The stated objective of William J. Baumol and Hilda Baumol’s essay “is to help explain the extraordinary confluence of composers whose activities centered in Vienna around Mozart’s time” (p. 72). As they describe it, their fundamental hypothesis is:
...that the political division of the Holy Roman Empire and the Habsburg possessions into many petty states worked to produce the circumstances (notably demand and a profusion of jobs) that help to explain the profusion of musical productivity (p. 72).However, there is a fundamental misapprehension here. It is perfectly true that non-Habsburg German portions of the “Holy Roman Empire” were an unruly collection of petty states lacking a strong central authority. The Habsburg monarchy, on the other hand, did have a strong and increasingly centralized authority embodied in the person of the current head of the house of Habsburg, who held a satchel-full of titles from the various subject Habsburg territories, such as “King of Bohemia,” “King of Hungary,” and so on. The so-called “emperor” (or empress) exerted direct control over most aspects of economic, religious, political and cultural life, implemented through a vast, if somewhat unruly, bureaucracy. Thus, for example, when Empress Maria Theresia died at the end of November 1780, the crown decreed that theaters should remain closed in mourning for several weeks throughout the Habsburg lands. Such a decree would have been impossible in Germany, and there was in any case no central authority to make it.