Mozart's violinist

January 2, 2018, 2:52 AM · Hello!
My teacher told me that Mozart hired a violinist to play his violin concertos. Does anyone know who it was? All I know is that he was Italian.

Replies (22)

January 2, 2018, 3:30 AM · well, that would have been a waste of money, wouldn't it?
January 2, 2018, 3:45 AM · Your teacher is probably referring to Antonio Brunetti who worked in Salzburg with Mozart and with whom he is known to have collaborated.
January 8, 2018, 2:43 AM · Most probably, thank you for the help!
Edited: January 8, 2018, 2:52 AM · Both Mozart and his father Leopold played violin. But while his father was principally a violinist, Mozart was principally a keyboard player. Bach played the violin too.
January 8, 2018, 5:33 AM · According to Leopold Wolfgang was a better violinist than keyboardist. Bach's dad was also a violinist but died when JS was a child.
January 9, 2018, 10:04 AM · Actually, Mozart and Bach both preferred to play viola to violin.
January 9, 2018, 10:55 AM · Don't know where that comes from. Mozart often took the viola part but whether out of preference or not I've seen no evidence.
Edited: January 10, 2018, 4:32 AM · Hi Bud, just curious, what is your source for the claim that Leopold thought Wolfgang a better violinist than a keyboardist? I do recall reading a letter from Wolfgang to his father where he boasted that he played some chamber music with friends, violin or viola I don't remember, and he was the only one who could naturally find the right positions to play particular passages well. That comes from the collection of letters Mozart wrote, it's a great read.
January 10, 2018, 5:20 AM · There is also the singer Michael Kelly's story from his stay in Vienna:

"Storace gave a quartett party to his friends. The players were tolerable; not one of them excelled on the instrument he played, but there was a little science among them, which I dare say will be acknowledged when I name them:

First violin----Haydn
Second violin---Baron Ditterdorf

Kelly had a touch of the blarney about him. Would Mozart really have been content to play third fiddle in that kind of company?

Edited: January 10, 2018, 1:39 PM · Sorry Jean, I'm looking but can't find it. It was in a letter from Leopold to Wolfgang, presumably during his Paris/Manheim trip. Leopold says make sure they hear your violin playing as that is superior but maybe he was just trying to sell more books?

edit: I maybe misremembered but was thinking of this:
I am not surprised that when you played your last Cassation they all opened their eyes. You yourself do not know how well you play the violin, if you will only do yourself credit and play with energy, with your whole heart and mind, yes, just as if you were the first violinist in Europe. You must not play carelessly, or people will think that from some foolish conceit you consider yourself to be a great player, seeing that many people do not even know that you play the violin, since you have been known from childhood as a clavier-player. So whence could you draw the grounds for such conceit and presumption? — Say these words first: “I really must apologise, but I am no violinist". Then play with your whole mind and you will overcome all difficulties. Oh, how often you will hear a violinist play, who has a great reputation, and feel very sorry for him!

italics by Leopold, from Oct 18-20, 1777.

As great violinists are rarely to
be found in towns of that size, you might play a violin concerto which can be easily accompanied. But no doubt your violin is having a rest! That i can well imagine.

from a later letter.

January 11, 2018, 3:42 AM · very interesting, thanks Bud!
Edited: January 17, 2018, 4:02 PM · Bud - concerning Mozart's preference see:

With regard to Bach's preference, I recall that Christoph Wolff states somewhere in his bio of Bach that Bach preferred viola. Here is a further reference:'s%20preference%20for%20viola&f=false

If you just google the composer's name and "preference for viola" you will come up with other sources. The fact is that all of the composers who were string players, e.g., Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert, Dvorak, Hindemith preferred viola to violin.

Edited: January 17, 2018, 5:56 PM · A friend of mine at school, a very gifted musician, won an Open Exhibition (a kind of scholarship) to St John's College, Cambridge to study the organ, at which he already excelled. To his horror he was required to learn a stringed instrument as part of his course, so he chose the viola as being suitably unobtrusive - let us ponder that in view of the revelations concerning Bach, Mozart et al.

After graduating, my friend, John Bishop, stayed on at Cambridge to attain a DMus and then left to pursue a successful career as an organist, conductor and teacher, culminating in becoming Principal of the Birmingham Conservatory. John passed away a few years ago after a quiet retirement.

January 18, 2018, 2:16 AM · "Kelly had a touch of the blarney about him. Would Mozart really have been content to play third fiddle in that kind of company?"

The viola is not "the third fiddle". In chamber music Mozart liked to play the viola (a fake Maggini). Since they were playing his material I don't think there was any reason to think it was unclear who was the boss. Also people don't necessarily think in these competitive ways all the time.

The fact that he liked to play the viola does not mean that he wasn't playing the solos in his own violin concertos on his Stainer.

January 18, 2018, 2:31 AM · In one of his essays Hans Keller (a Mozart fanatic) claimed that Mozart enjoyed playing the viola (as Herman suggests above) but did not enjoy playing the violin (even if he did play well). If he did enjoy the violin and played well, he would probably have left us more concertos from his maturity. He obviously found the piano concerto more stimulating as a medium for whatever reason. And his only truly mature string concerto features... the viola, as an equal partner!
Keller also reports that Haydn and Mozart played the two viola parts in the quintets - if only we could time-travel and be a fly-on-the-wall.........
January 18, 2018, 11:33 AM · Good research Tom but there's still little evidence. For Mozart anecdotal evidence would have him play the viola better - how would anyone know? The Bach is mentioned in Forkel and may have come from WF or CPE but who knows?
January 18, 2018, 4:27 PM · Bud - I am not sure what you are looking for. I am going with the best we have, which is necessarily anecdotal and not designed to address any precise issue. I find it fairly convincing since it is consistent with what we know about other composers and makes sense based on what information we have. It is what it is.
January 18, 2018, 9:03 PM · I think Bud is right in being a bit more discerning with sources.

The stuff that we read all the time, like Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal playing a string quartet for example, isn't particularly credible, yet we tell it to ourselves because it's too good to not repeat it.

Edited: January 19, 2018, 2:51 AM · That they preferred viola I view as more of a precise issue. That they played it when ever required just common sense. I don't see enough evidence for the former, more likely it's someone's agenda.

I must admit though, after a little research, I can well see why Mozart may have wanted a professional soloist to premier any important work to an important audience.

January 21, 2018, 1:50 AM · It's tempting to think Mozart preferred to play the viola in quartets because he liked the instrument. However it is also possible he played the viola for the same reason a lot of other folks play the viola: because no one else wanted to do it.

I have a very hard time believing Mozart was not up to playing his own violin concertos at top level. He wrote them himself, after all, and he was the son of one of the foremost violin pedagogues.

Edited: January 21, 2018, 11:02 AM · I do wonder about how great a pedagogue Leopold was. I've lately learned some of his book was copied verbatim from Tartini and maybe others. Also, I've never forgiven him for not sending Mozart to Uni!
January 21, 2018, 1:20 PM · I find playing, or singing, inner parts more satifying; my only point in common with Bach, Mozart, Mendelssohn, Dvorak......

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