Music, Mozart and Freemasonry

It is not secret and I believe widely known that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a Freemason. However if you were not aware of this, you are in for a treat. Of course there is much more to the story than appears at first brush.

We start with some ideas that in today’s vernacular seem lost. Music in itself was and is very important to Freemasonry. Any past or present Mason who has heard, listened and studied the lecture of the 2nd degree of Freemasonry would see this. Music plays a very important part of that lecture and has more or less up until more recent days.

One of the most important books published on Freemasonry, Anderson’s Constitutions (1723 ed), should bear this point out. Just about one half of the book is dedicated to songs that the Lodge’s extant used or should use.

Table of Contents of the 1723 edition

Frontispiece Engraved by John Pine in Aldersgate Street London.
[i-iv] Dedication “to His Grace the DUKE of MONTAGU.”
[1] – 48 “History, Laws, Charges, Orders, Regulations, and Usages”
49 – 56 “The CHARGES of a FREE-MASON”
57 Postscript “upon the Act against Masons, 3 Hen. VI. Cap. I.”
58 – 70 General Regulations
71-72 Postscript “the Manner of constituting a New Lodge”
73 – 74 Approbation, Philip Duke of Wharton
75-79 The Master’s Song
80- 82 The Warden’s Song
83 The Fellow-Crafts Song
84 The Enter’d ‘Prentices Song
85 – 90 Music to the Third Part of the Master’s Song
91 Order to publish by Philip Duke of Wharton
[92] Some books printed for J. Senex and J. Hooke.

In the decades that followed many song books followed adding to the collection published by Anderson.

The text of the 1723 edition was reset and published in Philadelphia by M.W. Bro. Benjamin Franklin in 1734. It omitted only the musical scores for some of the songs, the engraved frontispiece and coat of arms of the Duke of Montagu, and the Hebrew type occurring in the note to page 15. A number of additions were also made, such as, on page 90, a new verse numbered VI was inserted in the Enter’d ‘Prentices Song, found on page 84 of the 1723 edition.

Music was considered as important as Mathematics in a University education.

Along comes Mozart, January 27, 1756 – December 5, 1791
The youngest child and only surviving son of freemason, Leopold Mozart, Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus was born in Salzburg in 1756, He showed early precocity both as a keyboard-player and violinist, and soon turned his hand to composition.

Mozart composed a number of masonic pieces. When his father received his masonic Second Degree Wolfgang wrote “Fellow Crafts Journey (Op. K468) to honour the occasion. For lodge Zur Wohltatigkeit he wrote “Opening Ode” (Op. K483) and Closing Ode (Op. K484) His last masonic work (Op. K623) was written for the dedication of a masonic temple in Vienna on November 15, 1791.

Mozart was essentially an operatic composer. His last stage work, “The Magic Flute”, an opera with strong hermetic themes, was running with success at the time of his death.

Initiated: December 14, 1784
lodge Zur Woltatigkeit
Passed: January 7, 1785
Raised: before April 22, 1785
Lodge Zur Wahren Eintracht

Mozart’s position within the Masonic movement, according to Maynard Solomon, lay with the rationalist, Enlightenment-inspired membership, as opposed to those members oriented toward mysticism and the occult. This rationalist faction is identified by Katharine Thomson as the Illuminati, a masonically inspired group which was founded by Bavarian professor of canon law Adam Weishaupt, who was also a friend of Mozart. The Illuminati espoused the Enlightenment-inspired, humanist views proposed by the French philosophers Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Denis Diderot. For example, the Illuminati contended that social rank was not coincident with nobility of the spirit, but that people of lowly class could be noble in spirit just as nobly born could be mean-spirited. This view appears in Mozart’s operas; for example, in The Marriage of Figaro, an opera based on a play by Pierre Beaumarchais (another Freemason), the low-born Figaro is the hero and the Count Almaviva is the boor.

