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Title: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - New York Philharmonic-Symphony Society Presents...
Author: Peyser, Herbert F.
Language: English
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 [Illustration: Wolfgang Mozart at the age of seven, accompanied by his
            father, Leopold Mozart, and his sister, Nannerl.
          _Engraving by De La Fosse after Carmontelle_ (1764)]

                           _Wolfgang Amadeus

                          By HERBERT F. PEYSER

                  [Illustration: Harp and cello logo]

                                NEW YORK
                           _Grosset & Dunlap_

                           _Copyright 1951 by
             The Philharmonic-Symphony Society of New York_

Mozart’s earthly career was so poignantly short yet so filled with
incalculable achievement that the author of this booklet finds himself
confronted with an impossible task. He has, consequently, preferred to
outline as best he could in the space at his disposal a few successive
details of a life that was amazingly crowded with incident, early
triumphs, and subsequent crushing tragedies, rather than to consider
(let alone evaluate) the staggering creative abundances the master
bequeathed mankind.

It is scarcely necessary to disclaim for this thumbnail sketch any new
slant or original illumination. If it moves any reader to renew his
acquaintance with the standard biographies of the composer or, better
still, to deepen his artistic enrichment by a study of modern
interpretations of contemporary Mozart scholars like Alfred Einstein,
and Bernhard Paumgartner, its object will be more than achieved.

                Printed in the United States of America

                       _Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart_

If the Mozartean family tree was nothing like the prodigious trunk of
the Bachs it was still not without striking features. There were Mozarts
in South Germany as far back as the end of the sixteenth century; and as
remotely as the thirteenth the name stood on a document in Cologne. To
be sure, various spellings of Mozart existed in those distant times. It
appeared as “Mosshard,” “Motzhart,” “Mozert,” and in still other
variants. Bernhard Paumgartner, Director of the Salzburg Mozarteum,
thinks it derived from the old German root _mod_, or _muot_, from which
came the word _Mut_ (courage). Be this as it may, German “Mozarts” were
anything but exceptional a couple of hundred years before Leopold Mozart
or his son, Wolfgang, came into the picture. In Augsburg there was an
Anton Mozart who painted landscapes “in the manner of Breughel.” Another
Mozart from the same town, one Johann Michael, was a sculptor, who in
1687 moved to Vienna and became an Austrian citizen.

But of all these “Mossherts,” “Motards,” and the rest, only one, the
mason apprentice David Motzert, born in the village of Pfersee, close to
Augsburg, really belongs to our story. The _Augsburger Bürgerbuch_ of
1643 mentions him and sets his fortune at 100 florins. By his marriage
with the _Jungfer_ Maria Negeler he was to become the
great-great-grandfather of the creator of _Don Giovanni_. In the
fullness of time David’s grandson, Johann Georg, abandoned the
occupation of his forebears for that of a bookbinder. His second wife
blessed him with two daughters and six sons. One of these sons, Franz
Aloys, gained a kind of immortality as the father of Maria Anna Thekla,
Wolfgang’s cousin, the “Bäsle,” to whom he wrote that series of
notoriously smutty letters with which this lively young lady’s name is
eternally linked.

Johann Georg’s first-born, Johann Georg Leopold, became for posterity
simply Leopold Mozart, composer of arid music, author of a celebrated
violin method, and father of Wolfgang and of Maria Anna Walburga
Ignatia, whom the world remembers almost solely as “Nannerl.” It is a
Nannerl, incidentally, that we have to look for a sort of continuation
of the Mozart line down almost to our own time. On January 9, 1919,
there died in the Feldhof Insane Asylum, near Graz, the
seventy-seven-year-old Bertha Forschter, a great-granddaughter of
Nannerl, who had lived on in Salzburg til 1829, highly revered because
of her exalted kinship.

                         Early Life in Salzburg

What brought Leopold Mozart to Salzburg in the first place? A
choirsinger in the Augsburg Church of St. Ulrich and a graduate of the
Augsburger Jesuit Lyceum, he seemed to be shaping for a priestly career.
He did not, at all events, follow the bookbinder’s trade like his
brothers. Alfred Einstein finds it difficult to grasp why he should have
preferred Salzburg to Munich or Ingolstadt for an orthodox theological
education. Possibly a suggestion of the canons of St. Ulrich had
something to do with it. Whatever the reason, he enrolled at the
University in the town on the Salzach, July 22, 1738. There he studied
philosophy, logic, and music, understood Latin, composed Passion
cantatas and instrumental works, acquired some proficiency on the
violin, and obtained a smattering of legal knowledge. Five years later
he became fourth violinist in the court orchestra of the archbishop, but
he maintained his close family connections with Augsburg and later
encouraged his son not to relax these ties.

It is not quite certain exactly when he met Anna Maria Pertl, whose
father was superintendent of a clerical institution at St. Gilgen on the
nearby Wolfgang See. In the fall of 1772 he wrote her from Milan: “It
was 25 years ago, I think, that we had the sensible idea of getting
married, one which we had cherished for many years. All good things take
time!” Anna Maria was her husband’s junior by a year. Jahn questions if
she rose in any way above the average woman of her type. A good
provincial, she had not the suspicious, mistrustful qualities of
Leopold. She lacked intellectual depth, but she was a good wife and
affectionate mother, a genuinely lovable creature, a receptacle of all
the community gossip and local tittle-tattle. “She judged with an eye
just as friendly as her husband’s was critical and sarcastic.” And from
his mother Wolfgang inherited his gayety and some of his more
incorrigible _Hanswurst_ characteristics.

Though the Mozart couple had seven children, only two of these survived
infancy—Nannerl, the fourth, and her great brother, who came last.
Wolfgang was born on January 27, 1756, at eight o’clock in the evening
in the house belonging to Lorenz Hagenauer, on the narrow Getreide
Gasse, Salzburg. The very next morning the newcomer (whose birth came
near costing the mother’s life) was carried to church and baptized with
the name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus, the last in honor
of his godfather, Johann Theophilus Pergmayr. Subsequently the Greek
Theophilus was changed to its more euphonious Latin equivalent Amadeus.
Wolfgang, like the other Mozart children, was at first nourished with
water instead of milk, according to a preposterous superstition of the
time. We have to thank the good health of the infant that he did not
succumb, as did most of the other Mozart offspring, and even withstood
later illnesses.

A sensitive and affectionate lad, Wolfgang was extraordinarily devoted
to his parents, especially to his father, despite Leopold’s humorless
and obstinate nature. “Next to God comes papa!” was a childhood
expression of the boy. To be sure, the inflexible martinet commanded a
certain respect by reason of his very genuine love for his family and
his determination to rear his children according to what he considered
their best interests. But he seemed unable to rise above his
middle-class prejudices and, when all is said, his attitude toward his
son was like that of a conventional Victorian father, who guided the
footsteps of his son according to his lights, yet refused to permit him
any freedom whatever for explorations of his own. All the same, Leopold
could be self-sacrificing in the interest of his children and therein
lay one of the saving features of an unlovable character.

                 [Illustration: The boy Mozart (1767-8)
                  _Oil painting by Thaddeus Helbling_]

  [Illustration: View of Salzburg at the end of the eighteenth century
             _Engraving by Anton Amon after Franz Naumann_]

It was one of his merits to have perceived at once the musical
predispositions of his children, to have cultivated them, even to have
grasped early the most advantageous ways of exploiting them. Nannerl was
by no means slow in showing uncommon aptitude for music, and Leopold
lost no time in embarking upon her training. Wolfgang in his cradle
listened to his sister’s lessons in the adjoining room and we can only
surmise what mystical instincts vibrated in the childish consciousness.
He was hardly more than three when these impelled him to the keyboard,
there to search for consonant intervals and to shout with delight when
he discovered and sounded thirds. He had an abnormally refined and
sensitive hearing, was distressed by impurities of pitch, and perturbed
by any violence of sound (who does not remember the story of the child
Mozart fainting on hearing the tone of a trumpet?). We are told that he
was very soon able to play light piano pieces without any signs of
effort and to memorize and perform them without notes, “cleanly and in
perfect time,” in less than half an hour. Nor was the violin unfamiliar
to him and, though he is not supposed to have started his studies on
that instrument till his sixth year, Nissen tells that a certain Herr
von Murr heard Wolfgang play the violin at four!

Leopold Mozart’s chief trouble lay not in making his son practice but in
getting him away from the piano. Music occupied his waking hours almost
exclusively, and for the customary games and amusements of childhood the
boy showed little interest; or, if it was a question of fun, it had to
be in some way associated with music. Before putting him to bed in the
evening his father would stand him on a chair to give him a good-night
kiss, whereupon the child would declaim Italian nonsense syllables, like
“oragnia figatafa” and such, to some scrap of folk tune, as if imitating
an opera singer. Then he would return his father’s caresses, kissing him
on the tip of his nose and promising when he grew up “to enclose him in
a capsule and carry him about at all times!” In after years Leopold
reminisced in a letter to his son: “When you sat at the piano or
otherwise occupied yourself with music nobody was allowed to joke with
you in any way. Indeed, the expression on your face would become so
serious that many, struck by what they considered your prematurely
ripened talent, feared that your life might be short”—fears that were to
be only too well founded. And, when barely six, he stubbornly refused to
play before any audience that did not include at least one musically
cultured listener.

Abraham Mendelssohn used to say that, whereas he had once been famous as
the son of his father, he was now celebrated as the father of his son.
Leopold Mozart was most indisputably the father of his son. His
juiceless compositions, his violin method, and the rest of his dreary
talents and moral virtues have a kind of museum value only as they
contributed to Wolfgang’s artistic upbringing and guidance. Alfred
Einstein observes that “the first signs of musical talent in Wolfgang
completely changed the direction of Leopold’s life and thought.”
Unquestionably it was better so, and in the long run he was far more
richly rewarded for cultivating the fruitful soil committed to his

Systematic piano instruction was the first thing on which he seems to
have concentrated. Composition was a by-product. Wolfgang improvised
unceasingly, which meant that numberless minuets and simple pieces of
various types took shape under his fingers, the father writing down
industriously what his son’s fancy dictated. Nannerl extemporized no
less actively. Leopold spurred his children by acquainting them with
short works by himself and recognized musicians to divert them after dry
technical exercises. Each had a little study book of pieces. The one
that Wolfgang received from his father on October 31, 1762, has come
down to us complete and contains 135 examples for study. Among them
Wolfgang tried his hand at brief works of his own. In the father’s
writing we can read the following: “Di Wolfgango Mozart, May 11, 1762
und July 16, 1762.” Some of the masters given the boy to study were
Wagenseil, Telemann, Hasse, and Philipp Emanuel Bach. Wolfgang’s
compositions include an innocent minuet and trio with very simple basses
and a little Allegro in three-part song form. In these and other
childish efforts the improving hand of Leopold can be repeatedly
detected. It was to be so for some time to come and when the father did
not have a correcting finger in the pie we become aware of it. It is
evident in a sketch book Wolfgang was given in London a year or two
later when Leopold fell ill and, in order not to be disturbed by the
sounds of practicing, asked the boy to write something and refrain from
noise. The book is filled with a great variety of minuets, contradances,
rondos, gigues, sicilianos, preludes, and even an unfinished sketch for
a fugue. Here one sees indisputable genius in conflict with technical
lapses and other evidences of inexperience that somewhat modify the
notion that Wolfgang had acquired all his skill by instinct rather than
by carefully disciplined study.

