Iain Fenlon

Iain Fenlon is a reader in historical musicology at Cambridge.

How good was he? Antonio Salieri

Iain Fenlon, 6 July 2000

Shortly before his death in 1787, Gluck handed his last composition, a setting of the De profundis for voices and orchestra, to Antonio Salieri, who directed its first performance at Gluck’s funeral. Gluck’s gesture – a foreshadowing of the composition of Mozart’s Requiem – was the culmination of a process of spiritual adoption that had begun in Paris three years before. Since then Salieri had progressed from being merely the favourite pupil of Florian Gassman, who had brought him to Vienna twenty years earlier, to being Gluck’s anointed successor. This alone should encourage wariness of recent claims about Salieri and his feebleness as a composer: like much else in the Mozart-Salieri mythology, they lack both historical and musical justification.’

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