'Here comes the sun': Does pop music have a 'rhythm of the rain?'



Weather is frequently portrayed in popular music, with a new scientific study finding over 750 popular music songs referring to weather, the most common being sun and rain, and blizzards being the least common. The study also found many song writers were inspired by weather events.
The study, led by the University of Southampton, together with the Universities of Oxford, Manchester, Newcastle (all part of the Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research) and the University of Reading analysed the weather through lyrics, musical genre, keys and links to specific weather events.
Frequently, songs mentioned more than one weather type, indicating a range of emotions within a song. Songs mentioned up to six weather types, such as 'Stormy' by Cobb and Buie. Over 900 songwriters or singers have written or sung about weather, the most common being Bob Dylan, followed by John Lennon and Paul McCartney.
Weather-related songs are also very popular, with 7 per cent of them appearing Rolling Stone's (2011) top 500 list of the Greatest Songs Of All Time . Lead author, Dr Sally Brown from the University of Southampton, said, "We were all surprised how often weather is communicated in popular music, whether as a simple analogy or a major theme of a song, such as Bob Dylan's 'Blowin' In The Wind' or The Hollies' 'Bus Stop', where a couple fall in love under an umbrella."
The study, published in the journal Weather, also found that musicians were inspired by specific weather events. Dr Brown commented: "In 1969, George Harrison wrote the Beatles' hit "Here Comes The Sun" after being inspired by one of the first sunny days of spring after a 'long cold lonely winter'. Our study also concluded that references to bad weather in pop songs were statistically more significant in the USA during the more stormy 1950s and 1960s than the quieter periods of 1970s and 1980s."
The study concluded by noting a total of 30 weather-related artists, bands and lyricists, including Wet Wet Wet, The Weather Girls and KC and the Sunshine Band. The findings are a follow on from previous research in 2011 by co-authors Paul Williams, from the University of Reading, and Karen Aplin, from University of Oxford, into weather events appearing in classical music.
The team, who conducted the research in their spare time, are interested to learn about any weather-orientated music songs they may have missed in their study. For a full list of weather songs and to add missing songs, see http://bit.ly/1IfrtoL


Sonny Stitt


..yeah but he could sing




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.


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, 3 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 4 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.
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. 6 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 tillage.
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 7 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.
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 8 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, 9 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 10 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.
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, 11 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. 12 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, 14 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.
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 15 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 16 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.
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 17 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 19 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 20 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.”
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 21 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.
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, 22 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.
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 return!
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, 23 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 24 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 one!”
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 25 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 26 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 27 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 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 28 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 29 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. 30 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 31 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....”
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 32 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 33 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?
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 34 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 35 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 36 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.
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 37 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).
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 38 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 39 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 40 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 spirit.
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 41 for a wandering harpist, which the latter played everywhere, boasting that Mozart had specially composed it for him.
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.
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 44 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 occasions.
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!”
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 47 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.
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, 48 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 49 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.
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 50 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 51 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.
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 52 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.
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 himself.
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 54 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. 55 Anyway its reception did not raise the master’s spirit. And he took leave of his friends with tears.
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.
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 56 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 destiny!”
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: 57 “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 project.
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 58 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 59 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 predecessors.