtful that Mozart addressed Salieri as 'Papa' or that the quote even reflects Mozart's exact words, what is important is that these two men apparently devoted time to study and possibly discussion of scores. Collectively, these glimpses of a civil comradery represent a little discussed and too little explored facet of the day to day interaction between these men. It should be added that while the above examples illustrate a mutual respect, both were known to be critical of each other in letters and in private. This on again, off again regard for each other would suggest they were indeed rivals on a professional level but that this was a rivalry tempered with a gentlemanly sense of decorum. We will never know what the long term result of this thawing and apparent friendship might have produced for as the year 1791 came to a close, Mozart took his last breath on December 5. The illness that took Maestro Mozart lasted for two weeks and the cause was later established by a municipal health official, Dr. Eduard Guldener von Lobes, as "rheumatic and inflammatory fever." Recently discovered evidence indicates that Salieri was among the few who attended Mozart's burial procession.

For a detailed discussion of the death of Mozart, see the 'Prologue' section of this website.



     As 1792 arrived, Salieri had just finished a new opera with Casti as librettist that would not be heard until the late twentieth century. Catilina was another example of Casti's politically caustic pen that was best left in storage. Another project from this time was Il mondo alla rovescia with a libretto by Caterino Mazzolà. The libretto was not only shabby but offended the sensibilities of many who saw it. The story involves a world where the roles of men and women are reversed. The premise should have provided ample comic possibilities but Mazzolà failed to capitalize on that.

     Another significant event of 1792 was the sudden death on March 1 of Leopold II. He had reigned for just two years when he became ill and died 36 hours later. He was succeeded by Emperor Francis (Franz) I.

     To Salieri's discredit, he was never selective with regards to the libretti he chose. Throughout his life he was inclined to take whatever text came his way and set it to music. Such was the case with his next opera, Eraclito e Democrito, text by Gamerra. This hack of a writer was appointed court dramatist by Franz I more on his abilities as a sycophant than any literary gifts. He had already presented Salieri with two duds and was now poised to inflict more damage. What is surprising about this is that Salieri was no longer affiliated with the court and could have chosen not to work with Gamerra. After a short run, Eraclito e Democrito faded into obscurity.



Eraclito e Democrito, Overture ( Excerpt )


     Gamerra would provide two more libretti for Salieri, Palmira, regina di Persia and Il moro. Of the two, Palmira , with it's lavish sets and vast cast of characters enjoyed some degree of success.



Palmira, regina di Persia, "Misera Abbandonata" ( Excerpt )



Il moro, Overture ( Excerpt )


     Almost three years would pass before Salieri took on another opera. In the interim, his output was limited largely to patriotic pieces since, at that time, much of Europe was involved with trying to contain Napoleon. During this period the Salieri family experienced two painful losses. In 1794 Elizabeth Josepha Salieri died at age seven of scarlet fever followed two years later by the death of Francisca Antonia Salieri, age fourteen, of pneumonia.

     In 1798 after faltering for almost a decade with poor or controversial texts, Salieri would create one of his best efforts, Falstaff. Once again Salieri was in the hands of a capable librettist, Carlo Defranceschi, who provided the libretto to this adaptation of Shakespeare's Merry Wives of Windsor. The complex plot is stripped to it's essentials, including the elimination of Fenton and Ann Page's sub-plot and attractive arias and fast paced recitatives propel this work. Though it shows signs of being written an outmoded style it is executed so masterfully that it entertains, regardless.



Falstaff, Overture and Act I, Scene 1 ( Excerpt )



Falstaff, Act I, Scene 2 ( Excerpt )


     Salieri, who had begun his career on the cutting edge of opera reform, began to fall behind. Either he became set in his ways or simply had grown too tired to write anything new. His last five operas contained nothing remarkable and were received with moderate interest. These were,

     Cesare in Farmacusa - Libretto by Defranceschi, received twenty performances initially.

     L'Angiolina ossia Il matrimonio per Susurro - Libretto by Defranceschi. A well known story made for a predictable plot. Just ten performances in Vienna.

     Annibale in Capua - Libretto by Antonio Simone Sografi. Written for the opening of a new opera house in Trieste, it was never heard anywhere else. It's no wonder this one flopped; the role of the mighty Hannibal is sung by a castrato!

     La bella selvaggia - Libretto by Giovanni Bertati. Never performed.

     And finally, Die Neger - Text by Georg Friedrich Treitschke (librettist of Beethoven's Fidelio). The master of Italian opera buffa ended his career with a German singspiel. The story involves Negro slaves on an American plantation. Text and music were regarded as poor and uninspired.

