The Love Story of Mozart and Constanze
There are many blog posts, books and papers on the relationship between Mozart and his wife, Constanze, and they all seem to tell a different story. Some cast Constanze in a glowing light, as a well-educated and talented woman who inspired the genius composer. While others recount tales of the opposite and describe her as a common, disloyal wife unworthy of Mozart. Although only the couple themselves knew the truth, we’ll try and paint an accurate picture of their lives together so you can envisage the pair and their relationship.
Constanze Weber was born into a very musical family in Zell im Wiesental in south-west Germany. Her father, Fridolin Weber, was a successful double bass player, music copyist and prompter and his half-brother was the father of composer Carl Maria von Weber. Constanze had three sisters, two older and one younger, and all four trained to be wonderful singers. Josepha and Aloysia, Constanze’s two older sisters, went on to have incredibly successful musical careers and even performed in the premiers of some of Mozart’s pieces.
During Constanze’s childhood, the family spent a lot of time in Mannheim, the hometown of her mother and a centre of musical excellence. In 1777 while looking for work, 21-year-old Mozart visited the town and developed a strong relationship with the Weber family. It was then he fell in love with Aloysia, Constanze’s older sister, although their relationship didn’t go very far.
Joseph Lange [Public domain]
Her move to Vienna
In 1779, the Webers moved to Vienna and just one month after they arrived, Fridolin died. To make ends meet, Constanze’s mother, Cacilia, took on boarders in the house in which they lived. Just two years later, Mozart arrived at the house in May, intending “to stay there only a week” but ended up falling for 19-year-old Constanze and staying there for several months instead. When Constanze’s mother found out about the courtship, she asked Mozart to leave and he moved out in September.
Despite no longer living under the same roof, the courtship between Mozart and Constanze continued, although there were definitely ups and downs. Surviving correspondence suggests that the couple briefly split in April 1782, following an episode of jealousy after a young man measured Constanze’s calves in a parlour game. But they worked things out and the same year decided to get married, which turned out to be a lot easier said than done.
Mozart's disapproving father
Constanze was well-educated and, in addition to being musically-gifted, could speak excellent French and Italian, as well as her native German. In many ways, she was the ideal wife for a composer, something which Mozart heartily believed. But records suggest that Mozart’s father, Leopold, didn’t agree that Constanze was a good match for his son and didn’t want the marriage to go ahead.
Many letters went back and forth between Mozart and Leopold, often with Mozart praising the talents of his love and Leopold standing his ground and refusing to let his mind be changed. One such letter read, “I must make you better acquainted with the character of my dear Constanze. Her whole beauty consists in two little black eyes and a pretty figure. She likes to be neatly and cleanly dressed, but not smartly; and most things that a woman needs she is able to make for herself; and she dresses her own hair every day. I love her and she loves me with all her heart. Tell me whether I could wish for a better wife.
Joseph Lange [Public domain]
Mozart and Constanze’s marriage
But despite everything that was against them, the couple did marry in the summer of 1782. Daniel Heartz, an American musicologist and Professor of Music and the University of California, Berkeley proposes that before they were married, Constanze moved in with Mozart, making her a real disgrace of the time. On July 31st, 1782 Mozart wrote to Leopold, “All the good and well-intentioned advice you have sent fails to address the case of a man who has already gone so far with a maiden. Further postponement is out of the question.” Just five days later on August 4th, 1782 the couple were married at St. Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. The very next day, a letter of consent arrived from Mozart’s father.
During their marriage, Mozart and Constanze had six children, only two of whom survived infancy — Karl Thomas Mozart (21st September 1784 — 31st October 1858) and Franz Xaver Wolfgang Mozart (26th July 1791 — 29th July 1844).
How Constanze influenced Mozart's music
Constanze was a trained, talented musician and many people believe she played an important role in her husband’s career. One example of this is the soprano solo in Great Mass in C Minor he wrote for her to sing, which she did in 1783 at the premier of his work in Salzburg. Another example is how Constanze’s love for Baroque counterpoint influenced Mozart’s work so greatly that he started paying frequent visits to Baron Gottfried van Swieten during their courtship so we could browse his extensive Bach and Handel manuscript collection. Inspired by Constanze’s love of the genre and excited by the material presented before him, Mozart prepared several compositions in the Baroque style.
Clayton Tang [CC BY-SA 3.0]
Following Mozart's death
When Mozart died on December 5th, 1791 he left behind a lot of debt which put Constanze in a tough position. At this time, she succeeded in obtaining a pension from the emperor and organising profitable memorial concerts, all the while embarking on a campaign to publish the works of her husband. This work not only made Constanze financially secure, but ultimately a wealthy woman. Her two surviving sons travelled to Prague to be educated by Franz Xaver Niemetschek, with whom she co-wrote Mozart’s first full biography.
In 1797, Constanze met Danish Diplomat Georg Nikolaus von Nissen. The couple married in 1809 and worked on a final Mozart biography which was published in 1828, two years after the death of her second husband. During her final years, Constanze’s two surviving sisters, Aloysia and Sophie, moved to Salzburg and they all lived out their lives together.