Maria Theresia von Paradis

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Maria Theresia von Paradis F. Parmantie, 1784 - Maria Theresia Paradis.jpg
Maria Theresia von Paradis

Maria Theresia Paradis (also von Paradies) (May 15, 1759 February 1, 1824), was an Austrian musician and composer who lost her sight at an early age, and for whom Mozart may have written his Piano Concerto No. 18 in B-flat major.

Austria Federal republic in Central Europe

Austria, officially the Republic of Austria, is a country in Central Europe comprising 9 federated states. Its capital, largest city and one of nine states is Vienna. Austria has an area of 83,879 km2 (32,386 sq mi), a population of nearly 9 million people and a nominal GDP of $477 billion. It is bordered by the Czech Republic and Germany to the north, Hungary and Slovakia to the east, Slovenia and Italy to the south, and Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west. The terrain is highly mountainous, lying within the Alps; only 32% of the country is below 500 m (1,640 ft), and its highest point is 3,798 m (12,461 ft). The majority of the population speaks local Bavarian dialects as their native language, and German in its standard form is the country's official language. Other regional languages are Hungarian, Burgenland Croatian, and Slovene.

Composer person who creates music, either by musical notation or oral tradition

A composer is a musician who is an author of music in any form, including vocal music, instrumental music, electronic music, and music which combines multiple forms. A composer may create music in any music genre, including, for example, classical music, musical theatre, blues, folk music, jazz, and popular music. Composers often express their works in a written musical score using musical notation.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Austrian composer of the Classical period

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, baptised as Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, was a prolific and influential composer of the classical era.


Early life

Maria Theresia Paradis was the daughter of Joseph Anton Paradis, Imperial Secretary of Commerce and Court Councilor to the Empress Maria Theresa, for whom she was named. The Empress, however, was not her godmother, as was often believed. Between the ages of 2 and 5 she lost her eyesight. Paradis was treated from late 1776 until the middle of 1777 by the famous Franz Anton Mesmer, who was able to improve her condition temporarily[ citation needed ] until she was removed from his care, amid concerns on the one hand of possible scandal, on the other hand at the potential loss of her disability pension.[ citation needed ] [1] In either case, on this departure from Dr. Mesmer the blindness came back permanently.

She received a broad education in the musical arts from:

Music theory considers the practices and possibilities of music

Music theory is the study of the practices and possibilities of music. The Oxford Companion to Music describes three interrelated uses of the term "music theory":

The first is what is otherwise called 'rudiments', currently taught as the elements of notation, of key signatures, of time signatures, of rhythmic notation, and so on. [...] The second is the study of writings about music from ancient times onwards. [...] The third is an area of current musicological study that seeks to define processes and general principles in music — a sphere of research that can be distinguished from analysis in that it takes as its starting-point not the individual work or performance but the fundamental materials from which it is built.

Piano musical instrument

The piano is an acoustic, stringed musical instrument invented in Italy by Bartolomeo Cristofori around the year 1700, in which the strings are struck by hammers. It is played using a keyboard, which is a row of keys that the performer presses down or strikes with the fingers and thumbs of both hands to cause the hammers to strike the strings.

Vincenzo Righini Italian composer, singer and kapellmeister

Vincenzo Maria Righini was an Italian composer, singer and kapellmeister.


By 1775, Paradis was performing as a singer and pianist in various Viennese salons and concerts. She commissioned various works to perform, most notably:

Pianist musician who plays the piano

A pianist is an individual musician who plays the piano. Since most forms of Western music can make use of the piano, pianists have a wide repertoire and a wide variety of styles to choose from, among them traditional classical music, jazz, blues, and all sorts of popular music, including rock and roll. Most pianists can, to an extent, easily play other keyboard-related instruments such as the synthesizer, harpsichord, celesta, and the organ.

Vienna Capital city and state in Austria

Vienna is the federal capital, largest city and one of nine states of Austria. Vienna is Austria's primate city, with a population of about 1.9 million, and its cultural, economic, and political centre. It is the 7th-largest city by population within city limits in the European Union. Until the beginning of the 20th century, it was the largest German-speaking city in the world, and before the splitting of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in World War I, the city had 2 million inhabitants. Today, it has the second largest number of German speakers after Berlin. Vienna is host to many major international organizations, including the United Nations and OPEC. The city is located in the eastern part of Austria and is close to the borders of the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Hungary. These regions work together in a European Centrope border region. Along with nearby Bratislava, Vienna forms a metropolitan region with 3 million inhabitants. In 2001, the city centre was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In July 2017 it was moved to the list of World Heritage in Danger.

An organ concerto is a piece of music, an instrumental concerto for a pipe organ soloist with an orchestra. The form first evolves in the 18th century, when composers including Antonio Vivaldi, Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frideric Handel wrote organ concertos with small orchestras, and with solo parts which rarely call for the organ pedal board. During the Classical period the organ concerto became popular in many places, especially in Bavaria, Austria and Bohemia, reaching a position of being almost an integral part of the church music tradition of jubilus character. From the Romantic era fewer works are known. Finally, there are some 20th- and 21st-century examples, of which the concerto by Francis Poulenc has entered the basic repertoire, and is quite frequently played.

Antonio Salieri Italian classical composer and conductor

Antonio Salieri was an Italian classical composer, conductor, teacher and rival of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. He was born in Legnago, south of Verona, in the Republic of Venice, and spent his adult life and career as a subject of the Habsburg Monarchy.

