Mar 17, 2013

Antonio Salieri's Early Years in Vienna

Antonio Salieri had not turned sixteen yet when he arrived in Vienna on 15 June 1766 together with his discoverer and mentor, the composer Florian Gassmann. Gassmann had met Salieri in Venice and decided to take him to Vienna as a pupil. This was the beginning of an eight-year-long father-son relationship which lasted until Gassmann's death. Salieri's first memory of his stay in Vienna was being taken by Gassmann to the Italian Church of Mary of the Snows (the translation of Mosel's text of Salieri's memoirs presented in this blogpost is Alexander Wheelock Thayer's):
And here I cannot pass over one circumstance which always floats in my grateful memory. The day after my arrival in the capital, my master took me into the Italian church to offer there my devotions. As we were going home he said to me, "I thought it my duty to begin your musical education with God. Now it will depend upon you whether its results shall be good or bad. I shall at all events have done my duty."

Right after his arrival in Vienna Salieri began intensive studies under Gassmann's supervision. An Italian priest gave him lessons in Latin and Italian poetry and he also studied German and French. A musician gave Salieri lessons in basso continuo playing, score reading and violin and Gassmann himself tought Salieri counterpoint based on Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. Since I like to answer questions that nobody has ever posed, I tried to figure out where Salieri lived in Vienna between his arrival and his marriage. This task is easier than it seems, because until Gassmann's death Salieri always lived with his teacher. To follow Salieri's traces during his early years in Vienna therefore amounts to research on Gassmann's life and residences at that time.

 
The earliest of his Viennese addresses that Salieri remembers is "an old house by the so-called Wasserkunstbastey before whose windows lay a marvellous view of the widespread suburbs." The Wasserkunstbastei was part of the southern city walls between the old Kärntnertor and the Stubentor. The exact house overlooking the Wasserkunstbastei where Gassmann and Salieri lived cannot be indentified.

The Wasserkunstbastei between the new and the old Kärntnertor (on the left) and the Stubentor (on the right) on Carl Wenzel Zajicek's panorama of Vienna's fortification. Right behind the center bastion is the tower of the Kolowrat-Liebsteinsky palace.

The same area on the model of old Vienna at the Wienmuseum.

By the time of Gassmann's marriage in 1768 he and Salieri had moved to the suburb of Josephstadt, into the house "Zur goldenen Säule" ("At the Golden Column"), today Josefsgasse 8. Their landlord was the upholsterer Nicolaus Heurteur, a relative of the legendary Austrian actor. This move was related to Gassmann's father-in-law having lived in the Josephstadt for at least 30 years.

On the right Salieri's and Gassmann's 1768/69 residence, the house Josephstadt 52 "Zur goldenen Säule". This house was built in 1708 and torn down in 1910. In the background the house Josephstadt 64 "Zum grünen Strauß" (today Lange Gasse 10, torn down in 1903) where in 1749 Gassmann's wife was born. On the left is the Palais Auersperg.

The entry concerning Florian Gassmann's marriage to Barbara Dam on 22 September 1768: "Der HochgeEhrte H[err] Florianus Gaißmann Kaÿ[serlicher] Compositor L.[edigen] St.[andes] von Brix gebürtig wohnhaft in der Joseph Stadt beÿ der goldenen Säulen, des H. Johann Gaißmann eines Bürgl. Goldschmid, und Evæ beede seel.[ig] ehelicher Sohn". The bride (who is given as "von Damm" in her marriage contract) lived at the "Kaÿserliches Äschernäl" (the imperial armory) im Elend 346. The court violinists Joseph Trani and Matthäus Teyber officiated as witnesses. The "resigned predicate of nobility" assigned to Dam in the literature is pure fiction.

