Maria Wilhelmine von Thun und Hohenstein

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Maria Wilhelmine von Thun und Hohenstein, born Uhlfeldt[1] (Vienna 13 June 1744[2] – Vienna 18 May 1800) was a Viennese countess. She is remembered as the sponsor of a musically and intellectually outstanding salon and for her patronage of music, notably that of Mozart and Beethoven.[3]


She was the daughter of Imperial Count of the Realm Anton Corfiz Ulfeld (also spelled Uhlfeldt; 1699–1770), who "held several high political and court appointments"[4] and his second wife Maria Elisabeth (1726–1786), Princess von Lobkowitz. At age 17 (30 July 1761) she married Count Franz Josef Anton von Thun und Hohenstein (1734–1801), who later became an Imperial Chamberlain.

In the 1750s, the young Countess Uhlfeld studied keyboard with imperial court organist Wenzel Raimund Birck (1718–1763), a respected teacher and composer. A manuscript book of simple keyboard pieces and exercises that he prepared for her survives.[5] Whether, as has been suggested, she also studied with Joseph Haydn, is difficult to determine, since the source indicating this only gives the title "Countess Thun;" this name was also held by other women over time.[6] The Countess evidently became a very skilled musician. The visiting English musicologist Charles Burney praised her harpsichord playing in print, saying that she "possesses as great skill in music as any person of distinction [i.e., aristocrat] I ever knew."[7]

The salon that developed in her home is described by Clive as "a focal point of the musical and social life of the Viennese aristocracy."[4]

She had six children, of whom four survived into adulthood:

She was a "fine pianist" (Clive 1993) and was a patron of both Mozart and Beethoven.[4]

  • Ferdinand Joseph (29 August 1766 – 1768)[8]
  • Joseph Johann (5 December 1767 – 1810)[8] succeeded his father as Count.[11]
  • Maria Carolina Anna, or Caroline, Countess Thun (19 May 1769 – 1800)[8] married 16 October 1793 an English aristocrat, Lord Gillford, better known as Richard Meade, 2nd Earl of Clanwilliam (10 May 1766 – 3 September 1805).[12] She "excelled as a singer and guitarist".[13] They had issue, one son Richard Charles Francis Christian Meade, 3rd Earl of Clanwilliam, and two daughters Caroline, Countess Szechenyi (1794–1820) and Selina, Countess Clam-Martinic (1797–1872) who married back into the Austrian aristocracy.[14]

Relations with Mozart and Beethoven[edit]

It is possible that Countess Thun first met Mozart in 1762, when she was 18 and he was seven; this was during an early concert tour of the Mozart family, carried out to display their children as musical prodigies; the young Mozart performed in her father's home.[11] In 1781, when the 25-year-old Mozart moved permanently to Vienna to pursue his career, he and Thun became friends (they ate lunch together frequently).[15] Mozart wrote of her to his father Leopold (24 March 1781), "[she is] the most charming and lovable lady I have ever met; and I am very high in her favor."[16] He frequently performed in her home, and she lent him her excellent Stein piano when Mozart performed before the Emperor in competition with Muzio Clementi on 24 December 1781.[15]

Thun may have played an essential role in Mozart's career when she arranged for him to perform extracts from his recent (1780) opera Idomeneo in her home before a set of guests that included Count Orsini-Rosenberg, the manager of the Imperial Theater. The Count "applauded warmly",[17] and not long thereafter gave his agreement to the plans to commission Mozart for the opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which turned out (1782) to be his first great success in Vienna. As Mozart composed the work, Countess Thun listened with encouragement to each of three acts of the opera, performed on the piano by Mozart in her home, as he completed them.[3]

According to Kenyon, "after 1782, [Thun] features less often in his activities."[18] After Mozart's death in 1791, it is believed[19] that she helped financially with the schooling of his two surviving sons.

She was the dedicatee of Beethoven's Piano Trio in B flat, Opus 11.[20]


  1. ^ Deutsch 1965, 673
  2. ^ A-Wstm, Taufbuch Tom. B, p. 456. According to [1], "A-Wstm" abbreviates "Vienna [i.e., Wien], St. Michael, Pfarrarchiv". "Taufbuch" is a book of baptismal records, and "Pfarrarchiv" refers to parish archives.
  3. ^ a b Braunbehrens
  4. ^ a b c Clive 2001, 367
  5. ^ Libin 2016
  6. ^ Braunbehrens, Webster
  7. ^ Quoted from Irving, 11
  8. ^ a b c d e f A-Ws
  9. ^ a b A-Wstm
  10. ^ Clive 1993, 157; Clive 2001, 367
  11. ^ a b Clive 1993, 157
  12. ^ Fuller-Maitland and Grove, 132, apparently refers to him as Lord Guilford, a different aristocratic title. A picture of her by Vigee-Lebrun is available.
  13. ^ Schönfeld, Jahrbuch der Tonkunst für Wien und Prag, 1796
  14. ^ Raineval, Melville Henry Massue marquis de Ruvigny et (1 January 1994). The Plantagenet Roll of the Blood Royal: Being a Complete Table of All the Descendants Now Living of Edward III, King of England. The Anne of Exeter volume. Genealogical Publishing Company. p. 391. ISBN 978-0-8063-1433-4.
  15. ^ a b Keefe
  16. ^ Irving 1997, 166
  17. ^ Source: Abert 2007. Gottfried van Swieten, an important future patron of Mozart, was also in the audience.
  18. ^ Kenyon 127
  19. ^ Source: Hoffmeister 196
  20. ^ Grove


  • A-Ws, baptismal records.
  • A-Wstm, marriage records
  • Abert, Hermann (2007) W. A. Mozart. Yale University Press. (New edition of a much old biography)
  • Braunbehrens, Volkmar (1990) Mozart in Vienna.
  • Clive, Peter (1993) Mozart and His Circle: A Biographical Dictionary, Yale University Press.
  • Clive, Peter (2001) Beethoven and His World: A Biographical Dictionary, Oxford University Press.
  • Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965) Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford University Press.
  • Fuller-Maitland, John and George Grove (1880) A Dictionary of Music and Musicians (A.D. 1450–1880). Macmillan.
  • Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, on line edition, article "Ludwig van Beethoven", work list. Copyright 2007 by Oxford University Press.
  • Hoffmeister, Gerda (2002) Mythos Mozart: Versuch einer persönlichen Annäherung. Books on Demand.
  • Irving, John (1997) Mozart's Piano Sonatas: Contexts, Sources, Style, Cambridge University Press.
  • Keefe, Simon P. (2006) "Thun-Hohenstein family," in Cliff Eisen and Simon P. Keefe, eds., The Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia, Cambridge University Press.
  • Kenyon, Nicholas (2006) The Pegasus Pocket Guide to Mozart, Pegasus Books.
  • Libin, Kathryn L. (2016) "The Musical Notenbuch of Countess Wilhelmine von Uhlfeld," in Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America, vol. xx no. 2, Fall 2016: 8–13.
  • Webster, James. Article "Joseph Haydn," in Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, on line edition, article "Ludwig van Beethoven", work list.