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Salieri, Antonio (1750-1825)
Engraving by C F Riedel (1802)

Antonio Salieri

born: 18 August 1750
died: 7 May 1825
country: Italy

Antonio Salieri was vilified by Pushkin’s play Mozart and Salieri, written in 1826 when the poor composer was hardly cold in his grave. This was later turned into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov, and then into a modern play, Amadeus, by Peter Schaffer. Far from being responsible for Mozart’s death it is likely that Salieri’s continuing success on the Viennese scene insulated him from any need to concern himself overmuch with his greater contemporary. In any case, had he had the perception and imagination to be tortured by feelings of inferiority he might have been a greater composer. He arrived in the city at the age of seventeen and modelled himself on his revered master Gluck. International success followed as a composer of operas (works like Axur and Die Danaïden), and he was created Hofkapellmeister in Vienna three years before Mozart’s death in 1791, a post he held for thirty-six years. By the time of Salieri’s own death in 1825 Mozart had become a god among the Viennese, but the Italian was the survivor, and he numbered among his flock countless students who felt varying degrees of gratitude—among them Schubert, Beethoven, Hüttenbrenner, Hummel, Liszt, Meyerbeer, Randhartinger, Sechter, Weigl and Karoline Unger. Schubert took part in the celebration of Salieri’s 50th Jubilee celebrations in Vienna and composed a set of pieces for the great occasion in June 1816 (Beitrag zur fünfzigjährigen Jubelfeier des Herrn von Salieri, ersten k.k. Hofkapellmeister in Wien, D407). He also dedicated his Op 5 set of Goethe settings to his teacher.

from notes by Graham Johnson © 2006


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