The entry concerning the publishing of the banns on 11 October 1744 for the wedding of Gassmann's parents-in-law Franz Joseph Dam (1707-1773) and Anna Barbara Stadler (Maria Treu, Tom. 1, pag. 587)

The entry concerning the birth of Gassmann's wife Anna Barbara Dam on 16 April 1749 (Maria Treu, Tom. 1735-53, pag. 481)

In summer 1769 Gassmann and Salieri still lived in the Josephstadt which is proven by the baptism of Gassmann's only and hitherto unknown son Franz Michael on 21 July 1769 in the Piarist Church of Maria Treu:

The baptismal entry of Florian Gassmann's first child Franz Michael (Maria Treu, 1754-71, pag. 575)

The child's godfather, the wealthy court jeweller Franz Michael von Smitmer (1701-1782) signifies Gassmann's generally excellent social connections to members of the Viennese upper-class. The Gassmann family and Salieri now moved back to the city into the "Schmidisches Haus" on the Mölkerbastei where Gassmann's son Franz died on 16 August 1770. The "Schmidisches Haus" No. 88 (named after its former owner, the canvas trader Matthäus Schmid) together with the "Marinonisches Haus" was one of the two predecessor buildings of the "Pasqualatihaus" (built in 1797) which today is the only extant residence of Beethoven in the inner city.

Salieri's residence in 1770: the "Schmidisches Haus" No. 88 on the Mölkerbastei.

1772 payment records of the court (unearthed by John Rice) show that at that time Gassmann and Salieri lived in the "neues Häusel an der Bürger Spittal Kirche" ("the new house beside the church of the civic hospital"). This building was located in the so-called Komödiengassel, east of the church St. Clara opposite the Kärntnertortheater.

The area between the Wasserkunstbastei (upper left) and the Bürgerspitalskirche and the Kärntnertortheater (the orange colored "Comedihaus" at the upper right) on the 1710 Steinhausen map. The small garden left of the church marks the future location of Stadt 1068, the "neues Häusel an der Bürger Spittal Kirche". The vertical street is the Kärntnerstraße.

Gassmann's and Salieri's residence in 1772: the house Stadt 1068 beside the Bürgerspitalkirche.

In this house Gassmann's first daughter Anna Barbara (whose name and year of birth are given incorrectly in New Grove, MGG and the Österreichisches Musiklexikon) was born on 23 July 1772. Her godfather was Gassmann's Venetian patron Leonardo Venier, whom New Grove (based on Joseph Sonnleithner's 1795 Theater-Almanach) misnames "Count Leonardo Veneri". Venier was substituted at the baptism by the court physician Dr. Joseph Quarin. After her father's death Anna Barbara Gassmann was to receive singing lessons from Salieri (paid for by the court) and like her younger sister became a "k.k. Hofsängerin" of repute. On 3 October 1816 she married the court violinist Peter Fuchs (1753-1831). Her "second father" Salieri of course signed her marriage contract as witness:

Anna Gassmann's and Salieri's seals and signatures on Peter Fuchs's 1816 marriage contract. Vienna(!)-born Peter Fuchs, son of a mason from Passau, was one of the leading Austrian violin virtuosos of his time. His first wife had been Johanna Gsur, daughter of Tobias Gsur (1725-1794), who in 1774 had unsuccessfully applied for Gassmann's post as Hofkapellmeister. (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 369/1831)

According to Joseph Sonnleithner's biographical sketch Florian Gassmann died of long-term effects of a carriage accident he had suffered during one of his stays in Italy. Gassmann seems to have broken two ribs that punctured his lung and caused fluid to accumulate in the pleural cavity. The cause of death given in the records is "Brustwassersucht" (i.e. hydrothorax). The date of Gassmann's death given in the literature is generally wrong and inconsistent. The new MGG encyclopedia even manages to provide two different(!) dates of death both of which are false. Gassmann died on 21 January 1774 at 10 pm in the house of Count Kraft Ernst von Oettingen-Wallerstein (1748-1802) at Stadt No. 206 (today a building dating from 1852 at Strauchgasse 3). Gassmann was buried on 23 January at 4 pm on the "Montserrater Gottesacker", a cemetery on the Alsergrund. His lavish burial cost 150 fl 25 x. We don't know if Salieri continued living in the household of Gassmann's widow. On 1 April 1774 Barbara Gassmann gave birth to a filia posthuma ("Pater Florianus Leopoldus Gäßman K:K: Kapellmeister . jam defunctus."), christened Maria Theresia Josepha, whose godmother – out of pity for the widow – was Empress Maria Theresia (substituted by her chambermaid Theresia Kögler).

