Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, His Life and Times
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, His Life and Times: In a small, barely-furnished apartment in the Archbishop’s palace at Salzburg, in Austria-Hungary, on a winter’s morning in the year 1766, a boy of ten years of age was seated at a table, his head resting upon his hand and his eyes turned towards the window. Before him were scattered a number of sheets of manuscript music-paper, several of which were covered with notes, which his childish fingers had patiently traced amidst a plentiful sprinkling of blots and smears.
There was something pathetic about the appearance of the motionless little figure, with its pale face, surmounted by a profusion of brown curls, and the fixed, earnest expression in the large dark eyes—a pathetic seriousness that implied a depth of reflection far beyond his years, and to which the work upon which he was engaged lent additional significance. Thus absorbed, the child paid no heed to the entry of a servant bearing a tray, upon which was spread a simple breakfast; and, following the instructions which he had received, the man laid the tray on the table and quitted the room in silence. Outside the door, however, the old servant paused for a moment in a listening attitude, as if to catch the chink of moving cup and platter, and thus be assured that the child had begun his meal. But as no sound came from within, old Hans shook his head gravely, turned the key in the lock, and, muttering to himself, descended the stairs.
The old servitor was puzzled, and somewhat troubled in mind as well, by the boy’s deep abstraction. That his master the Archbishop cherished any feelings of harshness or resentment towards the solitary little prisoner Hans refused to believe. Indeed, the Archbishop had confided to him that he merely desired to test the child’s powers of writing original music. But to the old man’s mind such a test was far too severe to be applied to one so young, and something in the boy’s far-away look had touched his heart and tempted him to disobey the stringent command which he had received not to converse with the little writer. Even now, as he was descending the stairs, he felt almost like a criminal in leaving the boy locked in his room without a word of comfort or encouragement, and he was half inclined to turn back on some excuse to speak with the prisoner and inquire how he felt. At that moment, however, the ringing of a distant bell summoned him to his master’s presence.
Archbishop Sigismund was pacing to and fro in the dining-room when his servant entered, his forehead puckered with a frown, and his eyes fixed on the carpet. But he at once checked himself in his walk, and, turning to Hans, said abruptly: ‘Have you taken the child his food?’ ‘Yes, your Grace,’ was the reply. ‘And—er—how did he seem—well, eh?’ ‘Quite well, your Grace.’ ‘You are sure of that?’ a trifle anxiously. ‘Perfectly sure, your Grace,’ replied the old man, though he would have liked to have added a word as to his doubts concerning the child’s happiness; but the Archbishop dismissed him with a wave of the hand, and, turning away, seated himself at the breakfast-table.
Several floors above that on which Archbishop Sigismund was eating his breakfast the little captive sat patiently toiling at his allotted task. In a sense the old man was right; for the test was as severe a one as the mind of a man who was a good judge of music, and who doubted the truth of what he had heard concerning his little captive’s astonishing genius, could well have devised. The boy was required to set to music the first part of a sacred cantata founded upon the ‘First and greatest Commandment’—’Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength’ (Mark xii. 30). The Archbishop fully realised the magnitude of the test, and he expected failure—he looked for the child to break down. The time allotted for its fulfilment was one week, at the expiration of which he would find a few boyish attempts at composition, and nothing more.
And why was Archbishop Sigismund so desirous of testing the boy’s powers of composition? A short time before the date at which our story opens Leopold Mozart, Vice-Capellmeister at the Archbishop’s court, had related to his master some wonderful stories of his little son Wolfgang—how the child had astonished and delighted every one by his playing; how, when the father carried him and his sister Marianne to Vienna and Paris and London, they had been invited to play at the Courts, and how little Wolfgang had been praised by the royal families and loaded with presents; and how he had already composed some wonderful things, including several sonatas for the pianoforte, and a symphony—the latter when he was only eight years old.
There was no exaggeration in Leopold Mozart’s description of his child’s powers, as to which, indeed, accounts from less partial sources had already reached the Archbishop’s ears. None the less, however, was the old ecclesiastic inclined to attribute to a parent’s pardonable pride the anticipations which the father had formed with regard to the boy’s future, and more especially as those anticipations rested upon the assumption that the child was a miraculous genius. That Wolfgang could play remarkably well for a child of his age was sufficient in itself to justify the extraordinary praise which he had received; but that he was gifted to the extent of writing original music of a sort worthy to be recorded the Archbishop may be excused for doubting. At any rate, he resolved to settle the matter to his own satisfaction by setting the boy to work under conditions which precluded every chance of his being enabled to copy from the works of other composers, and also—and this was a great point with the Archbishop—of his being helped by his father. Leopold readily assented to the conditions of the test proposed by his master, and so little Wolfgang was duly installed as a close prisoner in the palace, and supplied with music-paper, pens, and ink, and a subject on which to write, in the manner in which we have already described.
And now we must leave him for a space weaving harmonies in his attic chamber whilst we recount his history up to the present point.
Born on January 27, 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had attained his third year when the father’s attention was first drawn to his fondness for music. In his little daughter Marianne, who was five years older than Wolfgang, he had rejoiced to discover an extraordinary gift for playing, and it was not long ere her music-lessons from her father became a source of attraction for her little brother, who would cast aside his toys and take his stand beside the piano as soon as he perceived that Marianne’s lesson was about to begin. There he would remain until the lesson was finished, listening intently to everything that was played or spoken. At other times he would amuse himself by finding simple chords on the instrument, striking them over and over again, and bending his head to catch the harmonies thus produced. At length Leopold Mozart began to teach him, half in fun at first, but very soon in earnest, for it was apparent that the child regarded the lessons seriously.