                         First Visit to Vienna

The five-year-older Nannerl being a remarkable clavier performer and
Wolfgang absorbing his father’s instructions with the utmost facility,
Leopold was not long in deciding that he might profitably bring his pair
of prodigies before the public and make them known in aristocratic
circles, where he had a good chance of capitalizing on their talents.
Besides, there were new artistic currents astir in the world to which
the boy, in particular, might be exposed to his advantage. “If ever I
knew how priceless time is for youth I know it now and you know that my
children are used to work,” he wrote to H. Hagenauer, insisting he had
no idea of permitting the youngsters to fall into habits of idleness. He
seems to have given little thought to the strain of travel, especially
since the children were healthy and Wolfgang, though small, appears to
have been of wiry physique. So in January 1762, he took them on a
three-weeks’ excursion to Munich, where they appeared before the Elector
Maximilian of Bavaria with success.

The following September, however, the family began their travels in
earnest. With a small clavier strapped to their vehicle the little band
of wanderers set out along the Danube by way of Linz and several smaller
localities to Vienna. By October 6 they had reached the capital and they
drank in its wonders with the astonished eyes of small-town folk. A week
later they stood in the presence of the music-loving empress, Maria
Theresia, and her family and court at the Palace of Schönbrunn. The
children played and were admired and duly rewarded. There have come down
to us a quantity of pretty anecdotes about the pair—how Wolfgang climbed
up in the lap of the Empress and was kissed by her; how he insisted on
having the composer Georg Christian Wagenseil in the room when he was to
play (“because he understands such things”); how, when he slipped on the
polished floor and was helped to his feet by the princess, Marie
Antoinette, he thanked her and then added “I shall marry you for this
when I grow up!” Unquestionably the motherly tenderness of Maria
Theresia went out to the child from Salzburg. Yet it is a question
whether she actually saw in Wolfgang and his sister more than a pair of
precocious little people in spite of Leopold’s extravagant claims.
Certainly she was less agreeable several years later when she wrote her
son, the archduke Ferdinand, governor-general of Lombardy, who
contemplated taking Wolfgang into his service: “I do not know why you
need saddle yourself with a composer or useless people.... It discredits
your service when such individuals run about the world like beggars.”

At all events Leopold was voluble in the letters he wrote to his
Salzburg landlord, Hagenauer, about the wonders of the Vienna visit and
the impression exercised everywhere by Wolfgang’s talents and his lively
intelligence and unaffected manner. Leopold built towering air castles.
Two weeks later Wolfgang came down with what was said to be scarlet
fever but which was actually (according to Bernhard Paumgartner)
diagnosed by a German doctor, Felix Huch, as “erythema nodosum,” which
could have had serious consequences and may have planted the seeds of
Mozart’s last illness. Before returning to Salzburg, Leopold accepted
the invitation of a Hungarian magnate to make a flying trip to
neighboring Pressburg after Wolfgang had recovered. Finally, on January
5, 1763, the Mozarts came home to Salzburg. It is uncertain how much
musical stimulation Wolfgang obtained from this first Viennese visit.
The one important event in Vienna at this period—the première of Gluck’s
_Orfeo_—went unmentioned by either Wolfgang or his father.

However, the success of the trip whetted Leopold’s appetite for more of
the same thing. After a brief period for recuperation, plans were laid
for a much more elaborate odyssey to include nothing less than Paris and
London. On June 9, 1763, consequently, the family carriage set out for
the Bavarian frontier—“the same road by which Leopold Mozart, then a
hopeful student, had wandered into Salzburg.” This trip was to keep the
Mozarts away from home for three years.

                      Success in Paris and London

The “celebrity tour” began, strictly speaking, in Munich where the pair
of prodigies performed with sensational success before the Bavarian
Elector Maximilian III, who wished to hear the young people “soon and
often.” But Leopold was out for bigger game and wanted, incidentally, to
exhibit his wonder children to his relatives in Augsburg before
proceeding to world conquests. Besides old acquaintances the “Herr
Kapellmeister” had the good luck to present his “gifts of God” to the
noted Italian violinist, Pietro Nardini, then concertmaster of the court
orchestra of Stuttgart, and to the Italian composer, worthy Niccolo
Jommelli, who was struck by Wolfgang’s abilities but against whom the
mistrustful Leopold harbored various unjust suspicions. In Schwetzingen
the Mozarts had the first opportunity to hear the then unrivaled
Mannheim orchestra, which was to play a significant part in Wolfgang’s
development. He and his sister were put through all their paces as the
weeks went by; besides playing and improvising they were made to perform
all manner of showy stunts. Wolfgang had to name tones and chords
sounded on keyboards covered with a cloth, as well as guess the exact
pitch of bells, glasses, and clocks.

The travelers went on to Bonn, Cologne, and Aachen, where lived the
Princess Amalia, sister of Frederick the Great, whose pressing
invitations to Berlin left Leopold cold as soon as he realized she had
no money; he reflected that the kisses without number which she gave the
children would have pleased him better if they had had cash value!
Finally, after further progress through the Low Countries the little
band reached Paris, where the father discovered that most of his letters
of recommendation and introduction amounted to little. Only when they
were taken in charge by the Bavarian-born Baron Melchior Grimm, a
literary figure of some distinction, did results begin to shape
themselves. A first-rate publicity man, Grimm launched a campaign for
the youngsters in his _Correspondance littéraire_, with the result that
doors promptly opened and invitations began to pour in. On New Year’s
Eve, 1764, the Mozarts were asked to a _grand couvert_ at the court in
Versailles. Wolfgang stood next to the Queen who fed him dainties and
translated for the King—Louis XV—what the boy said to her in German.

The great Madame Pompadour was on hand and the elder Mozart noted that
she must once have been a great beauty for all her present stoutness.
Later, when Wolfgang offered to give her a kiss, she drew back;
whereupon the boy indignantly asked, “Who does she think she is, anyhow?
Our Empress herself did not refuse to kiss me!” Leopold was careful to
note the countless features of the Parisian scene. For one thing, the
abundance of make-up on the faces of the Frenchwomen was something to
revolt “an honest German.” He saw eye to eye with Baron Grimm in his
preference for Italian over French music, declaring that the latter was
“not worth a farthing.” Wolfgang was eventually to share his distaste
for French customs, French art, even the French language. Leopold
brought his son to the attention of several prominent German musicians
who happened to be in Paris, such as Johann Schobert, Gottfried Eckhart,
and Leontzi Honnauer, all of whom registered appropriate astonishment
and presented the children with some of their own compositions, suitably
inscribed. Four sonatas for clavier with _ad libitum_ violin parts by
Wolfgang were printed, and on the title page it was duly noted that
their author was “only seven years old.” For all their charm and
freshness these works clearly betray the improving touch of Leopold.

On April 23, 1764, after an easy Channel crossing, the Mozarts arrived
in London, where the children were announced as “Miss Mozart of Eleven
and Master Mozart of Seven years of age, Prodigies of Nature.” The Hon.
Daines Barrington subjected the boy to “scientific tests,” which
demonstrated that his talents were, indeed, “out of the ordinary.” The
musical George III and Queen Charlotte received them at St. James’s
Palace on April 27. A few weeks later there was another concert before
the royal couple, when the King asked Wolfgang to play at sight pieces
by Wagenseil, Johann Christian Bach, Handel, and Carl Friedrich Abel.
The monarch praised the lad’s performances on the organ even more than
on the clavier, and had him accompany the Queen in a song and improvise
a melody on a figured bass of Handel’s. Leopold wrote home that what his
son knew now completely overshadowed his earlier abilities. At a charity
concert in Ranelagh Gardens they made over a hundred guineas. Yet these
successes did not last: several concerts had to be postponed because of
Leopold’s sudden indisposition; a mental illness of George III increased
alarmingly; the political situation was unfavorable; and the public
began to lose interest in the wonder children.

But apart from the sympathy Wolfgang was always to feel with the English
people, one experience of his London sojourn really outweighed all
others. This was the friendship he and Johann Christian Bach, the son of
Johann Sebastian, formed for each other and the influence the older
musician exercised on the creative genius beginning to blossom in the
child. As Hermann Abert has written, “Christian Bach signified for
Mozart a blithe, elegant counterpart to Schobert by virtue of the
modernized Italianism that came to pervade his style.” The “gallant”
manner, the fresh, playful rhythms of his finales, and the relaxation
modifying the dry composition technique of Leopold’s are elements for
which Mozart is deeply indebted to the “London Bach.” Wolfgang’s early
symphonies and piano music make it plain how much he looked upon Johann
Christian as his model and how fully this master was the chief
inspiration of that “singing allegro” that became a hallmark of the
mature Mozart.

Not only for his boyhood symphonies and sonatas but for his piano
concertos was Wolfgang obliged to his great London friend. His earliest
clavier concertos are largely copies or rearrangements of the concertos
and sonatas of Johann Christian, as of Schobert, Honnauer, and similar
masters. From these seeds came those glorious fruits of concerto
literature that stand among his grandest and most original achievements.

Leopold had overstayed his leave from his Salzburg post but he seemed in
no hurry about returning to it. He had originally planned to go home by
way of Italy, since an Italian trip was regarded as an indispensable
finishing touch to an artistic education. At the beginning of August
1765, the Mozarts landed once more on the Continent. Both father and son
fell ill, and then Nannerl came down with pneumonia and was actually
given the last rites. Wolfgang, scarcely convalescent from a siege of
fever, composed a medley for piano and orchestra—a _quodlibet_ of
popular tunes—the _galimathias musicum_, a thing of rough humors
revealing in its contrapuntal workmanship the tastes and teachings of
his father. Variations on a Dutch patriotic song, six sonatas for violin
and piano, a mellifluous symphony in B flat, and various other “trifles”
indicate that sickness was not regarded as a valid excuse for idling.

Paris, to which they returned in May 1766, seemed less stirred by the
prodigies than it had been on the earlier visit, though Prince Karl
Wilhelm of Brunswick, on hearing Wolfgang, exclaimed in amazement, “Many
a kapellmeister dies without ever having learned anything like what this
child knows!” In July they left the French capital and arrived in
Salzburg the last day of November 1766, laden with gifts and rich in
glowing memories. A considerable quantity of new music from Wolfgang’s
pen filled their luggage. The artist was supplanting the prodigy.
Wolfgang had seen something of the world and had made many valuable
contacts. The Archbishop, Sigismund von Schrattenbach, skeptical of the
brilliant reports he had heard, asked him to compose a cantata—_Die
Schuldigkeit des ersten Gebotes_—and isolated him for a week to see how
much truth there was in all the talk.

                     Vienna and _La Finta semplice_

Not quite a year later the Mozarts were off again, this time to Vienna,
for the betrothal festivities of the Archduchess Maria Josepha and King
Ferdinand of Naples. But their great expectations were hardly realized.
A smallpox epidemic in the capital carried off the royal bride, and
Leopold fled with his family to Olmütz, where both the children
contracted the disease. Wolfgang lay blind for nine days and for some
time had to be careful of his eyes. Only on Christmas Eve were they well
enough to set out again. On their return to Vienna, Maria Theresia
received them kindly, but things had changed. Economy was the order of
the day: the aristocracy followed the example set by the imperial
household, musical activities were reduced, and the Mozarts felt the
pinch. Interest in the prodigies diminished.