Theresia Gassmann's baptismal entry (Pfarre Schotten, Tom. 38, fol. 108v). The claim that Theresia Gassmann was a godchild of Haydn, presented by Karl Geiringer in his book Haydn: A Creative Life in Music, is false.

Because the information given in the baptismal records is inconclusive, Theresia Gassmann's place of birth cannot be identified. The address "am Salzgrueß N. 307" cannot be correct, because 307 marked the municipal office building of the Unterkammeramt which was not located on the Salzgries, but am Hof. Therese Gassmann was to become a prominent high coloratura soprano who regularly performed at the two Hoftheater. In 1797 she was soloist for the première of Haydn's Die Sieben letzen Worte unseres Erlösers am Kreuze and  in 1801 she sang the Queen of Night at the first Kärntnertortheater production of Die Zauberflöte. On 11 June 1800 at 6 am(!) she married Joseph Carl Rosenbaum (1770-1829), a secretary to Count Esterházy. Of course her "second father", guardian and singing teacher Salieri served as her bridesman:

The signatures on Joseph Carl Rosenbaum's marriage contract. The undersigned are: Theresia Gassmann, the groom, the mother of the bride Barbara Gassmann, Rosenbaum's employer Count Carl von Esterházy, Count Adam von Abensberg und Traun and Antonio Salieri "come tutore, e pregato testimonio". (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 636/1829)

Soon after Gassmann's death and his appointment to Kammer-Kompositor Salieri must have moved into the "Heiligengeist Haus" No. 316 at the Heidenschuß, a building I have dealt with in a recent post on this blog about Lorenzo Da Ponte. Volkmar Braunbehrens's claim in his biography of Salieri (Munich 1989) that in 1774 Gassmann(!) and Salieri lived together "auf dem Heidenschuß 361[sic!] (= Strauchgasse 21)", is completely false.

When did Salieri get married? To get a definite and reliable answer to this question from the Salieri literature is surprisingly difficult and the reasons for this are twofold: a) Salieri himself slightly misremembered the exact chronology of events and b) all his modern biographers refer to a primary source that they were unable to interpret correctly. This lead to all kinds of misunderstandings and resulted in an amazingly contradictory jumble. In his memoirs Salieri clearly states that the courtship of his future wife Therese Helferstorfer and his efforts of gaining the approval of her guardian began in 1775:
In the course of this year I became acquainted with that angel whom God had appointed for my wife. In the year 1775, I gave music lessons to a young Countess who was receiving her education in the nunnery of St. Laurenz, and whom I had instructed before she went thither, at her father's house. In the same cloister other girls, mostly motherless, were boarded. My hour was from 11 a.m. to 12 p.m., and before it was finished these girls, accompanied by their guardians usually passed through the music room to the dining hall. On the very first day of my lessons, one of these girls of slender figure, somewhat taller than the others, about eighteen years old and dressed in rose-colored taffeta, made a mighty impression upon me.
Salieri describes his efforts to approach the unknown girl which after a short time of fear and shyness were finally successful when he dared to address her in French and was permitted to accompany her on her way from St. Stephen's to her home in the cloister of St. Laurenz (today Fleischmarkt 19). Therese told Salieri that he had not seen her on two occasions in the cloister, because "every Sunday she went to visit her father[!] and her younger brothers". When Salieri's noble pupil fell ill he was not able to meet Therese at the nunnery and decided to learn more about Therese Helferstorfer's family: "I embraced the opportunity of making inquiries in relation to the father of my beloved. He was an official, honored and respected, dwelling in his own house not far from St. Stephan's." When Salieri finally declared his love to Therese her father was still alive: 
I declared to her that this assurance made me blessed and asked when I might present myself to her father in case she allowed me this step. "A week from today," she said, "I will prepare him for your visit and you shall be well received, for my father already knows you by reputation.''
The fact that Therese's father was still alive during Salieri's courtship proves that the year "1775" given by Salieri at the beginning of his account of his amorous activities is wrong. His courtship already began in early 1774, or even in late 1773. Carl Jacob Helferstorfer (b. 25 July 1722) died of a stroke on 24 January 1774 at 9 pm. When he had his will drawn up five days before his death he was already unable to write and had his name signed in his stead by his "good friend" Leopold Hofmann.
However, it was not destined that I should seek my beloved at the hands of her father; that very week God suddenly called frorn this world the worthy old gentleman, beloved by everybody, who had for some time been ailing. [...] Herr von Helfersdorfer had appointed an excellent and rather wealthy man to be guardian of his daughter and two sons, who, a widower of middle age and ignorant of what had passed between his beautiful ward and me had forrned the plan of rnarrying her and soon after the father's death disclosed it to her. Of course there was nothing for Therese to do but declare the state of her feelings and the object of them. As soon as this came to my knowledge, I hastened to the guardian, accompanied by a man of high respectability, and made formal application for the hand of my charmer.
Therese Helferstorfer's wealthy guardian was of course the capellmeister of St. Stephen's Leopold Hofmann (1738-1793) who at that time was also one of the unsuccessful applicants for Gassmann's post at court. Since the death of his first wife Maria Theresia, née Mayer on 22 October 1772 Hofmann had indeed been a widower, but he soon consoled himself with the daughter of a wealthy goldsmith, Anna Kiermayr, whom he married on 2 May 1774. (Anna Kiermayr was a grand aunt of Franz von Schober). The "man of high respectability" who accompanied Salieri was in my opinion the renowned physician Dr. med. et phil. Leopold Auenbrugger whose acquaintance Salieri had made when he gave music lessons to Auenbrugger's daughters.

