Lessons From Mozart and His Dad

Leopold was overbearing — relentless in his demand for perfection. But thankfully, his commitment to excellence nurtured the most prodigious and prolific musician of all time.

Jordan Shapiro

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Mozart and Family. By Archivist — stock.adobe.com

Listen to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Think about his father. Leopold was overbearing — relentless in his demand for perfection. But thankfully, his commitment to excellence nurtured the most prodigious and prolific musician of all time. [i]

All the great maestros were in awe of Wolfgang’s genius. “Mozart is the highest,” Tchaikovsky wrote in his diaries, “the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music.”

More than two hundred years after he died, Mozart remains a household name. Who isn’t familiar with at least a few of Wolfgang’s melodies? Even folks who don’t like classical music or opera instantly recognize the earworms from Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, the Jupiter Symphony, and the Der Hölle Rache aria from The Magic Flute.

His greatest hits fill the ambient soundtrack of our lives, playing in the background at restaurants, shopping centers, and in television commercials. Wolfgang’s lasting influence and unmatched talent will forever be a testament to Leopold’s skill as a music teacher. But as a father, he was a disaster.

Wolfgang’s lasting influence and unmatched talent will forever be a testament to Leopold’s skill as a music teacher. But as a father, he was a disaster.

Consumed with envy and resentment, Leopold wielded parental authority in selfish and vengeful ways. Just one example: he tried to prevent his son’s marriage. The Mozart household was reliant on the income produced by Wolfgang’s celebrity and Leopold didn’t want young Constanze, or the six children she’d eventually bear, to become the beneficiaries of Wolfgang’s impressive earning power.[ii]

That’s not all. Father and son were constantly locked in a toxic waltz of financial, artistic, and professional conflict. When Wolfgang was born in 1756, Leopold had already achieved some minor success as a violinist and composer for the royal…

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Jordan Shapiro

Author of Father Figure: How to Be a Feminist Dad (www.FeministDadBook.com) Twitter: @jordosh