Famous Tutors/Students from History | Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Updated: Mar 18, 2019

We kick off this multi-part series with an article from Assistant Manager Madeleine.

These days, lots of people decide to turn their hands to the work of a freelance tutor. Students looking to earn some extra cash, actors and writers looking to supplement their other freelance work, and career tutors who just love sharing their knowledge are popular tutor types. Tutors can make such an impact on the studies of all kinds of people, and when we look back into the past, the effects of good tutors can really be seen. There are so many famous and influential tutors from history, but we thought a good place to start would be with none other than one of the most famous composers of all time - Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.


Mozart acted as a piano tutor throughout most of his career to pupils all over Salzburg, including countesses, princes, budding composers, and other members of the more well-to-do tier of society. Apparently, Mozart didn’t particularly like tutoring - he was frustrated that he regularly had to teach piano in isolation, when he felt that the learning of the piano needed to be taught in conjunction with the fundamentals of music - but unfortunately he didn’t have much of a choice. As a composer and musician, Mozart’s source of income was anything but stable and was based mostly on commissions, so he needed some regular money to come in from somewhere else. His time spent tutoring increased during the last ten years of his life, after he had a falling out with his patron, the Archbishop of Salzburg, and had to depend on himself for further income a lot more as a freelancer. In this sense, I’m sure that many young musicians can understand Mozart’s plight, and maybe they can take comfort in the fact that even one of the most well-known composers of all time had to do a bit here and there to make a living!


Mozart’s tutees were very lucky indeed - he often wrote entire pieces for them to study and perform. For example, the Salzburg Countess Antonia Lützow was the dedicatee of the Concerto in C, K. 238; Rosa Cannabich and Thérèse Pierron Serrarius, pupils during Mozart's time in Mannheim, also caused important keyboard works such as the Sonata in C, K. 309 (284b) for piano solo and the Sonata in C, K. 296 for piano and violin. He also wrote very detailed reports on his pupils for their parents and mentors - writing to the father of a pupil named Rosa Cannabich that “she is very smart and learns very easily. Her right hand is very good, but her left, unfortunately, is completely ruined...” While his criticism was often harsh, it was likely given out of a desire to see his pupils succeed - he wanted them to be technically excellent after all. Plus, in this case, Rosa’s father was the leader of the Mannheim orchestra, so if she had returned home with anything other than top notch piano skills I’m sure he would have been asking Mozart for some explanations…!


Mozart took a shine to some of his tutees, in particular one lady named Josepha von Auernhammer. Mozart was highly appreciative of von Auernhammer’s skills on the piano, and actually performed with her as duo quite regularly. He composed his concertante Sonata for double piano with her in mind, and such was her skill that he decided to write the harder, primo piano part for her to perform. They also regularly gave performances of older piano pieces Mozart had written and then subsequently re-written for two pianos, so clearly he held her in very high esteem. So, if all of you tutees out there work hard to impress your tutors, (if you’re very, very lucky) maybe your Physics tutor will ask you to co-write a study, or your English tutor will write a book about you…


Despite the fact that Mozart really wanted to spend most of his time composing and performing, he was actually very generous with his time for his pupils. During the early stages of his career in Vienna, he would give pupils 3 to 5 one-hour lessons per week (eek!), but wasn’t particularly flexible about when the lessons could happen: he only wanted to teach during and around noon, so that he could have the mornings and evenings to write, perform and generally ponder over his own compositions. I’m sure that, due to the high amount of attention he gave to them, Mozart’s pupils were totally grounded in the essentials of pianistic technique - that is, if his advice of practicing scales, passages, and ornaments on a keyboard covered with a handkerchief were heeded!


Some of Mozart’s pupils also went on to be fairly famous composers themselves. One pupil, Thomas Attwood, went on to become the organist at St. Paul’s cathedral and then the composer of the Chapel Royal. As a composer, one of Attwood’s biggest breaks was to write an anthem for the coronation of King George IV - I’m sure that as he was writing the piece he was thanking Mozart for all of the musical skill he helped install in him! Another of Mozart’s successful pupils was Johann Nepomuk Hummel, who was a popular composer in the transition time between the Classical and Romantic periods. Hummel also went on to be an influential tutor himself, tutoring the teacher of Franz Liszt, and writing a very important book on the study of the piano. Clearly, tutoring really can give you the skills you need to succeed!


So cheers, Mozart, for giving up your time to help out the budding pianists of Austria. I’m sure, along the way, you’ve inspired many modern day tutors and tutees to teach and study to the best of their abilities!


Blog Post Crafted by Madeleine


Madeleine helps to run our Admin Team. Despite the fact that she read Japanese at university, Madeleine’s main passion in life is opera and she hopes to become the next Maria Callas some day...


Madeleine manages the staff on our Admin Team, liaising with tutors, clients and applicants. She is responsible for processing the ID, Qualifications, DBS Check and References for all our newly joining tutors.

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