The father could not conceal his joy at the discovery of such early promise on the part of his little son, whose progress, indeed, was so rapid as to call for special care to prevent his learning too fast. Marianne had a manuscript book in which her father used to write simple pieces for her to learn, and very soon he was entering in the book similar pieces for Wolfgang. The rapidity and ease with which the boy mastered these tasks opened his father’s eyes to the fact that Wolfgang possessed capacities far above those of an ordinary child. In a short time the boy began to write in the book little compositions of his own, some of them plainly showing that his skill in composing had forged beyond the point at which his tiny fingers had the power to express his ideas.
One day, when Leopold Mozart had brought Herr Schachtner, the Court trumpeter, home to dinner, they found Wolfgang busily employed with his pen. In answer to his father’s inquiry what he was doing, Wolfgang replied that he was writing a concerto for the pianoforte. Leopold asked to see it, but the boy was not anxious to have his work inspected, and objected that it was not finished. ‘Never mind,’ said Leopold, ‘let me see it. It must be something very fine.’ Taking the paper into his hand, the father and his friend glanced at it curiously. The sheet was bedaubed with ink-smears which almost concealed the notes; the child had dipped his pen each time to the bottom of the ink-bottle, so that when it reached the paper it had dropped a huge blot. This had not disturbed him in the least, however, for he had merely rubbed his hand over the offending blot and proceeded with his writing.
At first sight both Leopold and his friend laughed to see the manner in which the composer had traced the notes over the smudges, but soon Schachtner observed the father’s eyes fill with tears of delight and wonderment as he began to follow out the theme. ‘Look, Herr Schachtner!’ he cried. ‘See how correct and orderly it is! Only it could never be of any use, for it is so extraordinarily difficult that no one in the world could play it.’
Wolfgang at this looked up quickly into his father’s face. ‘That is why it is a concerto,’ he explained, with flushed cheeks. ‘People must practise until they can play it perfectly. Look! This is how it goes;’ and he began to play it on the piano, but only succeeded in bringing out sufficient to show his hearers what he meant it to be.
His ear for music was wonderfully fine, for when only seven years old he could detect the difference of half a quarter of a tone between two violins. It was an ear of such extreme delicacy, in fact, that anything in the shape of rude or harsh sounds caused him positive distress. On one occasion Schachtner, at the request of Leopold Mozart, who imagined that Wolfgang’s aversion to loud sounds was a mere childish fancy, blew a blast upon the trumpet towards the child, but he regretted it the next moment, for the boy nearly fainted away at the shock.
‘What took others months of practice to achieve came to him as a gift of God,’ his father used to say; and truly there seems to have been something of the miraculous about Wolfgang’s powers. His violin lessons had hardly begun when one evening, as Leopold Mozart, Herr Schachtner, and Herr Wentzl were about to play a set of six trios composed by the last-named musician, Wolfgang put in a plea that he might be allowed to play second violin! Needless to say, his request was refused as a matter of course. The child, however, persisted, and at length he was told that if he were careful to make no sound he might sit beside Herr Schachtner with his violin and bow, to make believe that he was playing.
The first trio began, but it had not proceeded far ere Schachtner’s attention was drawn to the boy at his side. He was actually playing the part—and playing it correctly! The second violin ceased bowing in astonishment, and allowed Wolfgang to go on alone, which he did to the end. Schachtner and the father exchanged glances, and the former perceived that Leopold’s eyes were full of tears. After this trial the boy was allowed to play in the remaining pieces, unaccompanied by Schachtner. At the conclusion, emboldened by success, he volunteered to play the first violin’s part—an offer which was greeted with laughter; but, nothing daunted, he seized his violin and began, and although he made many mistakes, and was on the point of breaking down several times, he persisted to the end.
With his devotion to music and all that concerned the art, Wolfgang possessed a lovable, affectionate nature that yielded a ready obedience to his parents’ wishes. For his mother, Anna Maria, and his sister Marianne he showed great fondness, but before either of these he placed his father. ‘Next to God comes papa,’ he used to say. He could be very merry on occasions, but a natural seriousness which showed itself in connection with his love for music gave rise to fears that he would not survive his childhood. Music to him was all-absorbing—everything else had to yield to it, and nothing could take its place. When Herr Schachtner, who had grown very fond of the child, carried him from one room to another the march had to be accompanied by the beating of a drum, and the only toys he cared for were such as could make music. When musical sounds were not actually forthcoming the rhythmical movements of his body and limbs implied their existence beneath the surface.
The family were in poor circumstances, for Leopold Mozart had no means beyond the salary which he received from the Court. The discovery of his children’s gifts, therefore, offered the father a strong inducement to turn their powers to advantage, both for the supply of the family’s needs and to provide for Wolfgang and Marianne a sound education in music. With this object he determined to travel with the children, as Salzburg itself offered no facilities for making their talents known. A first experiment in January, 1762, proved so successful that in the following September they set out for Vienna with the object of playing before the Imperial Court. Wolfgang was at this time six years old, and Marianne eleven. At Linz, where they stopped for several days, they gave a successful concert under the patronage of the Governor-General of the province. Every one was delighted with the playing of the children, and they were fortunate in securing the presence of a young nobleman who happened to be visiting at the Governor’s house on his way to Vienna, for he was sure to carry the news of what he had heard to the capital. From this point they continued their journey by water as far as the monastery of Ips, where they purposed resting for the night.
The grey old building, seated on the banks of the Danube, with the waters of the river lapping the base of its walls, looked invitingly restful to the travellers who sought its seclusion on that sultry September afternoon. Three friars who formed part of the travelling party entered the monastery at the same time, and on their retiring to say Mass in the chapel Wolfgang contrived to slip in behind them unperceived and to make his way into the organ-loft. Shortly afterwards the Franciscan monks, who were entertaining a party of guests in the refectory, were startled at hearing the organ pealing forth from the chapel. One of the hosts left the table to ascertain who the player could be, and, hastily returning, beckoned the company to follow him. On reaching the chapel they paused to listen, holding their breath, as their companion pointed to the tiny figure of a child seated in the loft. Was it possible, they asked themselves, that a child could produce such beautiful music? They remained standing, rooted to the spot by the enchanting strains which poured from the organ, until Wolfgang, happening to espy them, brought his voluntary to a close and crept meekly down from his perch.
