The Cultural Influences of W. A. Mozart's Music in Philadelphia: 1786-1861

Potter, Dorothy Turner , Department of History, University of Virginia
Onuf, Peter, Department of History, University of Virginia

This study focuses on the role of Wolfgang A. Mozart's music and reputation in the growth of Philadelphia's cultural life between 1786, when the first performance of his works in the United States took place in that city, and 1861, prior to the beginning of the Civil War. During these seventy-five years Philadelphia's prominence among American communities meant that a number of its citizens were crucial in the formation of American values and customs. For example, musicians, publishers, and/or piano makers such as Alexander Reinagle, Benjamin Carr, Francis Johnson, George Willig, and George Blake---to name a few---influenced national tastes far beyond the confines of their city, state and region.

Cultivated music, much of which was initially imported from Great Britain, was considerably less the province of cultural elites before the Civil War. Throughout the United States antebellum audiences favored a blend of vernacular and cultivated works, with the latter often adapted or, if necessary, translated into English. Both travelling troupes and visiting European celebrities such as Marie Malibran, Jenny Lind, and Louis Antoine Jullien deliberately included a variety of music in their programs. Inclusiveness was also promoted in Philadelphia's Chesnut and Walnut Theatres, Musical Fund Hall, and the Academy of Music, which presented diverse entertainments. Many of Mozart's instrumental and vocal works performed in these and other sites became staples of nineteenth-century parlor entertainments.

Philadelphia's music publishing and instrument -making industries and popular literature are also crucial elements in this study. The adaptability of Mozart's music to a domestic setting insured his place as a viable commodity. His name on a piano work, whether he had in fact composed it, increased sales and consequently his reputation. Biographies, literary magazines, and encyclopedias also informed the public, and in particular women readers (many of whom were amateur musicians) about individuals whose lives exemplified qualities of which' Victorians approved. Philadelphia's literary magazines, most notably Godey' s Lady's Book, became important elements of this self -educational element. Thus Mozart became-- -and remained--- the quintessential example of youthful diligence and tragic genius.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Mozart's music, cultural influence
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