Jan 23, 2013

A Schubert Memorial Vanishes

The first public performance of a secular work by Franz Schubert took place on 1 March 1818 in the hall of the inn and hotel "Zum Römischen Kaiser" at Vienna's Freyung.

The "Hotel zum Römischen Kaiser" at Vienna's Freyung

A concert by the violinist Eduard Jaell included a performance of Schubert's overture "In the Italian Style" D 590. On 14 March 1818 the Wiener allgemeine Theaterzeitung wrote:
On Sunday, March 1st at 5 pm a musical-rhetorical academy for the benefit of Mr. JÄLL took place  in the hall of the Römischer Kaiser [...] The second part began with a wonderfully lovely overture by a young composer, Mr. Franz Schubert. This student of our esteemed Salieri already knows how to touch and move all hearts. Although the theme was strangely simple, an abundance of surprising and pleasant thoughts developed from it, executed with power and elegance. We wish that this artist will soon delight us again with a new offering.
On 12 March the same overture was performed again in an arrangement for two pianos for four hands each (with the participation of the composer) after which the reviewer Franz von Schlechta praised "the deep mind and the controlled and outright force and appealing loveliness" of Schubert's works.

The program of the concert on 12 March 1818 at the "Römischer Kaiser" (the original document was once held by the Wienbibliothek, but is now missing)

On 28 February 1819 in the hall on the first floor of the house "Zum römischen Kaiser" music history was made again, when the tenor Franz Jäger performed the song "Schäfers Klagelied" (D 121). This was the first ever public performance of a Schubert song. On 22 March the Berlin journal Der Gesellschafter wrote about this concert: "A vocal piece »Schäfers Klage«, composed by the young Schubert and sung by our fine tenor Jäger granted the greatest enjoyment. We are looking forward indeed to the delight provided by an upcoming greater work of this hopeful artist." Five years earlier another important musical event had taken place in the very same venue: on 11 April 1814 Beethoven's "Archduke Trio" Op. 97 had been performed for the first time. The house on the Freyung (today Renngasse 1), which after a remodeling in 1834 housed a luxurious hotel, was owned by the Rothschild family until 1887. Then it was sold to the Union Bank, which in 1927 sold it to the insurance company Österreichische Bundesländer AG.


The significance of this building for Schubert's work in his hometown was not forgotten in the 20th century. On 26 May 1929 at the instigation of the Vienna Schubertbund a plaque on the house Renngasse 1 was unveiled in the presence of the Federal Minister of Education, the Dean of the University, numerous other prominent cultural personalities and descendants of Franz Schubert's brother Ferdinand. The main part of this memorial had been designed by the sculptor Robert Ullmann (1903-1966). It consisted of a relief of a shepherd with a sheep slung around his neck and a tablet. The inscription on the plaque (whose unveiling seems to have been originally scheduled for the Schubert anniversary of 1928) read:
Franz Schubert trat in diesem Hause als Tondichter zum erstenmal vor die Öffentlichkeit: Am 1. März 1818 mit einer Ouverture im italienischen Stil, am 28. Februar 1819 mit seinem Liede »Schäfers Klagelied«. Wiener Schubertbund 1929.

In this house Franz Schubert went public for the first time as a composer: On 1 March 1818 with an overture in the Italian style, on 28 February 1819 with his song »Schäfers Klagelied«. Wiener Schubertbund 1929.
On the following day the conservative newspaper Reichspost raved: "On behalf of the insurance company its general manager Dr. Habich took charge of the monument, a work of art that will tell everybody, who holds precious the cultural heritage of Franz Schubert, about the cradle of fame that spread from the small Old-Vienna-hall of the erstwhile »Römischer Kaiser« all over the world."

A clip from an article in the Reichspost on 27 May 1929

 The report on the front page of  the Neue Zeitung on 27 May 1929

So far I was unable to locate a really good picture of the memorial. There is none among the holdings of the Wien Museum and I didn't want to bother the Magistratsabteilung 7. The only historical photograph I found was taken in 1941 and shows the left wing of the house, with the memorial's relief barely visible between two windows of the first floor:


The Schubert memorial at Renngasse 1 in 1941

The course of history was not kind to the house Renngasse 1. During the great bombing raid on 12 March 1945 it suffered a severe hit that destroyed nearly a third of the building. A five-window section of the right wing collapsed to the level of the first floor. Although the house was restored, the original infrastructure was not preserved and the old structural core of the building has been replaced.

