ANTONIO SALIERI (1750 - 1825)
Thanks to Pushkin and Rimsky-Korsakov, as well as Shaffer and the film Amadeus, Antonio Salieri has been cast as the villain in the tragedy of Mozart’s early death. Salieri occupied a position of great importance in the music of Vienna. From 1774 he was court composer and conductor of the Italian opera, serving as court Kapellmeister from 1788 until 1824. Born in Legnago, he was brought as a boy to Vienna by Florian Gassmann, his predecessor as court Kapellmeister, who supervised his musical training and education. He owed much to the influence and patronage of Gluck, to whom he seemed a natural successor in the field of opera. He won similar success to the latter also in Paris with his operas for the French stage. His pupils included Beethoven and Schubert, Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles and one of Mozart’s sons. He was a prolific composer, principally in vocal music of all kinds.
Salieri wrote some 45 operas, ranging from Tarare, with a libretto by Beaumarchais, for Paris and settings of libretti by Lorenzo da Ponte for Vienna to the Shakespearean comedy Falstaff and the operetta Prima la musica poi le parole (‘First the Music then the Words’). This operetta was staged at the imperial palace of Schönbrunn in 1786 on the same evening as Mozart’s German Singspiel Der Schauspieldirektor (‘The Impresario’).
Vocal and Choral Music
Salieri wrote a quantity of church music, as well as oratorios. He left still more secular vocal music, ranging from cantatas and choruses to duets and solo arias.
As well as a significant quantity of ballet music, Salieri wrote concertos, including an Organ Concerto and a Piano Concerto, a ‘Birthday’ Symphony and a set of Variations on La folia di Spagna (‘The Folly of Spain’), the dance tune used by Corelli and many other Baroque composers.
Salieri’s chamber music consists principally of serenades, cassations and marches.