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Mozart’s Instruments

The Mozarteum Foundation possesses six original instruments owned by Wolfgang Amadé Mozart:

four string instruments (Mozart’s childhood violin, his Salzburg concert violin, his Costa violin and his viola)
and two keyboard instruments (his fortepiano and his clavichord).

All these instruments are in excellent playable condition and are regularly used in concerts.

Mozart’s childhood violin was built by the Salzburg court luthier Andreas Ferdinand Mayr (1693–1764), who was also an imperial household servant and musician colleague of Leopold Mozart. His name is given on a label inside the instrument. Though the exact date is not legible, the violin was probably made in the 1740s. It was donated to the Mozarteum Foundation in 1896.

By the time he was five, Wolfgang Amadé Mozart was already playing the piano and violin. To his father’s amazement the child began making music on the violin without any previous instruction, and according to one anecdote he spontaneously accompanied his father’s playing with musical friends. In 1762 Leopold reported from his first trip to Vienna that Wolfgang had “played him [the customs officer] a minuet on his little fiddle”.

Mozart’s skill on the violin was great even though his relationship with the instrument became ambivalent with the passing years. From his letters written during the long journey to Munich, Mannheim and Paris in 1778–79, we know that he played his own, highly demanding violin concertos and solo works publicly and was astonished by the great approbation bestowed on them. “You yourself do not know how well you play the violin”, remarked Leopold, himself a violinist and author of the Treatise on the Fundamental Art of Violin Playing, on his son’s proficiency.

When Mozart’s return to detested court service was looming, however, towards the end of the Paris trip, he wrote decisively to his father: “There is one more thing I must settle about Salzburg and that is that I shall not be kept to the violin, as I used to be. I will no longer be a fiddler. I want to conduct at the clavier and accompany arias” (11 September 1778). Mozart was able to realize this plan in Vienna where, during the last ten years of his life, the keyboard became his main instrument. Enthusiastically he wrote in 1781 to his father in Salzburg: “This is undoubtedly the land of the piano!”

Original instruments

Here you find a description of Mozart’s instruments which are property of the Salzburg Mozarteum Foundation.

Mozart's Childhood Violin

Mozart’s childhood violin was built by the Salzburg court luthier Andreas Ferdinand Mayr (1693–1764), who was also an imperial household servant and musician colleague of Leopold Mozart. His name is given on a label inside the instrument.

Though the exact date is not legible, the violin was probably made in the 1740s. It was donated to the Mozarteum Foundation in 1896.

Mozart's Concert Violin

Mozart’s concert violin has now been identified as an instrument from the Klotz family’s workshop in the Bavarian Alps, probably dating from the beginning of the eighteenth century. The misleading label on the inside would seem to suggest that it was modelled on an instrument by Jakob Stainer. Mozart made a lucky choice if he assumed he really was acquiring one of Stainer’s instruments with their famous “silvery tone”.

When he left Salzburg he did not take his concert violin with him to Vienna but left it with his sister. In 1820 she sold it along with his childhood violin.

As the instrument was handled from early on as a kind of Mozart relic, it is in very good and, apart from a few minor alterations, virtually original condition.

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Mozart's Costa Violin

Mozart’s Costa violin is named for its builder, Pietro Antonio dalla Costa and, according to an original label on the inside, was made in Treviso in 1764. Dalla Costa modelled his violins on those of Amati, and they are highly prized as concert instruments nowadays on account of their warm and powerful tone. Mozart probably acquired and played this violin in Vienna.

Following several changes of ownership, it was acquired by Dr Nicola Leibinger-Kammüller in 2013 with the intention of donating it to the Mozarteum Foundation.

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Mozart's Viola

Mozart’s viola was made in northern Italy in the early eighteenth century by an anonymous master. The inside label, which is hard to read, attributes the instrument to Paulo Megini in Brescia, but it is not authentic. The viola is the only one of Mozart’s instruments listed in his estate — “1 viola in case” — and taxed four gulden.

The Mozarteum Foundation acquired the instrument in 1966 from the heirs of the English musical collector Edward Speyer.

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Mozart's Fortepiano

Mozart’s fortepiano is neither signed nor dated, but can be ascribed to the piano maker Anton Walter (1752–1826) and was probably built around 1782. Mozart acquired it as a concert instrument before 1785 and played it at his public appearances in Vienna. “Since my arrival [in Vienna]”, wrote the visiting Leopold Mozart to his daughter Nannerl in a letter dated 12 March 1785, “your brother’s fortepiano has been taken at least a dozen times to the theatre or to some other house. He has had a large fortepiano pedal made, which stands under the instrument and is about two feet longer and extremely heavy.” After Mozart’s death, the instrument remained in the family.

In 1856, the centenary year of Mozart’s birth, Mozart’s son Carl Thomas donated it to the Mozarteum Foundation.

 

Mozart's Clavichord

Mozart’s clavichord was the basis of the Mozarteum Foundation’s collection of original Mozart instruments. It came in 1844 from the estate of his younger son Franz Xaver Wolfgang into the possession of the Cathedral Music Society, forerunner of the Mozarteum Foundation. Inside this keyboard instrument which, with its quiet, delicate tone, was intended for private use, is a certificate in Constanze Mozart’s hand: “My dear clavier, upon which Mozart played so often and composed Die Zauberflöte, La clemenza di Tito, the Requiem and Eine Freimaurer Cantate … Mozart so loved this clavier, and for that reason I love it doubly!” (RE)