MOZART AND FREEMASONRY
W.B. H. Owen Chace
February 20, 2017
In the late 1700s the Austro-Hungarian Empire included a vast area roughly defined by the modern countries of Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and northern Italy. It was within this empire that Mozart lived and became a Mason. Mozart became an Entered Apprentice on December 14, 1784 at Beneficence Lodge (Zur Wohltätigkeit) in Vienna. Mozart was raised to the sublime degree of Master Mason on April 22, 1785. For least a dozen years before Mozart and his family had turned to Masonic Lodges for help and protection during the family’s travels around Europe. A year or so later the great composer Joseph Hayden, a mentor to Mozart, was raised in the same lodge
MOZART’S WORK AND EARLY LIFE
In 1772 Mozart composed an aria “O Heliges Band” (O Holy Band) indicating a clear manifestation of his interest and appreciation of Freemasonry. Many of Mozart’s fellow musicians were freemasons. The great librettist for Mozart’s operas The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi fan tutte(K.588), was freemason Lorenzo Daponte. DaPonte wrote his memoirs and emigrated to America where ultimately he became the first professor of Italian History at Columbia University.
There are many reasons why Mozart joined Masonry. The reasons include: 1) Moral support, after Mozart finally liberated himself from his domineering father Leopold; 2) Mozart had friends who were Masons and who invited him to join a lodge. 3) Artistic opportunities to create a national opera; 4) the internalization of Masonic ideals; 5) The sheer joy of participation in Masonic brotherhood.
Vienna, then being the capital of a vast empire, was the center of culture and artistic ferment. The lodges in Vienna were composed mainly of nobility, merchants, intellectuals and artists. Mozart relished this companionship. In one of his Masonic lodges he wrote (in English translation):
Make this place a holy temple,
By the bond of brotherhood,
And brothers all within your hearts,
This day our temple sanctify,
In years to come these walls shall stand
Bearing witness to our labor.
Clearly Mozart was cognizant of the bonds and ideals of Freemasonry. There are several other works that express Mozart’s Masonic leanings. As one writer stated about Mozart’s dedication to the craft “… he comes close as anyone understanding the fundamental ideas of Freemasonry which, after all, are symbols”. Some of the works by Mozart that have Masonic themes include:
Proudly Proclaim Our Joy (Laßt uns mit geschlungen Händen)) K.623
Fellowcrat’s Journey (Gesellenreese)
Give Today our Beloved Brotherhood (Zur Eröffnung der Freimaurerloge) K.483
Masonic Joy (Maurer fruede)
Little Masonic Candidat” (Laßt uns mit geschlungen Händen) K623
Masonic Funeral Music (Maurerische Trauermusik)
-N.B. The translations of titles and Köchel catalogue numbers can be quite inconsistent)
Masonic funeral music was written by Mozart in memory of two of Mozart’s Masonic brethren, Duke Georg August of Mecklenburg-Strelitz and Count Franz Esterházy von Galántha, members of the Viennese aristocracy.
THE MAGICK FLUTE
Perhaps Mozart’s best known Masonic work is The Magic Flute (Die Zauberflöte) K. 620, an opera in two acts. The Magic Flute is a crazy salad “of morals and magic, Freemasonry and fairy-tale, allegory and doggerel”. Mozart first got involved through the efforts of theatrical producer, frequenter of bars and taverns Emanuel Schikaneder. Schikaneder was not only the librettist for the opera but also a fellow Mason.The Magic Flute premiered on 30 September 1791 at Schikaneder’s theatre, the Freihaus-Theater auf der Wieden in Vienna. This is one of Mozart’s last works, written during the last year of his life.
