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Astonishing letter reveals Prince of Salzburg told Mozart to study in Naples as he knew "nothing"

Updated: Feb 25, 2020

In a letter dated December 22nd, 1777 by Leopold Mozart to the celebrated Bolognese composer Padre Martini, Leopold reveals a scorching response from the Prince of Salzburg in reply to 21 year old Mozart's request for a higher salary:

“My son has been now five years in the service of our Prince, at a mere nominal salary, hoping that by degrees his earnest endeavors and any talents he may possess, combined with the utmost industry and most unremitting study, would be rewarded; but in this hope we find ourselves deceived. I forbear all allusion to our Prince's mode of thinking and acting; but he was not ashamed to declare that my son knew nothing, and that he ought to go to the musical training school in Naples to learn music. And why did he say all this? In order to intimate that a young man should not be so absurd as to believe that he deserved a rather higher salary after such a decisive verdict had issued from the lips of a prince. This has induced me to sanction my son giving up his present situation. He therefore left Salzburg on the 23d of September.”

Excerpt From: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. “The Letters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Volume 01.”

The conservatories of Naples of the 18th century were famed across Europe and created many superstar musical celebrities. Their students, initially mainly orphans, would enter the conservatory at the age of 7 and study intensively over 10 years. The result of this rigorous training were some of the most famous musicians of the 18th century.

Their only recently understood secretive approach to music training included many years of Italian solfeggio singing, Partimento studies, Counterpoint training, Keyboard skills and much more.

For further reading, please consult "The Art of Partimento" by Giorgio Sanguinetti, "Child Composers" and "Music in the Galant Style" by Robert O. Gjerdingen.

Also, you can listen to interviews with these scholars on the Nikhil Hogan Show:

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