Joseph II, who had succeeded his mother on the throne, expressed a
desire to hear in Vienna an opera of the twelve-year-old boy’s
composition and suggested such a work to the lessee of the court
theater, Giuseppe Afflisio. The result was _La Finta semplice_, its
libretto based on a Goldoni farce, and it was arranged that the composer
should lead it from the harpsichord. Nothing came of the scheme,
however, presumably because of intrigues.

The youth was partly consoled for this check by a noted physician, the
celebrated Dr. Anton Mesmer (an early practitioner of mesmerism), at
whose suburban home the one-act German _Singspiel_, _Bastien und
Bastienne_, based on a parody of Jean-Jacques Rousseau’s famous pastoral
_Le Devin du village_, was performed. The little piece for all its
simplicity lives on. Perhaps the most striking thing about the score is
the fact that the prelude, or _intrada_, begins with the theme that was
to be the main subject of Beethoven’s _Eroica_.

The travelers came back to Salzburg early in 1769. The trip had not been
a financial profit, but Wolfgang was undoubtedly richer in experience
and had added to his creative store. The Archbishop delighted them by
ordering a performance of _La Finta semplice_, though he had no genuine
_opera buffa_ personnel at his disposal. The leading soprano part of
Rosina was sung by Maria Anna Haydn, Michael Haydn’s wife. The year was
largely devoted to further study and composition—chiefly of masses and
other church music written at the command of the friendly Archbishop
and, in addition, of symphonies and other forms of “entertainment” music
for garden parties, festivities, and social functions of the high-placed
and well-to-do. And Wolfgang was appointed concertmaster in the
archiepiscopal orchestra.

                    Italy and Mozart’s Early Operas

Leopold realized that the hour had now struck for that long-projected
trip to Italy which he wished to take “before Wolfgangerl reached the
age and stature which would deprive his accomplishments of all that was
marvelous.” Plainly, it would not do to let the boy outgrow his
precocity. And so on December 13, 1769, father and son set out on an
adventure that was to resolve itself into three separate journeys to
what was, rightly or wrongly, esteemed as the home of music and of art
in general.

The youth was now ripe for Italy. The language he absorbed by second
nature, as it were. Everywhere he made valuable new friendships and came
across old acquaintances. In Milan he was commissioned to write an
_opera seria_ and the following October he composed _Mitridate Re di
Ponto_, which, produced on December 26, 1770, amid cries of “Viva il
Maestrino,” had twenty performances. In Bologna he greatly impressed the
aged _castrato_ Farinelli and the great Padre Martini, dean of Italian
musicians. At Naples he had to remove a ring from his finger upon
playing to convince the superstitious that it was not the real
explanation of his “magic” skill. In Rome, after a single hearing of the
Papal choir singing Allegri’s celebrated _Miserere_, which nobody was
allowed to copy under penalty of excommunication, he wrote it down from
memory and then listened to it a second time to make a few minor
corrections. The Pope bestowed on Wolfgang the Order of the Golden Spur,
which enabled him to sign his letters with the whimsical “Chevalier de
Mozart.” He was invited to undergo a difficult examination for
membership in the Philharmonic Academy of Bologna and passed it by
working out in an hour a problem that consisted of producing in the
“strict” church style an antiphon _Quaerite primum_. The real truth,
however, is that the authorities accepted him only _after_ they had
charitably “corrected” what he submitted. It was not long before the
Philharmonic Society of Verona likewise conferred membership upon
him—this time presumably without the preliminary of a test. Now “Maestro
di Cappella,” he was ordered to provide a serenata—_Ascanio in Alba_
(Wolfgang completed its fairly voluminous score in twelve days)—for the
impending marriage of Archduke Rudolf and the Princess Maria of Modena.

Leopold imagined his son “made” for life. But the boy’s music, for all
its charm and fluency, still wanted the unmistakably creative touch. The
tireless traveler, Dr. Burney, wrote a little later: “If I may judge of
the music which I have heard of his composition, in the orchestra, he is
one further instance of the early fruit being more extraordinary than
excellent.” And the composer Hasse believed that “young Mozart is
certainly a prodigy for his age. The father adores his son overmuch and
does all he can to spoil him; but I have so good an opinion of the
innate goodness of the boy that I hope that, despite his father’s
adulation, he will not allow himself to be spoiled.”

The pair went briefly to Salzburg in 1771 and started south again for
Milan, where _Ascanio in Alba_ was to be given in October. The work was
duly presented for the princely nuptials along with Hasse’s opera
_Ruggiero_, likewise commissioned for the festivities. According to the
father’s report, the youth’s _festa teatrale_ completely eclipsed the
work of the venerable master who, far from being jealous, is said to
have remarked, “This boy will throw us all into the shade.”

Scarcely were the travelers home once more than the kindly Archbishop
died. His successor was the former Bishop of Gurk, Hieronymus, Count of
Colloredo. Like many others, the Mozarts scented trouble, for Colloredo
was a hard-boiled bigot and in every respect the reverse of his
predecessor. He lives on in history principally as Mozart’s evil genius
and as the man who, in the end, was to fan Wolfgang’s detestation of
Salzburg to white heat and to drive him to open mutiny. Hieronymus knew
by a kind of intuition that his new subjects were not well disposed to
him so, in the words of a contemporary chronicler, “he despised them and
held himself aloof.” His rule, says Paumgartner, was something other
than the “ancient regime” of his forerunner, the musical highlights of
which had been Leopold Mozart, Ernst Eberlin, and Cajetan Adlgasser.
Colloredo was a revolutionary and a deadly foe of routine and sought to
put his ideas into force by sharpest disciplinary measures. His taste,
however, ran to the easy grace of Italian music; yet he did in his
chilly way at first look upon Wolfgang as a talent he might use for the
greater glory of his court. For his new master’s festive installation in
1772 the composer wrote a one-act serenata along the lines of his
_Ascanio_, entitled _Il Sogno di Scipione_, to a text by Metastasio,
adapted from Cicero. The score was a typical “occasional work” of
allegorical character. Far more important in the creative sense are at
least eight symphonies and four _divertimenti_, in all of which are
traces of the ripening genius shortly to emerge.

The third Italian visit differed in some ways from the earlier ones.
_Lucio Silla_, produced in Milan on December 26, 1772, was not acclaimed
as _Mitridate_ had been. Outwardly it was successful and enjoyed more
than twenty performances but did not hold the stage. To begin with, the
opera had an inferior libretto and Wolfgang, absorbing other musical
influences, was less concerned about catering meticulously to Italian
tastes. Moreover, he was no longer the child prodigy whose every action
was to be considered phenomenal. But the real reasons lay deeper. A
prophetic ear might have detected the vibrations of a “storm and stress”
period beginning to ferment in the spirit of the artist. Leopold made a
vain effort to secure his son a post at the Grand Ducal Court of
Tuscany, but Wolfgang received no more operatic commissions for Italy.
So early in March 1773, taking a last leave of that land, they returned
to Salzburg, where Leopold was angered to see Colloredo appoint an
Italian rather than a German to the position of conductor.

The elder Mozart now determined to try his luck in Vienna. After the
death in 1774 of Florian Gassmann, the court composer, Leopold hoped to
secure the appointment for Wolfgang and the two obtained an audience
with Maria Theresia, who, for all her graciousness, merely replaced
Gassmann by one Giuseppe Bonno. At the moment there was no opportunity
to earn anything in the capital; but the young man became acquainted
with something that, in the long run, was to prove even more rewarding.
This was the music of Joseph Haydn, whom he was not to meet personally
until later. The influence of Haydn on Mozart as of Mozart on Haydn was
to be incalculable from every standpoint.

On December 9, 1774, father and son were on a journey once more, this
time to Munich where the Bavarian Elector, Maximilian III, had
commissioned Wolfgang to write an opera for the following Carnival. It
was a _buffa_, _La Finta giardiniera_, and on January 14, 1775, the
composer wrote to his mother: “My opera went so well yesterday that I
find it impossible to describe the applause. In the first place the
theatre was so packed that many had to be turned away; after every aria
there was a wild tumult, with handclappings and shouts of ‘Viva
Maestro,’ which began again as soon as it ended!” And Christian Daniel
Schubart wrote in the _Teutsche Chronik_: “I heard an opera buffa by the
marvelous Mozart. The fires of genius lurk and dart in it. Yet this is
still not the sacred fire which rises to the gods in clouds of incense.
If Mozart does not become a hot-house plant he should be the greatest
composer who ever lived.”

                            _Il Re pastore_

However, Archbishop Colloredo was growing irritable over these continual
absences of his servants. He had not been able to refuse the request of
the Elector to permit the Mozarts to go to Munich but he at last wanted
his Vice-Kapellmeister and son back. Henceforth it was not going to be
so easy to obtain the great cleric’s leave to go wandering, whatever the
reason. So for the immediate future the impatient young genius settled
down to compose and to perform. A stream of works were put on paper in
1775 and 1776. Five violin concertos were written the first year. They
are the best known of Mozart’s concertos for that instrument and were
conceived, in the main, for the violinist Brunetti of the court
orchestra. With all their charm they still stand below the great clavier
concertos in grandeur and epoch-making qualities. Wolfgang did not
particularly enjoy the violin although his father exhorted him to
practice and told him that he could be the greatest violinist in Europe.

Another work in 1775 was _Il Re pastore_, a cross between opera and
cantata, to a poem by Metastasio composed for a visit to the Archbishop
of Archduke Maximilian. A score of sensitive loveliness, it is known
today chiefly for its tender soprano aria with violin solo, “L’amero,
saro costante.” Of the many other creations of this period we can only
mention in passing the six clavier sonatas for the Baron Dürnitz, the
innumerable variations, the serenades, _notturni_, _divertimenti_,
masses, offertories, organ sonatas, litanies, _graduales_; the stunning
clavier concertos for his own use, for the French pianist Mlle.
Jeunehomme, the Countess Lützow, and other high-placed local amateurs.
Last, but far from least, he composed the _Serenade_ (later transformed
into a symphony by the elimination of a movement or two) for the wealthy
Haffner family, of whom Sigmund Haffner, a merchant prince, was
Burgomaster of Salzburg.

                           Mannheim and Paris

Despite all this work, the young man chafed at the narrow provincialism
of his native town, at the absence of true artistic interest, at the
company he was obliged to keep at the Archbishop’s table, and, most of
all, at that cleric’s attitude. Leopold, seeing the dangerous way in
which the situation was shaping itself between the young man and his
master, made an effort to stave off a catastrophe by planning another
trip. Wolfgang applied to the Archbishop for his discharge, whereupon
Colloredo, who was not really anxious to lose the composer’s services,
told the pair to “seek their fortunes where they pleased”—but at the
same time would not permit Leopold to leave. The father thereupon
decided that his son should go to Paris, perhaps to find some lucrative
position at the French court, unless he should be lucky enough to
discover one somewhere else. But since he was forbidden to go along he
deputed his wife to go in his place and keep a careful eye on the
impulsive young man.

