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Leopold Mozart: Composition and Controversy

November 2019 marks the 300th anniversary of the birth of Leopold Mozart (November 14, 1719 – May 28, 1787). Perhaps often primarily known as the father of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Leopold is an almost mythical figure, equated, perhaps partly thanks to the blockbuster film Amadeus, with a stern and conflicted father/son relationship. 

Another interpretation is that Leopold, who had supported his child prodigy son for many years, was concerned as Wolfgang pushed for more independence that his son was unfit to look after himself – a worry which proved to be grounded in reality.

Leopold and his wife Anna Maria had seven children, but only his daughter Maria Anna (Nannerl) and his youngest son Wolfgang survived past infancy. His parenting of his adult children is largely the subject that causes controversy, but it seems possible that his over-involvement was motivated by love rather than any negative emotion. Being guardian to such precocious children must have been a huge responsibility.

Although he expended huge amounts of energy promoting his son Wolfgang and his daughter Nannerl, gradually making this the focus of his life, Leopold Mozart was an extraordinary and well-respected musician himself. His 1756 treatise on violin playing ranks alongside those of Flesch and Galamian in the history of violin pedagogy. His skill and influence as a violinist and violin teacher is evident through the work of his son, in particular the violin concertos, and Leopold’s book is a valuable resource for understanding the both development of violin technique and historic musical ornamentation.

His own career as a court musician and composer was somewhat hampered by the amount of time he spent travelling with his children, and his most significant contribution is considered to be his teaching. From 1743 he worked as fourth violinist in the musical establishment of Count Leopold Anton von Firmian, the ruling Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. In 1758 he was promoted to second violinist, and in 1763 to deputy Kapellmeister, but numerous others were promoted over him to the position of Kapellmeister. His compositions were widely circulated, but biographers describe them with adjectives such as, “undistinguished.”

It’s fair to say that the discovery of his children’s talent transformed his life. He once referred to his son as, “The miracle which God let be born in Salzburg.” He began touring with the children in 1762, travelling to cities including Paris, London, Munich and Vienna to perform for both public and aristocracy. It’s unclear whether these tours generated much income. Whist the audience was extensive, costs must have been high, and Leopold was unable to continue his own work for the duration of the trips.

According to the Grove Dictionary, Nannerl later claimed that he “entirely gave up both violin instruction and composition in order to direct that time not claimed in service to the prince to the education of his two children.” After 1762 he seemed to limit his writing to revising his earlier compositions and he composed nothing after 1771.

Leopold’s support for Nannerl was significant. After her marriage, her father would still take care of shopping and the engagement of servants, send her news from Salzburg, Munich, and Vienna to divert her, organise the maintenance of her fortepiano, pay for Wolfgang’s music to be copied and arranged for her to receive it, look after her health, and, according to Halliwell, encouraged her to stand up to her husband when he was being unreasonable. Nannerl’s marriage involved her looking after five step children, and her own son (born in 1785) was initially raised by entirely by Leopold. It is possible that Leopold had hoped to train another child prodigy, but he died in 1787 when little Leopold was not quite two years old.

Scholars are still conflicted over his role as father. Some see him as misrepresented, and frustrated in being unable to guide his son into the sort of role his talent deserved. Others feel he was unable to give his adult children independence, which resulted in considerable problems for them.

As a composer, his contribution is less controversial. He willingly sacrificed his own career for that of his son, but some work survives.

But Leopold’s Cassation in G for Orchestra and Toys (Toy Symphony) is still popular, and there are a number of symphonies, a trumpet concerto, and some other works.

According to Grove, a contemporary report described what Leopold had composed prior to 1757 thus:

“many contrapuntal and other church items; further a great number of symphonies, some only à 4 but others with all the customary instruments; likewise more than 30 large serenades in which solos for various instruments appear. In addition he has brought forth many concertos, in particular for the transverse flute, oboe, bassoon, Waldhorn, trumpet etc.: countless trios and divertimentos for various instruments; 12 oratorios and a number of theatrical items, even pantomimes, and especially certain occasional pieces such as martial music … Turkish music, music with ‘steel keyboard’ and lastly a musical sleigh ride; not to speak of marches, so-called ‘Nachtstücke’ and many hundreds of minuets, opera dances and similar items.

He was interested in creating a naturalistic feel in is work. His Jagdsinfonie (or Sinfonia da Caccia for four horns and strings) requires the use of shotguns, and his Bauernhochzeit (Peasant Wedding) includes dulcimer, bagpipes, hurdy-gurdy, ‘whoops and whistles’ (ad. lib.) and pistol shots.

