Father Mozart

Variations on “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” (1778) W. Mozart (1756-1791)

Wolfgang Mozart married Constanze Weber (1762–1842) when he was 28 — she was 22 — and together they had six children, only two of whom survived Wolfgang.

The elder son was Karl Thomas Mozart (1784-1858), a gifted pianist who turned his attention to commerce. His attempt to open a piano store failed, so he became an official in the service of the Austrian financial administration and the governmental accounting department in Milan. He also served as official Italian translator for the Austrian Court Chamber. He never married nor had children.

The other surviving son was Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (1791–1844), also known as “Wolfgang Jr.” He became a composer, pianist, conductor, and music teacher. Unlike his father, however, he was introverted and given to self-deprecation. He constantly underrated his talent and feared that whatever he produced would be compared with what his father had done. Consequently he composed only 30 opus numbers (compared to Wolfgang’s 600+). He too never married nor had children. And he couldn’t even escape his father’s shadow in death, as his tombstone reads: “May the name of his father be his epitaph, as his veneration for him was the essence of his life.”

Wolfgang’s death at age 35 left 29-year-old Constanze in debt (when debtor’s prison and not ‘bankruptcy’ was the fate of those who couldn’t pay their bills) — and with two young mouths to feed (5 months and 7 years old). At this point Constanze’s business skills kicked in: she obtained a pension from the emperor, organized profitable memorial concerts, and embarked on a campaign to publish the works of her late husband. These efforts gradually made her financially secure, and ultimately wealthy.

Six years after Wolfgang’s death, Georg Nikolaus von Nissen (1761–1826) — a Danish diplomat and writer — became Constanze’s tenant. A year later they moved in together, and 11 years later they married. They subsequently traveled throughout Europe for some 15 years, finally settling in Salzburg, where they worked on Wolfgang’s biography together. Constanze published it in 1828, two months after Georg’s death. She lived out her remaining 14 years with her sisters Aloysia and Sophie (also widowed), passing away peacefully at age 80.