     The quality Salieri's operatic output had digressed to the point of being mundane and in 1802 he wisely ceased writing operas. His compositional efforts were confined to sacred music for the court chapel and these pieces were for the most part non-dramatic and intended for use in worship. In 1804 Salieri did write one large sacred work, a requiem mass intended for his own funeral service. He had come to believe his days were numbered when in fact, he had two more decades remaining.

     His absence from the court affected the orchestra for the worse. It had literally been his creation, built over years of effort as he had personally selected, through auditions, every one of it's players and coached them into a first rate ensemble. The Allgemeine Musikalische Zeitung of Leipzig of June 10, 1801 commented,

"When the worthy Salieri was the Kapellmeister of the Italian opera, and Herr Scheidlein, if I am not mistaken, was director of the orchestra, the members were the same as now (a few excepted who may have left it), and yet the operas were executed so that the severest criticism could demand nothing more. The perfect time of all the instruments and the precision with which all worked together were among the least of it's excellencies. The voices were accompanied with extreme delicacy; every shade, to the very lightest, in the accompaniments brought out; the exact expression always hit. At that time this orchestra was undisputable one of the very first theater orchestras in Germany, a fact admitted by every competent judge. But when Salieri had to give up his position to another, and Herr Conti became leader, the orchestra sank by degrees until it fell to the point where it now stands. The fault must therefore not lie in it's members, but rather in it's leaders."  10Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
pg. 133.

     In 1805 Salieri's only son, Alois Engelbert Salieri died followed in 1807 by the death of his beloved wife Therese, whom he had met by chance thirty two years earlier while teaching in a convent. He was deeply affected by their passing.



     The composer of Les Danaïdes, Axur and La Grotta di Frofonio did not settle down to a life of relaxation. On the contrary, he led a very active musical life almost to the end. One of Salieri's principal activities at this time was teaching and this wasn't just teaching to earn a living. In fact, except for the very wealthy, he didn't charge his students for lessons; an homage to the generosity of Florian Gassmann. This was teaching for the love of it and Salieri was acknowledged as the foremost teacher in Vienna for voice and composition. Between 1793 and 1809, Beethoven studied with Salieri and even honored him with the dedication of his Opus 12 Violin Sonatas. Franz Schubert was another long standing student. Salieri admired Schubert's abilities but often criticized his use of German texts for his songs, insisting that Italian was the preferred language for voice. Other students included Meyerbeer, Carl Czerny, Franz Liszt, Inaz Moscheles, Franz Xavier Süssmayr and Mozart's son
Franz Xaver Mozart
1791 - 1844
, Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart. The list goes on.

     When not teaching, Salieri contributed much of his time to various music organizations in Vienna. He sat on the board of the Pensions-Institut der Wiener Tonkünstler and managed the programs for the societies bi-annual concerts as well as administering every detail of it's day to day affairs. On March 27 1808, Salieri conducted the society in a history making performance of Haydn's Creation
Haydn is seated
Beethoven to his left holding cane
Salieri to his right with paper scroll
. It was attended by every distinguished musician in Vienna, including Beethoven, and would be Haydn's last appearance in public.  11The first performance of the Creation had been in 1798 and was equally stunning in it's turnout.

     Salieri also helped found the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde (Society for the Friends of Music) after which, he was active in that organization's program to establish a conservatory. Salieri was in charge of the institute for choir training and director of the school for voice.

     The aging Salieri received many honors in his twilight years including memberships in the Swedish Academy, the French National Institute and the Milan Conservatory. In 1815 he was made a Knight of the Legion Honor.

     1816 was to be the fifty year mark of Salieri's arrival in Vienna and he looked forward to enjoying that momentous day with some friends. What he didn't know was that many more of his friends and Emperor Franz I had a surprise for him. After church services a carriage picked him up and took him to a hotel where Prince Trautmannsdorf-Weinburg, the chief marshall at court, made a very flattering speech detailing Salieri's accomplishments and then presented him on behalf of the Emperor with the Civilian Medallion of Honor for service to the Hapsburg Empire. Later that evening he enjoyed dinner with his four daughters and was joined by many of his voice students who sang for him.

     In 1815 Salieri composed one final major work that not only defied his eighteenth century stereotype but demonstrated that Salieri had arrived in the nineteenth century. It was his 26 Variations on La follia di Spagna for orchestra. In this work Salieri does not 'develop' the variations as one might expect but rather creates a treatise on orchestration where the theme remains essentially unchanged as he paints 26 contrasting possibilities for it's orchestration. His skills as a master orchestrator are clearly evidenced.




26 Variations on La Follia di Spagna, Variations 2, 10, 24, 25, 26 ( Excerpt )


     In his leisure time Salieri read voraciously, took long walks in nature and spent many evenings with friends playing music, especially the works of Gluck and Handel. By 1820 Salieri began to feel the effects of old age. Severe gout limited his ability move around and caused him considerable discomfort. He continued to teach and, as much as possible, he would take his daily walks.