Throughout the remainder of their journey to Vienna Wolfgang was the life of the party, full of spirits and eager curiosity to learn the name and history of everything they met. At the customs-house on the frontier he made friends with the officials, and secured an easy pass for the party by playing an air on his violin. Every one was charmed with his conversation and sprightly intelligence, and, above all, with his music.
When they reached Vienna it was to find that the fame of the children’s playing had preceded them through the reports of those who had witnessed the performance at Linz. A Court introduction was easily obtained, for the royal family were desirous of hearing the prodigies, and an early day was fixed for the visit to Schönbrunn. It was fortunate for Leopold Mozart that the Imperial family were devoted to art. Charles VI. was an accomplished musician; his daughter, the afterwards Empress Maria Theresa (of whom we have already heard in our story of Haydn), had from an early age shown a fondness and talent for music; whilst the Emperor Joseph not only sang well, but played the harpsichord and violoncello.
A kind and gracious welcome awaited the party on their arrival at the palace. The Emperor took to Wolfgang at once, and was so delighted with his performance that he called him ‘kleinen Hexenmeister’ (little magician), and forthwith set to work to test his powers to the uttermost. Not only was the boy made to play difficult pieces at sight, but he instantly complied with the Emperor’s joking suggestion that he should play with one finger. The keyboard was then covered with a cloth, so as to conceal the notes, but Wolfgang played just as finely as before, receiving for this crowning feat the loud applause of the company. The children were treated with great kindness by both the Emperor and Empress; and Wolfgang showed his affection for the august lady by climbing into her lap and giving her a hug, just as he might have done to his mother. The performance at Court was repeated on several occasions, each time with greater applause; and amongst the audience was the beautiful Marie Antoinette, who, later on, became Queen of the French. The boy evinced a strong fancy for the Princess, and one day, when he happened to slip on the polished floor and was helped to his feet by the Princess’s hand, he turned to her with a grave air and said, ‘You are very good, and I will marry you,’ ‘Why, pray?’ inquired Marie, with a smile. ‘Out of gratitude, of course,’ responded Wolfgang, still more gravely.
He was not in the least shy at being called upon to perform before personages of the highest rank, his behaviour to all being that of a simple, unspoilt child. But when it came to the point of playing, the serious concentration of which we have before spoken would take possession of him, and everything else had to take a secondary place. Not even the Emperor himself could then claim precedence of the composer, should the latter happen to be present. ‘Where is Herr Wagenseil? Is he here?’ inquired Wolfgang on one occasion, when about to play a concerto composed by the Court musician. ‘Pray let him come; he knows something about it.’ The father understood this request to be in keeping with the boy’s desire to play before a capable judge—a condition upon which he invariably insisted whenever practicable. At the bidding of the youthful performer Herr Wagenseil approached. ‘Ah, Herr Wagenseil!’ said Mozart, turning to him, ‘I am about to play one of your concertos, and I want you to turn over for me.’ The Emperor happened to be standing next to the boy, but he smilingly made way for the composer at once.
Needless to say, after the favours shown them at Court, the children at once became the rage in Vienna society. Invitations poured in from every quarter, and as for Wolfgang, all the ladies lost their hearts to the little fellow. The visit, however, was not without alloy, for Wolfgang contracted scarlet fever, and on recovery was shunned for fear of infection; but, on the whole, Leopold Mozart had good reason to be satisfied with the success of his experiment. The children were loaded with presents, but they valued none more than those which were bestowed by the hands of the royal family, Wolfgang’s present consisting of a violet-coloured suit, trimmed with broad gold braid, which had been made for the Archduke Maximilian; and Marianne’s of a pretty white silk dress. A painting of Wolfgang in his gala suit, which was executed at the time of their visit, is still preserved.
The following year Leopold Mozart undertook a longer journey, with the object of making Paris the end of their travels, but they stopped at various towns by the way for the purpose of giving concerts. At Frankfort the first performance was so successful that it was decided to give three more. An announcement in the newspaper at the time describes Mozart as capable of naming ‘all notes played at a distance, whether singly or in chords, on the clavier, or on any other instrument, bell, glass, or clock.’ Leopold also gave out as an additional attraction that Wolfgang would play with the keyboard covered—a fact which shows that the Emperor’s test had not been forgotten. It was whilst they were at Frankfort that a boy of fourteen came to one of the concerts and saw Mozart in his frizzled wig and sword, and heard him play. That boy was Goethe the poet.
They stayed five months in Paris, played before the Court at Versailles, and excited astonishment and enthusiasm both there and wherever else they performed. The mother accompanied them on this long expedition, and on New Year’s Day the family were conducted to the royal supper-room, where the Queen drew Wolfgang to her side, fed him with sweetmeats, and conversed with him in German.
From Paris they journeyed, in April, 1764, to London, finding lodgings in Cecil Court, St. Martin’s Lane. London, with its crowded, busy thoroughfares, its thronged markets, and its discordant street-cries, must have seemed a strange place to the little travellers after their experience of Continental cities. In regard to music itself, also, the contrast must have been equally striking. The English were not reckoned to be a musical nation, however much we loved music in our homes and in the simple services of our churches; moreover, there was an absence of the patronage extended to the art by the rich and powerful classes, such as one would have met with on the Continent. Hence its cultivation was slow, and pursued under immense disadvantages. Nevertheless, the English knew how to appreciate good music, and London was the centre to which all the greatest performers were attracted, because they were sure, not only of receiving the heartiest of welcomes, but of reaping more money by their performances as well. English liberality and English appreciation have always secured for our country the very best that the arts could produce.
