History paints a number of portraits of Mozart, each one in a different type of light, accentuating flattering and unflattering detail, casting or dispersing shadows. This light is Mozart's sexual morality. Was he a good husband? Was Don Juan modeled after his own flights of indiscretion? Did Constanze drive him to an early grave with her failures as a wife? Did Mozart's frequent sexual activity further weaken his immune system and distract him from composing? These questions are somewhat frivolous considering the small amount of mostly unreliable information available to scholars, especially soon after Mozart's death, when much of the popular mythology about him was being inferred and disseminated. It has become obvious to me, reading excerpts from numerous biographers speaking of Mozart's amorous proclivities, that their interpretations were more telling of their own opinions and affected prejudices than of the man they told of.
Was Mozart, as some biographers claim, a lecherous man, who cared little for his wife? Biographers John Naglee Burk (Mozart and his Music), and Eric Blom (Mozart) certainly seem to think so. Those two state with uncalled for confidence that Mozart was frequently forming illicit relationships with women of ever social plateau. They also are unabashed in their stating that Constanze definitely knew of these infidelities and was not just numb to Mozarts confessions but was amused by them. The subject of Mozart's infidelities to Constanze can be trace back to Abert and Schurigs biographies, though these refer to violent uproars as a result of the adulteries. Looking back through other biographer's works for the source of these claims one comes to a dead end at Niemetschek, whose word are vague and refer to 'petty sins', which could refer to monetary indiscretions, or a number of other things, including sexual ones. Mozart was also accused of sleeping a Masonic brother's wife. This was known as the Hofdemel affair. After Mozart's death Hofdemel wounded his wife with a knife, and then applied the weapon to his person, ending his own life. This tale however was fraught with incongruencies. For example Frau Hofdemel was have supposed to have lent 3000 florins to Mozart to support his composing the Rquiem, but that is patently false as it was Count Walsegg who had commissioned it. The list of singers who Mozart purportedly slept with grew as the years after his death passed, often drawing on the mood of pieces as evidence of the illicit liaisons. (1-7, William Stafford, All about Eve: Mozart and Women) There is a letter to Baroness Waldstatten that suggests he was hiding their communication from his wife but one has to infer that it was one of the bedroom, rather than friendly flirtation; either are distinct possibilities. All in all letters point to their being some likelihood that Mozart slept around, and was at the very least and habitual flirt. As to how these flirtations effected Mozart's marriage, we cannot guess with any confidence, as the evidence is both for and against the existence of tumult.
The nature of the circumstances that led to Mozart's union with Constanza are vague and scholars have been more than a little contentious over whether it was an auspicious event.
In a letter to his father, Wolfgang more or less clears up matters if we can assume that he is being honest with his father. This is an excerpt from Braunbehrens paraphrasing of that letter:
'Mozart undoubtedly loved his wife Constanze. His pain at her distance is evidenced in his letters to her, and he only traveled abroad without her twice. Braunbehrens examined not only the letters of the Mozart family, but the personal circumstances of Mozart and his wife and the broader historical circumstances affecting all those living in Vienna at the time. He writes:
". . .Constanze Mozart had indeed other standards for judging, such
as her affection for Mozart, the love of music that she undoubtedly had
(one that did not emerge only with the exchange of letters with music
publishers after Mozart died), and her readiness to go along with an
unconventional existence in connection with the theater, with musicians, in
short, the life of an artist. . . .To all appearances, the marriage was a very
affectionate one. Mozart constantly wanted to have his wife nearby, liked
to have her talk to him as he was composing, regarded her as an essential
part of his life” ' ( P. 4 -5 Renate Welsh, Constanze Mozart: Eine unbedeutende Frau )
We have not until recently begun to bridge the gap between biological function and subjective experience with any degree of specificity and reliability. The little that we do know is not enough to lay down a reliable code of sexual ethics, which would have to take into account perspectives from all frames of reference. The further back in history one goes, the more ignorant even the best scholars are, for that have far less information to draw from, and usually are apt to plug into a successively smaller frame of reference. It is not at all clear that humankind will, in the foreseeable future, be able to judge sexual ethics based on scientific evidence. This would require a more holistic and more mature form of psychobiology, that is one that has enough wisdom to value subjective experience as much as results, and sophisticated enough technology that it can more accurately measure, and thus infer from, subjective experience, then and only than will a truly useful sexual morality be common knowledge. Unless that day comes, historians, philosophers, artists and casual observers will fall prey to the mores of their time, whether that means accepting or rejecting somewhere along the spectrum of relative self-societal awareness.