PLEASE MEET MY FATHER, FRIDOLIN WEBER:
MOZART’S FATHER-IN-LAW SPEAKS--FRIDOLIN WEBER: MY PAGE:
Meine lieben Gaeste, please sit down and make yourselves comfortable.
It is nice that you have found your way to me for this short visit.
As Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s father-in-law,
I realize that I represent a footnote in his story.
I wish that I could have lived to witness my esteemed and genius son-in-law’s greatest musical triumphs. Though I am pleased to say that I knew Wolfgang well and witnessed how his unique genius had spouted many branches and buds, I unfortunately did not live long enough to experience the full fruition, the bearing of ripe, mature fruit.
Let me, dear guests, start at the very beginning of my story:
At the time of my birth in Zell im Wiesenthal in the Black Forest of Germany in 1733, Germany was not a country, but a collection of kingdoms, free city-states, and bishoprics. One of my brothers, Franz Anton (1734-1812), was a professional musician and the father of the composer Karl Maria von Weber. You might very well ask, meine lieben Gaeste, why the “von” in my famous nephew’s name, whereas it is lacking in my own?
Well, you see, the choice to exclude the “von” was entirely my own.
I believe myself to be a modest and unassuming person, and saw no reason to inflate myself with this cumbersome addition. I knew that my younger brother, Franz Anton, devoted himself wholeheartedly to the genealogy of our family. Franz Anton discovered that one of our ancestors, Johann Baptist Weber, had been ennobled by Ferdinand II in 1622. Franz Anton spent the whole of his life wandering about the German lands as a musician and actor. His son, Karl Maria, one of the earliest composers of the new Romantic Movement and born of my brother’s second wife when my brother was fifty years of age, used the “von” in his name.
In retrospect, I believe that my daughters would have welcomed my also using the “von”--as doors opened more readily in one’s career and in society, equipped with this magic “von” in one’s moniker.
My father, Fridolin Weber senior, was gifted with the talents of singing and making music on the violin, and I was fortunate to inherit these talents.
I had hoped to continue studying law at the University of Freiburg, but my father’s death intervened and put an end to my studies.
My father had in his youth worked as tutor to the future Baron Schoenau, who as a grown man betrayed my father’s trust and sued him on trumped-up charges. Luckily, my father won his suit and became financially independent for the remainder of his life.
My own life was to eerily mirror my father’s.
The very same Baron Schoenau employed me as a government official in Zell im Wiesenthal. During my employ there, I married my wife Caecilia, nee Stamm, and lived another seven years in Zell, during which time we had four daughters and a son, Johann, who alas passed from this life aged twenty years.
Then my father’s fate repeated itself, and the Baron likewise dismissed me erroneously. In fact, my family and I had to flee Zell in the middle of the night, and we moved to my wife’s hometown of Mannheim. As my father had done, I sued the Baron and won my case, but this time, remunerations were small, and I had to struggle to make ends meet and support my family.
I was blessed with a beautiful bass singing voice and professional skills on the violin, so I made my living as a Musiker at the Mannheim Court.
My salary was a measly 100 gulden a year, so I was forced also to moonlight at this same court as a theater prompter and music copyist. Even then, my family and I were in poor financial circumstances.
Let me tell you a little about my wife, Caecilia.
She has a strong personality; in fact, some would even call her domineering. I will say this about her—Caecilia is practical to the core, far more so than myself. She knows excellently how to economize and keep an eye on the financial purse strings. She darn well knows what she wants—and darned if she does not get her way, too. After all, who can say no to “The General”, as I at times often affectionately call Caecilia. I, on the other hand, am soft-spoken and mild-mannered and tend to take things in stride.
You know, I am still the master, let me assure you--but the master of current, topical events.
I take the lead in espousing how the world ought to be run, how our Buergermeister ought to keep our town’s slight crime at bay—and my wife, Caecilia, is the master—I mean—the mistress, the ruler—of our humble household—ja, the ruler of the roost!
My four daughters are my pride and joy, my dear guests.
The eldest, Josefa, is a good dependable girl with a heart of gold. She possesses such raw talent in her powerful soprano voice. And my second daughter, Aloysia--what a beauty, a born coquette, a breaker of men’s hearts, and also a talented singer and pianist. As a matter of fact, my wife and I perceived Aloysia, who garnered attention and acclaim wherever she set her dainty feet, as the savior of our financial plight, as the person, being a celebrated prima donna, who was in the position to rescue our family from poverty.
My third daughter, Constanze, is an angel with such a kind heart, so amenable, cheerful, and willing to please, so unselfish.
And my baby, Sophie, ach, what can I say about my youngest, my Nesthaeckchen, my little bird in the nest? Sophie is the apple of my eye and, of all my daughters, the one who is most in need of my attentions and loving reassurance. Sophie is the most affectionate and demonstrative, and loves to cuddle and hug me more readily than do my other daughters. How I treasure after a long day’s work to take my Sophie on my knee and read her fairytales and the children’s books my kin read to me long ago. If any of my other daughters are about and willing, they sit in a circle and also listen to my tales as I hold Sophie in my lap and read aloud.
I had no money to pay for private music and foreign language lessons for my daughters, so I took on the task of educating them myself--in voice, on the pianoforte, and in French and Italian.
And their natural talents blossomed.
