While I walk through the fabled streets of Vienna, I can’t help but see images from the cinematic masterpiece, Amadeus, flying through my head as I turn every cobble-stoned corner and stroll each café-riddled alleyway. It is in this grand spectacle of a place where Mozart resided for the last ten years of his prolific musical and social life. The movie focuses on these latter years as Mozart both triumphs and struggles in the Austrian capital.
(Image: Paul and Wolfie)
In 1792, Mozart married Constanze Weber in St. Stephen’s Cathedral, an impressive structure of lacework stone, simultaneously imposing and fragile. No strangers to pain, they would then have six children of whom only two survived infancy – a tragic 66% infant mortality rate that rivals many places in the developing world today.
(Image: Inside St. Stephen’s Cathedral, Vienna)
Mozart’s life shows considerable evidence revealing his heart and support for vulnerable children. As a twelve year-old boy he visited the new “Orphanage Church” in Vienna to compose and conduct the somber Waisenhausmesse Orphanage Mass for the church’s consecration in 1768. The mass was sung by a boy’s choir of orphans from the adjoining poorhouse. It is now performed there every year on December 8th to celebrate the church’s anniversary.
Mozart completed a quintet in September, 1789, and first performed it three months later at a Society of Musicians benefit for widows and orphans. Mozart personally played the viola for the fundraiser.
Again, in April 1791, an event program for a charity concert for widows and orphans described Mozart’s contribution as “a large new symphony.” He would die less than eight months later, while composing a Requiem (death) mass.
Mozart’s funeral procession ended at St. Stephen’s cathedral, the magnificent place of his wedding less than ten years earlier. However, only a small group of “cross-bearers, four pallbearers and four boys carrying lanterns” proceeded to the cemetery from there, as Mozart was given a “third class” burial in a mass grave for paupers.
(Images: Sisters walk hand-in-hand outside of St. Stephen’s)
Mozart died a poor man at the young age of 36, but left a legacy of music that has moved hearts, including my own, for over two centuries. Among those scores are notes for the orphans that still ring clear and true today.
On to Iraq…