Mozart and Count Firmian (and six other documents)

Knoller-Firmian (announcement)

We have added three new entries to our site: two overlooked references to Mozart in the diaries of Count Zinzendorf and a new reading of Zinzendorf’s well-known entry of 5 Dec 1782. The overlooked references were discovered by Mary Sue Morrow and included (without transcription) in her 1989 book on Viennese concert life, but up to now they have not been noticed by Mozart scholars.

Mozart and Count Firmian (Firmian’s letter of recommendation to Prince Doria Pamphilj)

Count Carlo di Firmian, Habsburg minister plenipotentiary to Austrian Lombardy and youngest brother of Count Franz Laktanz von Firmian, Obersthofmeister in Salzburg, has been curiously neglected by Mozart scholars. Yet he was one of Mozart’s most important patrons, and he played a central role in Mozart’s transition from keyboard prodigy to professional composer, intermediating Wolfgang’s three opera contracts for Milan: Mitridate (1770), Ascanio in Alba (1771), and Lucio Silla (1772), his first theatrical works performed multiple times before large audiences.

In this article-length commentary, Dexter Edge reconsiders Firmian’s relationship with Mozart in the wider context of his patronage of such figures as Johann Joachim Winckelmann, Cesare Beccaria, Giuseppe Parini, and painters Martin Knoller, Carlo Bonavia, and perhaps Angelika Kauffmann, among many others. Firmian’s homosociality and sexuality is also examined, particularly in light of his close relationship with Winckelmann.

Burney and Mozart in Bologna (correction)

Charles Burney’s encounter with the Mozarts in Bologna on 30 Aug 1770 is known to Mozart scholars mainly from a passage in An Eighteenth-Century Musical Tour in France and Italy, published by Percy Scholes in 1959. The passage from Scholes is reproduced in Dokumente (113), where it is represented as coming from Burney’s manuscript travel notes from his continental tour in 1770. But this is incorrect: the passage is based on a revision and (inaccurate) extension that Burney made much later, apparently for use in his memoirs. We give the passage as Burney actually wrote it in his travel diary in 1770, along with a facsimile of the page.

Princess Maria Beatrice d’Este attends Mitridate
On the reception of Mitridate

We present two newly discovered references to Mozart’s Mitridate in the newspaper Notizie del Mondo. The first documents a performance of the opera on New Year’s Day 1771, attended by Francesco III d’Este, Duke of Modena, and his granddaughter Maria Beatrice d’Este, whose marriage with Habsburg Archduke Ferdinand later that year would be the occasion for Mozart’s Ascanio in Alba. The second is a brief reference to Mitridate in a report of the coming premiere of the second carnival opera in Milan that season, Carlo Monza’s La Nitteti. This second reference is ambiguously negative on the reception of Mitridate, and as such is the only known document suggesting that Mozart’s opera was anything other than a great success.

Count Firmian recommends Mozart to Count Lascaris di Castellar
Carlo Flaminio Raiberti to Antonio Greppi on a scrittura for Mozart in Turin

These two letters, discovered by Harrison James Wignall (Harrison Gradwell Slater) and first published in the mid 1990s, shed light on Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart’s trip to Turin from 14 to 31 Jan 1771, the reasons for which were previously obscure. The letters show that one goal of the trip was to investigate the possibility of securing a commission for Wolfgang to compose a carnival opera for the Teatro Regio in Turin.

Gradenigo on Mozart in Venice

On 24 Feb 1771, Pietro Gradenigo recorded in his Venetian chronicle a performance by “that prodigious foreign boy”—that is, Mozart. The performance on 24 Feb (which Gradenigo probably did not attend) was previously unknown; the passage was first published by Pier Giuseppe Gillio in 1992. Dexter Edge argues in his commentary that the performance probably took place at the residence of Giovanni Bragadin, the Patriarch of Venice. Gradenigo also notes that the performance was “perhaps” Mozart’s second in Venice; if he is correct, the earlier performance may have been at the residence of Catterin Corner. Another entry in Gradenigo’s chronicle may shed new light on Mozart’s public concert in Venice on 5 Mar 1771.

We have also made revisions to five existing commentaries to bring them into line with the research in the present set. The entry “Giovenale Sacchi on Mozart the prodigy” has been substantially revised to include a discussion of Sacchi’s relationship with Count Firmian; “Giovenale Sacchi on Mozart in Milan” has been revised to take into account Sacchi’s dedication to Firmian of Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci; and a facsimile of Gradenigo’s entry on Mozart’s Verona concert has been added to our entry for 5 Jan 1770, along with a corrected transcription based on the original. Smaller updates have also been made to our entry for 27 Dec 1769 and to “Linley and Mozart as ‘the most promising geniusses of this age’”.

We welcome all reports of corrections, potential new documents, and proposals for commentaries. All contributions and corrections will be explicitly acknowledged. Correspondence should be directed to Dexter Edge at

We also continue to welcome financial contributions to the project, which currently receives no financial support of any kind; we currently cover the costs of sources and technology out of our own pockets. If you would like to contribute, please contact Dexter Edge at; or if you have a PayPal account, you can send a contribution directly to the account linked to that e-mail address.

We are very grateful to Arizona State University for providing access to its research collections and online resources.

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