18 August 1750
Legnago, Verona, Veneto, Italy
7 May 1825 (aged 74)
Antonio Salieri (18th August 1750–7th May 1825) was an Italian composer and conductor. As the Austrian imperial Kapellmeister from 1788 to 1824, he was one of the most important and famous musicians of his time.
Raised in a prosperous family of merchants in Legnago, Salieri studied violin and harpsichord with his brother Francesco, who was a student of Giuseppe Tartini. After the early death of his parents, he moved to Padua, then to Venice, where he studied thoroughbass with Giovanni Battista Pescetti. There, he met Florian Leopold Gassmann in 1766, who invited him to attend the court of Vienna, and there trained him in composition based on Johann Joseph Fux's Gradus ad Parnassum. Salieri remained in Vienna for the rest of his life. In 1774, after Gassmann's death, Salieri was appointed court composer by Emperor Joseph II. He met Therese von Helferstorfer in 1774, and in the same year the two were married. The couple went on to have eight children. Salieri became Royal and Imperial Kapellmeister in 1788, a post which he held till 1824. He was president of the Tonkünstler-Societät (society of musical artists) from 1788 to 1795, vice-president after 1795, and in charge of its concerts until 1818.
Salieri attained an elevated social standing, and was frequently associated with other celebrated composers, such as Joseph Haydn and Louis Spohr. He played an important role in late 18th and early 19th century classical music. He was the teacher of many famous composers, including Ludwig van Beethoven, Carl Czerny, Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Franz Liszt, Giacomo Meyerbeer, Ignaz Moscheles, Franz Schubert, and Franz Xaver Süssmayr. He also taught Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's younger son, Franz Xaver, some years after the death of Franz's father.
During his time in Vienna, Salieri acquired great prestige as a composer and conductor, particularly of opera, but also of chamber and sacred music. The most successful of his more than 40 operas included Europa riconosciuta (1778), Armida (1771), La scuola de' gelosi (1778), Der Rauchfangkehrer (1781), Les Danaïdes (1784), which was first presented as a work of Gluck's, Tarare (1787), Axur, Re d'Ormus (1788), Palmira, regina di Persia (1795), and Falstaff (1799). He wrote comparatively little instrumental music, however his limited output includes two piano concertos and a concerto for organ written in 1773, a concerto for flute, oboe and orchestra (1774), and a set of 26 variations on La follia di Spagna (1815).
Salieri was for many years remembered principally for his supposed jealousy or antagonism to Mozart, and rumours even circulated that he had caused Mozart's premature death, leading to such works of fiction as Pushkin's Mozart and Salieri (1831) and Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus (1979) and the Oscar-winning 1984 film based upon it. However, there is far more evidence of a collaborative relationship between Mozart and Salieri than of any significant antogonism (despite a few, possibly paranoid, contemporary remarks by Mozart claiming that Salieri had in some way conspired against him).
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