                          The Webers and Paris

Early on September 23, 1777, Wolfgang and his mother (who would much
rather have remained in Salzburg) drove off in a newly purchased
carriage. The departure was a bitter event for Leopold, whose trouble
was such that he forgot to give his son his blessing before the vehicle
was out of sight! Nannerl, equally distraught, was sick and had to take
to her bed. To add to the melancholy of the occasion Father Mozart
darkened the house and fell asleep till roused hours later by Bimperl,
the dog. The woeful day finally dragged itself to an end; it would have
been far more terrible had they known that poor Maria Anna was never to

They went first to Munich, where Wolfgang made an ineffectual appeal to
the Elector and received that answer with which he was in the course of
his life to become so tragically familiar: “Yes, my dear child, but
there is no position free! Now if only there were...,” etc., etc. At
Augsburg, the next stop, he divided his time between Andreas Stein, the
pianomaker whose instruments stirred his interest, and his cousin, the
“Bäsle,” with whom he freely indulged in those ribaldries that so
shocked the puritanical generations of the next century. From that
ancestral seat they turned to Mannheim, which was a very different
story. For here Mozart found all manner of musical interests and
important personalities. And here he fell devastatingly in love!

He had made the acquaintance of the family of Fridolin and Maria Cäcilie
Weber. A streak of bohemianism ran through the lot of them. The father,
in straitened circumstances, eked out an existence in Mannheim as
singer, musician, copyist, prompter—in short, a kind of man-of-all-work
in the theater and orchestra. The mother was a sinister creature—an
out-and-out adventuress. The couple had four daughters, Josefa, Aloysia,
Constanze, and Sophie. Constanze was, in the fullness of time, to become
Mozart’s wife. But his feelings were at first kindled by Aloysia, who
was then only fifteen and with whom Maria Cäcilie at this stage set
about to tempt the young man, who was quickly bowled over by the girl’s
feminine charms, her lovely voice, and her musicianship. In the years to
come each of these women was to play some part in the composer’s life.
(A few years later there was born in a closely related branch of the
Weber family that figure who made the name immortal—Carl Maria von
Weber; so that through marriage the creators of _Der Freischütz_ and of
_Die Zauberflöte_ became cousins!)

Love caused Wolfgang to build castles in the air and to concoct
extravagant schemes. He composed abundantly in Mannheim, planned operas
and what-not for his idolized Aloysia, and before long was writing to
his father proposing to give up the Paris venture altogether and set out
on a trip to Italy with the Webers. Leopold was horrified, the more so
as his wife wrote telling him exactly how things stood. Father Mozart
sternly laid down the law to his son and ended with the words: “Off with
you to Paris! And that soon! Find your place among great people. _Aut
Caesar aut nihil._ The mere thought of seeing Paris ought to have
preserved you from all these flighty ideas!” Wolfgang did not, it is
true, rebel and in the end he went to Paris. But he answered his father
with some heat. He declared that he was no longer a child and had no
intention of tolerating aspersions on his conduct with Aloysia. “There
are some people,” he added, “who think it impossible to love a girl
without evil designs and this pretty word mistress is indeed a fine

But Leopold had, for the moment, won his point and in March 1778,
Wolfgang and his mother were off. The Paris adventure turned out a
dismal fiasco. Even Melchior Grimm, once so helpful, was not interested
this time. He was willing to promote a sensation who gave promise of
being a money-maker. But, as Alfred Einstein has noted,

“_It was Wolfgang’s character that made Leopold wrong in his estimate of
Paris and the Parisian nobility. For Wolfgang was no conqueror and he
could not have conquered Paris even if he had wanted to.... How
carefully Gluck’s conquest of Paris had been prepared! Not only
ambassadors and queens but the entire public took part in these
preparations.... Mozart slipped into Paris quietly and unobserved,
accompanied by his mother, who had come along to keep an eye on him._”

He detested Paris, thought continually of Aloysia, had no use for the
now-surly Grimm, turned down the offer of an organist post in Versailles
(feeling that the place was no more than a suburb), had some
unsatisfactory dealings with Le Gros, director of the Concert Spirituel,
composed for the Parisian stage no more than the ballet _Les Petits
Riens_, easily succumbed to some of Le Gros’ intrigues, and was
demoralized generally. Only one work of his—the D major Symphony (K.
297)—was outspokenly successful. To climax his woes his mother fell ill
and died on July 3, 1778. He had to ask the old Salzburg family friend,
Abbé Bullinger, to break the news to his father and sister. And he
wrote, “You have no idea what a dreadful time I have been having here
... until one is well known nothing can be done in the matter of
composition.... From my description of the music here you may have
gathered that I am not very happy and that I am trying to get away as
quickly as possible.”

“As quickly as possible” was not till September 1778. He decided
reluctantly to return to Salzburg, to the Archbishop’s service, where he
would conduct and accompany, but not play violin. Even so, he was
momentarily tempted to stay on in Paris and might even have done so if
Grimm had not been obviously eager to be rid of him. He did not hurry
back to the hated Salzburg but stopped off in Strassburg, Mannheim, and
Munich, where he found the flighty Aloysia already the wife of Joseph
Lange (the itinerant actor to whom posterity owes the familiar
unfinished portrait of Mozart). When he finally did submit to the
inevitable trip home he lacked the courage to meet his bereaved father
alone and so took his “dear little Bäsle” with him.


At the Archbishop’s table he sat between the _castrato_ Ceccarelli and
the violinist Brunetti. If he felt revolted by his present circumstances
he seems, however, to have taken refuge in the inner sanctuary of his
spirit. He created quantities of priceless works and, in so doing, could
forget situations in themselves repugnant. There were church
compositions, serenades, _divertimenti_; the gorgeous _Symphonie
Concertante_ for violin and viola (K. 364); a triple concerto for
violin, viola, and cello; the adorable E flat concerto for two pianos
(K. 365); three symphonies in G, B flat, and C; some music for Gebler’s
drama, _Thamos, König in Aegypten_, which he had begun five years
earlier and was a foretaste of _The Magic Flute_; and lastly, an
operatic fragment, entitled _Zaide_ after Mozart’s death and destined to
remain a torso.

By 1780, however, Wolfgang was to some degree compensated for his
disillusionments. While laboring on _Zaide_ he was commissioned by the
Bavarian Elector, Carl Theodor, to write an _opera seria_ for the Munich
Carnival of 1781. The Munich authorities picked a libretto _Idomeneo, re
di Creta; ossia Ilia ed Idamante_, which was based on a book by Antoine
Danchet and which, as composed by André Campra as far back as 1712, had
enjoyed a day of fame in Paris. It dealt with the tale of the Cretan
king who had made a rash Jephtha vow to Neptune on returning from the
Trojan war and was saved from sacrificing his son only by a _deus ex
machina_. The libretto was put in shape by the Salzburg cleric,
Giambattista Varesco, and called for, in accordance with French models,
massive crowd scenes, ballets, choruses, and all the effects of a
large-scale spectacle as well as vocal virtuosity and elaborate
instrumental tone painting.

For a change Mozart had things more or less his own way. The Weber
family had moved to Vienna, much to Leopold’s relief, and for the moment
the composer had no time to worry about Aloysia but went ahead putting
his new opera into shape and helping to prepare the production. On the
whole he met with sympathetic cooperation. The Elector, Carl Theodor,
welcomed him cordially. The Intendant, Count Seeau, was helpful, and the
women singers declared themselves pleased with their arias. The chief
difficulties were caused by the aging tenor, Raaff, who had the title
role, and the sixteen-year-old artificial soprano cast for the part of
Idamantes. Mozart, who used to call him “mio molto amato castrato Del
Prato,” deplored the poor boy’s lack of stage experience, musicianship,
and vocal method. Nevertheless, _Idomeneo_, when brought out late in
January 1781, was warmly acclaimed, and the Elector, who had followed
the rehearsals from the first, marveled that “so small a head should
contain such great things,” insisting he had never been so stirred by
any music.

He had reason for his enthusiasm. The score of _Idomeneo_ is one of its
composer’s most superb achievements and, if it lives on today chiefly as
a museum piece, it does so because, like _Mitridate_, _Lucio Silla_, and
_Il Re pastore_ before it and _La Clemenza di Tito_ after it, the work
is a specimen of _opera seria_—a form that had lost every trace of
vitality and dramatic punch. Yet to the end of his days its creator
valued it highly and made some unavailing efforts to reanimate it.

                      Mozart’s Break with Salzburg

Mozart had reason to suppose that the work might gain him a permanent
and rewarding position. Once more he was disappointed; and a short time
after the production he received a summons from Salzburg to join the
Archbishop in Vienna, whither Colloredo had gone with a part of his
musical staff. Leopold, it should be added, was left at home. Wolfgang
boiled inwardly at the prospect of “having the honor once more of
sitting above the cooks at table.” His father begged him to be patient,
but to no avail. In a way he welcomed the present call to Vienna and
seemed to sense his impending liberation, if without knowing exactly how
it was to come. “It seems as if good fortune is about to welcome me
here,” he wrote his parent not long afterwards from the capital, “and
now I feel that I must stay. Indeed, I felt when I left Munich, that,
without knowing why, I looked forward most eagerly to Vienna.” He was
seeking an opportunity to break forever with his detested chief, to whom
he alluded as an “Erzlümmel” (“Archbooby”).

He soon found his chance. The archbishop at first refused Mozart
permission to appear at the Tonkünstler-Societät, about which he
wrathfully wrote to his father (yet a postscript added that, in the end,
he got it). That his place at table was between the valets and the cooks
is, Alfred Einstein says, rightly shocking both to the composer and to
us. But Mozart’s rank as court organist was actually that of personal
servant, and according to eighteenth century etiquette, which knew
nothing of special treatment for genius, this seating at table was
formally correct. In the end the threatened explosion did occur.
Colloredo ordered him back to Salzburg on a certain day. Alleging some
“important engagement” in Vienna, he refused and, when the archbishop
told him he could “go to the devil,” he applied for his dismissal from
the cleric’s service. Three times he presented applications. Finally,
when he made an effort to enter Colloredo’s apartment to hand him the
paper personally, Count Arco, son of the court chamberlain, kicked him
out of the room. But Mozart _did_ get the discharge he had demanded.

The tale of the kick is familiar even to people who have not the vaguest
familiarity with eighteenth-century codes. We might be well advised,
however, to suspend our judgment till we know both sides of the
celebrated story.

“No more Salzburg for me!” Wolfgang gaily wrote his father. Barring
repeated journeys to different cities, Vienna was to be his home for the
rest of his days. He was not to find the material rewards and the secure
position he had sought for so long, but he had that freedom his spirit
craved. And in Vienna he was to absorb those creative impulses that
Haydn had known before him and Beethoven was to know after him. In a
mood of elation he begged his father to leave Salzburg and join him in
Vienna. But Leopold was no longer young and, besides, he was made of
other clay.


