Saturday, February 10, 2018

Lieder und Gesänge: The Beating Heart of Johannes Brahms

Lieder und Gesänge: The Beating Heart of Johannes Brahms
Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Brahms' output of vocal music was greater than that of the instrumental music he composed. He wrote numerous Lieder (German Art Songs) and Gesänge (Songs) throughout his life, from early gems at age 19, to the succinct and powerful Four Serious Songs (Vier ernste Gesänge) a few months before he died, at the age of 64 in 1897.

A third of Brahms' songs were in simple strophic form (each verse the same), a third were through-composed (each verse set differently), and a third were in what could be called "variable strophic" form, a style which Brahms perfected, taking the genre farther than Schubert had done. The through-composed pieces Brahms tended to label as Gesänge, indicating compositions of a larger scale than those he called Lieder.

A number of these musical jewels burst from Brahms' beating heart, as much as his fertile mind, passionate outbursts of love, wondrous songs, songs to commemorate his deep and abiding love for his brilliant friend and intimate confidant, the pianist Clara Schumann, but also, at different moments in his life, his infatuation with Hermine Spies, his passion (almost to marry) Agathe von Siebold, his ardor for Rosa Girzick, and his yearning, his Sehnsucht, for the magnificent Elisabeth von Herzogenberg.

It has been said that one need only listen to Brahms' vocal chamber music to fully understand his complex genius in his symphonic and concerto masterpieces.

After listening to the peerless soprano Lucia Popp with the estimable Geoffrey Parsons, piano, in a sublime set of Brahms Lieder und Gesange, I would agree.

Duccio and His Masterpiece of Humanism

One of the great masterpieces of western Art and, at the time of its purchase, quietly through Christie’s in London in November, 2004, the most expensive work of Art ever purchased by the Met (circa 50 million USD), this small, intimate painting by Duccio is a marvel.

The modernity of this work, astonishing for a painting crafted in the year 1300 C.E, even as it retains its Byzantine iconography in the rendering of the Madonna's head and herelongated fingers, is stunning. 

The Madonna's beautiful, ovalic face and almond-shaped eyes, the delicacy of Her veil, the way the infant Jesus, here already almost adult-like, touches it, his right hand hidden behind its folds, the Madonna's fingers folding the bottom of His robe, Her realistic gaze towards Him, the ineffable modeling of their visages, create an immediacy, a vitality, to a work of Art that is over 700 hundred years old.

In one bold move, Duccio takes us from devotion and veneration, Byzantine and Gothic 

artistic motifs, squarely into the Dantesque realm of Humanism, into the psychological dimension between Madonna and Christ, between mother and child, between love and human touch.

The last three times that I stood in front of this masterpiece, in one of the early Renaissance rooms at the top of the stairs on the left, I was the only person in the room (everyone else must have been looking at the van Goghs and the Monets). 

It was just me, Duccio and eternity.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


How and Where did Beethoven channel Mozart ?

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart and Ludwig van Beethoven. Two of the greatest composers in history. Two composers who mastered Viennese Classical Style. Two composers who took Classicism to its apotheosis, and then, with Beethoven, opened the door to Romanticism, the door that Mozart knocked on. Two composers inextricably linked together, historically and stylistically.
Yet, Beethoven and Mozart most likely never met. Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen, in his detailed commentary in Hermann Abert's magisterial 1921 biography of Mozart, (edited and annotated in 2007), points out that the only time in which both composers were even in the same place, were a few weeks in the spring of 1787, when both were in Vienna. Beethoven arrived in the Habsburg capital some time in the first week of April, at the behest of his patrons in Bonn, with the express purpose of meeting and studying with Mozart. However, he had to leave abruptly only a few weeks later, to attend to his severely ill mother back in Bonn.

In April, 1787, Beethoven was an unknown sixteen year-old piano prodigy. Mozart was 31, well established in Vienna as a composer, pianist, violist, organist, conductor and piano pedagogue.

In 1856, sixty-nine years after those April weeks in 1787, the Mozart biographer Otto Jahn commented in his monumental Mozart biography that "it was communicated to me in Vienna on good authority that Beethoven may have played piano at a recital at which Mozart attended."

Here is Jahn: "....Beethoven made his appearance in Vienna as a young musician in the spring of 1787, but was only able to remain there a short time; he was introduced to Mozart, and played to him at his request. Mozart, considering the piece he performed to be a studied show-piece, was somewhat cold in his expressions of admiration. Beethoven, noticing this, begged for a theme for improvisation, and, inspired by the master he revered so highly, played in such a manner as to gradually engross Mozart's whole attention. Turning quietly to bystanders, he (Mozart) said emphatically, "Mark that young man; he will make a name for himself in the world...."

This second-hand anecdote is the only written comment we have about the putative meeting of the two great musicians. 

