From at least the mid-1780s, references to Mozart and his music began to appear in a variety of literary genres, as diverse as a didactic children’s story (Musäus, Moralische Kinderklapper für Kinder und Nichtkinder, 1788), a theological tract (Barth, Meine Gedanken über die Einleitung in die christliche Religion, 1791), and several plays. Frambach’s Menschenwerth is one of five plays published or performed during Mozart’s lifetime that are now known to contain references to him; the others are Kaffka’s Sechs Freyer und keine Braut (1787), Kotzebue’s Menschenhaß und Reue (1788), Jünger’s Er mengt sich in alles (1791), and one other still to be published on this site.
Johann Heinrich Frambach (1771–1821) was a writer who spent most of his career as a public official. Born in Düsseldorf, from 1795 he was in Cologne, where he became a tax collector for the occupying French administration. In 1799 he married Maria Ursula Claisen; their daughter Marie Agnes Frederique was born in 1801, and there may have been a further daughter in 1815. In 1801, Frambach and Franz Bachoven (d. 1817) formed a short-lived theater troupe that had controversial tenures in Cologne, Aachen, and Düsseldorf (see Fritz 1901, 103–25 and Auch 1960, 58–70). After a sojourn in Hamburg, where he may have worked as a goldsmith (Huppert 1924, 381), Frambach returned to Cologne, eventually becoming chair of the finance bureau for the Roer-Département. Following the French defeat, he served as secretary of the Cologne Handelskammer until his death. Frambach has sometimes been confused with the philologist and prolific playwright Friedrich Eberhard Rambach (1767–1826).
Frambach began his literary career with a series of plays: Menschenwerth (1791), Betrug durch Heucheley (1792), Der Flüchtling (1793), and Die Inquisition (1798). These attracted little attention and none are known to have been produced, although Menschenwerth was also issued in Vienna in 1791 in vol. 87 of Jahn’s Theatralische Sammlung. The short play Kreuz- und Queerzüge: Leben und Heldentod des Ritters Gaensebier (1795) is a satire on the Jacobin writer Franz Theodor Matthias Biergans. In 1801 Frambach composed a prologue for the opening night of his theater company (the prologue is printed in Dahm 1802). His tragedy Die Belagerung von Hamburg im Jahre 1216 was produced in Hamburg in 1804 and published in 1810; it received scathing reviews and did not enter the repertory. Frambach also edited and contributed to the newspapers Verkündiger im Ruhr-Departement in 1801–1802 and 1806–1807 (see Goedeke, vol. 16:496), and Welt- und Staatsboth zu Köln from 1809.
Menschenwerth (“Menschen=Werth” on the title page) is apparently Frambach’s first published work; the preface is dated Düsseldorf, April 1791. The play concerns two unscrupulous friends: the lawyer Ludwig Gallburg (son of the couple in the scene quoted above) and the ordinand Heinrich Seestädt, who conspire to have Heinrich’s sister Leonore married off to Ludwig. But Leonore is in love with an actor, Julius Hellniz, and refuses to marry Ludwig. Ludwig and Heinrich’s scheme is eventually revealed, and Leonore is able to marry Julius.
As Huppert points out (1924, 381), the themes of the play—the hypocrisy of the clergy and bourgeoisie, and the virtue displayed by the impoverished Julius—were no doubt inspired by the revolutionary ideas of the time. The title Menschenwerth derives from Leonore’s speech to her father justifying her love for Julius:
Edel ist seine Liebe — ja Vater,
denn in seinem Herzen wohnt die reinste Tu=
gend! — Eine Würde, die ihm kein Fürst zu
geben vermögte, ist seiner Seele eingeprägt! —
Der wahre Menschenwerth, den nichts, keine
Armuth, keine Fesseln verdrängen! —
[Frambach, Menschenwerth, 45]
Noble is his love — yes Father,
because in his heart lives the purest virtue! —
A dignity which no prince could give him is
imprinted on his soul! — The true human value,
which nothing, not poverty, nor fetters can
(An echo of the phrase also appears near the end of the play, on page 147.) Similar sentiments are found in the epigraph printed on the play’s title page, adapted from Friedrich von Hagedorn’s poem Die Glückseligkeit:
Nicht Erbrecht und Geburt, das Herz macht groß und klein;
Ein König könnte Sklav, ein Sklave König seyn.
Inheritance and birth do not make the heart large or small;
A king could be a slave, or a slave a king.
(Hagedorn actually wrote “Nicht Erbrecht noch Geburt,” and “Kaiser,” not “König.”)
The reference to Mozart appears at the beginning of Act 3. Ludwig’s father, the well-meaning but naïve Commerzienrath asks his snobbish and scheming wife (in her first appearance) why she is not at the concert hall. He addresses her as “Malchen,” the pet form of Amalia or Amalie. The male singers mentioned by the Commerzienrath (Strombolo, Fiorelli, Carasella and Berrosi) do not appear to be historical figures, but rather stereotypical “Italian” surnames. The female singers (Camilla, Cassandra, Rosaura) are mentioned only by their first names, but these too are probably Frambach’s inventions. The composers are a different story: “Chimaroso” is undoubtedly Domenico Cimarosa (1749–1801), and “Risello” is probably intended to be Giovanni Paisiello (1740–1816). Frambach could hardly have been unaware of the correct spellings, and the mangling of their names was no doubt for humorous effect. Mozart is the only composer whose name is left intact.
Nothing is known of Frambach’s life or education in Düsseldorf, or his knowledge of music. In the context of the play, Mozart is named among composers and singers of opera, and it is the only non-Italian name. No opera by Mozart is known to have been performed in Düsseldorf by the time of the publication of Menschenwerth. Cologne, the largest nearby city, saw a production of Die Entführung aus dem Serail by the company of Johann Böhm as early as Oct 1784; in Bonn, just slightly further away, Don Giovanni was first performed on 13 Oct 1789, and Figaro a month later, on 14 Nov. Both operas (in German adaptations) seem to have been quite popular in Bonn, and Frambach might have heard of their success, even if he was not able to attend. But by early 1791, when Frambach was preparing Menschenwerth for publication, he would have had many opportunities to read in the theatrical press about Mozart’s operas on German stages, without having seen any of them. So he might merely have dropped Mozart’s name without knowing Mozart’s music.
We are grateful to Steven Whiting for his assistance with the research for this entry.