 The house Renngasse 1 in 1965

What about the Schubert memorial at the Freyung that was supposed to tell posterity – "that holds precious the cultural heritage of Franz Schubert" – about "the cradle of fame" in times to come? The memorial is gone.

In June 2003 a complete remodeling of the house was begun on behalf of Armisola Immobilien AG. The architect DI Peter Klein completely redesigned  the house into a modern office building for Deloitte Austria, preserving the original façade only above the first floor. Within 14 months of construction work  the symmetry of the original façade (reminiscent of the old Trattnerhof) was dissolved and the two old entrances were replaced by two entrances on the very left part of the building, at precisely the area where the Schubert memorial had been located. Owing to the company's plate "Deloitte" there was no space anymore for the memorial which was simply removed. The architects involved in the remodeling didn't even think of integrating the sculpture, which had adorned the building for 74 years, into the new entrance area. The companies responsible for this brutal procedure are actually quite proud of their work and particularly boast about "the preservation of the original façade". In a booklet (deloitte: 15 antworten für kids), published for children by the architects, we find the following euphemistic statement: "Da gab es einen Architekten, den Herrn Klein, der hat das Haus gebaut, mit Kränen und starken Maschinen, und so raffiniert, dass aussen[sic!] sogar die alte schöne Fassade stehen geblieben ist, obwohl es drinnen ein ganz modernes Haus ist." ("There was an architect, Mr. Klein, who built the house with cranes and heavy machinery in such a sophisticated way that on the outside even the old beautiful façade was preserved, although inside it is a very modern building.") It seems possible however that the addressed children might pose the question, if there really were no nicer lights available for the lighting of the "old beautiful façade".

 The new entrance area of Renngasse 1 in 2008 after the ruthless removal of the 1929 Schubert memorial

The remodeling of the building's façade and its merciless stripping of all "historical trinkets" was apparently carried out in full agreement with the City of Vienna and the Bundesdenkmalamt (the Federal Monuments Office), because the responsible building promoter A.C.C. proudly states on its website: "In enger Zusammenarbeit mit den zuständigen Behörden wurde die Fassade den Erfordernissen des Platzes und den umgebenden Gebäude angepasst." ("In close cooperation with the authorities in charge the façade has been adapted according to the requirements of the square and the surrounding buildings."). My search for the missing memorial turned out to be quite fascinating. I got the first hint from the general planning manager of the reconstruction and after an on-site inspection an employee of IFM (Immobilien Facility Management) confirmed my suspicion – heavy blocks of stone rarely travel far – that the Schubert memorial is now located "in safe custody of the property management in the basement of the house".

Of course we must not always quarrel with aesthetic principles that are uncompromisingly realized by architects. And yet unfortunately none of the involved designers hit upon the really not far-fetched idea to integrate this sculpture into the redesigned atrium as a symbol of the fascinating history of the building. (After all this is also the house, where the physician Romeo Seligmann in 1834 first made the acquaintance of Ottilie von Goethe). The observant city resident is surprised that the Bundesdenkmalamt turned a blind eye to this procedure. He is forced to surmise that Ursula Stenzel, the energetic Bezirksvorsteherin of Vienna's first district was prevented from devoting the necessary attention to a radical razing of a historical downtown façade by more important issues, such as the containment of Glühweinhütten and street artists. Should it really be true that in Vienna, the self-proclaimed "City of Culture", a monument to the greatest genius that this city has ever produced, is only an impeding piece of stone on the path of urban progress?

