Nicholas Till
Mozart and the Enlightenment

In 1780 there were six publishers in Vienna, but by 1787 there were twenty-one operating 114 presses, and the economic value of the export of books from Vienna leapt from 135,000 taler per annum in 1773 to 3,260,000 taler in 1792. In the 1730s Vienna, the largest German city, ranked forty-sixth in the table of book-producing German cities; by 1800 she ranked third. As in London at the beginning of the century, booksellers and lending libraries sprang up in response to the new industry, creating new forums for intellectual discussion and the exchange of ideas. The most successful of the Viennese publishers, the millionaire property developer Trattner (of whom Mozart was for a while a tenant in the Trattnerhof near the Graben, and who was godfather to one of Mozart's children) was himself forced to open a reading-room of his own, where readers could peruse the Trattner titles without having to buy them, to counter the success of the other public reading-rooms in Vienna.

During the 1780s there was also an efflorescence of public coffee-houses in Vienna: some seventy by 1790 in a city of around 215,000 inhabitants. A historian of the Viennese coffee-house has written that the coffee-house was to become during this period a virtual substitute for parliament in a country which had no official forums for political debate. 'One doesn't just drink coffee here,' Pezzi tells us in his Skizze von Wien, 'one studies, plays, applauds, sleeps, negotiates, haggles, advertises, intrigues, reads papers and journals.' As in London, certain coffee-houses became identified with particular circles of Viennese society: Kramer's on the Graben was well known to be the best place to get hold of international journals, and hence became the most familiar literary meeting place; the Cafe Stierbock in the Leopoldstadt suburb was a popular masonic haunt, where in 1785 a reception was held for Lafayette, the French hero of the American Revolution.

These developments were an indication of the new liveliness of Viennese intellectual and literary life in the early years of Joseph II's reign, prompting Blumauer to exclaim in 1782, 'Is not Vienna now the sun around which Germany's smaller and lesser planets orbit? Is it not the focus for the whole of Europe? Have philosophy and science themselves ever had such a wide influence?' And this intellectual liveliness was complemented by the deliberately egalitarian openness of Joseph II's own social vision. The imperial gardens, the Prater and the Auganen (in the grounds of which Joseph himself lived quite modestly) were thrown open to the Viennese public, and there, sections of society, from the emperor down, intermingled in social harmony. (Mozart himself promoted a successful series of concerts in the Auganen.) The great ballroom, the Redoutensaal, formerly the preserve of the aristocracy, was made available to all classes at carnival time, and Joseph himself sometimes admitted the public to imperial balls.

  The World was all before them, where to choose
Their place of rest, and Providence their guide:
They, hand in hand, with wand'ring steps and slow,

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Through Eden took their solitary way.