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Mozart: Masonry & Madness in Vienna

In the 200 years since his death, much speculation has surrounded this most famous of musical prodigies. His life, his music and his deeper passionate beliefs are here examined afresh.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: few names conjure up so readily such a plethora of ideas. His music – hundreds of individual pieces for every instrument or musical group imaginable – is frequently used today in television shows and advertisements, thus always remaining in the forefront of the minds of people who otherwise wouldn't listen to classical music. The unique style, pace and content of many of these compositions has led to their inclusion on any collection of 'essential classics' of the past thirty years, and they are an inevitable part of any modern day orchestral concert. His operas still regularly appear on stages large and small around the world. Everyone instinctively recognises the mischievous tones of the 'Rondo ΰ la Turque' and 'Eine Kleine Nachtmusik', the melancholy sighs of the 'Clarinet Concerto in A Major' and the high drama of the 'Requiem', even though they probably couldn't name them as such, or even recognise them as Mozart.

Mozart the boy was a child prodigy, exhibited around the royal court of Europe by his proud and domineering father Leopold, also a composer. Young Wolfgang composed his first music at the age of 5, his first opera at 12. He had perfect pitch, could improvise in all kinds of musical styles, taught himself to play the violin, and could compose without needing to write down a note. Throughout his youth he was fκted and adored wherever he went amongst the nobility of Europe, as much for his mischievous good nature as for his musical talents. The six year old Wolfie – in a fine act of chivalrous mischief – proposed marriage to the Austrian Empress' daughter, Marie Antoinette, the future ill-fated queen of France. In later life, when the novelty of his genius began to wear off, and his volatile artistic temperament caused his dismissal from the court of the Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo in Salzburg, he found it somewhat harder to make a living for himself as a composer. In his later life, with a wife and children to support, Wolfgang turned to debauched drinking parties to forget his financial worries, all the while getting deeper in debt to his few remaining friends. At the end of his tragically short life – he was only 35 when he died – he was buried in a mass grave in a pauper's cemetery.

Peter Shaffer's exquisite screenplay 'Amadeus' portrays this decadent Mozart with sumptuous attention to detail, and propounds the theory that his premature death was brought about by the jealousy of Court Composer Antonio Salieri. Whilst this theory was certainly banded about after his death the proof remains inconclusive, and it is known that Mozart died as a result of advanced kidney disease. Besides, as we shall see, Mozart had more determined and powerful enemies to concern himself with than a disgruntled Court Composer who retained his position long after the death of his supposed rival.

The fact is that Mozart, through his close association with the Masonic and Illuminati movements, was seen as a dangerous political figure, determined to give away the secrets of the Masonic truths he believed in through his music. It is just as plausible that the enemies of the Masons, or a rival group of Masons who believed in the absolute sacred secrecy of their order, could have sought to destroy the young composer. Did Mozart betray Masonic secrets in his work? He certainly showed strong influence from the Masons, even before his official inauguration into the Brotherhood in 1785 and his music is littered with devices which suggest Masonic ideals and beliefs. His most completely Masonic work – notwithstanding the 'Masonic Funeral Music' of July 1785 – is undoubtedly his penultimate opera 'The Magic Flute'. Here, themes of secrecy, testing and enlightenment are inherent within what might on the surface seem to be an 'opera buffa' (comic opera). Drawn from ideas of Ancient Egyptian wisdom (as much early Masonic thought was) it portrays the ultimate solution as the entry into the Temple of Wisdom and Enlightenment, an obvious mirror for the acceptance into a Masonic Lodge after being initiated and prepared by undergoing trials and tests.

Freemasonry in 18th century Europe was a new and worrying thing to many in power. Its stated principles of humanism and equality made it seem revolutionary to the nobility and the Church, and it was widely believed after the shocking events of 1789 that the Freemasons (in particular the Illuminati with whom Mozart was most closely linked) had initiated the French Revolution. Although of itself not a political force, it attracted the attention of many who did have political power, and thus became a danger to the established order. Based largely on ideas of what Egyptian and Eleusinian ritual were all about, Freemasonry also encapsulated the secrecy of an underground religious order, and an affinity with Nature. Masons believed that by regressing to a state of primitive humanity (Rousseau's 'noble savage') men could become equal parts of society once more. The vast disparity between the wealth of the noble minority and the poverty of the illiterate majority was seen as the greatest evil of Mankind, and it was to this end that the Masons worked to establish communes and a sense of equality and fraternity. (Little wonder that those not initiated into its deeper mysteries believed them capable of starting a revolution!)