The Freemasons used music in their ceremonies, and adopted Rousseau’s humanist views on the meaning of music. “The purpose of music in the [Masonic] ceremonies is to spread good thoughts and unity among the members” so that they may be “united in the idea of innocence and joy,” wrote L.F. Lenz in a contemporary edition of Masonic songs. Music should “inculcate feelings of humanity, wisdom and patience, virtue and honesty, loyalty to friends, and finally an understanding of freedom.”

These views suggest a musical style quite unlike the style of the Galant, which was dominant at the time. Galant style music was typically melodic with harmonic accompaniment, rather than polyphonic; and the melodic line was often richly ornamented with trills, runs and other virtuosic effects. The style promoted by the Masonic view was much less virtuosic and unornamented. Mozart’s style of composition is often referred to as “humanist” and is in accord with this Masonic view of music.

The music of the Freemasons contained musical phrases and forms that held specific semiotic meanings. For example, the Masonic initiation ceremony began with the candidate knocking three times at the door to ask admittance. This is expressed musically as a dotted figure:

DottedFigure.jpg

This figure appears in Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute in the overture, suggesting the opening of the Masonic initiation. According to Katherine Thomson,there are many other examples of specific musical symbols taken from the Masonic rites that appear throughout Mozart’s compositions. These include the use of suspensions to indicate friendship and brotherhood, the use of three-part harmony to emphasize the special significance of the number three in Freemasonry, and special rhythms and harmonies to signify fortitude and other attributes.

Notwithstanding these manifestations of Freemasonry in Mozart’s music and activities, some scholars question Mozart’s personal commitment to Masonic ideology. Peter Paul Fuchs notes that Mozart was a devout Catholic, a religion that threatened Freemasons with excommunication. “Mozart was pulled in various directions stylistically and probably personally. There is little evidence that he found these tensions troubling… ” he writes.

And musicologist David J. Buch notes that many of Mozart’s musical devices identified with Masonry have precedents in non-Masonic music as well. For example, the three notes, which originate from the French genre of “le merveilleux”, already appear in the musical theater of the early 18th century. The three chords in the overture can be found in many other 18th-century stage works, such as Traetta’s Armida and Gazzaniga’s La Circe, operas that have no connection with Freemasonry.

As we move through the 18th and 19th century music continues to play an important role in Masonic thought and ritual. In the modern era composers such as Jean Sibelius, December 8, 1865 – September 20, 1957. Initiated: August 18, 1922  Suami Lodge No. 1, Helsinki, Finland

[Jean Sibelius]

Jean Sibelius

Finnish composer, Jean Sibelius was born in Hämeenlinna. After early training in Helsinki and later in Berlin, Sibelius made his career in Finland, where he was awarded a state pension. He wrote seven symphonies, an additional eighth apparently completed but destroyed. The first two of these enjoy particular popularity. Finlandia(1899) is held in high regard while his Violin Concerto (Naxos 8.550329) now has a place in the standard solo violin repertoire.

Of interest to freemasons is his Musique Réligieuse Opus 113. Completed on the eve of Twelfth-Night, 1927, as late as 1946 Sibelius added the Praising Hymn and the Ode to Fraternity. These are the last compositions he published. Opus 113, compassing the complete masonic ritual music for the three Craft degrees, is owned by Suomi Lodge No. 1, Kasarmikatu 16D, 00130 Helsinki 13, Finland.

In another post here -> My Lodge Organist some additional early 20th century music, some created specifically for the Grand Lodge of New York by the Bruno Huhn Quartet are archived and playable.

In just about every Lodge I have been in there is an organ. These days many Lodges don’t have organ or even piano music accompanying the ritual, especially the degrees. Its seems that Lodge’s organist are becoming more and more rare these days. If you have never heard the degrees with musical accompaniment then you are missing out. It is almost blasphemous to say, but even if it’s recorded music, it’s still better than none at all.

Citation

Wikipedia

Grand Lodge of British Columbia and Yukon

My Lodge Organist