Mozart

Was Mozart Really Poor?

During the much of his lifetime, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was everything but a poor man. Although he is often featured as the prime example of the alleged exploitation of talents in the 18.th century Europe, this legend has nothing to do with the reality.

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In fact, Mozart was very-well paid even when judging by today’s standards. For one-hour long piano play, he could get paid more than 300 Austro-Hungarian Guldens. In comparison, yearly salary of an average 18.th century servant was no higher than 20 Guldens.

However, as we can read in a number of historical sources, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart often received more than 1000 Guldens for one single(!) concert. If we consider 6 such concerts every year + other incomes, we can estimate his yearly incomes to be around 10,000 Austro-Hungarian Guldens. In today’s silver prices, this is equal to approximately 100,000 USD. However, when adjusted to standards of Mozart’s age, it’s equivalent to more than $4,000,000.

However, the true reason of Mozart’s financial problems were not the low royalties, but rather his lifelong passion – gambling. In one single day, Mozart allegedly gambled more than 2000 Guldens($800,000) while playing billiard.

Contrary to common misconception, after his death in 1791, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was not buried in pauper’s grave, but rather in a common grave, however, in Vienna, common graves were individual graves for the common people. Difference between Viennese common and aristocratic graves was that the common graves were excavated and used again after ten years; the aristocratic graves were not.

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