Piano concerto musical composition for piano and orchestra

A piano concerto is a type of concerto, a solo composition in the Classical music genre which is composed for a piano player, which is typically accompanied by an orchestra or other large ensemble. Piano concertos are typically virtuoso showpieces which require an advanced level of technique on the instrument, including melodic lines interspersed with rapid scales, arpeggios, chords, complex contrapuntal parts and other challenging material. When piano concertos are performed by a professional concert pianist, a large grand piano is almost always used, as the grand piano has a fuller tone and more projection than an upright piano. Piano concertos are typically written out in music notation, including sheet music for the pianist, orchestra parts for the orchestra members, and a full score for the conductor, who leads the orchestra in the accompaniment of the soloist.

On K.456, while this concerto is believed to be the one intended for Paradis, there are continuing questions concerning this. From Ruth Halliwell's The Mozart Family: Four Lives in a Social Context, we read:

It is not certain which concerto this was. Leopold [in a letter from Vienna] simply described it to Nannerl as a ‘glorious concerto’ and said it had been written for Maria Theresia von Paradis ‘for Paris.’ His description suggests that neither he nor Nannerl knew it already; if this is so, it must have been a later one than K.453, which seems to have been the newest they had in Salzburg at this date.[ citation needed ]

Leopold Mozart German composer, conductor, teacher, and violinist

Johann Georg Leopold Mozart was a German composer, conductor, teacher, and violinist. Mozart is best known today as the father and teacher of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and for his violin textbook Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule.

Maria Anna Mozart Austrian musician

Maria Anna Walburga Ignatia Mozart, called "Marianne" and nicknamed Nannerl, was a musician, the older sister of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) and daughter of Leopold (1719-1787) and Anna Maria Mozart (1720-1778).

Salzburg City in Austria

Salzburg, literally "salt castle", is the fourth-largest city in Austria and the capital of the Federal State of Salzburg.

In any event, Paradis had an excellent memory and exceptionally accurate hearing, as she was widely reported to have learned over 60 concertos by heart, as well as a large repertoire of solo and religious works.

Touring Europe

Paradis did not stay confined to Vienna. In 1783, she set out on an extended tour towards Paris and London, accompanied by her mother and librettist Johann Riedinger who invented a composition board for her. In August of that year they visited the Mozarts in Salzburg, though Nannerl's diary seems to place this meeting in September. She played in Frankfurt and other German cities, then Switzerland. Paradis finally reached Paris in March 1784. [2] Her first concert there was given in April at the Concert Spirituel; the review in the Journal de Paris for it remarked: "…one must have heard her to form an idea of the touch, the precision, the fluency and vividness of her playing." In all she made a total of 14 appearances in Paris, to excellent reviews and acclaim. She also assisted in helping Valentin Haüy ("the father and apostle of the blind") establish the first school for the blind, which opened in 1785.

She traveled to London in late 1784, and performed over the next few months at court, Carlton House (the home of the Prince of Wales), and in the Professional Concerts at Hanover Square, among other places. She played Handel fugues to George III and later accompanied the Prince of Wales, a cellist. However, her concerts lost ground, being less well received and attended in London than in Paris. She continued to tour in Western Europe (including Hamburg where she met Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach), and after passing through Berlin and Prague, ended up back in Vienna in 1786. Further plans were made to give concerts in the Italian states and Russia, but nothing came of these. She returned to Prague in 1797 for the production of her opera Rinaldo und Alcina.

Compositions and later life

During her tour of Europe, Paradis began composing solo music for piano as well as pieces for voice and keyboard. The earliest music attributed to her is often cited as a set of four piano sonatas from circa 1777, but these are really by Pietro Domenico Paradisi, to whom much of her music is often mistakenly attributed. Her earliest major work in existence is the collection Zwölf Lieder auf ihrer Reise in Musik gesetzt, composed between 1784-86.

Her most famous work, the Sicilienne in E-flat major for violin and piano, is spurious, as it is believed to have been composed by its purported discoverer, Samuel Dushkin [ citation needed ].

By the year 1789, Paradis was spending more time with composition than performance, as shown by the fact that from 1789 to 1797 she composed five operas and three cantatas. After the failure of the opera Rinaldo und Alcina from 1797, she shifted her energy more and more to teaching. In 1808, she founded her own music school in Vienna, where she taught singing, piano and theory to young girls. A Sunday concert series at this school featured the work of her outstanding pupils. She continued to teach up until her death in 1824.

When composing, she used a composition board invented by Riedinger, her partner and librettist, and for correspondence a hand-printing machine invented by Wolfgang von Kempelen. Her songs are mostly representative of the operatic style, which displays coloratura and trills. Salieri's influence may be seen in the dramatically composed scenes. Much of the stage work is modeled on the Viennese Singspiel style, while her piano works show a great influence by her teacher Leopold Kozeluch.

List of works by Maria Theresa Paradis

Stage works


Instrumental works


Cultural references

Novels & Short Stories


Video documentation, script, musical sketches and performance history, available in the Claudia Stevens papers, Special Collections, Earl Gregg Swem Library, College of William and Mary. A musically self-accompanied solo play in two acts, text and music by Claudia Stevens, concerns Maria Theresia's relation to Mesmer, and blindness as metaphor.


Paradis is mentioned in a scene during which Antonio Salieri reports Emperor Joseph II Paradis' claim that she was molested by Mozart during a lesson. This claim, in the film's context, is ultimately portrayed as a ruse by Salieri to hinder Mozart's appointment to a royal position (teaching the Emperor's young niece).

See also

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  1. Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Psychotherapy (Anchor Press/Doubleday 1978), pages 54-58
  2. Journal de Paris , 24 April 1784, pp. 504-505.


Schleifer, Martha Furman, and Sylvia Glickman. Women Composers: Music through the Ages. Score Anthology. New York: G. K. Hall, 1996-.