Antonio Salieri: Rival of Mozart

Born today: Antonio Salieri.

In "Amadeus",  Mozart's adversary.

Of the latter's genius, he was jealous,

Especially when they played the palace.*

*Joseph II of Austria's palace of Schonbrunn

[Salieri turns in a ferment to the audience.]

SALIERI: Fiasco!...Fiasco!...The sordidness of it! The sheer sweating sordidness!...Worse than if I'd actually done it!...To be that much in sin and feel so ridiculous as well! [Crying out] Nobile, nobile Salieri!...What had he done to me, this Mozart? Before he came, did I behave like this? Toy with adultery? Blackmail women? It was all going---slipping---growing rotten...because of him!

[He moves upstage in a fever---reaches out to take the portfolio on the chair---but as if fearful of what he might find inside it, he withdraws his hand and sits instead beside it. A pause. He contemplates the music lying there as if it   were a great confection he is dying to eat, but dare not. Then suddenly he snatches at it---tears the ribbon---opens the case and stares greedily at the manuscripts within. Music sounds instantly, faintly in the theater, as his eye falls on the first page. It is the opening of the Twenty-ninth Symphony,  in A major. Over the music, reading it.]

She had said that these were his original scores. First and only drafts of the music. Yet they looked like fair copies. They showed no corrections of any kind. It was puzzling---than suddenly alarming.

[He looks up from the manuscript at the audience: the music abruptly stops.]

What was evident was that Mozart was simply transcribing music completely finished in his head. And finished as most music is never finished.

[He resumes looking at the music. Immediately the Sinfonia Concertante for Violin and Viola   sounds.]

Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and the structure would fall.

[He looks up again: the music breaks off.]

Here again---only now in abundance---were the same sounds I'd heard in the library.

[He resumes reading, and the music also resumes: a ravishing phrase from the slow movement of the Concerto for Flute and Harp.]

The same crushed harmonies---glancing collisions---agonizing delights.

[He looks up again. The music stops.]

The truth was clear. That Serenade had been no accident.

[Very low, in the theater, a faint thundery sound is heard accumulating , like a distant sea.]

I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes at---an Absolute Beauty!         (Act I Scene 12 of "Amadeus" by Peter Shaffer)


Filed under: drama, literature, music

Tags: 1750-1825


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  • A masterful piece. Bravo!

  • In reply to Weather Girl:

    WG, I'm honored that you think so. Grazie di cuore.

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