Among the many myths surrounding Mozart is the one that has him living hand to mouth in his final years and dying a pauper. But recent research and estimates made by scholars and economists reveal a different story. For instance, two such economists in New York, William and Hilda Baumol, estimate that Mozart’s income in the last decade of his life, when most wage earners lived at the edge of subsistence, was thoroughly middle class by today’s standards. Using the commonly held standard that the 1786 Austrian florin could buy roughly as much as $9 today, it can be estimated that Mozart earned $50,000-$60,000 in today’s money. Those figures look even better when one considers that the purchasing power of the average wage in Mozart’s Vienna was about one-seventh in America today, placing Mozart’s income solidly in Vienna’s upper middle class.
Mozartean scholar Volkmar Braunbehrens arrives at a similar conclusion, finding documentation for 1,200 to 3,800 florins during each of the final ten years of Mozart’s life – figures that do not include much of his earnings from teaching and performances, that is, the bulk of his income.