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2006: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and Dresden

In 2006 Dresden will be commemorating Mozart’s birth with a Mozart Year – The famous composer visited the city in 1789

In 2006 the world will be commemorating the birth of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Salzburg on 27th January 1756. Dresden will also be honouring the great composer whose music has thrilled countless generations for more than 250 years. Mozart himself was thrilled with Dresden as a major centre of art and culture on the Elbe where he spent some pleasant days.

Mozart travelled to Dresden to take up a career at the court of the Prussian King Frederick William II. Here he hoped to fill up his cash reserves as his extravagant life style had almost left him penniless.

Mozart actually only wanted to stop off in Saxony. And although the Saxon Court really enjoyed music, it was still suffering from the aftermath of the Seven-Years’-War. This can be seen in the fact that the court’s director of music, Johann Gottlieb Naumann, had revived the musical life in Dresden after the war with far less funds than Johann Adolf Hasse had had several years before. Saxony was therefore hardly in a position to be able to afford a world star such as Mozart for major projects. Mozart spent the Easter holidays in Dresden.

He came to Dresden on 12th April 1789 as the companion of Prince Lichnowski and stayed at the Hôtel de Pologne, formerly the most exclusive hotel in Dresden (Schlossstr.7 / Grosse Brüdergasse). Here on 13th April he worked on the production of his own chamber music including the first performance of the trio E major KV 542.

The hotel was destroyed during the Second World War. This is where today a bistro next to the Royal Palace provides visitors with a quick meal. The former court director of music, Johann Gottlieb Naumann (1741 - 1801), who regarded Mozart’s music very highly, attended to Mozart during his stay in Dresden.

Conversely this seemed to be less the case as Mozart was so aware of his own abilities that except for the past master Johann Sebastian Bach, whom he honoured a few days later in Leipzig, there was hardly a fellow composer whom he did not pick to pieces.

Mozart took part in a competition playing on the Silbermann organ of the former Court Church, today’s Catholic cathedral, on 15. April 1789. In 2002 the organ was completely restored in its old style. In the summer the organ always plays on Wednesdays and Saturdays at 11.30 a.m. and during the whole year during the church services.

It is not only during the Mozart Year that the chapel boys’ choir, which was founded by Augustus the Strong, and the cathedral choir cultivate the church music of the master from Salzburg. Mozart even played twice at the Dresden royal court at the Royal Palace: in the evening of the 14th and on the morning of the 15th.

There he was given a “very handsome lidded box” from the Saxon elector, as Mozart later told his wife Konstanze. This box probably also contained a considerable amount of money as later sources indicate, only that the master preferred not to mention this additional income to his strict spouse. Mozart also attended an opera performance.

On either the 16th and/or the 17th of April he was a guest of the family of Christian Gottfried Körner (lawyer and writer) at Kohlmarkt, today’s Palaisplatz (this is where Körner’s sister-in-law, Dorothea Stock drew a portrait of him with silver-paint). Two years earlier Körner had been the host to the famous writer Friedrich Schiller (1785-1787).

Next Mozart travelled to Leipzig where he played his music at the Gewandhaus before continuing his journey to Berlin and Potsdam. Frederick William II of Prussia, a music-lover who also played the flute and composed music, let Mozart wait for quite long time before he received him only to discharge him without having given him an order.

Although he returned home disappointed, he would still have had pleasant memories of Dresden and Saxony. In a similar manner, the memory of Mozart in Dresden lingers on to this very day.

The Dresden director of the court music, Carl Maria von Weber, was one of the first to perform Mozart’s operas in Dresden. He was also even indirectly related to Mozart: Weber’s wife Caroline Brandt and Mozart’s wife Konstanze both came from the same family in Mannheim. And as a child, Weber carried out his studies of composition under the direction of Michael Haydn in Mozart’s home town, Salzburg, which has been Dresden’s sister city in Austria since 1991.

