This month’s topic for the PF Bloggers Network Group Writing Project is “Rich People Gone Broke.” Our chosen subject for this project is Wolfgang Mozart, one of the greatest composers that ever lived. While a genius in everything musical, he was less lucky when it came to money management.
Prodigy and Breadwinner
Mozart first went to work at the age of five. As a child prodigy, he traveled extensively and made a living as performer, composer, conductor and curiosity. These travels were documented by his family’s letters to their friends in Salzburg.
At first Leopold proudly related the enormous sums of money earned by his children, especially Wolfgang, and described the generous (resalable) gifts they received from kings and princes. Then he got wise and began to conceal their earnings, claiming that they made virtually no profit after expenses. This later strategy made it hard for us to know the exact amount of Wolfgang’s earnings, but it was surely a fortune. In addition to cash, the gifts accumulated on these journeys were mostly made of gold and were described by a friend to resemble a church treasury.
Until age 23, Wolfgang Mozart increased his family’s wealth on journeys in Austria, England, Italy, Paris, and other places where he was often received by royalty and nobility. If they did not collect enough gifts at one location, Leopold sold tickets to the public to hear his children perform—anything to make a buck . . or a florin. But this venue lost him some patronage because the upper class didn’t want anything the commoners had.
Although Leopold successfully concealed the earning of his children, it is clear that Wolfgang Mozart was the primary breadwinner of his family, and as such was jealously guarded from theft. His trips were always chaperoned by one or both parents, his father constantly warned him about the deceitful and ensnaring nature of women, and his mother whisked him off to Paris (at the orders of his father) to save him from a girl he desperately wanted to marry.
Rebellion and High Living
“I could not go about Vienna looking like a tramp, particularly just at this time. My linen was pitiable; no servant here has shirts of such coarse stuff as mine, — and that certainly is a frightful thing for a man. Consequently there were again expenditures.” – Vienna, September 5, 1781, in a letter to his father