On Air Now
Beethoven: The Man Revealed with John Suchet 9pm - 10pm
8 November 2018, 19:38
Turns out Mozart’s middle name and popular moniker, Amadeus, might have originated as a joke. Here’s the back story.
Mozart was baptised as (deep breath)… Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart.
At its root, Amadeus comes from the third of his long line of middle names, Theophilus: a Greek name meaning ‘lover of God’ or ‘loved by God’. In its German form, it translates as ‘Gottlieb’ while in Latin, it becomes ‘Amadeus’.
During his lifetime, Mozart signed some letters in mock Latin as ‘Wolfgangus Amadeus Mozartus’, adding ‘us’ to the end of each name. In Italy around 1770, this morphed into Wolfgango Amadeo, which later became Wolfgang Amadè from about 1777.
It was deemed pretty normal to translate your name into other languages in Mozart’s day. Joseph Haydn went by Josephus (Latin) and Giuseppe (Italian), while Ludwig van Beethoven published some works as Luigi (Italian) and Louis (French.)
Mozart seemed pretty attached to his nickname. On his marriage certificate to Constanze Weber, he signed his name ‘Wolfgang Amade Mozart’.
But Amadeus was just that – a nickname. Aside from his wedding contract, only once during his lifetime was Mozart referred to as ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’ in an official document. In 1998, Mozart scholar Michael Lorenz found a document dated May 1787, in which ‘Mozart Wolfgang Amadeus’ is referred to in conjunction with his friend, Franz Jakob Freystädtler.
The day Mozart died, on 5 December 1791, his name was entered in the records of the Vienna Magistrate as ‘Wolfgang Amadeus’. Seven years later, the publishing company Breitkopf & Härtel produced an edition of Mozart’s complete works under the name – but the real dominance of ‘Amadeus’ began around 1810, 19 years after the composer’s death.
Romantic writers and authors used the nickname to proclaim their worship for Mozart, eventually turning ‘Amadeus’ into everyone’s preferred nickname for the classical giant.