In this first German language operatic musical drama, Mozart, among other things, promoted the virtues of Freemasonry. The main plot involves the character Tamino, a handsome prince lost in a distant land. Tamio undergoes trials, including initiation into the rites of Isis and Osiris, which are widely seen as disguised aspects of Freemasonry. A non-Masonic viewer would not be aware, but the initiation rites are unmistakably Masonic. Tamio, only partially clad, approaches the door of wisdom and must knock three times. Once admitted he discovers an alter room with three lights arranged in a triangular fashion. The High Priest Sevestro assures the others present that Tamio is virtuous, discreet, and beneficent. Tamio is advised to practice the three virtues of steadfastness, tolerance, and discretion, He then undergoes three challenges, analogous to the three degrees of Masonry. The final chorus of The Magic Flute exalts the virtues of strength, beauty and wisdom, and in the process promotes the ideals of Freemasonry. One biographer of Mozart stated:
“It [The Magic Flute] would also in effect, present an allegorical and clarification of the whole movement of Freemasonry, depicted in all of its symbols as a force for good, overcoming those of evil”
Death and Burial
To this day it is not known where Mozart is buried. And – in some quarters the Masons have been criticized for not giving Mozart a proper Masonic burial. Those of you who have seen the movie Amadeus remember that it ends with Mozart’s body, wrapped in a shroud, is dumped into a common grave. It is true that Mozart received a third class funeral, but Masons are not responsible. Mozart’s wife, Constance, was responsible for his funeral and burial arrangements. In Vienna at that time, by law, burial had to be done at night and outside of the bounds of the city, and with dispatch, due to the risk of spreading disease, especially smallpox. Mozart was a survivor of that disease in his childhood. Due to the distraught grieving widow burial arrangements were not adequately planned.
Mozart was raised as a Catholic but there is some doubt whether he received the sacrament of Extreme Unction due to his Masonic affiliation. Under the papal bull of Clement XI Catholics were forbidden to join the Masons under the threat of excommunication. Also it should be mentioned that Mozart was heavily in debt at the end of his life, both he and his wife having been profligate with the considerable money that Mozart had earned. Several letters exist indicating his debt to his Masonic brother Puchberg, a merchant.
Freemasons did not forget their fellow brother. A memorial meeting was held at the lodge of the newly crowned pope ( Zur Gekronten Hoffnung ). A brother named Hessler delivered the funeral oration. An excerpt follows:
“It has pleased the Grand Architect of the world to tear from our chain one of it’s most deserving and beloved links. Who did not know him? Who did not esteem him?? Who did not love him, our worthy brother, Mozart.
“Only a few weeks ago he stood in our midst, glorifying with his magic sounds the dedication of our temple. Who among us would have thought then how soon he was to be taken from us? Who was to know that in three weeks we were to weep to morn him? It is a sad fate of men to have to leave this life with their excellent works unfinished. Kings die, leaving their incomplete plans to prosperity. Artists die, after having spent their lives in perfecting their art, and the general admiration follows them to the grave. Though he whole nation mourns them, it is usually their fate to be forgotten by those admirers –But not by us, my brothers. Mozart’s death is an irreplaceable loss to art. His talent, which already showed itself as a boy, made him one of the wonders of our time. Half of Europe esteemed him, the great called him their darling, and we call him – brother! Though it is proper to recall his achievements as an artist, let us not forget to honor his noble heart. He was a zealous member of our order. His love for his brothers, his cooperative and affirmative nature, his charity, his deep joy whenever he could serve one of his brethren, with his special talents, these were his qualities. He was a husband and father, a friend to his friends and a brother to his brothers. He only lacked riches to make hundreds of people as happy as he would have wished them to be.”
Summing it up it is best to quote the words of one of his scholars, Paul Nettle on Mozart’s reasons for joining the craft:
“Neither orthodox Catholicism nor the new Nationalism succeeded in satisfying him. What led him to Masonry was the reflection and self contemplation which followed his extensive wandering, and this also brought about the creation of his unique style. This is the meaning of Mozart’s entry into the Craft. It is the coronation of the master and we are safe in saying that the part od Freemasonry in his life was so decisive that the degree of its contribution to art has been grossly underestimated.”
Mozart exemplified the best of Freemasonry’s ideals and it poured over into his music. He was a Freemason’s Freemason, beloved by God – but also by his brothers.
The indication “K.” refers to “Köchel Verzeichnis” (Köchel catalogue), i.e. the more or less chronological (by composition date) catalogue of Mozart’s works by Ludwig von Köchel.
A very brief biographical sketch:
Born, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, 27 January 1756 The baptismal record gives his name in Latinized form as Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.
Musical prescience noted 1760 “In the fourth year of his age his father, for a game as it were, began to teach him a few minuets and pieces at the clavier…. He could play it faultlessly and with the greatest delicacy..”
First public performance 1762. (Mozart was around 6 years old)
First opera: Mozart wrote the opera Mitridate, re di Ponto, 1770, (he was the 14 years old) which was performed in Milan with success.
Joined the Freemasons 1784
Wrote Masonic Funeral Music (Maurerische Trauermusik) 1785, was performed during a Masonic funeral service held on 17 November 1785
Wrote The Magic Flute, 1791
Died, 5 December 1791