Mozart renewed his ties with the Webers once more. Aloysia, indeed, was
now out of his reach, but there were three other daughters, the youngest
still a child, to be sure. The oldest, Josepha, had a good voice but she
left Wolfgang cold. He was more attracted to Aloysia’s sister,
Constanze, a fact that was not lost on the scheming Mother Weber, now a
widow, content to rent rooms and take in boarders. In May 1781, he
settled in the Weber house, _Zum Auge Gottes_, just off the Graben.
Needless to say, Leopold was greatly upset, for he had as low an opinion
of the Webers as ever. But Wolfgang was no longer disposed to let his
father’s tastes sway him and, when he felt that he really loved
Constanze, he determined to make her his wife regardless of parental
wishes. The unscrupulous Madame Weber, pleased at the turn of affairs,
took care that gossip should spread, and people began to talk about the
probability of the marriage. Mozart, yielding to Mother Weber’s
“advice,” left the _Auge Gottes_ in September 1781, though returning for
daily visits. Constanze’s mother played her cards cleverly so as to
compromise her daughter and enjoyed the satisfaction of having Mozart
ask his father for his “approval.” A Weber for a daughter-in-law was the
last thing Leopold wanted. Finally on August 4, 1782, the couple
married, the elder Mozart’s reluctant consent not arriving in Vienna
until August 5. He never forgave his son, however, for this step. No
more did Nannerl, who had quite as little use for her brother’s wife.

Later, after the composer’s death, Schlichtegroll’s necrology said of
Constanze: “Mozart found in her a good mother for the two children she
bore him, who sought to restrain him from many follies and
dissipations...”—the rest of which passage Constanze was subsequently
moved to make illegible. Be all of which as it may, there is no use
pretending that Mozart was, earlier or later, in the least indifferent
to feminine allurements. Sometimes it was the women who plagued him with
attentions, a capital instance of which was his pupil, the pianist
Josephine Aurnhammer, a talented but exceedingly repulsive person, of
whom he left us a gruesome picture in a letter dated August 22, 1781:
“She is as fat as a farm wench, perspires so that you feel inclined to
vomit, and goes about so scantily clad that you really can read as plain
as print: ‘Pray, do look here.’” It was for this same Aurnhammer,
nonetheless, that he wrote the adorable clavier concerto, K. 453.

Alfred Einstein maintains that Constanze owes her fame “to the fact that
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart loved her, and in so doing preserved her name
for eternity, as a fly is preserved in amber. But this does not mean
that she deserved either his love or the fame it brought her.”
Certainly, she could not follow his flights of genius; neither was she
always above reproach in her private conduct. Before their marriage her
“honest and devoted” lover was writing to point out her thoughtless
behavior in allowing some man “to measure her leg” in a game of
forfeits; and nearly a decade later he was begging her “to consider
appearances,” to be “careful of her honor,” and to keep away from the
Baden casino because “the company is ... you understand what I mean!”
Einstein believed that the only woman of whom Constanze had a right to
be jealous “was Nancy Storace, his first Susanna.... Between Mozart and
her there must have been a deep and sympathetic understanding. She was
beautiful, an artist and a finished singer....”

                    _Die Entführung aus dem Serail_

The composer was probably delighted to have the chance to place on the
stage a character named Constanze; and in the summer and autumn of 1781
he began the music of his next major opera, _Belmonte und Constanze_ or
_Die Entführung aus dem Serail_ (“The Abduction from the Seraglio”).
This _Singspiel_, the book of which was originally the work of Christian
Friedrich Bretzner, had been presented a year earlier in Germany with a
score by Johann André. Under Wolfgang’s careful supervision the
three-act piece underwent dramatic and textual modifications by
Christian Gottlob Stephanie the Younger. Mozart had written his father:
“The book is good; the subject is Turkish and is called ‘The Abduction
from the Seraglio.’” Rehearsals did not start till June 1782, and on
July 16 of that year the work was produced in Vienna with extraordinary
success. The stimulus back of Stephanie’s revisions was unquestionably
the penetrating theater sense of the composer himself. Into the love
songs of the tenor, Belmonte, Mozart poured all his tender feelings for
Constanze Weber, whom he was shortly to lead to the altar. The
characterizations throughout have a life, a diversity, and a
psychological truth that had not been met with in any previous Mozartean
operatic effort.

The Emperor, though he recognized the genius in the work, thought it
necessary to warn Mozart that the music seemed to him “too good for the
Viennese” and contained “a powerful quantity of notes”—whereupon the
ready-witted Mozart retorted, “Just as many as are necessary, Your
Majesty!” His older contemporary, Gluck, was himself stirred to
enthusiasm by the work (in which he unquestionably detected the
influence of his own exotic _Les Pèlerins de la Mecque_) and invited the
composer to dinner. _Die Entführung_—which Carl Maria von Weber was to
say was such a work as Mozart could have written only once in his
lifetime—quickly spread through most other theaters of Central Europe,
where, after close to two hundred years, it still leads a lusty
existence. The more amusing, therefore, is a notice the disgruntled
Bretzner inserted in a Leipzig newspaper: “A certain person in Vienna
named Mozart has had the effrontery to misuse my drama ‘Belmonte und
Constanze’ for an opera libretto. I herewith protest most solemnly that
I reserve the right to take further steps against this outrage.”

On the surface the newly married couple were happy. Yet it might be
inquiring too closely to ask whether Wolfgang did not, as time passed,
suffer from that deep-seated loneliness and lack of understanding that
are sooner or later the lot of a genius of this caliber. Under today’s
conditions we have reason to assume that a triumph like _Die
Entführung_, and the numberless other treasures he was giving the world,
would lift him above material cares. Instead, financial troubles began
to thicken about him and grew continually more burdensome. They were,
indeed, to beset him to his end.

For all the stir it created, the opera did not bring its composer the
appointment he expected. And money was becoming a pressing necessity.
Constanze’s pregnancies were frequent during her married life and,
though only two children survived infancy (to become, it is ironic to
reflect, wretched but fairly long-lived mediocrities), her various
confinements and her slow recovery from them did not help to further her
housewifely qualities. It is not wholly surprising that Mozart’s
religious conviction, which had earlier been a sort of childlike faith,
weakened little by little—the more so because he was brought into
growing contact with men who were profound thinkers and of whom many
belonged to the secret society of Freemasons. Freemasonry had political
implications and was frowned upon by the Church. Frederick the Great had
been a Freemason, Goethe was one, likewise Joseph II, Gluck, and Joseph
Haydn. Eventually Mozart persuaded his father to join the society. Who
shall say that its principles and philosophies did not serve Wolfgang as
a protective armor, enabling him the more bravely to endure his social
and material tribulations?

                        Pupils and Friends—Haydn

Mozart took his wife to Salzburg in the summer of 1783. He had made a
vow the previous year that when he married Constanze and presented her
to his father he would bring along a newly composed mass for
presentation in his native town. The superb one in C minor was the
outcome, but for some reason it remained unfinished. We cannot speculate
here on the reasons for its incompleteness. The torso (or shall we say
patchwork?) was rehearsed in St. Peter’s Church in Salzburg, and
Constanze sang some of the soprano solos. Despite its incompleteness the
C minor Mass is a soaring masterwork, the music of which Mozart later
put to use in the oratorio _Davidde Penitente_.

The relentless dislike for the Webers that both Leopold and Nannerl
continued to harbor was not mollified by this visit, which proved
uncomfortable as long as it lasted. Wolfgang and his wife were relieved
when the troublesome “duty call” came to its chilly end and they were
back in Vienna once more. There was no end of professional business for
Mozart to transact—composition in flooding abundance, lessons to give,
concerts (“academies”) to organize, musical personages to cultivate.
Just now, at least, there were no interminable travels such as had
filled Mozart’s boyhood years. His pupils were sometimes talented,
sometimes the reverse. A few striking names stand out among them—Johann
Nepomuck Hummel, Xaver Süssmayr, Thomas Attwood. Of the composers and
executants with whom he came in contact we must mention Clementi,
Salieri, Paisiello, Righini, Haydn. With Clementi he appeared as a
pianist in a contest before Joseph II and some visiting Russian
blue-bloods. So evenly were the two players matched that the competition
was declared a draw. Paisiello, composer of _The Barber of Seville_, was
a lovable character for whom Wolfgang developed a great liking. Salieri,
a disciple of Gluck and a teacher of Schubert, appears to have
criticized some of Mozart’s works, and Viennese gossip did what it could
to make the matter worse. The result was that Salieri lives on in
history largely because of a wild slander that he had given Mozart a
poison causing the latter’s untimely death!

The meeting with Joseph Haydn resulted in one of the noblest and most
rewarding friendships the records of music afford. Artistically their
creations benefited inestimably from the mutual influence of their works
and personalities. Haydn, says Dr. Karl Geiringer, “was fascinated by
Mozart’s quicksilver personality, while Mozart enjoyed the sense of
security that Haydn’s steadfastness and warmth of feeling gave him.” It
was as if the two men kindled brighter sparks in each other’s souls.
They played chamber music together whenever Haydn made a trip to Vienna,
and the younger man was quick to acknowledge that it was from his older
colleague he first really learned to write string quartets. The six that
he composed between 1782 and 1785 and dedicated with moving words to his
“beloved friend Haydn” are doubtless among the finest he wrote. It was
on a visit of Leopold Mozart’s to Vienna that Haydn made to him the
oft-quoted remark: “I tell you before God and as an honest man that your
son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by
reputation!” And later, when someone questioned a detail in _Don
Giovanni_ and asked Haydn’s opinion, he replied: “I cannot settle this
dispute, but this I know: Mozart is the greatest composer that the world
now possesses.... It enrages me to think that the unparalleled Mozart
has not yet been engaged by some imperial or royal court! Do forgive
this outburst; but I love the man too much!” It is heartbreaking that
Haydn was not able, as he would have loved to be, to secure a post for
Mozart in England.

Mozart had another encounter of a different sort at this period in
Vienna—acquaintance with the music of Johann Sebastian Bach. Through the
Baron van Swieten he had an opportunity to know the scores of Bach and
Handel and later even to write for certain Handel oratorios “additional
accompaniments” for use in performances Van Swieten was in the habit of
giving on Sundays at the Imperial Library and in some private homes. And
the depth, the grandeur, and the polyphony of these masters he
assimilated to the added greatness of his own most mature works.

                           “Haffner” Symphony

With his concerts, teaching, clavier playing, and miscellaneous
composing Mozart may well have felt, as he remarked on one occasion,
that “people sometimes expected impossibilities of me.” The Haffner
family in Salzburg, for instance, asked Leopold to write a symphony for
some family festivity, to be ready in something like a fortnight!
Wolfgang, at that time up to his ears in a quantity of other schemes,
found the labor shifted to his own shoulders by his father, who was
otherwise busied. Somehow or other he contrived to turn out (in a trifle
over the appointed time, it is true) the work we now know as the
“Haffner” Symphony. The excellent Salzburg burgomaster, Sigmund Haffner
appears to have been well pleased. The composer himself instantly forgot
the work and was astonished and delighted when, a considerable time
afterwards, his father sent him the score. He worked at several operatic
projects but nothing lasting came of them—not even of _The Goose of
Cairo_, which contains charming passages and which, now and then, people
have attempted to revive. There was, indeed, an amateur performance in
Vienna of _Idomeneo_. But these and several other schemes must all be
dismissed as transient compared with the masterpiece we now approach—_Le
Nozze di Figaro_ (The Marriage of Figaro).

