The Kennedy Center

Antonio Salieri


Italian composer Antonio Salieri was born into a musical family in Verona Italy, and began his early studies in Venice, with his older brother, a pupil of Tartini. He spent most of his productive years in Vienna, beginning as a pupil of several well established Viennese musicians. Through these connections he became acquainted with Emperor Joseph, who was a generous patron of the musical establishment in Vienna. Salieri’s first opera, a 1770 comedy entitled Le donna letterate, was well received. He was then appointed court composer in 1774, and “Kappelmeister” (Music director) of the court in 1778.

The Oscar Award winning film, Amadeus, grossly mischaracterized Salieri, portraying him as a jealous, backstabbing villain. In truth, Salieri’s biographers, although admitting to the rivalry between him and the younger genius, describe him as generous, kind and honorable. Although he could have helped the struggling Mozart since he had considerable influence in the Viennese musical community, he neglected to do so. However, upon Mozart’s death, he took an interest in his rival’s son, and secured for him an appointment to the emperor’s court.

Salieri was a prolific composer - his catalog includes 33 operas, dozens of sacred and secular choral works, and a number of compositions for various instrumental ensembles. Traveling to most of the European music centers Salieri, presented operas in many of the European concert venues. The most important of his operas is considered to be Axur Re d’Ormus. Salieri married and had one son; but, unfortunately, his wife and son died in 1805 – 1806. In 1816 he was awarded the gold “Civil Medal of Honor” at a concert of works by some of his students, Franz Schubert among them. After 50 years of service to the court he retired in 1824, a year before his death.

Antonio Salieri