Jan 20, 2013

Mozart's Great-great-great-grandfather: an Update

One really should not conduct research unless one is determined to actually publish it. It turns out that in February 2012 I did not pursue my research to the necessary extent and therefore missed to locate the entry pertaining to the wedding of Mozart's great-great-great-grandfather Leonhard Altmann. Leonhard Altmann married the widow Agnes Hofmeister shortly after 22 June 1595 (A-Wd, Tom. 7, fol. 252v):


Leonhardt Altman von arbin[g] aus paiern nimbt / Agnes weiland Georg Hofmeister Wittib.                                                                                  Domenica 1a  3[ni]tatis
Leonhardt Altmann from Arbing in Bavaria marries Agnes, the widow of the deceased Georg Hofmeister                                                               Fist Sunday after Trinity
This document proves that Mozart's Viennese ancestors originally hailed from Bavaria. Arbing cannot be identified, because there are simply too many places with that name. Furthermore no baptismal records of these villages survive from the 16th century. Since I have hitherto not been able to locate the marriage entry of the "vintner on the Landstraße" Georg Hofmeister, the maiden name of Mozart's great-great-great-grandmother Agnes Altmann (widowed Hoffmeister) still remains unknown. The baptisms of the following children from her first marriage are documented in the baptismal records of St. Stephens's Cathedral:
Johann Hofmeister, b. 13 December 1585 (A-Wd, Tom. 1, fol. 23v)
Adam Hofmeister, b. 18 February 1587 (A-Wd, Tom. 1, fol. 67r)
Barbara Hofmeister, b. 11 January 1589 (one of the  stepdaughters mentioned in Leonhard Altmann's will) (A-Wd, Tom. 1, fol. 136v)
The 1589 baptismal entry of Barbara Hofmeister
Maria Hofmeister, b. 9 October 1590 (one of the stepdaughters mentioned in Leonhard Altmann's will) (A-Wd, Tom. 2, fol. 42v)
The 1590 baptismal entry of Maria Hofmeister

Research in the earliest baptismal records of St. Stephen's Cathedral proves to be difficult, because of very fragmentary indexes.

Jan 17, 2013

The "Newly Identified" Mozart Portrait

The Mozarteum recently issued a press release regarding "sensational discoveries" in Mozart portraiture which contains statements that are likely to mislead the public. 1) The "Boy with the Bird's Nest" (attributed to Zoffany) "does not show Mozart and is a fake". As a matter of fact that this painting does not show Mozart had been known to art historians for ages. The painting is not a fake, but a misattribution by greedy sellers and/or wishful "experts" who already existed at the Mozarteum back in 1925. 2) "The Unfinished Lange portrait had been already finished before it was enlarged which has been proven by X-ray analysis". This fact was already uncovered by me back in March 2009 without any X-ray and the recent analysis was only carried out after I had suggested this procedure to Dr. Ramsauer in June 2010. 3) "The miniature on ivory on a tobacco box definitely shows Mozart" (quote: "Nun ist es sicher"). As a matter of fact this miniature (Mozart-Museum Salzburg, Inv. Nr. 90/47) has already been identified as genuine Mozart portrait five years ago by the historian (and retired head of the Munich City Archive) Dr. Richard Bauer in his excellent book "Das rekonstruierte Antlitz" (Neustadt an der Aisch: 2008, pp. 6-11). Revaluating the sources (among others Constanze Mozart's letter to Breitkopf & Härtel from 21 July 1800 and the 1829 engraving by Christian Benjamin Gottschick) Bauer came to the conclusion that the portrait "is an en-face-portrait of Mozart dating from the mid 1780s". However (and in my opinion quite correctly) Bauer doubts the attribution to Joseph Mathias Grassi (hilariously misnamed "Joseph Maria Grassi" by the Mozarteum staffer Dr. Christoph Großpietsch), because Grassi, who was personally acquainted with Mozart, would not have written "Joh: Mozart" on the back of the painting and the execution of the portrait is starkly at odds with Grassi's elegant style. Furthermore the attribution to Grassi is only based on a very dubious 1792 engraving, listed among Mozart portraits by Constant von Wurzbach in 1868 (32. "J. v. Grassi p. 1785, Gottschick sc. 1792") that has never been verified. (Gottschick would have been 16 years of age in 1792). It is to be hoped that Bauer's 2008 identification and my 2009 discovery will be referred to by the Mozarteum in the catalogue of its upcoming exhibition.