However, there is no contemporary document to corroborate the meeting. There is no letter written by Beethoven to commemorate it. Mozart does not describe an encounter with Beethoven in any of the copious correspondence that has been left to posterity. 
The authoritative Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians does not describe the meeting. 
Beethoven himself never mentioned or wrote that he had ever met Mozart or had ever played for him. Someone of Beethoven's enormous self-confidence and ego would likely have documented such a monumental event. 
He never did.
Carl Czerny and Ferdinand Ries, two of Beethoven's piano students and among his closest friends, disagreed as to whether Beethoven and Mozart had ever met.

Even if Beethoven  never greeted Mozart in person, and even if Beethoven never played in Mozart's presence, there is no doubt that Mozart's music had a profound influence on Beethoven's creative process.

One of the more famous anecdotes of Mozart's "effect" on Beethoven is found in Alexander Wheelock Thayer's monumental biography of Beethoven. It concerns Beethoven and the great fortepianist Johann Baptist Cramer. At an Augarten concert in Vienna, they were seated next to each other, listening to a performance of Mozart's c minor piano concerto, KV 491. Upon hearing the lovely motif in the coda to the finale, Beethoven turned to his friend and exclaimed, "Cramer ! Cramer ! We shall never be able to do anything like that." (In actuality, it was the motif in the first movement of the concerto that had caught Beethoven's attention, but Thayer cannot be faulted, as he had heard this story only from Cramer's widow, as Cramer himself died shortly before Thayer made his third trip from the United States to Europe in 1858 to continue his Beethoven research).

Mozart's influence on Beethoven was deep and long, and is evident in several of Beethoven's compositions:

Beethoven used a motif from Mozart's 40th Symphony KV. 550 in his Fifth Symphony (the third movement of which opens with a theme similar to one of Mozart's).

The musicologist Charles Rosen hears Mozart's Piano Concerto in c minor, KV. 491, within Beethoven's 3rd Piano Concerto in the same tonic.

A prominent example of Beethoven channeling Mozart can be heard in the many similarities between Mozart's sublime Quintet for Piano and Winds in Eb, KV. 452, and Beethoven's quintet for the same instrumental combination and in the same tonic of Eb, Op. 16.

Mozart's  A major String Quartet, KV. 464, was a source for Beethoven's A major String Quartet Op. 18 No. 5.

Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, KV. 457, was a  model for Beethoven's "Pathétique" Sonata, Op. 13, in the same key. 

Beethoven wrote cadenzas (WoO 58) to the first and third movements of Mozart's piano concerto in d minor, KV. 466.

Beethoven wrote four sets of variations on themes by Mozart:
1) "Se vuol ballare" from Le Nozze di Figaro, for piano and violin, WoO 40 (1792–3);
2) "Là ci darem la mano" from Don Giovanni, for two oboes and cor anglais, WoO 28 (?1795);
3)  "Ein Mädchen oder Weibchen" from The Magic Flute, for piano and cello, Op. 66 (?1795);
4)  "Bei Männern welche Liebe fühlen" from the same opera, for piano and cello, WoO 46 (1801).

Beethoven paid homage to Mozart's Don Giovanni (specifically, the opening theme of Leporello's aria, ‘Notte e giorno faticar’) in the 22nd of his monumental Diabelli Variations.

We can hear Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" motif decades earlier, in Mozart's 1775 gem, Misericordias Domini KV. 222 (listen particularly closely at 1:00 and 5:10)
We can hear Beethoven's Eroica Symphony theme almost forty years earlier, in the overture to Mozart's 1768 opera, Bastien and Bastienne, KV 50.

Did Beethoven actually hear these last two Mozart's compositions, or was this an example of what In have termed "convergent musical evolution"? Likely, Beethoven did not see the manuscripts or hear performances of this two pieces. he independently conjured these simple and enduring themes.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Waterbury Symphony Orchestra welcomes new Executive Director

by Vincent P. de Luise MD
May 15,2017

The Waterbury Symphony Orchestra (WSO) has named Robert Cinnante as its new Executive Director, beginning May 3rd, 2017. Mr. Cinnante brings a strong background of experience in arts administration to his role. As Executive Director, Mr. Cinnante will provide leadership and vision, to fulfill the orchestra’s mission and achieve its goals of artistic excellence, financial stability, development, and community engagement.

Robert Cinnante, the new Executive Director
of the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra

Mr. Cinnante hails from Holbrook, Long Island. He received his Bachelor’s degree and Master’s degree in Music - Classical Vocal Performance - from the New England Conservatory (NEC)  in Boston. As an undergraduate at NEC, he trained with the renowned tenor Vinson Cole, and during his Master’s degree years, he coached with Patricia Misslin, best known for her work with soprano Renee Fleming and mezzo-soprano Stephanie Blythe.
During and after his years at NEC, Mr. Cinnante collaborated with famed violist Kim Kashkashian at Music for Food, a musician-led initiative for hunger relief, where he served as General Manager. He also regularly acts as a consultant to artists and arts organizations, including flutist James Galway, the Formosa String Quartet, the Triple Helix Piano Trio, and the Virginia Commonwealth University’s Global Summer Institute of Music.
Cinnante comes to the WSO from Virginia Opera, a professional opera company with mainstage operations in Richmond, Norfolk and Fairfax, where he served as Statewide Director of Education and Outreach. 
Cinnante is committed to engaging and connecting the greater Waterbury community through music, education and outreach. “The Arts have enriched my life in more ways than I realize, and continue to do so. Therefore, it is my desire to create opportunities for others to enjoy enriching experiences through the Arts,” says Cinnante. 
To this end are the continuation of and support for the long-standing and nationally recognized El Sistema-inspired Bravo Waterbury! string instrument education program, and a new series of five concerts by the WSO during the 2017-2018 season that will be performed in “Great Spaces” throughout the region, in addition to the WSO’s regular season in its home base in the Leever Auditorium at Naugatuck Valley Community College.  These musical excursions will take listeners beyond the concert hall and into venues in Connecticut that represent an artistic collaboration of sound and structure. From historic homes and magnificent churches to art galleries and distilleries, each of these spaces creates a unique bond between artist and audience.
At 28 years of age, Cinnante is arguably the youngest full-time Executive Director of an orchestra in the United States. WSO artistic director and conductor, Maestro Leif Bjaland, is enthusiastic about Mr. Cinnante’s coming on board as Executive Director: “I am absolutely delighted that Robert Cinnante will be joining the WSO family. He has an excellent background in the arts, and is extremely knowledgeable of all genres of music. I believe he will be a tremendous asset to the WSO as well as the entire Waterbury arts community.”

@2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Saturday, May 13, 2017


by Vincent P. de Luise MD

Euterpe, the Muse of Music
Oil on canvas, by Egide Gottfried Guffens (1823 - 1901)

Submitted for your delectation is an elegant portrait of the Muse of Music, Euterpe (Greek, "eu"= "well" + "terpein" = "to delight" i.e. "She who delights well"). 

Euterpe is always depicted in sculpture and painting as playing a musical instrument. What instrument might this be? It is often incorrectly stated that it is a double flute. 

In fact, what Euterpe is playing are the Auloi (singular "Aulos"), which are ancient reed instruments, forerunners of the single-reed chalumeau, which morphed into the clarinet; the double-reed oboe; and the bagpipe's chanter.

"Dulciloquos calamos Euterpe flatibus urget"
"Euterpe pushes forth, with her breathing, the sweet-speaking cane reed"

Indeed, we have it directly from the fourth century Roman poet and physician Ausonius in the banner inscription in the painting above, to the left of Euterpe. Ausonios writes (from his Idylls: Book XX):

"Dulciloquos calamos Euterpe flatibus urget" 

This translates as: "Euterpe pushes forth, with her breathing, the sweet-speaking reed cane"

The Latin word "calamos," and its Greek antecedent "kalamos," refer to a "reed"' or "cane" (not a flute). The Latin inscription supports the thesis that the Auloi that Euterpe is playing are reed instruments. The term calamos became the French word chalumeau, pl. chalumeaux), an early single reed instrument.

Modern reconstructions of ancient chalumeaux 

There were several kinds of Aulos - those with a single reed and those with a double reed. The most common variety was a single reed instrument similar to the chalumeau above. Archaeological finds and related surviving iconography indicate that there were also double-reed Auloi, prototypes of the modern oboe.

The sound of the Aulos has been described as "penetrating and insistent," more akin to a bagpipe, whose chanter is a double reed pipe. 

The modern clarinet was invented and further developed in the early 1700s in Nuremberg in the workshop of Johann Christoph Denner and Sons. The Denners took the single reed chalumeau, added a register key, overblowing a twelfth, thus allowing for another octave and a half of diatonic notes. 

A modern reconstruction of one an early Denner clarinet.
It is essentially a chalumeau to which is added a register key (not visible) near the mouthpiece.

Reed instruments are either idioglot, wherein the reed is built into the wood pipe itself, or heteroglot, in which the reed is attached to a mouthpiece separate from the clarinet itself. 

Early 18th century clarinets from the workshop of Johann Denner and Sons, Nuremberg.

Today's clarinets are heteroglot. Auloi were idioglot instruments, i.e., the reed was built into the mouthpiece itself. Looking carefully at Euterpe's Auloi, you can see a slit in each Aulos in the part of the pipe closest to her mouth. Within the slits are vibrating pieces of cane (reeds).

What is exciting about all of this, to clarinetists as myself, is that Euterpe, the Muse of Music, was herself a clarinetist ! 
Now that is something very special :)
Ars longa !

@2017 Vincent DeLuise MD

Sunday, April 23, 2017


Ode to Joy
Beethoven's Ninth Symphony
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D. 

This essay was written as Program Notes for the April 22, 2017 performance of Beethoven's ninth symphony, the Symphony in d minor, Op 125, "Choral, by the Waterbury Symphony Orchestra, the Connecticut Choral Society, the New Jersey Choral Society Camerata and the Naugatuck Valley Community College Choir, under the direction of Maestro Leif Bjaland.

Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827)
by Ferdinand Georg Waldmuller (1823)

Ludwig van Beethoven’s ninth symphony, the “Choral,” is one of the greatest artistic achievements of western civilization. It is a celebration of hope and joy, a transcendent masterpiece crafted by a composer who could not hear his magisterial creation. It is an extraordinary, monumental, complex, and powerful work that continues to challenge musicians, soloists, choruses, and listeners, as it celebrates the most wondrous shared dreams of humanity, of community, of happiness, of freedom, together “beneath the starry realm.”

Beethoven first began to notice hearing loss in 1796, at the age of 26; he would live with progressive deafness for thirty more years. In 1802, he wrote an anguished letter to his brothers, Carl and Johann, the manifesto known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, a letter that he never sent, telling them of the despair he felt at this painfully ironic turn of events, that he of all people was going deaf ! deaf !, and explaining in heart-wrenching detail what this would mean for him. How was he going to perform as a pianist? to conduct? How was he going to practice his Art? Resolute and defiant, he would do so, bringing to bear his indefatigable work ethic and indomitable spirit against that implacable enemy, deafness.

What is the relationship between illness and creativity? Beethoven’s genius birthed Romanticism. He blew wide open the door that Mozart had earlier knocked on. The year was 1805; the composition was his third symphony, “Eroica” (“Heroic”). Yet, it was Beethoven’s deafness after 1819 that led him into a new and private sound world, a tonal universe totally in his mind. Within that solitary and lonely space, Beethoven composed an extraordinary corpus of music that took Romanticism into another realm. Would posterity have had this majestic ninth symphony, the sublime Missa Solemnis, the ineffable late string quartets and piano sonatas, in the melodic and harmonic form we know them, had Beethoven had normal hearing? Beethoven's spirituality also played a role in these final, greatest and most remarkable compositions. Genius is often the result of an artist overcoming a life challenge, vanquishing their demons. Beethoven fought illness throughout his life, and triumphed. As you listen, watch and are uplifted this evening, think about Beethoven’s mind, his spirit, his courage, his Art. 

The genesis of the ninth symphony began early in Beethoven's life. In 1790, he began setting to music a 1786 poem and drinking song by Friedrich Schiller, an die Freude (" to Joy"). His 1795 Lied (german art song), Gegenliebe ("Returned Love"), already contained the motif that he would later employ as the Ode to Joy theme. In 1808, Beethoven wrote a groundbreaking composition for piano, orchestra and chorus, the Choral Fantasia, whose theme is also reminiscent of the Ode to Joy. Beethoven himself acknowledged the kinship of the two works; he described the ninth symphony's last movement as a "setting of the words of Schiller's immortal Lied, an die Freude, in the same way as my pianoforte fantasia with chorus, but on a far grander scale." The Ode to Joy motif can be found earlier, in Mozart's Misericordias Domini of 1775; however, it is highly unlikely that Beethoven ever heard the work or saw the autograph. Rather, it is a form of "convergent musical evolution" which led Mozart and Beethoven independently to conceive the melody, which speaks to its simplicity and universality.

The Philharmonic Society of London had commissioned the ninth symphony in 1817. Beethoven worked on it intermittently for years, while battling constant intestinal maladies, completing the score in 1824, only after he had finished composing the massive Diabelli Variations (dedicated to his "Immortal Beloved, likely Antonie Brentano), and the Missa Solemnis

Upset at how he perceived the Viennese had treated him (Beethoven was always famously upset at something), he had wanted to premiere the work in Berlin or London, but a group of thirty influential friends and musical colleagues petitioned him, “the one man of all men who we all recognize as the foremost of living men,” to have it performed first in Vienna.  Immensely flattered, he relented. So it was that on May 7, 1824, in the Theater am Karntnertor, the ninth symphony was premiered, along with the overture, “The Consecration of the House”, and a section from the Missa Solemnis. It was Beethoven’s first on-stage appearance in twelve years.  The hall was packed with an enthusiastic and expectant crowd; however, the composer's aristocratic patrons were mostly absent; those few who were still alive having stopped financially supporting him by then. Though Michael Umlauf conducted, Beethoven was invited to be present on stage to give the tempos for each movement.  

The violinist Joseph Böhm recalled that "Beethoven stood before the podium and gesticulated furiously before each movement. At times he rose, at other times he shrank to the ground, moving as if he wanted to play all the instruments himself, and sing for the whole chorus. The musicians minded his rhythm alone while playing.” Wild applause followed both the scherzo and after the final majestic choral finale. Beethoven remained facing the orchestra, leafing through the score and beating time, unaware of the impact and unable to hear the ovation. The alto Caroline Unger had to tap him on the shoulder and help turn him around to face the ecstatic, rapturous audience.

