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Antonio Salieri
O jour de la paix! from Les Danaides
 real 28k

W A Mozart
Finch'han dal vino from Don Giovanni
 real 28k

Tuesday, 18 April, 2000, 16:37 GMT 17:37 UK
Rehabilitating Mozart's 'murderer'
Antonio Salieri: Famous for something he probably did not do
The northern Italian town of Legnago is attempting to reclaim the reputation of its most famous son, Antonio Salieri, the composer believed by many to have poisoned Mozart.

There is no evidence Salieri did anything of the kind, but he has long been portrayed - beginning with Pushkin and culminating in Peter Schaffer's 1979 play Amadeus - as a mediocre musician insanely jealous of his prodigiously gifted contemporary.

Salieri's career
1750: Born in Legnago
1766: Taken to imperial Vienna
1774: Appointed court composer
1788: Appointed Hofkapellmeister
Pupils included Beethoven, Schubert, Czerny, Hummel, Moscheles and Franz Xaver Wolfgang (Mozart's son)
Tuesday is the first day of a month-long festival in Legnago attended by historians and musicologists who will stage performances of his work and analyse of the circumstances of Mozart's untimely death in 1791.

Organisers from the town hope the result will be recognition of Salieri as a misunderstood genius who deserves full rehabilitation.

Salieri wrote 45 operas which were highly acclaimed throughout Europe in the 18th century. His Tarare, written in 1787, was more popular in Vienna than Mozart's Don Giovanni, which came out at the same time.

Persistent rumour

The rumour that Salieri poisoned Mozart originated with the opera singer Callisto Bassi, who gave it as the reason for Mozart's mysterious death aged 35.

The Russian writer Pushkin gave the rumour credibility in his story Mozart and Salieri, written in 1830, five years after Salieri's death. This became the basis of Nikolay Rimski-Korsakov's 1898 opera of the same name.

Mozart: Probably died of rheumatic fever
The film of Schaffer's Amadeus, with F Murray Abraham's celebrated portrayal of Salieri as an embittered sociopath, brought the story of Mozart's "murder" to a new generation of Salieri-haters.

The new production of Amadeus on Broadway has brought attention to the role once again, with Mr Schaffer writing recently in the New York Times that he "intuited" Salieri to have been a "ultra-respectable, rather priggish career man" appalled by the fact Mozart had God-given genius while being a deeply disagreeable character.

Natural causes

Legnago's effort to erase speculation the Salieri had the motive and desire to do away with Mozart is being supported by Rudolph Angermuller, director of the Mozart Foundation in Salzburg.

"Which mother would make her son (Franz Xaver Wolfgang) study under the murderer of her husband", Prof Angermuller asked La Repubblica.

And what did Mozart die of? A recent examination of the evidence at the University of California, using accounts of his illness from his wife Constanze, point towards death from rheumatic fever.

"Poor Salieri," one participating doctor was quoted as saying, he has only been remembered "for a crime it turns out he did not commit".

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