Leopold’s first care on reaching London was to obtain an introduction at Court. In this he was again fortunate, for King George III. and his Consort were exceedingly fond of music, and it was not long before an invitation came for the children to attend at the royal palace. King George showed the greatest interest in Wolfgang, placing before him a number of difficult pieces by Bach and Handel, with the request that he would play them at sight. The manner in which the boy fulfilled his tasks evoked the enthusiastic applause of the great company present at the performance, and the plaudits were redoubled when, after accompanying the Queen in a song, he selected the bass part of one of Handel’s airs and improvised a charming melody to it. The King was so impressed with his powers that he would not let him go until he had tried the organ, in the playing of which Wolfgang achieved a further triumph.
June 4 was fixed for celebrating the King’s birthday, and for several days before this event the coaches had been arriving in London loaded with passengers from all parts of the country. Leopold Mozart had fixed the following day—June 5—as the date for his first public concert, and as the fame of the young musicians had by this time been noised abroad, the hall was filled to overflowing. The father was staggered by the success of the concert. ‘To think,’ he wrote home the next day, ‘that we took one hundred guineas in three hours!’ That so great a sum should be willingly paid in order to hear a child of eight perform must, indeed, have been astonishing to one who had hitherto had no experience of English munificence. Many of the performers, moreover, declined to take any fee for their services—a fact which served to add to the father’s gratitude and astonishment. The advertisement of the concert described Wolfgang and Marianne as ‘prodigies of Nature,’ and expressed the hope that Wolfgang would meet with success in a country which had afforded such marked appreciation and protection to his countryman Handel.
A few weeks later Wolfgang played the harpsichord and organ at Ranelagh Gardens, a celebrated pleasure resort of the Londoners of those days, on behalf of a public charity, and held the delighted attention of a huge crowd which had gathered to hear him. Not long after this Leopold Mozart was seized with severe illness, and when he was recovering, the family removed to Chelsea for the sake of the air and quiet. Chelsea at that time was a riverside village, and the lodgings of the Mozarts were in Five Fields, a name which conveys a pleasant suggestion of the country, but, alas! it has long since lost its ancient signification with its change to Lower Ebury Street, Pimlico.
As the children were not allowed to play any instrument, Wolfgang spent the time in composition, and one day he confided to Marianne that he was composing a symphony, and begged her not to forget to remind him to give a good part to the horns, the horn being a very favourite instrument with him in those days. The great work was duly completed, and the father having regained his strength, the family returned to town. They were accorded a further gracious reception at Court, and in token of his gratitude Leopold Mozart printed six of Wolfgang’s sonatas for harpsichord and violin, and dedicated them to the Queen, whose acceptance of the works was accompanied by a present of fifty guineas. At the concerts which followed the overtures were all of Wolfgang’s composing, and on one occasion the children won great applause by the performance of a duet for four hands, written by Wolfgang, a style of composition which was then quite new. The novelty of the prodigies, however, had to some extent worn off, and the public were by no means so eager to patronise their performances. Leopold endeavoured to reawaken interest in their doings by announcing private exhibitions of the children’s skill ‘every day from twelve to three—admittance two shillings and sixpence each person,’ but despite the smallness of the fee, and the fact that it included the privilege of testing the powers of the performers by the audience, the number of visitors was very small.
In July, 1765, the family left London to visit the Hague, but now for the first time heavy misfortune attended their journey. Both Wolfgang and Marianne fell ill—the latter so dangerously as to cause Leopold the deepest anxiety. No sooner had Marianne recovered than Wolfgang was struck down a second time with violent fever, and it was several weeks before he was sufficiently strong to resume his travels. During his convalescence, however, he was so eager to pursue his studies that he had a board laid across the bed to serve as a table on which to compose. Their reception at the Hague was gracious and kindly, both the Prince of Orange and his sister, Princess Caroline of Nassau-Weilburg, showing a deep interest in their playing. After leaving the Hague they paid a second visit to Paris, where they added to their former triumphs, in addition to playing at many towns by the way, and, finally, the long tour was brought to a close by the return of the family to Salzburg in November, 1766.
Up till now we have seen Mozart chiefly in the light of a musical prodigy, exciting delight and astonishment by the exhibition of his marvellous powers. By those around him, however, Wolfgang was beloved for his own sake—for the simple, affectionate boy that he was. Notwithstanding the praise which had been lavished upon him during his travels, he remained unspoilt, and, apart from his music, as child-like as ever. When not engaged in actual composition, his mind, in the course of his long journeys, had been occupied with the creation of an imaginary kingdom, peopled entirely by children, to which he had given the title of ‘Rücken.’ Of this kingdom he supposed himself to be king, and he was never tired of planning and arranging its buildings, drawing maps of the towns, framing the laws under which it was to be governed, and generally providing for the comfort and happiness of his subjects. It was all the outcome of a natural tenderness of heart which was equally shown in his relations with strangers and friends—a desire to place others before himself.
At times, however, he could assert himself with considerable force. On one occasion, shortly after his return to Salzburg, a gentleman of rank in the town called upon the family, and being desirous of conversing with Wolfgang, was at a loss how to address him. The formal pronoun sie could hardly be used to a child; du, on the other hand, implied a familiarity which might be resented by so celebrated an artist; the gentleman, therefore, took refuge in wir, and thus began: ‘So we have been in France and England,’ ‘we have been introduced at Court’; ‘we have been honoured’; when Wolfgang interrupted him hastily. ‘And yet, sir, I do not remember to have seen you anywhere but in Salzburg!’