The seal of Leopold Auenbrugger Edler von Auenbrugg

In his article "Antonio Salieris vergessene Familie" (Festschrift Max Schneider, Leipzig 1955) Robert Haas published Salieri's marriage contract which is dated 10 October 1774. What date for Salieri's wedding do we find in the literature? Wikipedia gives 1774 and so does Edward Elmgren Swenson in his 1975 Documentary Biography of Salieri ("On October 10, 1774, Salieri married Theresa Helfersdorfer and moved into her house."). Rudolph Angermüller actually manages to present three different dates for Salieri's wedding. In the third volume of his book Antonio Salieri. Leben und seine weltlichen Werke (Munich 1971-74) he adds an additional and uncommented "1775" in brackets to the date on the document. And in vol. 1 of his three-volume collection of documents Antonio Salieri Dokumente seines Lebens (Bad Honnef 2000) he again presents this contract with the afore-mentioned date, only to claim four pages later – for quite inexplicable reasons – that Salieri married Therese Helferstorfer on 21[!] October 1774. Volkmar Braunbehrens prefers the year 1774 on the grounds of "rather trusting the Viennese chancery clerks than the ageing Salieri". Of course this reasoning makes no sense at all, since 18th-century marriage contracts were not written by chancery clerks. In his 2006 article about Salieri's family in Archiv für Familiengeschichte Josef Heinzelmann attributes the contradiction to "a typo in Haas's article". John Rice, who of course noticed the inconsistency between the date on the contract and Salieri's own account, writes in his book: "According to the wedding contract Antonio married Therese on 10 October 1774. But Mosel, quoting Salieri placed his courtship and marriage in the following year, 1775. How can we explain Salieri's apparent misdating of these crucial events? A simple laps of memory is possible; or did he feel uneasy that his courtship and marriage had taken place so close to the time of Gassmann's death?" The explanation for this confusion is rather simple: Salieri got married on 10 October 1775 and the date on his marriage contract is false.

The first page of Salieri's marriage contract (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 752/1807)

The date, seals and signatures on the same document. The bride's witness was her legal guardian Leopold Hofmann, Salieri's best man was Dr. Auenbrugger. (The bride's name ends with a single f!)

