Leopold Mozart was mired for 44 years in a go-nowhere job as Deputy Court Composer for the two successive Prince Archbishops of Salzburg. Leopold recognized very early in his son's life that the child prodigy's musical talent far outshone his own. So fostering Wolfgang's success as a professional musician of great fame became Leopold's sole ambition.
Leopold often acted more like Wolfgang's CEO than his dad. His letters were at once both genuinely loving and coldly manipulative. They were, at times, absolutely crushing.
What's important to remember is that throughout their trials and tribulations (and there were a lot of both), Wolfgang revered his father and Leopold adored his son. Yet it was more than familial love and devotion that bound them.
These two personalities could not have been more different each was everything the other was not. But each needed the other to be complete, even more so after the tragic (and by Leopold's reckoning, entirely preventable) death of Wolfgang's mother. Leopold repeatedly blamed his son for their incalculable loss, yet his determination to engineer his son's fame and fortune was redoubled.
As a young adult, Wolfgang's decisions continually annoyed and enraged his father, who resorted to increasingly desperate measures to maintain control over his son's life. Wolfgang clearly chafed at his father's stern, overbearing demeanor. The friction caused by the son's struggle for independence led to a prolonged and painful estrangement with his father.
Whose life was it anyway? The answer to that depended on who you asked.
During Wolfgang's early- to mid-20s, the rift between father and son was in full roar. Not even Wolfgang's fence-mending trip to visit his father in Salzburg (with his new wife and the Grand Mass in tow) could set things completely right. Leopold longed for the visit and Wolfgang dreaded it. Now his own man, Wolfgang longed for his father's renewed approval, yet it's that very independence that Leopold dreaded most of all.
It's a heart-wrenching story of polar opposites, inextricably bound. And its legacy, the C Minor Mass, is all the more moving because of it.
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