We must now return to the point at which we left our hero in his room in the Archbishop’s palace. The little musician realises that upon his shoulders rests the burden of justifying to the Archbishop his father’s expressed belief in his powers, and love and gratitude whisper to him that he cannot do too much in striving to uphold the judgment of his beloved parent. His gratitude to his father was only what might have been looked for in one so naturally thoughtful for others. Leopold Mozart had, indeed, made great sacrifices for his children, and he was prepared to go to even greater lengths of self-denial in order to procure for them a good education, and to found a musical career for the son in whose God-sent gifts he placed the most implicit faith. ‘I offer my children to my country,’ he wrote to a friend at this time. ‘If it will have none of them, that is not my fault, and will be my country’s loss.’
And so, prompted by love and gratitude, Wolfgang works on until at last the long task is finished, and the composer lays down his pen with a sigh of relief. ‘What will the Archbishop think of the work? Will he laugh at it, and tell the father that he is mistaken in believing that his son can write good music? Would this week of toil be thrown away, and the sheets be cast into the fire?’
Such are the thoughts of the child-musician as he glances anxiously through the manuscript. ‘Yet, no; it has some good points—as a musician he is sure of that—and surely his Grace will not fail to observe those good points.’
Mozart’s fears were groundless. When the old Archbishop came to inspect the work, his face showed the pleasure and astonishment which he felt. Boyish the workmanship may have been, yet there was nothing of boyishness about the music itself. Wolfgang had taken the Italian oratorio as his model, and the result showed how completely he had mastered its forms. Such was the verdict which the connoisseurs passed upon the work, nor did those judges fail to call attention to its dignity and delicacy of expression, its well-chosen harmonies, and the flowing melodies that were a foreshadowing of the Mozart of later years. The cantata—the two remaining parts of which were composed by the Court musicians—was performed with great success during Lent, 1767, by the students of Salzburg University, and in the programme the eye of the composer met the words, ‘The first part of this work was set to music by Herr Wolfgang Mozart, aged ten years.’
Wolfgang’s studies had been much interrupted by travel, and now that they were home again his father began to give him regular instruction in counterpoint as a solid groundwork for future composition. There were many little breaks in these studies, however, and one which afforded Wolfgang immense delight whenever it came round was to visit the monastery of Seeon, with the monks of which he was on a footing of firm friendship. For one of the priests, known as Father Johannes, the boy had a deep affection; and whenever the good man made his appearance, Wolfgang would spring to embrace him, and, stroking his cheeks, would sing his greeting to a little air of his own:
The monks were always teasing Wolfgang about his tune. On Father Johannes’ fête-day the boy presented him with an offertory of his own composing, in which he introduced the little melody as a birthday greeting. The caressing little air runs through the piece, and is ‘twice interrupted by the words, “Ecce Agnus Dei, qui tollit peccata mundi” (Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world), given in a quiet, serious manner that has a charming effect.’ Good Father Johannes had no need to feel ashamed of the moisture which gathered in his eyes as he scanned this tender little offering of his child-friend on his birthday morning.
But the visits to the old monastery were to be interrupted by a further period of travel. Vienna was making great preparations for celebrating the betrothal of the Archduchess Josepha, who had made herself beloved of the people, and Leopold Mozart was desirous of being present with his children at the festivities. Accordingly, they set out in September, 1767, but no sooner had they arrived at the capital than they were met by the news that the Princess had been struck down with small-pox. A few days later the tidings of her death spread grief and consternation throughout the city. The dread of infection caused the nobility to flee the place, and Leopold hastened to remove the children to Olmütz. Their efforts to escape, however, were vain, for both children developed the disease, and for nine days Wolfgang was quite blind. A good Samaritan, in the person of Count von Podstatzky, Dean of Olmütz, received the family into his house, with a noble indifference to the risk which he incurred, and treated them with every kindness and consideration, so that with good nursing Wolfgang and Marianne soon recovered.
It was with renewed hopes that Leopold and his children once more bent their steps to Vienna, only, however, to meet with fresh disappointments. The Imperial family received them very kindly, but the public evinced little desire to attend their performances. The Empress lived in retirement, and the Emperor was practising a rigid economy in regard to matters of entertainment and display—an example which was followed as a matter of course by the nobility. Moreover, the public taste for art was at a very low ebb, the preference being for music of the lightest description. As if these were not sufficiently serious obstacles to contend with, the twelve-year-old musician was subjected to marked hostility on the part of the chief performers of the city, who not only held aloof from his performances, but did not scruple to vent their envy by speaking disparagingly of his powers. That his son should be thus slighted without being heard seemed to fill Leopold’s cup of bitterness to overflowing. To oppose such a phalanx of jealous rivals was impossible, and he had made up his mind to shake the dust of Vienna from his feet and return home, when the arrival of a messenger from the palace turned his sorrow into joy.
‘See here, Wolfgang,’ cried the delighted father, as he sought the boy’s side after the departure of the royal messenger, ‘is not this a recompense for our trials and waiting? Here are the Emperor’s commands to you to compose an opera—an opera, mark you!—for performance at the Royal Theatre!’ and Leopold gave the astonished Wolfgang a hearty embrace, as he thrust the important missive into the boy’s hand.
Wolfgang read the letter through with the seriousness which always characterised his manner when his beloved art was mentioned, and then, lifting his face to his father’s, he threw his arms around Leopold’s neck, exclaiming as he did so, ‘It shall be done, papa—the Emperor’s commands shall be obeyed!’