It is easy to see that the date is written in a different, Italian hand and has obviously been added at some later time. It is the hand of Salieri who after the death of his wife in 1807, when he had to submit the contract to the civil court of the Vienna City Council to claim his right to the inheritance, realized that the document was still undated, misremembered and wrote a wrong year on the contract. After all, 1774 had marked a turning point in his life, when he received a position at court which made it possible for him to marry. The surprising delay of Salieri's wedding until 10 October 1775 seems to have been caused by the distribution of the inheritance of the bride's deceased father. The entry in the marriage records of St. Stephen's Cathedral is quite clear:


oct[o]b[ris] [1]775
Der Wohl Edle H[err] Anton Salieri KK. / würcklicher Kammer Musicus und Compositor / ledig geb in der Statt Legnago zu Venedig. / wohnt 10 Jahr beständig alhier auf der / Freÿung in Bischofhauß. N. 316
Mit der Wohl Edlen Freÿle Theresia / Helferstorferin geb alhier des Karl / Helferstorfer der Ministerial Banco depu- / tation Kanzelist et Katharinæ uxo[ris] bede / seel[ig] Ehl[iche] Tochter wohnt in Lorenzer Kloster
Testes [erant] H[err] Leopold Augenbrucker Medicinæ / Doctor et H[err] Leopold Hofman Kapel M[ei]st[e]r / beÿ St Stephan
Ambo dispen / sati in trinis / denunc.[iationibus] depo / sito libertatis / juramento
Cop[ulati erant] 10 oct[o]b[ris] (A-Wd, Tom. 69, fol. 279v)
The most noble Mr. Anton Salieri Imperial and Royal real chamber musician and composer, a bachelor born in the city of Legnago in Venice, has been living here at the Freyung in the Bishop's house No. 316
With the most noble Miss Theresia Helferstorfer, born here, legitimate daughter of Karl Helferstorfer, chancery clerk of the bank deputation of the ministry, living at the cloister of St. Lorenz
The witnesses were Mr. Leopold Auenbrugger doctor of medicine, Mr. Leopold Hofman capellmeister at St. Stephen's
Both are exempt from three publications of the banns. After having taken an oath of being unmarried they were united on 10 October [1775].
There is obviously a comma missing after "alhier" and thus the claim that the groom had been living at the Bischofhaus for ten years cannot be correct. Salieri had not been living in Vienna for this length of time. His wife Eva Maria Theresia Helferstorfer was born on 22 April 1754, the first child of Carl Jacob Helferstorfer, an employee of the bank administration of the ministry of finance. Since her mother Catharina, née Timmer was a granddaughter of the regens chori Mathias Timmer (1662-1742), Salieri's wife was a cousin of Mozart's piano student Josepha Auernhammer.

Seal and signature of Salieri's mother-in-law Catharina Helferstorfer (no, this is not a double f!)

The baptismal entry of Salieri's wife Eva Maria Theresia Helferstorfer (1754-1807). The two godparents from the poorhouse mark the generally close relation of the family to Catholic institutions: Therese's uncle Ignaz Helferstorfer was a librarian at St. Florian Monastery and her younger brother Engelbert was a godson of St. Florian's provost Engelbert Hoffmann. The first two of Salieri's own children also had poor people as godparents. (A-Wd, Tom. 80, fol. 289r)

