Episode: Salieri Slandered?


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Salieri Slandered?
Today is the birthday of Antonio Salieri, one of the most unjustly maligned composers in history. The successful stage play and movie "Amadeus" have helped to repeat the notorious charge that the jealous 18th-century Italian composer Antonio Salieri was directly or indirectly responsible for Mozart's early death. Historians have acquitted Salieri of this crime, but more people are familiar with the fiction than the facts. The truth is that Salieri was often quite friendly to Mozart during his lifetime, and after Mozart's death served as a music teacher to Mozart's talented son, Franz Xaver Mozart. The long-lived Salieri also gave lessons in the Italian style to Beethoven, Schubert, and Liszt —surely signs of a nature more generous than jealous. Salieri was born in Legnano, Italy in 1750. He came in Vienna in 1766, when he was 16 years old, and Vienna remained his home until the end of his life. A protégé of the Austrian Emperor, Joseph II, Salieri even accompanied that very musical monarch, who played the cello, at royal chamber music sessions. As a composer, Salieri enjoyed imperial patronage from his arrival in Vienna until 1800, a period of some 35 years. Some of the operas Salieri wrote for Vienna have been revived and recorded in our time. He wrote over 40 of them, including a comic opera entitled "The Talisman" —an opera composed to a text by Mozart's favorite librettist, Lorenzo da Ponti.

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