Jan 4, 2013

An Unknown Great-great-great-grandfather of Mozart

It has been known since the early 1970s that some of Mozart's ancestors hailed from Vienna. Mozart's grandparents on the mother's side, Wolfgang Nikolaus Pertl and Eva Rosina Barbara Altmann (widowed Puxbaum) got married on 22 November 1712 in St. Gilgen. Eva Rosina Altmann's first marriage to Ignaz Franz Leopold Puxbaum had taken place on 30 May 1702 in Stein an der Donau (Tom. 2/2, pag. 46):


The father of the bride is only identified in the marriage records of St Veit in Krems an der Donau, the  home parish of the groom, where in May 1702 the banns were published:

The entry concerning the publication of the banns in May 1702 for Ignaz Franz Puxbaum and Eva Rosina Altmann in Krems (Krems St. Veit, 2/6, pag. 330)

Eva Rosina Altmann's father (Mozart's great-grandfather) Dominik Altmann, Imperial sworn public notary and member of the inner council of the Imperial cities Krems and Stein ("Kaÿserlich geschwohrner Notarius Publicus. Wie auch beeder Kaÿserlichen Stätt Crembs und Stain des Innern Raths") was born in Vienna on 4 August 1636. His parents were the gardener ("Gartner auf der Landtstrass alhie") Jacob Altmann and his second wife Maria, née Oeller.

The baptism of Mozart's great-grandfather Dominik Altmann on 4 August 1636 at St. Stephen's Cathedral (A-Wd, Tom. 12, fol. 67r).

One of Dominik Altmann's godparents was the Viennese gardener Mathias Hundtspichler, who in 1633 had also served as one of the best men at Jacob Altmann's second wedding (Altmann's first wife Maria, née Eisenbirner had died in 1630):

The second wedding of Mozart's great-great-grandfather Jacob Altmann on 30 January 1633 at St. Stephen's (A-Wd, Tom. 14, pag. 327)

Mathias Hundtspichler, who was also the godfather of several of Jacob Altmann's children, was a member of a whole dynasty of house owners and gardeners by that name, who can be documented to have resided in the Viennese suburbs Landstraße and Erdberg between 1600 and 1800. In May 1767 one of Hundtspichler's descendants, the local judge and Kuchlgartner (kitchen gardener) Anton Hundtspichler assisted Angelo Soliman's future wife Magdalena Christian with the purchase of her house in the Viennese suburb Weißgärber. The gardener Jacob Altmann died shortly before 3 March 1639, on which day his will was published.

The envelope of Jacob Altmann's will, written on 4 November 1638. One of the seals is Mathias Hundtspichler's (A-Wsa, AZJ, Testament 3822/17. Jhdt.).

When Heinz Schöny did genealogical research on Mozart's Viennese ancestors more than 40 years ago he mostly dealt with Mozart's great-grandfather Dominik Altmann and his ten children. He identified Dominik's parents, but did not cover the preceding generation. This was probably caused by the scarcity of surviving biographical sources concerning citizens who lived in Vienna at the end of the 16th century. The surviving death records of the Vienna Magistrate only start in 1648 and the oldest Viennese baptismal records (which only cover relatively small areas of the city) only reach back to 1585, while burial records do not even go back into the 16th century. Progress of research can only be achieved with a time-consuming systematic search in all the surviving archival holdings, an enterprise that Schöny obviously was not in a position to carry out. In early 2012 I was able to add one male ancestor to Mozart's family tree by identifying Jacob Altmann's hitherto unknown father as Leonhard Altmann, "Bürger alhie zue wien auf der Lanndtstraß" ("citizen here in Vienna on the Landstraße"). Owing to the reduced number of sources his identity could only be verified by his will which was written on 22 August 1605 and published on 29 November of the same year. No document survives that provides information as to his age at the time of his death or the date of his marriage.

The envelope of the will of Mozart's great-great-great-grandfather Leonhard Altmann who died in November 1605 (A-Wsa, AZJ, Testament 520/17. Jhdt.).

