It’s often the way that a well-regarded artist falls out of fashion and, despite the worthiness of his work, is forgotten by subsequent generations. This fate can befall even truly great artists: The 16th century poet John Donne was mostly unknown until rediscovered by another poet, T.S. Eliot, in the 20th century; Johann Sebastian Bach was largely forgotten for a century until his music was revived by composer Felix Mendelssohn in the 1820’s.
Not every forgotten artist has an Eliot or a Mendelssohn come to his rescue . . . although sometimes redemption comes from an unexpected direction. Consider the case of Antonio Salieri: had he not been cruelly libeled four decades ago by Peter Shaffer in the play & film Amadeus, in which he was portrayed as the murderer of Wolfgang Mozart, it is quite possible that his music would not be performed at all (incidentally, Shaffer did no favors to the memory of Mozart either, who was the purported protagonist of his story). The real story is that, although Mozart distrusted Salieri as an obstacle to his career when he first arrived in Vienna, the two eventually developed a friendly and respectful professional relationship. Salieri, in fact, responded very favorably to Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute, and in his final letter Mozart mentions taking Salieri to a musical performance in his own carriage. Needless to say, Salieri did not murder Mozart (nor anyone else that we know of).
The truth is that, while Salieri was no Mozart, he was a good and well-respected composer in his time, and a much sought-after teacher (among his pupils were Mozart’s own son Franz Xaver, as well as Franz Liszt, Franz Schubert, and Ludwig Von Beethoven). The lovely piece below is the “Gloria” from Salieri’s Mass in B Flat, one of his four Masses.
Featured image at top of page: “The Holy Trinity” by Pierre Mignard, 1663-1665