The late 18th century was an incredibly prolific period for the classical music.
Many genial composers across Europe wrote outstanding pieces of music which remain an eternal legacy and an inspiration to artists and listeners throughout the world. One of the most esteemed musical forms was the opera, and late 18th century saw the rise of some of the most renowned opera composers.
Antonio Salieri was a prodigal Italian composer who brought the form of the opera to a new level. He composed 37 operas in three languages: French, Italian, and German. Although he was born in Italy, in his late youth he moved to Vienna, then the capital of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He became the official composer of the court and an authority of musical taste.
Besides composing operas, Salieri wrote numerous pieces of chamber music and sacred music. He was held in such high esteem that many musical prodigies of the time learned from him and incorporated his vision of aesthetics into their works. At different times in his life, he was the private personal tutor of Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert and Ludwig van Beethoven, composers whose fame eventually greatly exceeded his own.
Despite Salieri’s huge and undeniable influence, contemporary lovers of classical music rarely speak of him in a positive tone. Popular culture usually depicts him as an outdated, old-fashioned and traditional composer who opposed the progressiveness of Mozart and hindered his work. Namely, the two composers were contemporaries, and many seminal pieces of popular culture, including Miloš Forman’s acclaimed film Amadeus, go to great lengths to represent their artistic feud as a thunderous conflict full of treachery and envy.
In fact, the feud between Mozart and Salieri was not nearly as grandiose as it is depicted in popular culture. In the letters to his father, Mozart complained that Salieri “is the only one who counts in the Emperor’s eyes,” and that the court favored Italian musical influence over German school of classical music.
Also, Mozart accused Salieri of trickery, and this accusation was brought to public attention only decades after Mozart’s death when rumors started circulating that he had been poisoned by Salieri. However, these accusations were unfounded and were most likely a product of sensationalistic historical gossips.
Sadly, the contemporary popular culture has turned Salieri into a stain on the face of classical music.
Salieri’s and Mozart’s artistic principles greatly differed, and Mozart was undeniably a greater musical revolutionary than Salieri, but the stories of their fiery feud are mostly products of sensationalistic exaggerations.