Thursday, August 18, 2011

Salieri Rehabilitated

Today is Antonio Salieri’s birthday. You know, the guy who killed Mozart. Not. Many of us know the story because of playwright Peter Shaffer’s deliciously wicked play Amadeus. Amadeus was then made into a film directed by Milos Forman and starred F. Murray Abraham as Salieri and Tom Hulce as Mozart. The film was a huge hit and Salieri’s doom was sealed. 
Shaffer wasn’t the first to work the rumor mill. Alexander Pushkin based his play Mozart and Salieri on the tale and many years later his play was made into an opera by Rimsky-Korsakov. How did all of this get set in motion?

The rumor might have started when Salieri, in poor physical and mental health, was admitted to a hospital in Vienna. It was claimed he made a deathbed confession that he did the deed and the rest is history.

Shaffer’s chief sin in Amadeus is promulgating the lie that Salieri was a mediocre talent. It’s simply not so. Salieri was one of the leading composers of his day, a bright light in musical Vienna and a composer whose operas were successfully produced in Italy and Paris.

Want proof? Here's a few recordings of Salieri’s music that prove there’s much to love. All I am saying is give Salieri a chance!

Matthias Bamert and the London Mozart Players recording of his overtures and symphonies show what a colorful and inventive composer Salieri actually was.

Speaking of orchestral music, you should also pick up these albums by Thomas Fey and the Mannheimer Mozartorchester.

Salieri was one of the greatest operatic composers of his day and he’s very well served by Diana Damrau on her Bravura Arias album. Any fan of Mozart’s “Martern aller Arten” from Abduction from the Seraglio will be swept up in Salieri’s show-stopping arias.

--Craig Zeichner

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