Mozart and Freemasonry
Mozart was admitted as an apprentice to the Viennese Masonic lodge called "Zur Wohltätigkeit" ("Beneficence") on 14 December 1784. He was promoted to journeyman Mason on 7 January 1785, and became a master Mason "shortly thereafter". Mozart also attended the meetings of another lodge, called "Zur wahren Eintracht" ("True Concord"). According to Otto Erich Deutsch, this lodge was "the largest and most aristocratic in Vienna. ... Mozart, as the best of the musical 'Brothers,' was welcome in all the lodges." It was headed by the naturalist Ignaz von Born.
Mozart's own lodge "Zur Wohltätigkeit" was consolidated with two others in December of 1785, under the Imperial reform of Masonry (the Freimaurerpatent, "Masonic Decree") of 11 December 1785, and thus Mozart came to belong to the lodge called "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung" (New Crowned Hope).
At least as far as surviving Masonic documents can tell us, Mozart was well regarded by his fellow Masons. Many of his friends were Masons.
Masonic ideology and Masonic music
Mozart's position within the Masonic movement, according to Maynard Solomon, lay with the rationalist, Enlightenment-inspired membership, as opposed to those members oriented toward mysticism and the occult. This rationalist faction is identified by Katharine Thomson as the Illuminati, a masonically inspired group which was founded by Bavarian professor of canon law Adam Weishaupt, who was also a friend of Mozart. The Illuminati espoused the Enlightenment-inspired, humanist views proposed by the French philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. For example, the Illuminati contended that social rank was not coincident with nobility of the spirit, but that people of lowly class could be noble in spirit just as nobly born could be mean-spirited. This view appears in Mozart's operas; for example, in The Marriage of Figaro, an opera based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais (another Freemason), the low-born Figaro is the hero and the Count Almaviva is the boor. However, the whole connection and genesis of the Illuminati movement in reference to Freemasonry is disputed by a number of authoritative sources. With that in mind, a more temperate view of Mozart's Masonry is available, which emphasizes the view of the composer as a "passionate Catholic," so obvious from his letters, who saw in Freemasonry a way to balance persistent Catholic Counter-Reformation elements of his upbringing with more Enlightenment motifs he learned in the Lodge and outside of it in general society as well.
The Freemasons used music in their ceremonies, and adopted Rousseau's humanist views on the meaning of music. "The purpose of music in the [Masonic] ceremonies is to spread good thoughts and unity among the members" so that they may be "united in the idea of innocence and joy," wrote L.F. Lenz in a contemporary edition of Masonic songs. Music should "inculcate feelings of humanity, wisdom and patience, virtue and honesty, loyalty to friends, and finally an understanding of freedom."
These views suggest a musical style quite unlike the style of the Galant, which was dominant at the time. Galant style music was typically melodic with harmonic accompaniment, rather than polyphonic; and the melodic line was often richly ornamented with trills, runs and other virtuosic effects. The style promoted by the Masonic view was much less virtuosic and unornamented. Mozart's style of composition is often referred to as "humanist" and is in accord with this Masonic view of music.
The music of the Freemasons contained musical phrases and forms that held specific semiotic meanings. For example, the Masonic initiation ceremony began with the candidate knocking three times at the door to ask admittance. This is expressed musically as a dotted figure:
This figure appears in Mozart's opera The Magic Flute in the overture, suggesting the opening of the Masonic initiation. According to Katherine Thomson, there are many other examples of specific musical symbols taken from the Masonic rites that appear throughout Mozart's compositions. These include the use of suspensions to indicate friendship and brotherhood, the use of three-part harmony to emphasize the special significance of the number three in Freemasonry, and special rhythms and harmonies to signify fortitude and other attributes. There is, however, absolutely no musicological proof originating from the 18th century that the three notes have anything to do with Freemasonry. This is, of course, in line with the esoteric nature of Freemasonry. These three notes, which originate from the French genre of "le merveilleux", already appear in the musical theater of the early 18th century. The three chords in the overture can be found in many other 18th-century stage works, such as Traetta's Armida and Gazzaniga's La Circe, operas that have absolutely no connection with Freemasonry.
List of Mozart's Masonic compositions
The following is a list of surviving works that Mozart composed for performance at gatherings of Masons.