                           Le Nozze di Figaro

Mozart had longed for years to write a German opera. He boasted of
himself as a thoroughly patriotic German and longed for the day when “we
should dare to ‘feel as Germans and even, if I may say so, to sing in
German.’” The nearest he had come to composing a German _Singspiel_ was
when as a child he had produced his little song-play _Bastien und
Bastienne_ and again when, in 1782, he turned out the inimitable _Die
Entführung aus dem Serail_. But his ambitions soared even higher and he
consumed no end of time and energy perusing the countless opera books
sent to him without finding anything that suited his true artistic and
dramatic purposes. For a while he had dreamed of accomplishing something
in his Mannheim days, even listening with interest, but nothing more, to
stuff like Holzbauer’s _Gunther von Schwarzburg_. Though he briefly
thought of a _Rudolf von Habsburg_, he had no choice, in the end, but to
return to Italian models—now, however, with a difference!

Soon after the amateur presentation of _Idomeneo_ in Vienna he had the
good fortune to be brought together with Lorenzo da Ponte, whose real
name was Emmanuele Conegliano and who belonged to a Jewish family in
Ceneda, near Venice. The youth entered a theological seminary and became
an industrious student with a poetic bent, which resulted in quantities
of Italian and Latin verse. An outspoken adventurer, with countless
amorous escapades _à la_ Casanova to his credit, he began his theatrical
career in Dresden, went to Vienna where he was to enjoy the favor of
Joseph II, and in the process of time went to London and finally to
America, where he became a teacher of languages, a liquor merchant, a
theater enthusiast, and what-not. He died in New York many years after
Mozart but, like him, was buried in a grave of which all traces have
been lost.

Mozart suggested to his picturesque collaborator (who cheerfully wrote
opera books for Salieri, Martin, Righini, and others) a libretto to be
adapted from Pierre Augustin Caron de Beaumarchais’ _Les Noces de
Figaro_, of which Paisiello had recently composed Beaumarchais’
predecessor, _Le Barbier de Seville_. But _Figaro_ had been prohibited
in France because it reflected on the morals of the aristocracy and the
same ban had been in effect in Vienna. Da Ponte, altering it for
Mozart’s purposes, adroitly eliminated its barbed satire and then,
tactfully explaining his alterations to the Emperor, secured his
permission for the performance. The composer, who limited his teaching
to the afternoon in order to complete the score, had been “as touchy as
gunpowder and threatened to burn the opera” if it were not produced by a
certain time. To Joseph II’s credit it must be said that the music
delighted him as soon as Mozart played him a few samples.

_Figaro_ was produced at the Burgtheater on May 1, 1786. A lucky star
shone on its birth in spite of intrigues set in motion against it. Its
success was tremendous and was abundantly foreshadowed during the
rehearsals. The Irish tenor, Michael Kelly (Italianized as “Occhelly”),
left us in his memoirs a striking account of the delight with which the
singers and orchestra joined the listeners at the end of the first act
in acclaiming the composer. “I shall never forget,” he says, “his little
animated countenance when lighted up with the glowing rays of genius; it
is as impossible to describe as it would be to paint sunbeams.” Father
Mozart wrote to Nannerl that, not only had almost every number to be
repeated, but that, at the following performance, five were encored, the
“Letter Duet” having to be sung three times. In the end the Emperor
forbade repetitions. That season _Figaro_ received nine hearings—and for
the two following years not a single one! Mozart’s opponents, after a
momentary check, had conspired successfully once more.


Luckily, the incorrigibly musical Czechs championed Mozart to the limit!
With _Die Entführung_ he had won them heart and soul, and by the time
_Figaro_ reached Prague, that city was on the way to becoming the true
Mozart capital of Europe. From that moment nothing seemed greatly to
matter but that opera. In the composer’s own words, people would listen
to nothing else and talk of nothing else. Its melodies were worked up
into dance arrangements. Players in beer gardens and even the wandering
street musicians who begged for pennies on corners had to sing or strum
their _Non piu andrai_ and the rest of the tunes if they wanted any
passer-by to pay attention to them. “Truly a great honor for me,” mused
the composer. Prague, now a high altar of Mozart worship, was for some
time to remain so.

The creator of _Figaro_ had valued friends in Prague. Among the dearest
of these were the Duscheks, whom he had known in Salzburg—Franz, a
gifted pianist and composer, and his wife, Josefa, both older than
Mozart. Josefa, an excellent musician, became an exceptional singer, and
for her Wolfgang was to compose some superb though difficult concert
arias. She was well-to-do and, with the money an admirer lavished on
her, she bought herself an estate known as the _Bertramka_—still one of
the show places of Prague, despite the vicissitudes of more than a
century and a half. Here Mozart was often an honored guest, and to this
day the villa and the hilly gardens surrounding it seem to breathe his

The permanent Italian company that supplied opera to the people of
Prague, though not large, was exceedingly capable. At this time it was
managed by a certain Pasquale Bondini. Its two efficient conductors
(both of them Bohemians), Josef Strobach and J. B. Kucharz, were heart
and soul devoted to Mozart. The intensely music-loving Czechs jammed
Mozart’s academies and could not hear enough of his symphonies and
clavier works. Small wonder, therefore, that Bondini resolved to take
advantage of the heaven-sent opportunity of Mozart’s presence to
commission him to write a new opera for the company next season. The fee
was the usual sum of 100 ducats (no more!), the opera—_Don Giovanni_.

Actually, much more could be said of this Prague visit of Mozart’s. At
one of his concerts he presented for the first time the D major Symphony
which sent its hearers into such raptures that the world has forever
named it the “Prague” Symphony. When he arrived from Vienna it had been
arranged that he was to stay with the Duscheks, but, Josefa being away,
Mozart accepted the hospitality of the aristocrat, Count Thun, and sat
as an honored guest among the great of the land. He doubtless remembered
how at Colloredo’s court his table companions had been cooks and grooms!
He was taken to the sumptuous dwelling of still another local patrician,
the Count Canal. And so it continued from day to day. Yet he found time
to write a piece for a wandering harpist, which the latter played
everywhere, boasting that Mozart had specially composed it for him.

                        Death of Leopold Mozart

In February 1787, Mozart was back in Vienna in a joyous frame of mind.
One may question that this jubilant mood was of long duration. That the
new opera was to be ready as early as the following October was hardly
the greatest of his worries, for Mozart, like Haydn, Bach, and other
masters of that century, was accustomed to a speed of creative
production that puts our machine age to shame. The welcome the Viennese
accorded the returning traveler, flushed by the recollection of his
recent triumphs, was frosty. Also, there came the news that his father’s
health was failing. “Naturally,” reflected Leopold, “old people do not
grow younger!” Wolfgang wrote his parent in words that nobly convey the
essence of his own mature philosophy:

“_I need not tell you with what anxiety I await better news from you ...
although I am wont in all things to anticipate the worst. Since death is
the true goal of our lives, I have made myself so well acquainted during
the past two years with this true and best friend of mankind that the
idea of it no longer holds any terror for me, but rather much that is
tranquil and comforting. And I thank God that He has granted me the good
fortune to obtain this opportunity of regarding death as the key to our
true happiness. I never lie down in bed without considering that, young
as I am, perhaps I may on the morrow be no more. Yet not one of those
who know me say that I am morose or melancholy, and for this I thank my
Creator and wish heartily that the same happiness may be given to my
fellow men._”

One is moved to think of Shubert’s words to his father a few years later
when, looking upon the lakes and peaks of the Austrian Alps, he wrote:

“_As if death were the worst thing that could befall one ... could one
but look on these divine lakes and mountains ... he would deem it a
great happiness to be restored for a new life to the inscrutable forces
of the earth!_”

All the same, Mozart was profoundly shaken when, on May 28, his father
passed away without the opportunity to see his son once more. “You can
realize my feelings,” he wrote his friend Gottfried von Jacquin. We
shall not go far wrong when we surmise that these deep and solemn
emotions colored to a considerable degree some of the more tragic pages
of the nascent _Don Giovanni_, the book of which Da Ponte was now
writing for him while working at the same time on librettos for Salieri
and Martin!

In the spring of 1787 the composer had a brief but memorable encounter;
for at this time there came briefly to Vienna from Bonn a
sixteen-year-old youth—Ludwig van Beethoven, a protégé of the Count
Waldstein—presumably to study with Mozart. The latter heard his visitor
improvise and was at first unimpressed because he believed the
extemporization had been “memorized,” but was converted as soon as he
gave the young Rhinelander a complicated theme to treat on the spot. The
originality and seriousness of what he heard stirred the older musician
to the prophecy: “This young man is going to make the world talk about
him!” But Mozart had, at the moment, no leisure for this prospective
pupil, who returned shortly to Bonn and on his later trip after Mozart’s
death placed himself under the direction of Haydn.

                              Don Giovanni

In mid-September Mozart and Constanze went to Prague, bringing the
partly finished _Don Giovanni_ score. Bondini had found the composer
lodgings at the house on the Kohlmarkt called the “Three Lion Cubs.”
Across the way, at the inn _Zum Platteis_, rooms were engaged for Da
Ponte and, as the windows faced each other, composer and librettist had
long discussions across the narrow street about details of the book, in
the preparation of which Mozart, with his keen dramatic instincts,
played a dominating role. He and Constanze appeared, however, to have
spent quite as much time with the Duscheks at the _Bertramka_ as at the
“Three Lion Cubs.” Rehearsals consumed a great amount of energy, there
were numerous modifications to be made in the music (the young baritone,
Luigi Bassi, who had the title role, demanded _five_ recastings of the
duet _La ci darem_ before he was satisfied with the music), and Mozart
had all manner of trouble with Catarina Micelli, the Elvira. In
addition, the singer of Zerlina, Caterina Bondini, could not utter the
peasant girl’s shriek in the first finale to the composer’s satisfaction
until he terrified her by grasping her roughly and thus causing her to
scream exactly as he wanted. After one of the last rehearsals the
conductor, Kucharz, being asked by the master for his candid opinion of
the opera, replied encouragingly: “Whatever comes from Mozart will
always delight in Bohemia.” “I assure you, dear friend, I have spared
myself no pains to produce something worthy for the people of Prague!”
declared the composer, who had already boasted that “my Praguers
understand me.”

Here is the place, no doubt, to tell once more the oft-repeated tale of
the overture, put on paper, according to a hoary legend, the night
before the première while Constanze kept the master awake by plying him
with punch and telling him stories. As a matter of fact, the overture
was written the night before the dress rehearsal—and it was nothing
unusual for Mozart to write down at the last moment a work mentally
finished in every detail.

A few days after the first performance the Prague _Oberpostamtszeitung_
published a review that probably excels anything ever written about the
opera. It read simply: “Connoisseurs and musicians say that nothing like
it has ever been produced in Prague.” The opinion is probably as true
today as in 1787. For there is literally nothing like _Don Giovanni_,
either among its composer’s creations or elsewhere. One can only share
the emotion of Rossini when, being shown the manuscript score, he said
to its owner, the singer Pauline Viardot-Garcia: “I want to bow the knee
before this sacred relic!” And echo the words of Richard Wagner: “What
is more perfect than _every_ number in ‘_Don Giovanni_’? Where else has
music won so infinitely rich an individuality, been able to characterize
so surely, so definitely and in such exuberant plentitude as here?”

