Mozart &
Material Culture


The city of Mannheim owes its modern origin to the construction of the Friedrichsburg fortress by the Elector Palatine Friedrich IV in 1606; apparently the first modern European city constructed on a grid plan, it was destroyed in 1689 during the Nine Years’ War, rebuilt beginning in 1698, and in 1720 became the capital of the Electorate of the Palatine when Karl III Philip moved his court there from Heidelberg. During Mozart’s lifetime, Mannheim was ruled by Karl Theodor, a patron of both the arts and the sciences.  The splendour of his court attracted numerous prominent musicians to Mannheim, among them Ignaz Holzbauer, Anton Fils and Johann Baptist Wendling; local musicians included Johann Stamitz and Christian Cannabich. Performances took place not only at court but also at Schwetzingen, the Elector’s summer residence, which boasted a theatre built in 1752. Above all, Mannheim was famous for its orchestra which Charles Burney described as 'an army of generals, equally fit to plan a battle, as to fight it’. Leopold Mozart described the Mannheim ensemble as ‘unquestionably the best in Europe’.

Mannheim, 1729 (engraving)

Mannheim, 1729 (engraving)

Mozart Relevance

Mozart visited Mannheim four times. The first visit was brief: on 18 July 1763, en route to Paris, the Mozart children played for the court at Schwetzingen.  Considerably more extended was Mozart’s stay in 1777 and 1778. Wolfgang and his mother arrived at Mannheim on 30 October 1778; the purpose of their visit was to obtain a position at court for Mozart.  Despite numerous attempts to secure the patronage of Karl Theodor, however, nothing came of it; Mozart nevertheless composed the sonatas K309 and K311, as well as five accompanied sonatas, K296, K301-303 and K305. Mozart left Mannheim on 14 March 1778, traveling to Paris, again seeking gainful employment. But he was unsuccessful there, as well, and returned to Mannheim in the autumn of 1778 en route to Salzburg (on 16 November he visited the famous Mannheim Observatory). By this time Karl Theodor had succeeded Maximilian III Joseph as Elector of Bavaria and moved his court, including the court music, to Munich. Mozart’s final visit to Mannheim was in 1790, from about 23-25 October, during the return trip to Vienna from the Frankfurt coronation of Leopold II; while there he attended a performance of Le nozze di Figaro K492 on 24 October.

Bibliographic Reference
Wolf 1989; Welck and Homering 1991; Finscher 1992; Mörz 1998

Pages referencing Mannheim:

1763, Mannheim : city planning