Leopold Kozeluch was born on June 20th, 1747 at Velvary in Bohemia (now Czechoslovakia), about 20 miles northwest of Prague. He was named Jan Antonin at birth, but later (in 1773) changed his name to Leopold, as his cousin and teacher was also Jan Antonin (and became Kapellmeister of St. Vitu's cathedral in Prague from 1784 until 1814).
Kozeluch received his initial basic musical training at the village school, but early on he began to follow the path of becoming a lawyer, ending up studying for that career at the university in Prague. He continued music studies with his cousin and the composer Frantisek Duschek (along with his wife Josepha, beloved friends of the Mozart family) while taking law classes, and eventually composed small ballets and pantomimes. His successes with these between 1771 and 1778 led him to decide to give up becoming a lawyer and take up music full time instead.
He moved to Vienna in 1778 to pursue music as a career, and quickly established himself as a composer, pianist of note, and teacher. Among his pupils were such notables as the blind pianist Maria Theresia von Paradis, Princess Elisabeth of Wurttemberg (the later wife of Emperor Franz II) and the Emperor's daughter Marie-Louise, who became Napoleon's second wife. The demand for his teaching time was a constant one for many years. Kozeluch became respected as a musician and pedagogue, but his ability to turn vicious when crossed was widely noted and earned him the contempt of many of his peers.
By 1781, Kozeluch had become so well entrenched in his career (as well as with the Court) that he could decline the offer to succeed Mozart as court organist at Salzburg when Mozart bolted from the Archbishop's employ to start his own career in Vienna. Mozart reported to his father in a letter that Kozeluch had turned down the offer with the remark, "What deters me most is the Mozart affair. If he (the Archbishop) lets such a man go, would he not do worse to me?" However, this can be read as puffery to sooth Leopold; being at this point well-established in Vienna and with ties to the Imperial family via teaching, Kozeluch would probably have had no real incentive to leave for Salzburg.
Mozart and Kozeluch no doubt had their first real "meeting" over the Princess Elisabeth of Wurttemberg. One may recall that in 1781 Mozart was considered for the post of instructing her in music. This was a plum appointment, putting the music-master chosen into direct contact with many members of the royal family, which was a most valuable way to financial security. Whether or not Mozart was the better instructor was probably not the point, but the fact that he had just broken with the Archbishop without being formally discharged was no doubt of bigger importance. Kozeluch and his supporters lobbied him for the post and he succeeded in gaining it, but the suspicion is that it was here that he began his dislike for Mozart. A dislike that, unlike Salieri's reputed one, was in fact well known.
It should be no surprise that Mozart and Kozeluch, both esteemed pianists, began to get compared in print and public. The periodical "Pfeffer und Salz" from April 5, 1786 reported, "It is no secret that Herr Leopold Kozeluch competes with Mozart. His art on the pianoforte is not to be judged, for he is perhaps the only virtuoso in Vienna who never plays in public. His compositions, on the other hand, bespeak an excellent mind, and no other fault is to be found with them than they are too difficult….In general, there are amateur ladies here who play such concertos as they have learnt almost as well as Mozart himself."
Perhaps the author was thinking of Maria Theresia Paradies here. This famous blind pianist was the gifted pupil of Kozeluch, perhaps even his star pupil. She was capable of playing by memory over 60 piano concerti alone, and in 1784 she commissioned Mozart to write her a new concerto for her upcoming tour to Paris. What resulted was Piano Concerto # 18 in Bb K.456. In the words of Alfred Einstein, "It is evidence of Mozart's broadmindedness, or of his indifference, that he wrote a new concerto for the pupil of his deadly enemy…" but there may have been more to it than that; rather possibly the satisfaction of giving this star pupil (the Empress's goddaughter, no less) a better concerto to take to Paris than any of the dozens her teacher could provide. (Note: Salieri composed an organ concerto for her as well, and there appears to be no documentation for any Kozeluch/Salieri rivalry, so Einstein's opinion may not hold as much water as previously thought. Ed.)
It wasn't as though they could avoid one another either. "Networking" for all the composers in Vienna at that time meant making the rounds of the salon parties given by people of means. One had to be seen in order to cultivate a relationship, which would lead to commissions and subscriptions to concert series. Michael Kelly, one of the original cast members of the opera The Marriage of Figaro K.492, writes in his memoirs that he first met Mozart at such a salon gathering. Kozeluch, as it turns out, was playing the fortepiano, while Mozart, Vanhal and Dittersdorf were (at least at that time) listening. From this, one can see as well that there were certain salons where it was almost mandatory to be "seen" and thus a great assemblage of talent would be present at them. So, if Kozeluch didn't "compete" on the public stage, he DID compete in these private salons, where the movers and shakers of Viennese society could view things very up close and personal. What reports we have would indicate that Mozart came off the better of the two, but this is by no means certain.