The symphony begins in tonal limbo, as if the orchestra is tuning to an amorphous and wandering A major chord, sound emerging from silence. Gradually, it modulates to the tonic of d minor, and then in the recapitulation, morphs into a powerful D major.  The second movement is a sprightly scherzo and trio, one of many brilliant Beethovenian innovations (scherzos historically were slotted as third movements).  The ensuing Adagio becomes the third movement - spacious, leisurely, and dramatically placed to maximize the effect of the finale. The musicologist Charles Rosen comments that the last movement is a symphony in itself: “its first movement" introduces a theme with variations, appearing first in the cellos and basses, then echoed by vocal soloists and chorus; the “second movement” is a scherzo in military style with Turkish influences (echoing Mozart’s Entführung aus dem Serail); the “third movement” is a lyrical reverie; and the “fourth movement” is a fugue on the themes of the previous movements.”  Beethoven being Beethoven, he changed some of Schiller’s lyrics to reflect his own views on freedom and brotherhood.  The memorable Ode to Joy theme is universal in its immediacy and melodic beauty:

Beethoven’s ninth set the bar for all future composers: Schumann, Wagner, Brahms, Bruckner and Mahler paid homage to it. While the Nobel Prize author Romain Rolland wrote that the Ode to Joy is a paean to the brotherhood of all peoples, the theme was also misappropriated by the Nazis and the Rhodesian supremacist government, and during the Cultural Revolution in China, it was used as an example of class struggle. Despite this, it lives on today as the anthem of the European Union, and in concert halls, and on radio stations, LPs and CDs throughout the world, The autograph of the score, in the Berlin State Library, was the first musical composition in the United Nations Memory of the World Heritage list.   

Beethoven, the humanist; Beethoven, the victor over constant struggle; Beethoven, the exceptionalist; Beethoven, the universal composer;  
Beethoven, for eternity.                                                                                                                                                                                                           
Ars longa!  © 2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Saturday, April 15, 2017


Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Mozart in 1770, with the Order of the Golden Spur
Anonymous oil copy of the lost 1770 original

In Mozart's Misericordias Domini, KV 222, at the 1:05 mark, you can hear the "Ode to Joy" melody, i.e., Beethoven's "Ode to Joy." It appears several times in Mozart's composition.

How can this be?

Mozart wrote the Misericordias in 1775, over 40 years before Beethoven started composing his ninth symphony, the Choral (Beethoven began his ninth symphony in 1817 and took seven years to finish it, in 1824).

Did Beethoven copy Mozart?

Beethoven in 1819
by Joseph Karl Stieler

It is highly unlikely. There is no evidence that Beethoven ever heard the Misericordias, or ever saw the autograph.

This serendipitous event is what I have termed, "Convergent Musical Evolution.The melody is simple and direct, diatonic, with small intervals between the notes, and no chromatics; two geniuses independently conjuring and crafting this eternal and universal melody.


Ars longa !


@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.

Thursday, April 13, 2017


by Vincent de Luise M.D.

Beethoven and Eros

Ludwig van Beethoven 
    by W.J. Mahler (1815)    

Antonie Brentano
        by Joseph Karl Stieler (1808

On July 7, 1812, Beethoven penned an intimate, ten-page, emotionally wrenching and soul-bearing letter to his "Immortal Beloved," his unsterbliche Geliebte. He never mailed that letter, just as he never mailed the letter known as the Heiligenstadt Testament, announcing to his brothers Karl and Johann of his impending deafness.
The last page of Beethoven's
Letter to his Immortal Beloved

Who was the Immortal Beloved? Who was Beethoven's unsterbliche Geliebte?

Maynard Solomon had convinced most of us in 1977 that it was Antonie Brentano (1780-1869), for whom Beethoven wrote "An die ferne Geliebte" and the monumental "Diabelli Variations" (Beethoven had planned to dedicate the piano sonatas Op 111 and 112 to her as well, except for an error at the publishers). Brentano was a prominent arts collector and philanthropist.

New research has refuted the Brentano hypothesis. Could Josephine van Brunsvik have been Beethoven's true love?  Josephine's sister Therese wrote, "Beethoven! It is like a dream, that he was the friend, the confidant of our house - a beautiful mind ! Why did not my sister Josephine, as widow Deym, take Beethoven as her husband? Josephine's soul mate! They were born for each other!"

Josephine van Buskirk

Still others maintain that it was the beautiful and talented pianist, Countess Anne Marie Erdody,  to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Ghost" piano trio, Op 70 no. 1, and the piano sonata Op 102.
Countess Anna Marie Erdody

Or perhaps it was Giulietta Guicciardi, to whom Beethoven dedicated the "Moonlight" Sonata?
Giulietta Guicciardi

For most of his life, Beethoven was in love with a woman, from his childhood sweetheart, Eleonore "Lorchen" von Breuning, to the very end with Brentano, the van Brunsviks and the others. As far as is known, none of these amorous situations was consummated.. 

Maybe Beethoven was ultimately in love with Euterpe herself, the Muse of Music, as these other women were all virtually unattainable, by rank, choice, or circumstance (i.e., "she was "happily married" so it cannot be her" ).

Maybe that's why Beethoven never mailed that letter on July 7, 1812.

"Ever Thine

Ever Mine

Ever Ours"

@2017 Vincent P. de Luise MD

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


A Review of Mozart Iconography
Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.