A signature of Salieri's wife dating from 1786

The problems that led to the misdating of Salieri's wedding can be summarized as follows:
  • Robert Haas actually mentioned the correct date of Salieri's wedding in passing, but since he obviously consulted none of the primary sources himself (those were the days when archivists were willing to oblige to requests submitted by mail or phone), he didn't publish the most reliable source concerning the date of Salieri's wedding, namely the entry in the marriage records of St. Stephen's. That Haas actually saw the original of Salieri's marriage contract must be doubted as well. Not only does his transcription (probably provided by the legendarily sloppy Hanns Jäger-Sunstenau) contain over twenty grave transcription mistakes (such as "anfahenden" instead of "anhofenden", "als" instead of "oder", "Theodoruns"[!] instead of "Leopoldus" – not to mention the absence of several words), it also comes with the revealingly useless shelfmark "Wiener Rathaus". Haas's article is generally flawed and very superficial. His most fundamental error was that he overlooked the pivotal contradiction between the marriage entry and the marriage contract regarding the date of the wedding. Had he explicitly pointed out this inconsistency, many misunderstandings could have been avoided.
  • There are good reasons to presume that Edward Elmgren Swenson actually examined the original marriage contract, because his transcription avoids a number of Haas's most glaring mistakes and adds a number of new ones. Still Swenson overlooked the main clue in Haas's article and therefore was unable to ascertain the correct date of Salieri's wedding. Not surprisingly Swenson gives no exact shelfmark of the contract.
  • Rudolph Angermüller never tried to check the original of the contract and twice published Haas's transcription with all its mistakes, including the telling location "Wiener Rathaus". Haas's muddled prose even lead Angermüller to believe that Salieri's wife died in Eisenstadt. Angermüller's three-volume collection of Salieri documents disregards the entry concerning the composer's wedding at St. Stephen's Cathedral.
  • Volkmar Braunbehrens lists Haas's article in the bibliography of his Salieri biography, but he obviously never read it, because he also is unaware of Haas's mentioning the correct date.
Together with her younger brothers Engelbert and Johann Baptist Helferstorfer, Theresia Salieri owned the house Stadt 1115 (today Spiegelgasse 11, replaced with a new building in 1848) which made it possible for Salieri to live in his own house for the rest of his life. His marriage contract obliged his wife to pay him 500 Gulden a year from her rent and interest revenue.

The "Helferstorferisches Haus" Stadt 1115. The Graben is in the foreground.

Salieri's ten-room-apartment in the "Josephinische Steuerfassion". The resident is listed as "H[err] Hauseigenthümer" (house owner). (A-Wsa, Steueramt, B34/5, fol. 107)

The wealth of the Helferstorfer family was based on two premises: a) the estate of Therese Salieri's great-grandfather, the Italian-born hatter Anton Zerleti (d. 3 July 1694) whose widow Sophie (d. 24 October 1737) bequeathed a house to her three grandsons Carl Brentano Castello, Ignaz Innozenz and Carl Jacob Helferstorfer (son of Georg Marcus Helferstorfer and Catharina, née Zerleti, Salieri's father-in-law); and b) the economic skill of Carl Jacob Helferstorfer, who not only bought the shares from the two other heirs in 1752, but in 1763 also managed to acquire the adjoining building in the Göttweihergasse. By 1771 the two old houses had already been replaced by the new building which on 12 November 1774 eventually became the property of Salieri's future wife and her two brothers. After the death of Salieri's wife the house went to Engelbert and Johann Baptist Helferstorfer and "vier Salierische Kinder" (four Salieri children) in December 1808. In 1828 Salieri's eldest daughter Franziska Thrier sold her share to her siblings. In 1837, after the death of Engelbert Helferstorfer in 1822 and the death of Franziska Xaveria Salieri, the house became joint propriety of Johann Baptist Helferstorfer and his nieces Katharina Rumfeld, née Salieri and her sister Anna who in 1844 gave her share to her brother-in-law Philipp Rumfeld. In 1836 Johann Baptist Helferstorfer bequeathed his half of the house to his housekeeper Susanne Huber (1804-1880) whom he had adopted together with her brother August shortly before his death. On 25 July 1837 Susanne Huber-Helferstorfer (as she now called herself) married the notary Simon Rudolf Wagner (1800-1846). Simon Wagner and his wife Susanne (who in 1846 bought the other half of the house from Rumfeld) were the parents of the famous Austrian architect Otto Wagner. Thus Wagner's studies of architecture were basically funded by the estate of Antonio Salieri's relatives. But this is a completely different story.

Salieri's signature on his will written on 8 October 1823 (A-Wsa, Mag. ZG, A10, 254/1825)

5 comments:

  1. 4 degrees of increase: meticulous, more meticulous, most meticulous, Michael Lorenz

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  2. Michael's careful work has cut through another Gordian knot!
    Josef Eisinger

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  3. This post makes me wish to learn what contemporary biography or monograph you would recommend instead...

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  4. I don't recommend anything else. I only add a few corrections to the books already written, some of which are very good.

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