As a large monument, Mozart’s portrait already adorns the first royal theatre which Gottfried Semper built in 1841. The Dresden sculptor Ernst Rietschel created it. Since it was no longer used during the construction of the current Semper Opera House in 1876, the monument has now been incorporated in the Dresden Albertinum.

At the suggestion of the international Mozarteum foundation in Salzburg, the Dresdner Mozartverein (Dresden Mozart Society), the oldest amateur orchestra of the city, was founded in 1896. The Mozart monument, which is also called the Mozart Fountain, on the Bürgerwiese domain in Dresden was created in 1907 by the Berlin sculptor Hermann Hosaeus who had been commissioned by the Society. Three golden female figures who are dancing around the name „Mozart“ represent gracefulness, earnestness und beauty


Hotel de Pologne

The Hotel de Pologne (destroyed in 1945) in the early 19th century.

Copyright: SLUB


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in a letter to his wife Konstanze:

Dresden, 16th April 1789, at night at around half 12 midnight. My beloved and dearest little woman! How? – Still in Dresden? – Yes, my Love; I want to tell you everything down to the last detail. After we had breakfast at Neumanns we went to the chapel at the court, the service which was being performed by Naumann (which he conducted himself) – was quite mediocre;

we were in an oratory across from the music when all of a sudden Neumann nudged me and introduced me to a certain Mr von König who is the director of the pleasures (the pitiful electoral pleasures); he was quite well behaved, and when asked if I didn’t want to perform for His Highness, I answered that although it would be an honour for me, I could not stay since it was not for me alone to decide.

So that’s how things remained; - my royal travel companion invited the Neumanns including Duschek to lunch: during the meal a message arrived saying that I was to play on the following day, that is Tuesday, the 14th, in the early evening at half 6 at the royal court.

That is something quite extraordinary around here, because usually you don’t get the chance of being heard here and as you know, I wasn’t even thinking of this place. – We had arranged for a quartette à l’hôtel de Pologne at our place.

This was arranged in the chapel with Antoine Teyber (who, as you know, is the organist here) and with Mr Kraft (violin cellist of Prince Exterházy), who is here with his son; I made a threesome of this group, which I ascribe to Mr v.Ouchberg, -It was performed quite nicely. –

Duschek sang quite a bit from “Figaro” and “Don Juan”; - The other day I played the new concert in D major at court; the following day, Wednesday, the 15th in the morning, I was given quite a handsome lidded box; - We then ate at the Russian envoy’s place whilst I played.

After the meal we arranged to play on an organ. We drove there at 4 – Naumann was there too. – Now you should know that this is where a certain Hässler (he is the organist in Erfurt) plays the organ; he was also there; - he is a student of Bach; his forte is the organ and the piano (clavichord).

The people here think that since I’m from Vienna that I’m not familiar with this fine art and this way of playing. – So I seated myself at the organ and began to play. – Prince Lichnowski (since he knows Hässler well) made an effort to get him to play too; - Hässler’s forte consists of playing the organ with his feet which however since the pedals here are arranged in steps is no big deal; by the way, he has only learned harmony and modulation by heart from the old Sebastian Bach, he can’t perform a decent fugue – and he’s not a sound performer – therefore he’s anything but an Albrechtsberger.

– After this we decided to go back to the Russian envoy to give Hässler a chance to hear me on the fortepiano. – Hässler also played. – I also think that Auernhammer is just as good at the fortepiano; you can imagine that his esteem dropped considerably.

– After this we went to the opera which is quite pathetic; - you’ll never guess who is also singing here – Rosa Manservisi, - you can imagine how pleased she was. – By the way, the first singer is Allegrandi, much better than Ferarese; - but that doesn’t mean very much.

– We went home after the first opera. And now for me the happiest moment of the day came when I found your letter which I had longed for so very much, my Sweet Darling!


Silbermann Organ

The Silbermann Organ in the Dresden Cathedral, which was played by Mozart in 1789.

Photograph by Silvio Dittrich / DWT

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