Wolfgang Amade' Mozart (1756 - 1791)
The oil portrait by his brother-in-law, Johann Joseph Lange

It has often been said that to discover the real Mozart, one need simply listen to his ineffable music. Yet, questions still arise: What did Mozart look like? Which are the true portraits that were made of him during his life? Can an artist capture genius in a painting? 

Of the hundreds of images of Wolfgang Amade' Mozart, only about a dozen have been attested. The early 20th century biographer Arthur Schurig crystallized this apparent Mozartean paradox: "Mozart has been the subject of more portraits that have no connection with his actual appearance than any other famous man; and there is no famous person of whom a more worshipful posterity has had a more incorrect physical appearance than is generally the case with Mozart." (1) 

One reason that has been offered for the paucity of vetted depictions of Mozart is that he was not painted by the more prominent artists of his time, as had been Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Christian Bach, Handel, Haydn and Beethoven. No Haussmann (JS Bach), Gainsborough (JC Bach), Hudson (Handel), Hoppner (Haydn) or Waldmuller (Beethoven) portrayed Mozart.

Mozart's sister Maria Anna (Nannerl) captured an aspect of him: "... My brother was a rather pretty child." Later, she added that he was "small, thin, and pale in color, and lacking in any pretensions as to physiognomy and bodily appearance." The composer Johann Adolph Hasse wrote that "the boy Mozart is handsome, graceful and full of good manners." Michael Kelly, the tenor who sang the roles of Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the premiere of Le Nozze di Figaro, famously reminisced about Mozart in 1826: "He was a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine hair, of which he was rather vain...."   

Roland Tenschert published an initial series of Mozart portraits in 1931. (2) The musicologist and historian Otto Eric Deutsch codified Mozart iconography in a seminal article in the 1956 bicentennial volume, The Mozart Companion (3), and further detailed his findings, where he identified twelve portraits that have the provenance to be considered authentic. (4,5)

Since then, several portraits have been put forth which purport to represent Mozart: the Joseph Grassi snuffbox enamel; the portrait from the estate of the Mozarts' landlord, Johann Lorenz Hagenauer (the painting referred to as "The Man in the Red Coat"); the Edlinger portrait; the Albi Rosenthal sketch, the Fruhstorfer portrait of a boy with a toy soldier; the J.B. Delahaye portrait;  the portrait by Leopold Bode; the portrait of a boy with a bird's nest at one time attributed to Zoffany; and a portrait attributed to Greuze. The Grassi has been contested. The Hagenauer, Edlinger, Fruhstorfer, Delahaye, and Greuze have undergone biometric analysis. The Edlinger has been proven not to be Mozart. The Zoffany is no longer considered to be either painted by Zoffany nor of Mozart. None of these portraits resembles the vetted portraits of Mozart. (These portraits and references are included in the Addendum below). 

A small enamel of a young man, putatively of Mozart, was sold at auction at Sotheby's in 2014. (6) The enamel was supposedly given by Wolfgang to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart ("Basle"), in 1777. Deutsch listed it as "formerly in the possession of Mozart's cousin, Anna Maria Thekla (nicknamed, Bäsle) Mannheim 1777," yet placed it in the category of spurious works. It has been critiqued as an idealized and stylized portrait, a popular technique at the time that was mass produced and not necessarily an accurate representation of the sitter. However, the provenance of the miniature enamel is strong. It has been hypothesized that Mozart may have commissioned this portrait of himself to give to his cousin and requested an idealized depiction.

In 1947, a bronze "death mask," said to be that of Mozart, was found in an antique shop in Vienna. Legend has it that a gypsum plaster death mask was made "shortly after Mozart died," either by Josef Deym von Stritetz or Taddeus Ribola. Upon the death of the craftsman, the mask went to his (the craftsman's) widow, and when she died, the mask vanished. Mozart's widow Constanze Mozart Nissen wrote that she had been given "a replica" of the death mask, presumably also in plaster, but had "clumsily broken it" around 1821. Most scholars do not accept the bronze death mask as authentic. (7,8)

The following are the canonical portraits of Mozart as articulated by Deutsch. (4,5,6) The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait derives from several of the others, so the number of uniquely identifiable Mozart portraits is eleven:

1. The Boy Mozart, oil painting, attributed to Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni, 1763 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). The Lorenzoni is contested. The head has been spliced into a stock painting of the clothing.

Wolfgang Mozart in 1763 at age 7.
Attributed to  Pietro Lorenzoni.

2. Leopold Mozart with Wolfgang and Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), watercolor by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle, November 1763 (Musée Condé, Chantilly). Three variants (Musée Carnavalet, Paris; British Museum, London; Castle Howard, York), an engraving by Delafosse in 1764 after Carmontelle's painting (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris) and several other copies are known to exist. If the youth at the keyboard is Wolfgang, he looks nothing like the Wolfgang of the Lorenzoni or the Verona portraits.
Leopold, Wolfgang and Maria Anna (Nannerl) Mozart 
by Louis Carrogis de Carmontelle

3. The Tea Party at Prince Louis-François de Conti's, in the 'Temple', oil painting by Michel Barthélemy Ollivier, 1766 (Musée du Louvre, Paris). The head of the person playing the harpsichord is so small that the painting, per O.E. Deutsch, is "iconographically worthless." In addition, the individual playing the harpsichord looks to be about 50 and not ten years of age, and cannot be seen clearly. Unless Mozart had progeria, which he did not, this is not him.