Much of his work is now lost, and scholars are only now beginning to assess the extent and quality of his compositions. Some of the work was wrongly attributed to Wolfgang, and vice versa. Much of what survives is light music, and it’s is not known how representitive this is of his output. There is some more substantial work in the Sacramental Litany in D major (1762) and three fortepiano sonatas, all of which were published in his lifetime, and Cliff Eisen describes in his doctoral dissertation on Leopold Mozart’s symphonies, that the G major symphony “compares favourably with those of virtually any of Mozart’s immediate contemporaries”.

Sources and further reading:

http://www.mozart.com/en/timeline/life/mozart-and-his-father/

https://commons.lib.jmu.edu/diss201019/92/

The State of the UK Music Industry in 2017

In October, we looked at options for study at Higher Education for those interested in studying music. This month, we look at the Music Industry in the UK thanks to UK Music and their Measuring Music 2017 and Wish You Were Here 2017 reports.

Each year, UK Music produce a report giving an overview of the UK Music Industry, exploring factors such as the value of the Music Industry and where revenues are being generated. It’s an exciting time for the UK Music Industry with a 6% growth in Total Gross Value Added (GVA) contribution in 2016, a total of £4.4 billion. This breaks down as £2bn from musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists, £1bn from live music (including festival organisers, ticketing agencies and venues), £640m from recorded music (including music labels and online music distribution), £474m from music publishing, £121m from music producers, recording studios and staff and £96m from music representatives (including collection societies, music managers and trade bodies).

Alongside the contribution to the UK, £2.5 billion was made in export revenue in 2016, with £946m generated by musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists.

For those thinking of entering the Music Industry, the report shows good news. Employment was up 19% in the sector in 2016 with 142,208 people employed within the UK Music Industry (up from 119,020 in 2015). This includes 89,800 musicians, composers, songwriters and lyricists from big name artists to lesser known musicians. Other large areas of employment include 28,538 people working in live music, 11,300 music producers, recording studios and staff and 9,100 working in recorded music. This really highlights the range of career opportunities across the sector.

The Live Music sector is a very important growth area for the UK Music Industry with a total audience of 30.9 million attending live music events in 2016, up 12% from 2015. This includes 27 million attending concerts and 3.9 million attending festivals in 2016. Of the attendees, 12.5 million people were music tourists in 2016, of these 823,000 were from overseas. The popularity of live music and music tourism in the UK means that 47,445 people are employed full time in music tourism.

While we might think of major festivals being key to music tourism, small venues are also vitally important to the music economy in the UK. 6.2 million people attended events at smaller music venues in 2016 with 107,000 of these being overseas music tourists. Sadly, numbers attending events at smaller venues are declining with a 13% drop in total audience for smaller venues in London last year leading to a 16% drop in spend at smaller venues.

This challenge is being address by the Music Venues Trust – http://www.musicvenuetrust.com, a registered charity, which was formed in January 2014 to protect the UK live music network by securing the long-term future of iconic grassroots music venues such as Hull Adelphi, Exeter Cavern, Southampton Joiners, The 100 Club, Band on the Wall and Tunbridge Wells Forum. However, Beverley Whitrick, Strategic Director of the Music Venues Trust emphasised

For the first time in ten years, the number of GMVs operating in London stabilised; the capital finished the year with the same number of spaces for new and emerging talent as at the start of the year, halting a 15-year decline in the number of spaces. This picture of a more stable sector was reflected across the UK, with regions reporting small but significant increases in audiences in the grassroots and small music venue sector.

The Measuring Music report also explores how people are accessing music. Drawing on findings by AudienceNet’s June 2017 survey, the report highlights the different ways various generations are accessing music. For example, radio accounted for just a tenth of 16-19 year old listening time, while on-demand streaming accounted for 62% of their total listening time 2017. However, for over 65s, more than 65% of their listening is via Radio, with 4% utilising on-demand streaming.

The report also highlights the importance of online access to music, with 31% of people using YouTube to listen to music and only 16% using Spotify and 15% CD. YouTube, Spotify, Apple Music and the combination of Amazon Prime Music and Amazon Music Unlimited hold 87% of the streaming market, according to the AudienceNet survey.

When exploring how people access music online, there are again inter-generational differences, with 59% of 16 to 19-year-olds using for Spotify or Apple Music against 33% who used YouTube for on-demand music with just 34% of the over-45s listening to the two most popular subscription services (Spotify and Apple Music) compared to 39% who get their music from YouTube.

Key highlights for the UK Music Industry include 20 million cumulative track streams in week one for the release of Stormzy ‘s Gang Signs and Prayer. Stormzy is the first grime artist to reach number 1 in the UK Album Charts.

Music is a vital part of the UK’s Economy and it’s continued development is vital. The UK really are world-leaders when it comes to music – did you know, one in every eight albums sold worldwide is by a British artist?


The Music Workshop Company team is passionate about music and music education. If you have any questions for us, would like to pick our brains about a career in music or are interested in booking a workshop, contact us today!

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