Leopold-Mozart-Werkverzeichnis (LMV)

By Alexander, Peter M. | Notes, September 2012 | Go to article overview

Leopold-Mozart-Werkverzeichnis (LMV)


Alexander, Peter M., Notes


REFERENCE Leopold-Mozart-Werkverzeichnis (LMV). By CliffEisen, with assistance from Christian Broy. (Beiträge zur Leopold-Mozart-Forschung, vol. 4.) Augs burg: Wißner, 2010. [271 p. ISBN 9783896397577. i49,80.] Music examples, illustrations.

Leopold Mozart is both one of the most familiar and one of the least known figures in music history. He is familiar through the life and career of his son, and through the extensive correspondence that lays bare the family drama that unfolded as Wolf - gang was growing up. But apart from a couple of trivial works, he until recently remained relatively unknown as a musician and composer.

The correspondence and other documentary records of the Mozart family show Leopold to have been a complex and ambiguous figure. Well educated for his times, he could be arrogant, suspicious, mercenary, and self-pitying, but he was also in his way a loving father and husband, a keen observer of his world, a gifted musician and teacher, and above all a conscientious and thoughtful guide for his phenomenal children. With such a complex personality, it is no surprise that Leopold has been a target for historians, or that his reputation has changed drastically over time. Already in the early twentieth century, Hermann Abert described this phenomenon when he wrote:

In their desire to idealize everything to do with their hero, most older biographers, headed by Jahn, turned [Leopold] into the ideal father of a youthful genius, painting a romantic portrait of his character that does not correspond to the facts. More recently, the pendulum has swung too far in the other direction, and the venerable patriarch has had to make way for a figure whose character is made up, in the main, of weaknesses such a pedantry, obstinacy, vanity, envy and petty bourgeois complacency, with the result that Leopold now seems very much to have been his son's nemesis. This curious volte-face merely proves how hard it is to remain objective towards the fathers of great men. (W. A. Mozart, trans. Steward Spencer, ed. CliffEisen [New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007], 6.)

Abert's "curious volte-face" was perfectly expressed in a single sentence written in 1913 by Edward J. Dent: "Leopold Mozart, although always held up to admiration as the most devoted of fathers, has a very repellant side to his character" (Mozart's Operas: A Critical Study, 2d ed. [London: Oxford University Press, 1960], 14). From Dent on, negative appraisals of Leopold's character remained the norm throughout the twentieth century, reaching an extreme in Maynard Solomon's psycho-biography of the son with its references to Leopold's "erotically tinged drive to dominate," his "irrational moments," and "the depth of his delusions." (Mozart: A Life [New York: Harper Collins, 1995], 11, 214, and 215).

Of course, such negativity is partly a result of regarding Leopold only in the context of Wolfgang's life and career. To see any father through the eyes of a son trying to break free of the family is to see the "irrational moments" and the "repellant side of his character." But Leopold was not only Wolfgang's father; he was a musician of talent, an accomplished teacher, and the author of one of the most important pedagogical treatises of the eighteenth century, the Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule. Thus it is a welcome development that more scholarship has been devoted to Leopold himself in recent decades, and it may not be a coincidence that a more balanced appraisal of his character has emerged at the same time, notably in Ruth Halliwell's The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998).

CliffEisen is one of the scholars who have devoted serious study to Leopold's life and works, from his 1986 dissertation on the symphonies ("The Symphonies of Leopold Mozart and their Relationship to the Early Symphonies of Wolfgang Ama - deus Mozart: A Bibliographical and Stylistic Study" [Ph.D. diss., Cornell University]) to more recent research and published articles (see the bibliography on p. …

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