At various points during Mozart's life, the authorities clamped down on Masonry, making it illegal and heretical to be a part of a Lodge or to possess tomes of Masonic thought. This lack of acceptance in mainstream society of Masonic beliefs led to Mozart's widow, Constanze, destroying many of his books and papers in case they could be used to blacken his name posthumously and thus bring shame upon their children. It was undoubtedly Mozart's stubbornness to renounce his humanism which in later years cost him his popularity and his status with the crowned heads of Europe, whilst establishing him as a friend of the common people. He stood on the threshold of a new era, when composers and musicians would no longer be viewed as mere servants, but as artisans and craftsmen in their own right. His tragedy was that whilst he saw this coming, he was too radical and ahead of his own time to take advantage of it in the way subsequent businessmen/composers were to only decades after his death.

That Mozart passionately believed in the ideals of Freemasonry is evident from much of his work, in which cantatas and concertos written specifically for Masonic friends, Lodges and events figure too highly to be ignored. He was not simply just a Mason, however. Related to this – and perhaps because of it – he had a profound attitude to death, especially his own death. He was often ill – with smallpox as a child, and with fevers and depression as an adult – and on several occasions he was close enough to death to gain a morbid fascination with it. However, he never feared dying. In a letter to his father he confessed that: 'Death... is the true goal of our existence. I have formed... such close relations with this best and truest friend of mankind, that his image is not only no longer terrifying to me, but is indeed very soothing and consoling! And I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity... of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness. I never lie down at night without reflecting that – young as I am – I may not live to see another day.' This idea of death as the key to the door of happiness (illumination or wisdom) is a Masonic one, and clearly something very close to Mozart's heart. When he was finally dying, it was with great difficulty that a priest could be found who was willing to administer the last rites to him. His unorthodox views, and his close association with the Illuminati, condemned him in the eyes of the priesthood, despite there being no actual hypocrisy in being both a good Mason and a good Christian.

Mozart's blackest period seems to have begun in 1788. He was heavily in debt, assailed by 'black thoughts', his wife Constanze was away recuperating from a fever, and Mozart himself was ill. However, he was also highly productive at this time. He wrote three symphonies in six weeks, expressing his deepest fears, his struggles against the darkness, and his renewed hope in the future of humanity.

Despite his vast opus of compositions, Mozart was frequently too poor to live comfortably, but he refused to compromise his work for the sake of money. When his publisher Hoffmeister suggested he write more popularly, he retorted that if he could not write what he chose – instead of what the public wanted and would pay for – he would 'write nothing more, and go hungry, or may the devil take me!' The worst efforts of the censors to ban or decimate his works he bore with outspoken anger, and he scorned the audience who did not appreciate his music as 'mere brute beasts'.

The infamous 'Requiem' – left unfinished at Mozart's death and completed by his pupil Sόssmayr – has been the subject of controversy and speculation for more than 200 years. It had been commissioned by a German Count in memory of his wife, but since he apparently intended to pass it off as his own work, he sent his agent to Mozart without revealing his identity. Mozart, who was already ill, became obsessed with the idea that he was writing his own requiem. He started work on it but set it aside to complete 'The Magic Flute' and 'La Clemenza di Tito' which had been commissioned for the coronation of the Bohemian King Leopold II in September 1791. The exhausting schedule of composition, on top of his poverty and ill health, meant that the 'Requiem' was never completed by Mozart. Although the idea that he was composing it for his own death seems to have been merely an aberration of his own personal madness, it remains the most evocative tribute to his life, his work and his genius.

see also on this site: Dark Classics John Polidori Gilles de Rais Catherine de' Medici Aleister Crowley Bathory More Bathory

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