Fired with zeal to deserve the confidence thus reposed in his powers, Mozart set himself to work to accomplish his gigantic task. In a short time, with assiduous labour, he had produced no fewer than five hundred and fifty-eight pages of music, and ‘La finta Semplice,’ as the opera was called, was ready for rehearsal. In the meanwhile, however, the envious ones had formed themselves into a cabal with the object of hindering, and, if possible, preventing its production. All kinds of mean and untrue things were whispered about the work, of which not a single note had yet been seen or heard by any of these detractors. The music was declared to be worthless, and when this slander had been disproved by the testimony of those who were capable judges, another sprang up to the effect that the work was the production, not of Mozart himself, but of his father. This, too, was swept aside only to be supplanted by a fresh outburst of jealousy. Before long these evil reports found their way to the singers and performers, who, from being at first loud in their praises of the opera, began to express a disinclination to take part in the performance, for fear of losing their reputation. Then Affligio, the manager who had undertaken to produce the work, in like manner began to draw back, and put off the rehearsals from time to time. Finally, after a series of such postponements, when brought to bay by Leopold’s insistence, the manager declared that he would produce the opera if the father desired it, but that it should not benefit the Mozarts, as he would take care that it should be hissed off the stage. The Emperor was powerless to interfere, as Affligio held the theatre independently of the Court, and nothing remained to be done but to withdraw the opera.
This was a great blow to Mozart and his father, but, though momentarily crushed by disappointment, they comforted each other with the hope that the work would see the light at a later period. It was now imperative that they should return to Salzburg immediately, more especially as Leopold had received an intimation from the Archbishop that his salary must cease so long as he stayed away. Their circumstances were, in fact, much straitened owing to the ill success of their visit, and during the weary months of suspense and waiting they had been living upon the profits of their previous travels. They were not allowed to leave Vienna, however, without a ray of sunshine to cheer them on their homeward journey. Wolfgang had written an operetta, ‘Bastien und Bastienne,’ founded upon a burlesque of one of Rousseau’s operas, and he had the pleasure of hearing his little work performed before a select company of connoisseurs, and of receiving their praises. Nor would the Emperor let him depart without a further sign of royal favour, for he was commanded to write a Mass, an offertorium, and a trumpet concerto to celebrate the dedication of a new chapel in the city. The occasion was an important one, for the ceremony was graced by the presence of the Imperial Court, and it must have been a happy moment for Wolfgang when, having conducted his compositions, he bowed his acknowledgments of the hearty applause which followed. With this comforting assurance of the royal regard was brought to a close an expedition which to both father and son had been filled with trial and disappointment.
Old Archbishop Sigismund, too, was forward in showing his sympathy with Wolfgang on his return to Salzburg; for with a kindness which was unexpected even at the hands of one who had already proved himself to be a true friend, he gave orders that ‘La finta Semplice’ should be performed in his palace. It was a fitting reward for the Archbishop to bestow upon one whom he had subjected to so severe a test, and both Mozart and his father were full of gratitude. Sigismund, moreover, showed his appreciation of Mozart’s genius by making him his concertmeister, though no salary was attached to the appointment. As regards the opera itself, as Mozart was shortly to write a work of a much higher character, not much need be said; at the same time, when we learn that the best judges of the day pronounced it to be in many respects superior to the operas which were then in possession of the stage, and that it pointed ‘unmistakably to a glorious future for its composer,’ we may appreciate the remark with which one who was himself a great musical judge sums up the opinion passed upon Mozart’s first opera: ‘Surely, this is extraordinary praise for the work of a boy!’
Leopold Mozart was now resolved upon undertaking a journey to Italy with a view to completing Wolfgang’s musical education. At that day Italy stood foremost in the world as the home of music. Of Italy could it be truly said, as it could be said of no other country, that music was native to the soil. The craving for music pervaded every class—to prince, and peer, and peasant alike, music was as natural a possession as the very air they breathed. It was bound up with the people’s sentiments and passions, to which it afforded the truest expression, and it was connected to an equal degree with their surroundings and conditions of life. Consequently, every facility existed for the development and encouragement of the art, whilst on every hand there was a steady demand for the best that that art could produce. Thus, as has been well said, there came to be formed in Italy ‘a sort of musical climate, in which artists found it easy to breathe.’ More than this, it became evident to musicians of other countries, as the years went on, that he who aspired to do great things with his art, and to establish a reputation for himself as singer, player, or composer, must imbibe this atmosphere—for a time, at least—and put the finishing touches to his education under the influence of the Italian schools of composition and execution.
In respect to musical art Germany and Italy were rivals. The music of Germany was to a very great extent independent; but the spirit of creation in Germany was not so universally diffused as in Italy, being, as a matter of fact, chiefly confined to the northern Protestant portion of the country. Again, the operas performed at the German Courts were Italian; the music to be heard in the German Catholic churches was written by Italian composers; whilst both singers and performers were either drawn from, or had been educated in, Italy. The two countries, as we have said, were rivals, and every succeeding year witnessed the growth of this spirit in Germany; but for long Italy held the supremacy in instrumental as well as in every other class of music, as the result of that inborn love of music which pervaded every grade of society throughout the country.
And so in December, 1769, Mozart, who was now thirteen years of age, came to Italy to listen to the brightly-clad peasants singing at their work in the sunny fields; to watch them dancing on the vine-trellised terraces that overlooked the deep blue waters of the lakes; to witness the wonderful processions of the priests through the narrow streets of the towns; and, above all, to hear the grand music in the cathedrals.
Mozart’s bright, happy nature was never more in evidence than on the occasion of this journey, which he seemed to regard as having been planned solely for pleasure. His merry jokes and light-hearted conversation served to ingratiate him in the affections of all. Leopold kept up a regular correspondence with those at home, but Wolfgang never failed to add a little letter of his own, addressed either to his mother or to Marianne, in which he joked about the incidents of the journey, the people whom they met, or the friends they had left behind. The letters were a mixture of German and Italian, with an occasional bit of Salzburg patois thrown in to make Marianne laugh. But he relapsed into a serious style whenever he referred to his playing or the performers whom they had heard in the course of their travels.