_Figaro_ is, if you will, the more perfect artistic entity of the two;
_Don Giovanni_ is looser, less consistent, on the surface even grossly
illogical. But so, too, is human nature. And if all the world’s a stage,
what more than a _dramma giocoso_ is the experience of life? Whatever
the narrow intent of Lorenzo da Ponte, when he carpentered the book out
of well-worn odds and ends, it was with a profound knowledge of the
sorrows and absurdities of humankind that Mozart breathed into it an
abiding soul.

“Long live da Ponte, long live Mozart!” had written the stage director,
Domenico Guardasoni. “All impresarios, all artists must exalt them to
the skies; for as long as such men live there can be no more question of
theatre miseries!” The Duscheks outdid themselves to make life pleasant
for their guests. Mozart found time to compose several songs and even a
superb concert air, _Bella mia fiamma, addio_, for Josefa after that
lady had locked him up in the garden house till he had finished the
promised music.

On November 15, 1787, which virtually coincided with the composer’s
return to Vienna, Gluck died. Less than a month later Joseph II
appointed Mozart to the older master’s post of Kammerkompositeur, with
an annual salary of 800 Gulden. Gluck had received 2000; and before long
Mozart was complaining that his pay was “too much for what he did, too
little for what he could do.” What he did was principally to supply
minuets, contradances, and _Teutsche_ for court balls and similar

The year 1788 dawned in gloomy fashion for Mozart. To be sure, _Don
Giovanni_ had its first Viennese hearing on May 7, with a cast including
his sister-in-law, Aloysia Lange, as Donna Anna, Catarina Cavalieri (the
original Constanze in _Die Entführung_) as Elvira, and Francesco
Benucci, the first Figaro, as Leporello. Mozart had cut out some
numbers, replacing them with new ones, eliminated the platitudinous
epilogue, and ended the work with the prodigious hell music of Don
Giovanni’s disappearance. The Emperor remarked: “The opera is divine,
perhaps even finer than ‘_Figaro_.’ But it is a rather tough morsel for
the teeth of my Viennese”—to which Mozart replied, “Let us give them
time to chew it!”

               Symphonies in E flat, G minor, and C major

Yet from now on he was to pay for his Prague triumphs. With a kind of
fateful persistence things seemed to go wrong. That an infant daughter
died was a rather familiar affliction (of the children of the Mozart
couple only the sons, Karl and Raymund Leopold, survived infancy). Money
troubles plagued him unremittingly. Again and again he had to appeal for
loans to Michael Puchberg, a merchant and brother Mason, and later to
Franz Hofdemel, a jurist of his acquaintance whose wife was one of his
pupils. But, by and large, these pupils were becoming scarcer and there
seemed steadily less patronage for the academies he planned. To make
matters worse Constanze’s management of the household appeared to go
from bad to worse. The arrangements of works like Handel’s _Acis and
Galathea_ and _Messiah_, which he was making about this time for the
parsimonious Baron van Swieten, brought in as good as nothing. Mozart’s
affairs were falling into a sordid, not to say a tragic, state.

Small wonder, therefore, that he grasped at the opportunity to settle
outside of Vienna proper in a house in the Waehring district, where the
air was purer than in the heart of the city and where he had the added
advantages of quiet and a garden. A change of residence had never been a
particular hardship for the Mozarts. In the space of nine years they
moved eleven times in Vienna alone.

_“Their life,” says Alfred Einstein, “was like a perpetual tour,
changing from one hotel room to another.... In one of the handsomer
dwellings, Schulergasse 8, the ceiling of Mozart’s workroom had fine
plaster ornamentation with sprites and cherubs. I am convinced that
Mozart never wasted a glance on it. He was ready at any instant to
exchange Vienna for another city or Austria for another country.... He
was thinking of a trip to Russia, as a result of conversations with the
Russian ambassador in Dresden in 1789. But he had to be satisfied with
smaller journeys, and with ‘journeys’ within Vienna.”_

In his Waehring surroundings, however, he boasted of being able to
accomplish more work in a few days than elsewhere in a month. The finest
fruit of this suburban sojourn is the glorious symphonic trilogy, the
masterpieces in E flat, G minor, and C major, composed in June, July,
and August, respectively—the third, the sublime “Jupiter,” the last of
Mozart’s forty-one symphonies and given its deathless name no one knows
exactly by whom or why. The three, which have a profound psychological
connection, were written, in all probability, for a series of academies
that never took place. However this may be, they are the crown of
Mozart’s symphonic compositions and rank indisputably as the greatest
symphonies before Beethoven.

                            _Così fan tutte_

In April 1789, a ray of hope suddenly appeared to illuminate his
depressing horizon. A friend and pupil, the young prince Carl
Lichnowsky, who had estates in Silesia and an important rank in the
Prussian army, invited Mozart to accompany him on a trip to Berlin.
Lichnowsky enjoyed influence at the court of the music-loving Prussian
king, Frederick William II, and seemed ready to recommend his teacher to
the good graces of the monarch. At last Mozart had reason to anticipate
a well-paying post! The pleasure-loving Constanze resigned herself with
the best grace possible to remain behind. The travelers stopped off in
Prague, in Dresden, in Leipzig (where Mozart played the organ in St.
Thomas Church in so masterly a fashion that Bach’s erstwhile pupil, the
aged cantor, Johann Friedrich Doles, believed for a moment that his old
master had come back to life and hastened to show his delighted guest
one of the Bach motets the church possessed). On April 25 Mozart arrived
at the court in Potsdam, where the King gave him 100 Friedrichsdor,
ordered six string quartets and some easy clavier sonatas for his
daughter, but did nothing about a Kapellmeister position or a commission
for an opera! Mozart did go to the theater in Berlin where he heard his
own _Entführung_, was applauded by the audience, and audibly scolded a
blundering violinist in the orchestra!

But his fortunes had not materially changed and in May he was writing to
Constanze: “My dear little wife, you will have to get more satisfaction
from my return than from any money I am bringing.” When he reached home
and found her suffering from a foot trouble he sent her, regardless of
his depleted purse, to near-by Baden for a cure—at the same time
admonishing her to beware of flirtations! Then he set to work on the
quartets for the Prussian king, of which he finished three (the last he
was to write), and a single “easy” sonata, instead of the promised six,
for the Princess Friederike. In September 1789, he was to compose for
his friend, the clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler, the celestial Clarinet
Quintet (K. 581), which for sheer euphony is almost without parallel in
its composer’s writings.

The success of a revival of _Figaro_ in August 1789 appears to have
moved the Emperor to approach Mozart with a commission for a new opera.
The outcome was _Così fan tutte_, the incentive to the plot being an
incident said to have taken place in Viennese society. Once again
Lorenzo da Ponte was called upon to put the piece into shape. The
fundamentals of the story are to be found in Boccaccio and it may well
have been in the _Decameron_ that Da Ponte discovered the real basis of
his dexterous and amusing, though highly artificial, comedy. We know
little about the circumstances surrounding the composition of the piece.

On January 21, 1790, _Così fan tutte_ was performed at the Burgtheater.
The reviews, if middling, were not outright unfavorable. “The music of
Mozart is charming, the plot amusing enough,” wrote Count Zinzendorf in
his diary; and the _Journal des Luxus und der Moden_ remarked: “It is
sufficient to say of the music that it was composed by Mozart!” Until
the following autumn the work achieved only ten performances. It is not
unreasonable to explain this by the fact that in 1790 Joseph II, who for
some time had been ailing, died and was succeeded by a ruler of very
different tendencies—his brother, Leopold II.

                              Later Works

With the accession of the new emperor, Mozart briefly imagined the
“gates of his good luck were about to open.” He was quickly
disillusioned. Leopold II was hard, cold, unmusical. He instantly
dismissed some of his predecessor’s most faithful artistic servitors. Da
Ponte, for one, was dropped. Mozart’s opponent, Salieri, cautiously
withdrew into obscurity and waited behind the scenes for a new
opportunity. Van Swieten tried to obtain for Mozart a position as
teacher of the Archduke Franz, but nothing came of the well-meant
effort, and presently the composer found his pupils reduced to two. His
health began to trouble him alarmingly, with headaches and tooth
troubles. He had the mortification of being ignored when the King of
Naples visited Vienna, while Salieri and Haydn enjoyed special honors.

He was not even asked to participate in the musical festivities in
connection with the Emperor’s coronation in October 1790, or to travel
to Frankfurt, where the ceremony was to take place. So he decided to
make the journey at his own expense, hoping against hope for some
distinction or reward. Though he did not obtain either, he at least had
the satisfaction of knowing that his _Don Giovanni_, _Figaro_,
_Entführung_, and even the early _Finta giardiniera_, were relished in
neighboring Mainz. The opera chosen for the actual coronation was
Wranitzky’s _Oberon_. However, the Frankfurt town council “graciously”
allowed Mozart to give a concert “on his own responsibility” at a local
theater, October 13 at 11 in the morning! “Plenty of honor, but little
money,” he wrote. He played two concertos (probably the F major, K. 459,
and the D major, K. 537) and a rondo. As ever, his improvisation
impressed deeply—only a royal luncheon party and a maneuver of Hessian
troops were counter attractions that cut down the attendance. On the way
home he stopped off in Mannheim and Munich, saw his old friends
Cannabich and Ramm, played at an academy the Elector Carl Theodor gave
for the returning King of Naples, and went home to Vienna, where
Constanze had moved their effects into a new apartment in the
Rauhensteingasse—destined to be his last home on earth!

In his new dwelling the composer completed by December two superb
works—the String Quintet in D (K. 593) and the stunning Adagio and
Allegro in F minor (K. 594) “for an organ cylinder in a clock.” About
that same time the director of the Italian Opera in London, one
O’Reilly, suggested that he come for half a year to England, to write
two operas for that theater and give concerts, and promised him 300
pounds sterling. Nothing stood in the way of O’Reilly’s suggestion,
except operas that the master was soon to provide for Vienna and Prague.
Soon afterwards, Haydn on his way to London took leave of his younger
friend who bade him farewell with the heart-shaking words: “I fear,
Papa, this is the last time we shall see each other!” Salomon, Haydn’s
manager, had planned to bring Mozart to England on the older composer’s
return to the Continent.

To be sure, there was other work to be done, if in large part trifling.
But early in January 1791, Mozart completed his last clavier concerto,
the singularly affecting one in B flat (K. 595), which harks back to
earlier models and lacks some of the more original and dramatic elements
of the incomparable ones in D minor, E flat, A major, C major, and C
minor. And in June 1791, on a visit to Constanze in Baden (where she had
gone for another cure!), he wrote for a local choirmaster, Anton Stoll,
that short _Ave Verum_ motet, than which nothing of Mozart’s is more
unutterably seraphic.

                           _The Magic Flute_

He was ill and despondent but his activity was untiring. It is an
infinite pity that he did not take the hint of Da Ponte and others who
were urging him to come to England, where he might easily have made a
fortune and become a British idol like Handel before him and Haydn and
Mendelssohn after him. He went on writing because, as he was soon to
say, “composition tires me less than resting.” In the spring of 1791 he
was commissioned to compose another opera, which was to be his last and,
in a number of respects, his most epoch-making—_The Magic Flute_ (_Die
Zauberflöte_). And with it he was to write one of the most extraordinary
works of operatic history, to create German opera in accordance with a
long-cherished ambition of his but, like Moses, never to do more than
cross the frontier of the promised land he had beheld in vision.