Concerning the heritage of his only surviving son and his two stepdaughters Leonhard Altmann decreed the following:
Und alßdann verschaffe ich meinem Eheleiblichen Sohn, Jacoben Altman, So Ich bei jeziger meiner Ehelichen Hausfrauen Anngneß Im ehelichen standt erzeügt, füer sein Vätterlich Erbguett, In Bahren geltt ainhundert gulden Reinisch. Solche Ainhundert gulden soll mein Hausfrau, biß zue berüerts unnsers Sohnes Vogtbarkeit, ohne Ainichen Inntrese bei Iren Hannden behalten dennselben unnsern Sohn ohne entgelt solches Legats biß zu seinen Vogbahren Jaren od[er] daß ehr sein Nahrung selbst gewinnen mag, mit aller Menschlichen nottüerft versorgen und Christlich auferzihen, Im fall es sich aber nach dem willen gottes begäb, das mehrberüerter unnser Sohn Jacob, vor seiner Muetter, ungevogt mit Todt abgienng, So soll berüerts legadt der ainhundert gulden, auf mein Hausfrau freÿ ledig fallen, Und darvon solle sie meinen negsten befreünden, mehrers nit, dan füenf Pfundt, und Sechzig Pfening hinaus zuegeben schuldig sein, damit sollen sie meine befreünden alerdings hindan und abgefertigt sein. Item meinen Zwaÿen Stieftöchtern, Barbara und Maria, verschaffe Ich auß guetten freÿen willen ainer jeden absonnderlich Zwainzig Gulden Reinisch thuet sambentlich vierzig gulden, Solches legadt soll Ebenfals, mein Hausfrau ohne Intrese, biß zu jedweder Vogtbahrkeit bei Iren Hannden behalten, Und wen Unnder disen meinen Stieftöchtern aine vor der andern Ungevogt mit Todt abgiennge, so soll der Abgestorbnen Legadt, auf die überlebent under ihnnen fallen, gienngen sie aber Beede vor obgedachtem meinem Sohn Jacoben Altman, Ungevogt mit Todt ab, So soll solches legadt alleß und jedes, auf ihn oftgedachten meinen Sohn freÿ ledig fallen.
Furthermore I bequeath to my legitimate son Jacob Altman, whom I begot in marriage with my current wife Agnes, as paternal bequest one hundred Rhenish florins in cash. These one hundred florins should be held in trust by my wife without interest of her own until our aforesaid son reaches legal age. Without any compensation from this legacy she should also take care of our son and all his human needs and raise him in a Christian manner until he reaches majority or is capable of supporting himself. If however it should be God's will that our aforementioned son Jacob should die a minor before his mother, the aforesaid bequest should freely be passed to my wife. And from this she should be obliged to give to my closest friends five Pounds and sixty Pfennigs, but not more. Therewith my friends however should be satisfied. Likewise to each of my two stepdaughters Barbara and Maria out of good and free will I bequeath twenty Rhenish florins, forty florins in all. This bequest should also be held in trust by my wife without interest until both of them reach legal age. And if one of my stepdaughters should die a minor before the other, the bequest of the deceased should go to the surviving one. If however both of them should die under legal age before my aforementioned son Jacob Altman, all of the bequest should freely go to my aforesaid son.
 The opening page of Leonhard Altmann's will

One of the four witnesses to Leonhard Altmann's will was "der Ehrsambe und füerneme Matheß Hundtspüchler der Zeit Richter auf der Landstraß" ("the honorable and noble Mathias Hundtspüchler, current judge on the Landstraße"), who either was identical with Jacob Altmann's best friend, or, more likely (since a "Mathes Hundßpüller der jüngere[!]" from the Landstraße got married in 1608), the father of Mathias Hundtspichler, who was to play an important role in the life of the next generation of the Altmann family. Another one of Leonhard Altmann's witnesses was Georg Wagner, who was to serve as best man at Jacob Altmann's wedding in 1633. Mozart's great-great-great-grandfather Leonhard Altmann was buried in the old St. Nikolai cemetery on the Landstraße (which was disbanded in 1784).

St. Nikolai cemetery on the Landstraße (today the Rochusmarkt, Dr. Mesmer's house and part of his garden can be seen in the foreground)

This discovery was first reported in print in the Newsletter of the Mozart Society of America, Vol. XVI, No. 1 (27 January 2012). © All rights reserved.