Augsburg was the birthplace of Leopold Mozart (1719-1787). He was a composer and musician in his own right, and also the author of what was then a standard textbook on learning to play the violin. But of course he is most famous as the father, teacher, manager and slave-driver of the world’s greatest composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791).
The house where Leopold Mozart was born is now a museum, but I hasten to add that it has been renovated and rearranged twice since I took these photos, so it no doubt looks a lot different now.
As of 2020 it has a completely new permanent exhibition (re-opened on May 19, 2020), with much more emphasis on Leopold Mozart than in past versions. As the museum’s website explains: “It is worth getting to know the whole Leopold Mozart and not just the father of Wolfgang Amadeus. Leopold is an independent personality who will remain inextricably linked to his son, but still has much more to offer.”
The name Mozart originated in the countryside around Augsburg, and the museum at least used to have a display (I don’t know if it still does) showing which of Mozart’s ancestors lived in which villages, and what they did there. Mainly they were skilled craftsmen of one sort or another, working with their hands. By 1480 someone named Mozart was already living in the city of Augsburg, and Wolfgang’s great-great-grandfather David Mozart was born in Augsburg in around 1620.
Leopold Mozart’s father (Wolfgang’s grandfather) was a book-binder. Leopold was apparently the first one in the family to become a professional musician.
In 1737, when he was eighteen, Leopold Mozart left Augsburg to enroll in the University of Salzburg, Austria. In 1747 he got married in Salzburg, which is also where his musically gifted children were born.
In 1763 Leopold Mozart spent 15 days in Augsburg with his eleven-year-old daughter Nannerl and seven-year-old son Wolfgang, at the start of their three-year European concert tour. The children were already famous as child-prodigy musicians. Leopold was not only their teacher and sole accompanying parent on this trip (their mother was back home in Salzburg), he also organized the whole tour, sent articles to the local newspapers, rented concert halls, sold the tickets and most importantly made contact with local princes and dukes along the way, so the children could give lucrative concerts at their courts.
This first big tour took the Mozarts to Ulm, Stuttgart, Ludwigsburg, Schwetzingen, Mannheim, Frankfurt, Cologne, Liège, Brussels, Paris and London, among many other places. On their way home after three years they stopped again in Augsburg, but only for two days, from November 6th to 8th, 1766.
They traveled by stage coach, as that was the only means of transportation available. The roads were not paved, so this sort of travel was bumpy and dusty, and very slow. It was also dangerous. As a precaution, Leopold always carried a pistol and a knife with him, but he never had to use them.
His famous son Wolfgang spent a third of his life on the road (about twelve years out of thirty-five), giving concerts and trying to get jobs as a musician or resident composer.
Leopold-Mozart-Haus, Frauentorstraße 30, Augsburg
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2020.