The Tea Party in "The Temple"
by Michel Barthelmey Ollivier 1766

4. Wolfgang at 14 years of age at the piano. This oil is the so-called "Verona portrait," attributed to Saverio dalla Rosa, or his maternal uncle, Giambettino Cignaroli, or the artists may have collaborated. 1770 (Private Collection). 

Mozart at the keyboard, 1770
The so-called "Verona Portrait"
by Saverio dalla Rosa or Giambettino Cignaroli

5. Miniature on ivory, attributed to Martin Knoller, 1773 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). 
The 1773 miniature on ivory
attributed to Martin Knoller

6. The anonymous portrait in enamel, 1777, presumably of Wolfgang, that he may have given to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla (the "Basle"), auctioned at Sotheby's in 2014. (6)
The 1777 enamel miniature that Wolfgang
may have given to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart (the "Basle")

7. The 1777 copy of Mozart as Knight of the Golden Spur, anonymous oil painting, (Museo Internazionale e Biblioteca della Musica di Bologna). The 1770 original oil has been lost. Leopold wrote that Wolfgang was ill when this was painted.

The 1777 copy of the lost 1770 oil
Mozart with the Order of the Golden Spur

8. The Family Portrait, an oil painting attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce, 1780-1781 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). Anna Maria Walburga Pertl Mozart (the mother of Wolfgang and Nannerl, and Leopold's spouse) is seen on the wall in the portrait. She died in Paris in 1778. In 1829, when Mary and Vincent Novello met with and interviewed Constanze Mozart Nissen, she stated that the image of Wolfgang in this painting was "one of the best likenesses" of him. (9)

The Mozart Family Portrait 1780-1781
attributed to Johann Nepomuk della Croce

9. Oil painting by Johann Joseph Lange, (?1782) (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg. Sometimes entitled "Mozart at the Piano"). At some later time, the head of this portrait was affixed to a larger canvas, presumably with the intention of depicting Mozart seated at the piano, but this larger painting was unfinished; it is the portrait that we see today at the Wohnhaus across from the Mozarteum. The portrait itself is on a side wall, in shadow, behind a velvet rope.  
In 1829, in an interview with the Novellos, Constanze Mozart Nissen stated that this Lange portrait and the della Croce painting were the best likenesses of her brother Wolfgang. The Novellos went on to write that, "..... by far the best likeness of him (Mozart), in Mrs. Constanze Nissen's opinion, is the painting in oils done by the Husband of Madame Lange (the eldest sister of Mrs. Nissen)....." who is the very same Joseph Lange who painted this portrait.(9)
Lorenz has researched the Lange portrait in the context of Lange's other paintings. His conclusion is that "the Mozart portrait by Joseph Lange is not an unfinished painting of "Mozart at the Piano," but an unfinished enlargement of an original miniature of Mozart's head." (10)  In specular reflection, a rectangular outline can be observed around Mozart's head and torso.  Lorenz has shown that this was the earlier, smaller, finished portrait, which was at some point in time cut out of its original frame and mounted into this larger, unfinished canvas.
Mozart, by his brother-in-law, Joseph Lange.

10. Silhouette, engraved by Hieronymous Löschenkohl, 1785, for his Musik- und Theater-Almanach of 1786 (one copy in the Historisches Museum der Stadt Wien). The silhouette is contested. Löschenkohl correctly uses Mozart's middle name, Amade'.

The Silhouette of 1784/1785 
by Johann Hieronymus Loschenkohl

11. Medallion in red wax, by Leonard Posch, 1788 (formerly Mozart-Museum, Salzburg: missing since 1945); Deutsch lists three other variants.(4)  Grosspietsch describes six variants.(11)

The 1788 medallion in red wax by Leonard Posch.

12. The silverpoint drawing by Dorothea (Doris) Stock, 1789 (Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, Salzburg). This tiny and meticulously rendered portrait of Mozart, about four inches by three inches in greatest dimension, is at the Wohnhaus under glass with a convex lens over it.

The 1789 silverpoint by Doris Stock

13. The posthumous Barbara Kraft portrait of 1819 in the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde, Vienna. Nannerl Mozart lent Kraft the della Croce painting and two other portraits (both now lost), upon which she based this painting.
The 1819 posthumous oil by Barbara Kraft.

Christoph Grosspietsch has written a detailed treatise on Mozart iconography. (11) An introductory article with excellent images can be found here (12). There is a website ( with an extensive catalogue of authenticated, inauthentic, under study, and controversial images of Mozart (13).  

Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen has offered an eloquent summary on the function of Mozart portraiture:

"Very few images of Mozart are universally agreed to be authentic. Yet the acceptance of these portraits - as well as more recently discovered portraits purporting to be Mozart - is less the result of provenance or connoisseurship than the fact that they are shrines at which Mozart scholars and Mozart lovers uncritically worship. They are representations of how we would like Mozart to look - in short they satisfy our visual biographical fancy. This is true above all of the unfinished portrait by Joseph Lange. The musicologist H.C. Robbins Landon described it as the most intimate, most profound, of all the mature  Mozart portraits - the only one, really, to catch the ambivalent nature of Mozart's mercurial mind and to show the profoundly pessimistic side of his many-sided genius." (14)

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise, M.D.


1. Schurig, A. Wolfgang Mozart: Sein Leben und sein Werk Insel-Verlag, Leipzig 1913.
2. Tenschert, R. Mozart: Ein Kunstlerleben in Bildern und Doumenten, 1931.
3. Deutsch, O.E. Mozart Iconography, in The Mozart Companion, Robbins-Landon, H.C and Mitchell, D, eds.  Oxford University Press, 1956.
4. Deutsch, O.E. Mozart und seine Welt in zeitgenossischen BildernM. Zenger, ed. Verlag Kassel, Barenreiter, 1961.
5. Zenger, M. and Deutsch, O.E. Mozart and his World in Contemporary Pictures. Neue Ausgabe Samtlicher Werke. X. Supplement. Kassel. Barenreiter Kassel, 1987.
8. Karhausen,L. The Bleeding of Mozart, XLibris  2011 .
9. Novello, V. and Novello, M. "A Mozart Pilgrimage- Being the Travel Diaries of Vincent and Mary Novello in the year 1829, N. de Medici di Marignano and Robert Hughes, London, 1955, reprinted 1975.  
10. Lorenz, M.
11. Grosspietsch, C. Mozart-Bilder / Bilder Mozarts  Salzburg, Verlag Anton Pustet, Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum, 2013.
14. Eisen, C.  


One of the more interesting portraits that may have been painted during Mozart's life is the miniature portrait enamel on a tobacco snuff box, attributed to Joseph Grassi. The portrait is said to have been painted around 1783. It is owned by the Internationale Stiftung Mozarteum and has been accepted by Christoph Grosspietsch and the Mozarteum. The archivist Michael Lorenz has questioned the attribution of the portrait to Grassi and has also pointed out an error in the middle name: there was an artist by the name of Joseph Mathias Grassi (not Joseph Maria Grassi). (1)

Miniature enamel on a tobacco snuffbox
attributed to Joseph Grassi

The Fruhstorfer Portrait of a boy with a toy soldier

The Delahaye Portrait  c.1772
 Portrait  by Johann Georg Edlinger 1789-1790
Professor Rudolph Angermuller has done 
research to suggest that this is not Mozart
but rather, a Bavarian butcher from Munich

The Portrait in the Hagenauer Estate
("The Man in the Red Coat") 1789-1790

The anonymous Albi Rosenthal silverpoint drawing c. 1790
(see H.C. Robbins-Landon, The Mozart Compendium, pp.112-113)

The Bode portrait. This portrait was executed by Leopold Bode in 1859, 68 years after Mozart died. Bode stated that he had used the 1770 Verona portrait as a template.

Portrait of a young man by Leopold Bode 1859

For decades, the c. 1770 painting by Viennese artist Franz Taddaus Helbling in the Stiftung Internationale Mozarteum was thought to be Mozart. It has been proven that the individual in the painting is not Mozart, but rather, Carl Graf Firmian.

Carl Graf Firmian at the piano by Franz Taddaus Helbling, c. 1770

A portrait known as the "Boy with a Bird's Nest" had at one time been attributed to the prominent British painter John Zoffany (1733-1810), and the individual depicted had been thought to represent Mozart. 
This portrait is not at all as finely rendered as the many superb portraits of children that Zoffany painted. The Mozarteum has firmly rejected the painting as being Mozart. The Zoffany scholar Martin Postle does not consider the portrait to have been painted by Zoffany, writing that "it has been stated, incorrectly, that a painting of a young boy holding a birds nest.... is a portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart by John Zoffany." So, here we have a "cautionary tale," as Dexter Edge has articulated in a detailed analysis.(9) This painting is neither by Zoffany nor of Mozart.
Boy with a Bird's Nest.

A portrait of a young man, dated 1763/1764 and attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze, at the Yale University Collection of Musical Instruments, had at one time been said to be Mozart. Scholars have not accepted this attestation. On the label next to the portrait is written the following: " Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze (1725-1805). Signed "BJG." Yale University, New Haven Connecticut, acquired 1960. Exhibitions: Mozarteum Salzburg, Austria 1910. The identification of the sitter as Mozart has never been confirmed and should be treated with skepticism."

@ 2017 Vincent P. de Luise M.D.







7. Robbins-Landon, H.C. The Mozart Compendium, New York, Schirmer Books, 1990, pp. 112-113

8. Lorenz, M.

9. Edge, D. Not Mozart, Not Zoffany: A Cautionary Tale