Thursday, August 18, 2011

Happy Birthday, Salieri!

Today, Antonio Salieri would have been 261 years old!
He was 6 years older than Mozart.
       Antonio Salieri was an Italian composer who lived during the same time as Mozart. He was a great teacher, most notably in voice. In performance and composition, he trained some very famous people: Franz Liszt, Ludwig van Beethoven, Franz Schubert and Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart.
       While the play and 1984 film Amadeus fictionalizes almost every aspect of the real composer's life, one humorous fact that was kept as part of Salieri's character was his great love of sugar. Once as a child, Salieri ran away from home to hear his older brother play the violin at a church. His father told them that if he ran away again, he would lock him in his room for a whole day with nothing to eat but bread and water. This didn't scare Salieri; planning to run away yet again, he hid a sack of sugar in his room. As long as he had sugar, he was fine with being locked in his room! The plan didn't work out too well however, since before he left, he told his sister of his secret. His sister then told his mother, who told his father, who took the sugar out of his room before he came back. Poor Salieri found himself locked in his room for the day, with nothing but bread and water!
       When he was 24 years old, Salieri began to work as the imperial royal chamber composer for Emporer Joseph II of Austria. He was also appointed Kapellmeister to the Italian opera.
       In 1775, when he was 25 years old, Salieri met his future wife, Therese von Helfersdorfer. Before he could marry her, Salieri had to prove to her guardian (whom her deceased father had appointed) that he was able to care for her finacially. When Therese's guardian found that Salieri could only count on 100 ducats annually, he turned him down. Emporer Joseph II heard of Salieri's problem, and raised his salary to 300 ducats a year! Salieri returned to Therese's guardian, who then consented to the marriage, which eventually produced 8 children.
       In his lifetime, Salieri composed 37 operas; his most famous probably being Axur, re d'Ormus, which in its time was performed more times than Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro or Don Giovanni. He also composed concertos, Masses, and several other Sacred works.
       Contrary to what most people have been led to believe, Salieri was not a poor composer, nor was he jealous of Mozart's gifts (at least not jealous enough to plot murder!).
       It has been said that as an old man, Salieri confessed to the murder of Mozart and tried to commit suicide. If he ever did confess to such a crime, let it be noted that during this time, Salieri suffered dimentia and was admitted to a mental hospital.
       Salieri died on May 7, 1825.

Antonio Salieri - Axur re d'Ormus - Finale
(1788)

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