Another intriguing statement by Robert Paxton:

I was surprised myself to learn that Mozart had been little played in France before 1940, and that his prominence since 1945 in the French operatic and symphonic repertoire is one of the legacies of the occupation.

Alas, he cites no authority for this so I wonder where one can find information on this topic.

  • Interesting question, +1.
    – Tom Au
    Apr 17, 2013 at 17:51

2 Answers 2


There are enough mentionings of Mozart e.g. in the Wikipedia article on Frédéric Chopin (1810–1849), another child prodigy, classical music composer, and pianist who died young, to convince me that Mozart was studied and taken seriously for one by the French musical elite in the (early) 19th century, i.e. well before WW II.

Seven-year-old "little Chopin" (Szopenek) began giving public concerts [in Poland at the time] that soon prompted comparisons with child prodigies Mozart and Beethoven


It was quickly decided that Mozart's Requiem would be sung [at Chopin's funeral]. This was said to have been Chopin's own wish ...

Chopin's is generally a very interesting 19th-century Polish-French biography. For full disclosure: his Op. 10, No. 3 is one of the most beautiful pieces for piano I know of; and BTW (re Stockholm syndrome), strictly speaking Mozart was not a German, but an Austrian composer. (But then who considers Chopin a French and who a Polish composer? IMO it does matters relatively little compared to the absolute quality of the music of both Chopin and Mozart :)

  • This is interesting information, but I am not yet fully convinced. What about regular concerts? Is something known about the statistics of their repertoirs? What about operas? May 20, 2013 at 12:49
  • Unfortunately I have only anecdotal information plus this to share a this time ...
    – Drux
    May 22, 2013 at 5:27
  • Minor difference between the cases of Chopin and Mozart that Chopin lived his adult life in France, became French citizen etc. while Mozart never lived in Germany.
    – Greg
    Jun 7, 2015 at 22:30
  • @Greg There was no single Germany at Mozart's time.
    – Drux
    Jun 9, 2015 at 5:51
  • @Drux Sure, since Germany did not existed that time. And neither historical Austria or Saltzburg was considered never German.
    – Greg
    Jun 9, 2015 at 5:55

Mozart played mainly at the court of Queen Maria Theresa of Austria. But she had a daughter, Marie Antoinette, who was Queen of France (and who hosted Mozart on a tour).


It's unlikely that Mozart was "never" popular in France before World War II. What MAY have been true is that Mozart, who had his ups and downs, even after his death, was at a "low ebb" in France in 1940, and the occupation "revived" his popularity. While I don't know this for a fact, it's quite plausible that Mozart would have been unpopular in "Republican," anti-German France, basically between 1871-1940.

If Paxton was (basically) right about the latter, the 1940s revival of interest in Mozart would be a case of "Stockholm syndrome," defeated French identifying with Nazi conquerors.

  • That's basically what he said; I am looking for some evidence or independent confirmation. Apr 17, 2013 at 20:57
  • 1
    @FelixGoldberg: Is your question, "Why was Mozart NEVER popular in France before 1940?" or "Why was Mozart not popular in France for SOME YEARS before 1940 (and maybe popular before, say, 1871 or 1914)?
    – Tom Au
    Apr 21, 2013 at 17:51
  • I don't know - that's why I am asking. Apr 21, 2013 at 18:23
  • 1
    On a partly related note, I had an interesting experience learning about the works of Jean-Philippe Rameau (1683–1764). He is a near-contemporary of Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) but FWIK far less known today (at least outside France). I've heard the argument that his close affiliation with the Ancien Régime put him on the wrong side of many potential audiences as the French revolution and its aftermaths unfolded. Personally, I like him even a bit better than Bach these days (perhaps partly so because of the newness factor) ...
    – Drux
    May 18, 2013 at 6:50
  • Start e.g. here ... :)
    – Drux
    May 19, 2013 at 17:50

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