The young musician had, indeed, no lack of work before him, for, in addition to the regular performances which formed the chief business of the tour, he was set difficult problems to solve at sight by the various professors who desired to test his powers. The fame of his playing preceded him everywhere, so that the further they penetrated into Italy the more numerous became the demands to hear him. At Roveredo, where it was announced that he would play the organ at St. Thomas’s Church, the crowd was so great that the monks of the adjoining monastery had to form a circle around Mozart to keep back the press until the steps leading to the organ-loft had been gained. The vast audience listened spellbound to the performance, and then refused to disperse until they had gained a glimpse of the boy-player. At Verona, where another triumph awaited him, and where one of his symphonies was performed, the Receiver-General ordered his portrait to be painted, and wrote a letter to the mother full of warm praise of her wonderful son.
On reaching Milan the chief musician of the city subjected Mozart to the severest tests, from which he emerged victorious, and after astonishing everybody by his playing and improvisation, he was commissioned to write an opera for the ensuing season. It was at Bologna, however, that he met with the most flattering reception. The city contained many artists of the highest rank, over whom Padre Martini, the famous composer of Church music and the first connoisseur of the country, reigned like a king. Martini was, in fact, worshipped by Italian lovers of the art, who deferred to his opinion in all questions affecting music. But the Padre was very old, and had given up attending concerts, so that every one was astonished when the coming of Mozart brought the aged musician from his retirement to form one of the brilliant gathering assembled at Count Pallavicini’s mansion to witness the boy’s playing. It was a great compliment to Mozart, but an even greater compliment to the country from which he came, and Wolfgang put forth his best powers, with the result that he earned the judge’s warmly expressed commendation. Leopold was overjoyed at Wolfgang’s success, and opined that Bologna would form a centre from which the boy’s fame would spread all over Italy, an opinion that was justified by the results. As for Martini, he took to Wolfgang at once, insisted that he should visit him regularly whilst they remained in Milan, and gave him fugue subjects to work out at his lodgings. Mozart worked hard at these tasks, and the Padre expressed himself as perfectly satisfied with the boy’s knowledge of composition.
The journey to Rome, in fact, was a succession of triumphs, which it would require a volume by itself to attempt to describe in detail. At Florence he was invited to play before the Court of the Archduke Leopold, and solved, ‘as easily as if he were eating a bit of bread,’ the difficult problems proposed by the Court music-director, who was regarded as one of the best contrapuntists of the day. Here he met Thomas Linley, a boy of about his own age, the son of the English composer, who was studying the violin under Nardini. Linley’s playing was already exciting much attention, and as he showed great promise in his compositions as well, people were building high hopes as to his future. Mozart and he instantly became close friends, and when the time came for parting neither could restrain his tears. They were destined never to meet again, for a few years later poor Linley was drowned through the upsetting of a boat whilst on a pleasure excursion in Lincolnshire. Mozart never forgot the bright friendship which had flashed into his life during those few days spent at Florence, and many years afterwards he would refer in terms of endearment to the young genius whose career had been thus untimely cut off.
It was Holy Week when Mozart and his father reached Rome, and the city lay under the spell of that solemn time. The travellers at once bent their steps to the Sistine Chapel in order to hear the celebrated Miserere, written by Allegri, performed. Wolfgang had been looking forward to this moment during the latter stages of his journey with the deepest interest. He had heard from his father of the jealous guarding of this wonderful work by the Romans; how it was expressly forbidden to be performed in any other building than the Sistine; and how the choristers were under strict injunctions not to remove their parts of the score from the chapel. His anxiety, therefore, to hear a work of which the fame had spread throughout the whole of Europe, had hastened his progress to the Holy City.
It would, indeed, be difficult to imagine anything more beautiful and impressive than the singing of this wonderful Miserere. It is introduced into the solemn service called ‘Tenebræ’ (Darkness), during which the six tall altar candles, by which the chapel is illuminated, are extinguished one by one, until only a single candle is left, and this is removed to a space behind the altar. Then, in almost complete darkness, the Miserere begins. A single voice is heard singing the beautiful antiphon, as the short piece which ushers in the Miserere is called; the sweet notes die away into silence—a silence so profound that the listener hardly dares to breathe lest he should disturb it. Then at length the first sad notes of the Supplication are heard, like the softest wailing of an anguished spirit; they gradually increase in force until the whole building is ringing with the plaintive melody in all its thrilling intensity.
The solemnity of the service and the beauty of the music left a deep impression on the mind of the young musician who heard it for the first time. Leopold Mozart, too, was greatly affected by what he had heard, and when they left the chapel to seek their lodgings neither of them spoke a word. Once within doors, however, Wolfgang asked for pen and paper, and, sitting down there and then, he wrote out the whole of the Miserere from memory. On Good Friday, when the work was to be performed for the second time, he took his copy with him to the Sistine, and, concealing it in his cocked hat, he made one or two corrections in pencil as the service proceeded. It was not long before the news of this extraordinary feat reached the ears of the Papal musicians, and Wolfgang received orders to perform his version in the presence of Christoforo, the principal soprano of the Sistine, who could not conceal his amazement at finding it correct in every particular.
No better introduction than this was needed to secure for Mozart a cordial welcome at the houses of the great, and during their stay in Rome they were fêted to their hearts’ content.
At Naples, which was their next stopping-place, Wolfgang played at the Conservatorio alla Pietà before a brilliant gathering, and excited so much astonishment that several of the audience openly declared that his powers were derived from a ring which he wore upon his finger. ‘He wears a charm!’ they cried; and when Mozart, hearing their remarks, smilingly laid aside the supposed magic ring, and played even more brilliantly than before, the enthusiasm was redoubled. After this the Neapolitans vied with one another to show them honour and attention. A carriage was provided for their use, in which they drove about amongst the fashionable crowds on the Strada Nuova and the quay, on which occasions Leopold wore a maroon-coloured coat of watered silk, with sky-blue facings, and Wolfgang one of apple-green, with rose-coloured facings and silver buttons.
