“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Freemasonry is composed of men from all walks of life. For centuries the fraternity has boasted pioneering scientists, courageous leaders, and revolutionary artists. Among them is a man whose musical compositions we regularly hear, whether in movies, TV, radio, or in our own free time: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
This man created an unparalleled legacy. He single-handedly altered the course of Western music, creating over 600 compositions in his short life. While he was only 35 when he passed away, he spent his last years engaged with Freemasonry, fascinated by its lessons, history, and symbolism. So enraptured was he that he began weaving Masonic themes into his works, pieces that still enchant today.
Amadeus was born in Salzburg, Austria, on January 27, 1756, to Leopold Mozart and Ana Maria, as the youngest of seven children. Sadly, five of his siblings died in infancy. Leopold, a composer, took an active role in educating his two surviving children: Mozart, and his elder sister Maria Anna Mozart, known as Nannerl.
Leopold began giving Nannerl piano lessons when she was seven years old; Mozart watched on, still only three, and took a quick interest in the instrument. Later in life, Nannerl recalled her brother at this time:
“He often spent much time at the clavier, picking out thirds, which he was ever striking, and his pleasure showed that it sounded good. 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, and keeping exactly in time… At the age of five, he was already composing little pieces, which he played to his father who wrote them down.“
Amadeus wrote his first three pieces of music when he was no more than five years old. Leopold was in awe, recognizing the singular talent his son displayed at such a tender age. He soon began booking his children to perform for aristocracy across Europe while young Amadeus was only six. Together with Nannerl, they played in the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, Dover, The Hague, Amsterdam, Utrecht, Mechelen, and more.
A Master of Form
While Amadeus’ ability to play and compose was miraculous, his success as an artist was born from his ability to master many of the popular genres at that time. Whether the sonatas of London, the operas of Italy, or the symphonies of The Hague, the young Mozart was fluent in all these forms by the time he was 13. This ability to compose in different formats and styles distinguished him entirely from his peers and propelled him to become an international sensation.
Beginning in 1773, Mozart started to work as a professional musician and composer, taking jobs for benefactors rather than touring the courts of Europe. He spent years working as a court musician in Salzburg for Prince-Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo. A fruitless effort to court a woman led him to Paris for two years before he landed in Vienna, writing for the Emperor and pursuing a career as an independent composer. All through his travels, he absorbed the styles of the regions and wrote prolifically, including symphonies, sonatas, string quartets, masses, serenades, and operas.
While living in Vienna, Mozart was initiated into Austrian Freemasonry on December 14th, 1784 to Lodge ‘Zur Wohltatigkeit’ at the age of 28. Little is known regarding what brought Mozart to Masonry, but it is clear he was passionate about the fraternity. The year before, Pope Clement XII issued a decree that prevented Catholics from pursuing membership in Freemasonry.
Mozart clearly saw no conflict, becoming a Master Mason and remaining active in the Craft until he passed away in 1791. The effect Freemasonry had on his life must have been profound. Not only is there evidence that he attended Lodge regularly, but Masonic influences began cropping up in his work.
In the seven years he was active in the fraternity, Amadeus wrote at least eight compositions specially for the Masons, including his Freemason’s Funeral Music. There are also notable Masonic themes and symbolism residing in his famous opera “The Magic Flute.” The overture sheet music shows a dotted figure that Mozart used to represent the three knocks a Brother would make to initiate a Masonic ceremony. Mozart began his opera the same way he would a Master Mason ceremony – with a musical “three knocks.” Mozart’s compositions intended for use by his Brethren include:
- Song: O heiliges Band der Freundschaft treuer Brüder” (O sacred bond of friendship between true brothers)
- Cantata: “Dir, Seele des Weltalls”
- Song: “Lied zur Gesellenreise: Die ihr einem neuen Grad” (For use at installation of new journeymen)
- Cantata for tenor, male chorus, and orchestra: Die Maurerfreude (The Mason’s Joy)
- The Masonic Funeral Music
- Two songs for the opening and closing ceremonies of the lodge:
- Zur Eröffnung der Freimaurerloge: “Zerfließet Heut, Geliebter Brüder”
- Zum Schluß der Freimaurerloge: “Ihr Unsre Neuen Leiter”
- The Little German Cantata: Die ihr die unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, for tenor and piano, for use at meetings of the “Colony of the Friends of Nature”
- The Little Masonic Cantata (Kleine Freimaurer-Kantate) entitled Laut verkünde unsre Freude
- “Laßt uns mit geschlungnen Händen,” K. 623a, (For the close of the Lodge)
Centuries of Influence
A few years after becoming a Mason, Mozart was riddled with debt, leaning heavily on his Brethren to help him with his finances, he sought refuge in Masonic Lodges during his travels. Letters from this period indicate he had sunk into manic-depression, consistent with his bouts of intense creativity. In 1791, he fell ill while in Prague before the premiere of his opera La clemenza di Tito. He managed to conduct the premiere of The Magic Flute in September before deteriorating further and ultimately passing away several weeks later.
Only 35 at the time, there has been some debate about the exact cause of his death. Looking back at the end of his life, it’s astounding to consider he died in relative obscurity. His funeral was modest, and few attended. He was buried in what was known as a “common grave” in Vienna.
Despite the unceremonious end, Mozart’s name and music remain ubiquitous over two centuries later. He and his compositions are known worldwide for their brilliance, made even more impressive by the young age at which he wrote most of his pieces. You can draw a line from the work of Mozart through the evolution of Western music up till today. He was tirelessly committed to bettering his craft, and for that, he was a true Freemason.