     It was about this time that an insidious rumor began to make it's way to Salieri's ears. That he was responsible for poisoning Mozart. The rumor that Mozart had been poisoned had started the day after he died but no one could name the assassin. Now, three decades later, the rumor had zeroed in on Salieri. Over the remaining years of his life this would cause increasing grief and eventually depression. In 1823 his health worsened and at one point he fell, sustaining a head injury. From that point on Salieri's mental condition was characterized by confusion. In October of that year he was admitted to the Vienna Allgemeine Krankenhaus hospital from which point the gossip ran rampant.

     The rumors increased in frequency and magnitude and a push and shove ensued where many insisted that the deed had been consummated while others attested to Salieri's innocence. The most damning of these rumors were that Salieri had accused himself of Mozart's death and later that he had confessed to Mozart's murder on his death bed. There is no documentary evidence supporting the rumors nor did any one step ever step forward and state that they had heard either of these confessions. The only documented statements concerning these issues support Salieri's innocence.

     One month after Salieri's passing the following attestation was made,

    "We the undersigned, who are, by profession, attendants on the sick (infermiere), declare, in the presence of God and man, that in the spring of 1824, we were called to attend the Cavaliere Salieri, maestro di cappela to the Royal court, and that during the whole course of his long illness we never quitted him a single moment; that is, when one of us was absent, the other always remained in attendance. We also attest, that in consequence of his weak state, no one was permitted to visit him except ourselves and his medical attendants; it being judged proper that not even the members of his own family should see him. With respect, therefore, to the following question put to us; Whether it is true that the aforesaid Cavaliere Salieri had said, during his illness, that he had poisoned the celebrated composer Wolfgang Mozart? - we reply, upon our honor and conscience, that we never heard such words uttered by the said Salieri, nor the slightest mention of anything alluding to it,
    In confirmation of this, we subscribe our names as follows:
    Giorgio Rosenberg,
    Infermiere
 
    Amadeo Porsche,
    Infermiere presso il Signor Salieri,
    Maestro di Capella di Corte.
"         
12Alexander Wheelock Thayer,
Salieri, Rival of Mozart
Appendix A
pg. 159.



     The second statement comes from the composer and piano virtuoso Ignaz Moscheles in his, Aus Moscheles Leben, Nach Briefen und Tagebüchern in 1872 - 73. Moscheles had visited Salieri in the hospital on a day when he was lucid and recalls Salieri's words,

"Although this is my last illness, I can in all good faith swear that there is no truth to the absurd rumor; you know - I'm supposed to have poisoned Mozart. But no, it's spite, nothing but spite, tell that to the world, my dear Moscheles; old Salieri, who's going to die soon, told you that."  13Volkmar Braunbehrens,
Salieri: Ein Musiker im Schatten Mozarts
pg. 5.

     On the evening of May 7, 1825 Salieri died. His funeral was attended by the entire court music establishment and every distinguished composer and musician in Vienna save Beethoven who was himself ill. A few days later Salieri's requiem in c minor was performed in his honor.






     Antonio Salieri enjoyed a long, illustrious career. By virtue of hard work and perseverance, he rose to the post of Imperial Hofkapellmeister of the Hapsburg Empire. During his life he played a leading role in the reformation of opera and in his twilight years he received numerous honors and was regarded as Vienna's premiere music teacher. Yet, his final memories were not of fulfillment but of scandal, as he became the target of an odd form of paranoia in Vienna that believed that Italians in general and Salieri in particular were responsible for the untimely death of Mozart.

     Salieri and Mozart then became inseparably linked in the realm of popular myth. A myth that survives to this day in the form of a motion picture, though most have come to disregard the assertions presented in that film.

     Salieri's image now suffers from charges of mediocrity and from monotonous comparisons with Mozart. Salieri was not a mediocre composer. His popular appeal in his own time would suggest that his audiences regarded him as more than gifted and should give us cause for serious consideration of his works. The supposed rivalry between Mozart and Salieri has been shown to be greatly exaggerated and in fact, there is substantial evidence that suggests that these two enjoyed a peaceful if not opinionated coexistence. Whether Mozart was a better composer is completely irrelevant and ignores Salieri's contribution to the history of opera. Comparing these two serves no purpose and robs both of them of their individual visions. Whatever might be said of Salieri, at his peak he blazed a trail that others like Mozart followed.

     For nearly two centuries his operas, many of which had enthralled Europe, have been avoided then forgotten; a posthumous sentence imposed on an innocent man. It is time to give Antonio Salieri the attention he deserves. The increasing number of recordings of Salieri are an encouraging sign but until his operas are restored to their rightful place on the stages of the world's opera houses, he will not be fully vindicated. And to be sure, his better operas are more than worthy of our attention and admiratation.