Mozart – The Arduous Life of Freelancers

Written on October 28, 2007 by Santiago Iñiguez in Philosophy

Santiago Iñiguez

H.C. Robbins Landon: “1791: Mozart’s Last Year

Many careers can be run on a freelance basis. Being self-employed has many advantages, basically the freedom to choose work assignments, independency and more room for creativity. It has also serious drawbacks, such as its potentially precarity and that working hours normally extend far beyond the standard working schedule of employed people. Traditionally, freelancing has been common in professions such as journalism, writing or consultancy, and according to Wikipedia’s "Freelancing on the Internet", the Internet has brought many opportunities for would-be freelancers.

Mozart W.A. Mozart, whose 250th birth anniversary is commemorated this year, worked basically as a freelance composer, a fact that forced him to accept almost any order received from friends or strangers. He was once approached by Friedrich Wilhelm II, King of Prussia, and offered the position of conductor of his court’s orchestra, an offer that he declined since he felt very close to Joseph II, the Emperor: “I enjoy living in Vienna, the Emperor loves me and I don’t care about money”, he is supposed to have told a friend. Later, the Emperor heard about this and asked Mozart to become his Chamber Composer, although the retribution was not substantial -800 florins. When he was asked about his honoraries at the court he responded that they were “too much for what I do; too little for what I could do”.

A major risk of freelancers is that they must handle contracts, negotiations, accountancy and other management functions by themselves. Here, Mozart did not prove to be very skilled, according to his letters and to different biographies. He seemed to have always lived on the edge of his economic possibilities. However, his endless capacity for work –he even composed in the presence of friends and at social gatherings-, his music knowledge and experience, as well as his geniality allowed him to sustain his family decently and pay the expensive health bills of his wife Constance at different spas during her recovery from illnesses, although he only left his own wardrobe as inheritance. He is attributed to have said: “People make a mistake who think my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to composition as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over”.

Mozart died young, at 36 years old, the illness causing his death being still a matter of controversy, although biographers mention dropsy or rheumatic fever. Had he lived the same time as some of his contemporary musicians (Haydn: 77 years; Salieri: 75 years) he would have probably produced many more works, and maybe transformed the way we understand music today.

I believe that freelancers need a strong support from their families to cope with their stressful way of living. I am sure that Constance was a dedicated wife, caring for his husband and extremely respectful of his work. However, she was subject to many attacks after the musician’s death. As Robbins Landon refers, she was accused of being “a sex kitten, she was superficial, silly woman incapable of understanding Mozart, she mismanaged the household finances and encouraged him to live a scatterbrained, if not dissolute life”. This writer devotes the first chapter of the book here referred in vindicating Constance and rejects all these criticisms as spurious. They were probably the consequence of envious slander from Mozart’s detractors.

As a tribute to the master who has given us all so many moments of pleasure listening to his music, I enclose a photograph released recently that shows Constance, among other friends, in her late years. (Image: Constance Mozart, 1840) Let me also add the lines she wrote in Mozart’s commonplace book (Stammbuch) the day he passed away:

“I write now, in deep reverence, to you.
Dearly beloved husband! Mozart, unforgettable to me and to the whole of Europe-
Now you are well –well forever!
At one hour past midnight between 4th and 5th December of this year
He left, in his 36th year –O! Only too suddenly!-
This good –but thankless world- O God!
Eight years long we were joined in the most tender and in this world inseparable bond,
O! Would I were soon joined to you forever.
His most distressed wife
Constance Mozart née Weber
Vienna, 5th December. 1791”


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