At about this time, I met Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then a young man, already renown as a former musical prodigy and composer. Mozart and his mother were passing through Mannheim in his search for a permanent patron and position, and visited the Mannheim Court. They were set to continue to Paris, France, in that goal.
Because of my profession as a music copyist, I made Mozart’s acquaintance: He needed to have some of his music copied. We two hit it off almost immediately. Mozart and I often supped in a nearby tavern and conversed, getting to know one another well. The remarkable thing was that Mozart and I had the exact same thing in common: suffering unduly at the hands of our harsh aristocratic employers. Mozart suffered the confines of the bishopric of Salzburg under the hands of the dogmatic archbishop, Count Colloredo, whereas my father and I had been unjustly wronged by Baron Schoenau.
Mozart complained hotly that the Archbishop treated him as nothing more than a servant.
Mozart became a frequent guest in our home, almost like a member of our family.
He took a fancy to my second daughter, the dazzling Aloysia, and made excited plans to sponsor her and accompany her on a singing tour of Italy, which he would guide, and with me along as chaperon.
These hopeful and fine plans of Mozart’s came to naught, however, because Mozart’s father, Leopold Mozart, himself a long-time violinist and composer in the Archbishop’s service, strenuously objected and demanded in no uncertain terms that Mozart and his mother proceed forthwith to Paris!
I’ll tell you something, meine lieben Gaeste: During this period of our friendship, I am certain that Mozart regarded me as a father substitute, and I certainly felt towards him as my son.
Mozart meant to reassure his father that he was in capable, trustworthy hands as we three undertook a short journey together to perform for the Princess of Weilburg. Mozart wrote to his father, Leopold, that I am so very much in character and temperament like Leopold, that I talk like Leopold, that I have Leopold’s personality, and that I offer him the same sound, practical and wise council.
Mozart furthermore wrote to Leopold that I am like a father to him, and that Mozart indeed regards me as a second father.
Mozart added that he feels a brotherly affection for my four daughters, likening them in his heart to his own sister, Nannerl.
Writing thus about me was undoubtedly a big mistake on Mozart’s part, for Leopold was, I fear, seized with jealousy of me and fear that I would now replace Leopold Mozart as father, and in his son’s affections.
Leopold and Nannerl both must have likewise felt a stirring of jealousy that my daughters would now usurp the position of loving sisters to Mozart that was Nannerl's birthright alone, and one Nannerl held dear.
The Webers would thus become Mozart's new and adopted family.
Leopold reacted with anger and vexation: "That would certainly not do at all!" is what he must have thought.
Therefore, Leopold Mozart demanded that Mozart and his mother set off immediately for Paris as originally planned.
My dear friends, that was unfortunately one of the last times that Mozart and I were to meet, though it was only the beginning of the linking together forever of the Webers and the Mozarts; the destinies of our two families henceforth would be forever entwined.
Our Mannheim Elector then inherited the Electorship of Bavaria and chose to move his entire court to this larger kingdom, whose capital town was Munich. Thus our family moved to Munich, and I continued to work for a little over one year as Musiker in the court orchestra. Though by now, my gifted daughter, Aloysia, was fulfilling her potential as prima donna--and was the toast of Munich!
Her new acclaim afforded our family a more comfortable lifestyle, free from want.
At this time in the dead of winter, my dear friend Mozart again came into our lives.
He arrived at our home directly from his stay in Paris, where he sadly had to bury his beloved mother.
Mozart was then on the return journey to his hometown of Salzburg.
Mozart became aware at this point that his infatuation for Aloysia was unrequited, but his friendship and attachment to my third daughter, Constanze, here took root. I perceived Constanze’s pleasure in Mozart’s company and her deepening attachment to him.
Aloysia, however, then obtained a more prestigious position as prima donna at the Emperor’s Court Theater, the Court Opera, in Vienna, so again, our family followed Aloysia’s blossoming singing career to the Habsburg capital, a much larger and more cosmopolitan town than the provincial and laid-back Munich.
Aloysia even secured for me the position of cashier at the Court Theater.
I loved strolling around Vienna, and during one of my promenades, I succeeded in securing a singing job for my oldest daughter, Josefa—getting her foot in the door, so to speak--with the Volksoper, situated in an outlying district of town.
Life was good. At last, we could enjoy the fruits of our hard labor.
But then, barely one month after our move to Vienna, I suffered a severe attack of apoplexy and was called to the Lord, aged only six-and-forty years.
After my premature passing, Constanze, my third daughter, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart were united in marriage in a love-match, a deep mutual love, which remained ever fresh and affectionate.
My friends—ach, I was not fated or permitted to live long enough to see my son-in-law Mozart’s music become immortal.
How I wish I could have remained beside my dear family in Vienna and continued to be a part of their world!
But my seed—Fridolin Weber’s seed—sprouted precious fruit, quite apart from my many descendants: inspiration for Mozart’s sublime music.
You know, some of Mozart’s best music from his later years bears the stamp of my dear daughter, Constanze’s, influence, her love and devotion.
I am glad that my dear Constanze was Mozart’s mainstay and his muse.
"MOZART’S FATHER-IN-LAW SPEAKS--FRIDOLIN WEBER: MY PAGE" is the exclusive property of Marti Burger, and is not to be reprinted without
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"MOZART’S FATHER-IN-LAW SPEAKS--FRIDOLIN WEBER: MY PAGE"
© Marti Burger 2003-2008