In 1784 Kozeluch acquired the backing to found his own publishing business, the Musikalisches Magazin, which later was to be managed by his younger brother Antonin Tomas. Mozart had several works published by him, including the variations K.354 "Je suis Lindor." Other works such as the six string quartets planned for the King of Prussia (only three K.575, K.589 and K.590 were completed), were planned to be issued by Kozeluch but went to Artaria instead. In November of 1791, piano reduction scores of arias from Die Zauberflötte K.620 were published by this firm, allowing Kozeluch to cash in on the popularity of Mozart's opera. As well, he shopped his own compositions around to other publishers as well, establishing links with such notables as John Bland, Lewis, Houston & Hyde, and George Thomson of Edinburgh, with which he published Scottish, Welsh and Irish folksongs.
Apart from an early oratorio (Moses in Egypt), nearly all of Kozeluch's religious works have been lost to us. As well, he appears to have composed at least 6 operas, none of which have survived either. As older archives in Europe are re-examined and catalogued, more of these may be uncovered. His purely instrumental compositions include some 50 piano sonatas, chamber music such as 60+ piano trios, duos and quartets; 20+ concerti and 11 symphonies. Dr. Charles Burney, in his General History of Music (1789), described his efforts as: "They are in general excellent, abounding with solidity, good taste, correct harmony; and the imitations of Haydn are less frequent than in any other master of that school." Modern consideration of them shows that they do not display any highly individualistic characteristics that set them apart from other contemporary composers, If anything, they are often mistaken for middle period Haydn works when first heard. Having said that, they do display vigor and vitality within their somewhat limited range of expression, and Kozeluch can turn out good melodies well displayed and framed. For the time, the music of Kozeluch was easy to grasp, well finished, very available on the market and hence popular.
Perhaps Kozeluch's finest musical moment was his cantata for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II in Prague in 1791. This was commissioned by the Bohemian parliament for the coronation ceremonies held in Prague that year. This same organization commissioned Mozart to provide the opera La Clemenza di Tito K.621 as well. However, the public acclaim distributed for these musical efforts appears to have gone more towards Kozeluch than Mozart. For example, Haydn (in London at the time) reading in the newspaper the Morning Chronicle would have read a report on the coronation festivities mentioning Kozeluch twice, once as the composer of the cantata and once as director of the large orchestral concert, but nowhere would Mozart or La Clemenza di Tito even get a mention.
The cantata itself was premiered September 12th at a folk festival and invitation ball, held at the National Theater in Prague. During supper, Kozeluch's Homage Cantata was sung by Mozart's old friend Josepha Duschek in the presence of Leopold II, his consort and many other notable dignitaries. We do not know if Mozart was present, but being the composer of the festival opera seria, an Imperial Court Composer to Leopold and friends with the featured singer, it is very likely he attended. Both performances of Tito had been made by this date, leaving him free of any official duties for the day.
biographer Niemetschek wrote to the publishers Breitkopf & Härtel that
he became Mozart's friend at the coronation ceremonies in Prague. In
letter of 1799 to them Niemetschek stated that had deliberately
refrained from mentioning Kozeluch's name in Mozart's biography, the
reasons being given in the relevant portion as: " Leopold Kozeluch…continually
followed Mozart in Prague with the most petty jealousy. At coronation
time he slandered him villainously and even attacked his moral
character. Kozeluch lost all his credit: I got to know this small man
and small composer since he lived at a friend's and did not compose the
cantata on Meissner's text within four weeks but with the sweat of his
brow he patched it together and with a curse gave birth to-a
changeling." Implying, one suspects, that Kozeluch cribbed material from
other sources (perhaps obvious ones?) and hence produced this work. "
Haydn, who had much contact with him over the years, did not care much
for Kozeluch, and Beethoven had the perfect description for him:
miserablis! (Very certainly Haydn was aware of how Kozeluch had
badmouthed some of his music. In one such case, Kozeluch had assured
Mozart that he would never composed a quartet the way Haydn had, to
which Mozart replied: “Nor should I, but do you know why? Because
neither you or I would have had so good an idea.”)
On the other hand, Kozeluch has been linked with the only published epitaph from the time, appearing in the paper "Wiener Zeitung" of December 31, 1791 (in Latin), reading:
AN INSCRIPTION FOR MOZARD'S TOMB
He who lies here as a child added to the wonders of the world and as a man surpassed Orpheus with his playing.
Go on your way! And pray for his soul! K (“K”, for Kozeluch?)
For his efforts, talents and connections, Leopold Kozeluch, miserablis, was on June 12, 1792 awarded the post of Royal Orchestra Master (Kapellmeister) and Court Music Composer, which was conferred on him for life. His salary was set at 1500 gulden, or 1.875 times that of Mozart's court pay. He did not "replace" Mozart officially (his title is different, for one thing) but the vacancy left by Mozart's death was, seemingly, filled anyway. True, he was expected to compose operas or oratorios, not dances, but in the end his was the kind of music the man in the street and officials at court understood.
Mozart in Vienna by
Volkmar Braunbehrens; Grove Weidenfeld, New York 1986
CD's :Chandos 9703
"Contemporaries of Mozart" series: Symphonies in D, g, and F
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