Emanuel Schikaneder, who had known Wolfgang and Leopold Mozart in
Salzburg, was a wandering actor and a playwright of sorts. The head of a
traveling company, which gave Shakespeare, Goethe, Schiller, Lessing,
and, for better or worse, operas by Gluck and _Singspiele_ by Haydn and
Mozart, he had like numberless barnstormers a keen knowledge of the
tastes of audiences, particularly of the plebeian ones to which his
players catered. In his own way as adventurous a person as Da Ponte,
Schikaneder took over in 1789 the direction of a playhouse on the
Starhemberg estates, the Freihaus-Theater, in the Wieden district. There
he produced comic shows, _Singspiele_, and operettas. With his grasp of
suburban tastes he combined a thorough understanding of what could be
done with his brother Mason and old acquaintance, Mozart. A business
rival of the impresario Marinelli, who ran a theater in the Leopoldstadt
quarter and made a specialty of “magic plays,” he now approached the
composer with his own _Singspiel_.

             [Illustration: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1789
              _Drawing in silver on ivory by Dora Stock_]

          [Illustration: Mozart’s wife, Constanze, about 1783
_Lithograph from a drawing by Joseph Lange, Constanze’s brother-in-law_]

We cannot here examine the sources from which he assembled his libretto.
There ran through it a powerful strain of Masonic influence, love
interest, low comedy in abundance (Schikaneder took care to tailor to
his own measure the role of the wandering bird-catcher Papageno), and
other surefire theatrical ingredients. He asked Mozart to supply the
music, and the latter, after warning him that since he had never yet
written a “magic opera” he hesitated to court failure in this sphere, at
length complied. Between March and the end of September 1791, _The Magic
Flute_ was written. Schikaneder, aware of the glorious bargain he had
struck, strove to be the soul of complaisance. He supplied the composer
with every comfort at his disposal—a charming summerhouse on the grounds
of the theater where he could work at the score, with food, wine, and
pretty actresses to divert him—in short, whatever promised to humor the
musician and promote the flow of inspiration. He even hummed or sang the
sort of tunes he considered appropriate to the role he designed for

Let us at this stage dispose of a few legends that, in the course of 160
years, have accumulated about the work. One is that the play is a
farrago of childish nonsense, made tolerable only by the variety and
grandeur of Mozart’s music; another, that the plot was altered at a late
hour because another manager was about to produce a work similar in its
story; a third, that the piece was a failure. As a matter of fact, the
book of _The Magic Flute_ happens to be one of the best librettos in
existence from the point of view of good theater. The imagined
“revision” never took place, for considerations of “parallels,” let
alone plagiarisms, never bothered theater directors at this epoch. On
the contrary, if a play or opera had one feature that pleased its
public, a rival manager was quick to copy this very point on an even
broader scale. Although at the first performance _The Magic Flute_ did
not achieve such an overwhelming triumph as its composer had hoped,
before many months had passed it was attracting throngs; and not many
years later Schikaneder was able to build out of the wealth it brought
him that famous Theater an der Wien which still stands and was to become
the cradle of various storied masterworks. As for the much-maligned
book, it appealed so powerfully to none other than Goethe that he set
out to write a sequel!

While the sick and harried Mozart worked with still inexhaustible
fertility at the score of his magic opera he was interrupted by a
sufficiently distasteful order from Prague for an opera to be produced
there at the coronation of Leopold II as “King of Bohemia.” With no more
than eighteen days to compose the music and assist in the production of
this “occasional piece,” he was ordered to set an old text of
Metastasio’s (retouched, it is true, by one Caterino Mazzolà)—_La
Clemenza di Tito_, an antiquated specimen of _opera seria_, such as the
composer had not bothered with since the period of _Idomeneo_. The
available time being so short, Mozart took along with him his pupil
Süssmayr, who was asked to perform the almost secretarial job of writing
the _secco_ recitatives, leaving the more important parts of the music
to the master. His good friend, the impresario Guardasoni, mounted the
opera in sumptuous fashion. But good will did not supplant genuine
inspiration and, for all its craftsmanship, _La Clemenza di Tito_ did
not strike fire. The Empress dismissed it as _porcheria tedesca_ (German
rubbish). A correspondent of _Studien für Tonkünstler und Musikfreunde_
reported that the “beloved Kapellmeister Mozard” did not obtain this
time the applause he had a right to expect! For once, clearly, “his
Praguers did not understand him.” Doubtless, _Tito_ is not a _Figaro_ or
a _Don Giovanni_, but those unfamiliar with the work may well ask
themselves if it is as bad as history paints it. Anyway its reception
did not raise the master’s spirit. And he took leave of his friends with

He was now seriously ill. He had fainting fits and accesses of
exhaustion. On September 28, 1791, he finished _The Magic Flute_—the
March of the Priests and the overture being the last numbers set down.
The Masonic symbols and meanings with which the opera is filled
(comprehensible, however, only to initiates) are heard in the
thrice-reiterated three chords at the opening of the superb tone piece.
This overture is a fully developed sonata movement built on a fugal
plan, the mercurial subject having been borrowed from a clavier sonata
of his old friend and rival, Clementi. At the first performance the
composer Johann Schenk (later, one of Beethoven’s teachers) crept
through the orchestra to Mozart, who was conducting, and reverently
kissed his hand, while the composer, continuing to conduct with his
right hand, affectionately patted Schenk’s head with his left. He took
pleasure in playing the glockenspiel during Papageno’s air “Ein Mädchen
oder Weibchen” and once, in fun, introduced an unexpected arpeggio which
threw Schikaneder completely out for a few minutes.

                             _The Requiem_

As he was boarding his coach on the trip to Prague, Mozart was startled
on being accosted by a gaunt, gray-clad stranger of mysterious mien who
asked him if he were willing to undertake, for a certain sum, the
composition of a requiem mass to be delivered at a specified time. He
agreed but from this moment the weird visitor, whose identity he was
admonished not to try to discover, gave him no rest. He became convinced
that a messenger from the Beyond had sought him out, that the incident
had a supernatural aspect, that he was, indeed, ordered by a higher
power to compose a death mass for _himself_! And the certainty that his
time was at hand grew steadily upon him.

The incident, in reality, had nothing macabre or mysterious about it.
The “gray messenger” was a certain Leutgeb, steward of the Count Walsegg
zu Stuppach who had lately lost his wife and who, aspiring to be known
as a composer, planned to perform the requiem as his own work. But
Mozart knew nothing of this. He had a letter from his old friend, Da
Ponte, entreating him to join him in England. But it was too late and
Mozart’s tragedy had to be played out to the bitter close that was now
swiftly approaching. To Da Ponte he dispatched this pathetic missive:

“_I wish I could follow your advice, but how can I do so? I feel
stunned, I reason with difficulty, and cannot rid myself of the vision
of this unknown man. I see him perpetually; he entreats me, he presses
me, he impatiently demands the work. I go on writing.... Otherwise I
have nothing more to fear. I know from what I suffer that the hour is
come; I am at the point of death; I have come to the end before having
had the enjoyment of my talent. Life was so beautiful, my career stood
at first under so auspicious a star! But one cannot change one’s

What tortured him more than anything was the thought that, as furiously
as he worked, the _Requiem_ might remain unfinished at the death he knew
was imminent. He had numberless discussions with his pupil, Xaver
Süssmayr, but it was daily becoming clearer to him that he had small
chance of completing the mass himself. On a walk in the Prater with
Constanze in the early autumn he exclaimed: “It cannot last much longer
... Certainly, I have been given poison; that is a feeling I cannot
shake off!” And this, presumably, is the basis of the age-old slander
that Salieri had been his murderer! At all events growing weakness
forced him to take to his bed on November 20. He was never to leave it.
“I know,” he had said shortly before, “that my music-making is about at
an end. I feel a constant chill which I cannot explain. I now have no
more to do save with doctors and apothecaries!”

His hands and feet were beginning to swell. Yet he struggled desperately
to get on with the composition of the mass. The visits of a few friends
seemed to comfort the sick man, and he asked them to try over in his
presence certain completed pages of the score. At the beginning of
December he himself struggled to sing some of the alto part of the work.
When the _Lacrymosa_ was reached he gave up the attempt after a few
measures and, overcome by the certainty that he was doomed never to
finish the music, he broke down in a fit of weeping. And in these days,
with tragic irony, there dawned a promise of better things! The rapidly
growing popularity of _The Magic Flute_ augured a carefree future; a
group of Hungarian nobles began to raise a subscription that would have
assured Mozart an annual income of 1000 Gulden; and from Holland there
came, almost at the twelfth hour, news of an even more gratifying

                             Mozart’s Death

In the last hours his sister-in-law, Sophie Haibl, lent what assistance
she could. Constanze, grief-stricken and stupefied, was helpless. The
sick man, tortured to the last by the thought of his unfinished
_Requiem_, was shaken by the chills and fires of fever. It was found
necessary to take a canary out of the sickroom because the singing of
the bird seemed to cause the sufferer physical pain. He appealed to
Sophie to remain with him, to comfort Constanze, and to “see me die. I
have the taste of death on my tongue already and who is to care for my
Constanze when I am gone?” A doctor who attended him was at the theater
when summoned and, realizing the hopelessness of the case, promised to
come “when the play was over.” Sophie was dispatched to call a priest.
When she returned she found the dying man bending over some sketches of
the _Requiem_ and giving Süssmayr some final directions about the work.
At last he lapsed into unconsciousness, a few moments before the end
puffing out his cheeks and making what the tearful bystanders imagined
to be an effort to imitate the sound of the drums in his unfinished
score. And five minutes before one on the morning of December 5, 1791,
he died.

Of what illness did Mozart die? Typhus say some; a result of childhood
illness, say others, complicated by the strain of overwork, traveling,
disappointments, and deprivations. The most plausible medical
explanation would appear to have been supplied by a modern Salzburg
physician, Dr. H. Kasseroller, who diagnosed the cause of the master’s
early demise as uremia resulting from Bright’s disease. And this may
explain the composer’s persistent idea in his last weeks that he had
been administered poison.

The rest of the pitiful story need not detain us. The parsimonious Baron
van Swieten advised Constanze to observe economy in making the funeral
arrangements; and so Mozart was buried in a pauper’s grave. On December
6, the body was taken to the cemetery of St. Marx. A handful of mourners
who followed the hearse dispersed when a heavy snowstorm made progress
difficult. The stricken Constanze found it impossible to accompany the
pathetic little cortege; and when some time later she attempted to
discover her husband’s resting place, a new gravedigger who replaced the
earlier one had no idea whatever where he lay.

What matter that posterity has never discovered the whereabouts of his
sepulcher? Mozart, the incessant wanderer, the infinitely lonely, now
lives more fully and gloriously than ever in the hearts and souls of all
true worshipers of the divinest in music. And if his earthly tragedy has
never seemed so poignant as it does today, we can take consolation from
the circumstance that our generation has learned to prize the greatness,
elevation, and beauty of his art more, perhaps, than did any of our

                  [Illustration: Harp and cello logo]

                          Transcriber’s Notes

--A few palpable typos were silently corrected.

--Illustrations were shifted to the nearest paragraph break.

--Copyright notice is from the printed exemplar. (U.S. copyright was not
  renewed: this ebook is in the public domain.)

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