- Song, Lobegesang auf die feierliche Johannisloge: "O heiliges Band der Freundschaft treuer Brüder" (O sacred bond of friendship between true brothers), K 148/125h, (1772)
- Cantata "Dir, Seele des Weltalls", K. 429/468a (fragment, completed by M. Stadler) (1783)
- Song, "Lied zur Gesellenreise: Die ihr einem neuen Grad," K. 468, "for use at installation of new journeymen" (1785)
- Cantata for tenor and male chorus Die Maurerfreude ("The Mason's Joy") K. 471 (1785)
- The Masonic Funeral Music (Maurerische Trauermusik), K. 477/479a (1785)
- Two songs for tenor and organ used for the opening and closing ceremonies of the lodge in Austria "Zur Neugekrönten Hoffnung":
- Zur Eröffnung der Freimaurerloge: "Zerfließet Heut, Geliebter Brüder", K. 483 (1786)
- Zur Eröffnung der Freimaurerloge: "Ihr Unsre Neuen Leiter", K. 484 (1786)
- Cantata for tenor and piano, Die ihr die unermesslichen Weltalls Schöpfer ehrt, for use at meetings of the "Colony of the Friends of Nature," K. 619 (1791)
- The Little Masonic Cantata (Kleine Freimaurer-Kantate) entitled Laut verkünde unsre Freude, for soloists, male chorus, and orchestra, K. 623 (1791)
- Song, "Laßt uns mit geschlungen Händen," K. 623a, ("for the close of the lodge" and intended final chorus to K. 623) (1791)
The story and music of his opera The Magic Flute is also considered to have strong Masonic influences.
List of fellow Masons
The following is a partial list of family members, patrons, and colleagues who like Mozart were Masons.
- Joseph Haydn - friend and colleague (attended only one meeting)
- Joseph Lange - brother-in-law of Mozart's wife
- Prince Lichnowsky - friend and patron
- Leopold Mozart - father
- Michael von Puchberg - friend and lender of money
- Gottfried van Swieten - patron
- Angelo Soliman
- Anton Stadler - friend and colleague (clarinetist)
- Otto Heinrich von Gemmingen-Hornberg - friend, brother and founder of Wohltätigkeit (Charity) Lodge
- Emanuel Schikaneder - Librettist of The Magic Flute
Mozart's grandfather Johann Georg, a bookbinder, was raised among the extended Mozart family in Augsburg, in the house of Johann's own grandfather David Mozart. David and his children were distinguished architects and master operative (craft) masons of the Augsburg guild (as contrasted to speculative freemasons). But close affinities among operative and speculative existed in this period.
- It has further been suggested that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is represented on the far right, sitting next to his friend Emanuel Schikaneder. The fact that the two men wear a golden square (an exclusive insignia of the chairman and the first supervisor) precludes this identification. For discussion of these errors see Michael Lorenz: "Neue Forschungsergebnisse zum Theater auf der Wieden und Emanuel Schikaneder", Wiener Geschichtsblätter, 4/2008, (Vienna: Verein für Geschichte der Stadt Wien, 2008), pp. 15–36
- Solomon 1995, 321
- Deutsch 1965, 231. Deutsch's book records Mozart's visits to "Zur wahren Eintracht", preserved in the lodge attendance records.
- Solomon 322
- Deutsch 1965
- Solomon 1995, 327
- Thomson (1977) p. 14.
- Thomson (1977) p. 107.
- J.M. Roberts. The Mythology of Secret Societies (London: Watkins, 2008), passim
- Peter Paul Fuchs "A Resolution of Mozart and Freemasonry: Enlightenment and the Persistence of Counter-Reformation" (masonmusic.org)
- quoted in Thomson (1977) p. 41.
- Thomson (1977) p. 60.
- Thomson (1977) p. 42
- David J. Buch: Magic Flutes and Enchanted Forests, The University of Chicago Press, 2008
- Deutsch (1965, 236): "On [11 February 1785] Haydn was admitted to the 'Concord' lodge; but as he never again appeared there, he never passed the apprentice stage."
- Braunbehrens 1990, 318
- "Die Kunstlerfamilie Mozart". Retrieved 10 May 2011.
- Braunbehrens, Volkmar (1990). Mozart in Vienna. New York: Grove and Weidenfeld.
- Deutsch, Otto Erich (1965). Mozart: A Documentary Biography. Stanford: Stanford University Press.
- Solomon, Maynard (1995). Mozart: A Life. Harper Collins.
- Thomson, Katherine (1977). The Masonic Thread in Mozart. London: Lawrence and Wishart. ISBN 0853153817.
- Mozart’s masonic music, Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon official website.