Page 10, 4th June 1937

4th June 1937
Page 10
Page 10, 4th June 1937 — MOZART'S RELIGION Points For Biographers

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Organisations: Freemasonry
Locations: Vienna, Rome


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MOZART'S RELIGION Points For Biographers

2et:r4"... CZ. /1-121-; I try as far as I can to keep music out of these letters; at any rate musical criticism. But my topic this week must be Mr. Ede 13/0M'S " musical biography e of Mozart, which has just come to an end, and has raised, as I suspected it would, a point of interest to the general listener, particularly if he is a Catholic.

Mr. Blom, like most of the biographers, seemed to imply that Mozart gave up his religion (i.e., Catholicism) in his later years and that he took to freemasonry as though freemasonry, in Mozart's case, implied a change of faith.

I noticed. too, the common implication that this change of faith, if it was one, is not really very important. Mr. Sacheverell Sitwell, for example, says; " Yet they never sent for the priests: perhaps his masonic interests had spoiled his faith."

That they had spoiled it to the extent of blunting one edge of it, there is no doubt. Actually, not Mozart himself, but his wife's sister did send for a priest, but he arrived too late. Mozart died without the Last Sacraments. One feels that Mr. Sitwell and Mr. Blom regard this as interesting, perhaps, hut nothing more; rather as if they were telling us he was unable to afford a night nurse.

What Biographies Omit

The general listener, then, knows about Mozart that he was a Catholic living in a Catholic land; that he became a freemason; and that he died without a priest. A Catholic who wants to know a little more about it will seek information in vain from the standard biographies, simply because the facts that would enlighten him are not thought to be of any significance.

To take an example; it is known that in the very year he died Mozart, candle in hand, walked in the Procession of the Blessed Sacrament in Vienna on Trinity Sunday. This does not look like the act of a man who had lost the Faith or who a few months later would have refused the ministrations of a priest, had the priest come in time.

There is not the faintest evidence that Mozart's mind altered during those months; his Catholicism, whcrtever it amounted to, that Trinity Sunday, and his Catholicism on his death-bed were the same.

But the standard biographies waste no time over small matters of this sort, any more than they take the trouble to explain the title of his Coronation Mass, which had nothing to do with the crowning of an Emperor but had everything to do with the Assumption of Our Lady; stilt less to connect it with a pilgrimage Mozart made to a shrine of Our Lady and with the fulfilment of a vow.

By standard biographies I mean those commonly available to the average enquirer, (M. Henri Gheon's is hardly available, owing to its price, and its usefulness, in the English translation is greatly impaired by the shameful absence of an index.)

Mozart's Freemasonry

With regard to his freemasonry, the first point to note is that freemasonry in Mozart's lifetime and freemasonry as it developed after his death are vastly different things. Haydn, for instance, was a freemason; and nobody is going to question Haydn's Catholicism.

Mozart's father, a bigot if ever there was one, was a freemason. Among the clergy, both religious and secular, and the episcopate too, were many who were free masons. And as I have just mentioned M. Gheon I will quote a sentence of his which may interest those who are puzzled by it all.

" Whether the inspirers of the movement—supposing it were not the devil— were ignorant of the fact that bit by bit it would tend to oppose Humanity to Christianity, to substitute itself for the religion of Rome and finally wage a deadly war against it, or whether they concealed their real design beneath a hypocritical politeness I am unfit to decide."

Certainly there was no opposition in Mozart's mind, which was incapable of intellectual argument on a matter of this sort, between this new humanitarian mysticism and the faith in which he was bred. If there is one thing more luminous about him than anything else it was his child-like trust in God; he would have appreciated a saying of St. Aelred's that it is the right of a Christian not to fear death, for, as his letters show, he had simply no fear of death whatever. It was a sceptical age.

Mozart moved in a world in which faith was cold and practice unedifying. There was little to attract him or instruct b'm Or comfort him in the Catholicism of Vienna. He wanted something; and he found it in freemasonry; but he would have scorned any suggestion that he was no longer a Catholic Christian.

The Baroque Period

Mr. Blom did well to point out the change that came over Mozart's religious music after he became a mason, though he persists in calling the masses " operatic."

It is not the best word. The churches themselves were " operatic," if you must use it, and the boudoir of the grandduchess arid the altar-pieces and everything else you looked at and listened to.

The word that binds them all together is properly baroque. Mr. Sitwell was the first of Mozart's biographers to point that out, and his life of Mozart is more serviceable to the general listener than anything the music critics have written for him.

You may wonder what Mozart's religion had to do with a " musical biography." Well, of course, it was not a "musical biography " at all. There is no such thing. You can't separate a man's musical development from his spiritual development, try as you may; and the circumstances of his life—poverty and prosperity, failure and success—have all to be taken into account. Mr. Blom was bound to introduce Mozart's freemasonry, if only to account for the influence it had over his music.

If I have any quarrel with Mr. Blom it is that he was continually shifting from one audience to another. When he was drawing attention to Mozart's " elaborately polyphonic variations " in one work, his " restlessness in expioring different keys " in another, his " use of oboes and clarinets together " in a third, he was addressing a small minority audience of musical students (because experienced musicians know such things already, or ought to); but when he was dealing with the circumstances of Mozart's life, such as his poverty and his religion, he was addressing the general listener. Surely it should be possible to address both audiences at the same time in language both can understand?

Mozart's Masonic Funeral March and the Requiem can be explained with reference to the freemasonry that inspired them without using exclusively the word polyphonic. I think Mr. Blom paid too much deference to his minority audience; which shows once again that the music critic, and especially one who is so concentrated by his immense knowledge, as Mr. Blom is, on the technical side of music, is not the general listener's 'best friend, Sincerely yours,

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