We have not space, however, in which to describe all the events of Mozart’s wonderful tour, and so we may only mention how they returned to Rome at the instance of the Pope, who not only granted Wolfgang a private audience, but bestowed upon him the Order of the Golden Spur, thus entitling him to be styled ‘Signor Cavaliere Amadeo’; how, when next he wrote to Marianne, he jokingly concluded his letter as follows: ‘Mademoiselle, j’ai l’honneur d’être votre très-humble serviteur et frère, Chevalier de Mozart’; and how his portrait was once more painted in Rome by Battoni. A still greater distinction was conferred upon him on his arrival at Bologna, for the Accademia Filarmonica admitted him to their ranks as ‘compositore,’ notwithstanding that their statutes required that members should be at least twenty years of age. To test his qualifications for election he was given an antiphon to set in four parts, and locked up in a room to fulfil his task. At the expiration of half an hour he asked to be let out, to the astonishment of the officials, who could scarcely credit that he had completed the work in so short a time. The composition was then examined by the professors, who next voted upon it, and finally, amidst clapping of hands, it was declared that Mozart had been duly elected.
After some further intercourse with Padre Martini, who, before leaving, presented Mozart with a testimonial, the travellers proceeded to Milan, where Wolfgang set to work at once on the opera which he had been commissioned to write. It was a great task, and we find him writing to his mother and sister, begging them to pray for its success, ‘so that they may all live happily together again,’ ‘Mitridate,’ as the work was called, was at length finished, after three months’ hard labour, some of which was devoted to fighting the opposition emanating from both singers and rivals. The first performance took place on December 26, 1770, and was conducted by Wolfgang, whose appearance in the orchestra was the signal for a great outburst of cheering, to be repeated again and again as the opera proceeded. Then came loud cries of ‘Evviva il Maestro! Evviva il Maestrino!’ in response to which Mozart gravely bowed his acknowledgments, and at the same time bent his glance towards the spot where his father sat with his eyes covered with his hand, in order to hide the tears of pride and joy which filled them to overflowing. Mingled with these feelings, however, Leopold felt a deep thankfulness in his heart that he had been spared to watch over his son’s career, and to be a witness of his success.
‘Mitridate’ had indeed succeeded even beyond their utmost hopes; it was repeated twenty times before crowded houses, and its success brought with it the honour of election as ‘Maestro di Capella’ (the Italian equivalent of the German title ‘Capellmeister’) by the Accademia Filarmonica. Mozart’s position was now assured, and he had nothing more to fear from intrigues or cabals. So that when, in August, 1771, we find him once more in Milan, he is on cordial terms with all his fellow-artists, and hard at work composing a dramatic serenata for the approaching marriage of the Archduke Ferdinand with Princess Beatrice of Modena. He is working amidst a Babel of sounds, for in the room above dwells a violinist, in the room below another, whilst a singing-master lives next door, and an oboist opposite. But he is not dismayed. ‘It is capital for composing,’ he writes to Marianne; ‘it gives one new ideas.’
The serenata, ‘Ascanio in Alba’—an allegorical pastoral play—was a great success, and Hasse, a master of opera, who had also composed a work for the occasion, was fain to admit that he stood nowhere compared with Mozart. ‘This boy,’ he exclaimed, ‘will cause us all to be forgotten.’ The Empress, who had commissioned Mozart to write the work, was so pleased with the result that, in addition to the stipulated fee, she presented the composer with a gold watch with her portrait set in diamonds at the back.
Our story of Mozart’s life has now reached the point which marks the beginning of a series of misfortunes and trials of a far more serious character than those with which his earlier struggles for fame had been associated. There was no foreshadowing of these troubles at the moment when the travellers set out on their return journey to Salzburg, whither they were carrying the hopes which had been built upon their successes in Milan. Shortly after their return, however, to their great grief the good Archbishop Sigismund died, and both Leopold and Wolfgang realised that they had lost their best protector and friend. The news of the appointment of Hieronymus, Count von Colloredo, as his successor was received by the townspeople with feelings of displeasure and even dismay, for it was well known that the character of Hieronymus was almost entirely opposite to that which had made Sigismund beloved by his subjects. The Mozarts, father and son, were soon made to taste the bitterness of the change. Appreciation for art formed no part of the new Archbishop’s nature, and he lost no opportunity of showing his contempt for those who followed it as a profession. Notwithstanding the fame which had now gathered about Mozart, whose latest opera, ‘La finta Giardiniera,’ had been produced in Munich, at the carnival of 1775, with the greatest success, the Archbishop persistently refused to recognise his genius, or to grant any facilities for enabling his dependents to better their condition of life. Once, during his master’s absence in Vienna, Leopold had gone to the capital with Wolfgang, hoping to be able to secure some appointment at the Court which might relieve them of their necessities, but the effort was in vain. To his wife he wrote: ‘Things will and must alter; take comfort, God will help us.’ But they returned empty-handed.
Despite the fact that monetary anxieties were daily growing more pressing, and the aspect of affairs at the Salzburg Court remained as hopeless as ever, Wolfgang worked at his compositions with untiring diligence, and by the time he had attained his twenty-first year he had accumulated a mass of music that embraced every branch of the art, in addition to numberless carefully worked out studies of other masters. But Hieronymus viewed his Concertmeister’s industry with disdain. Even when, by happening to be in Vienna shortly after ‘La finta Giardiniera’ had taken the Viennese by storm, he had been made the unwilling recipient of congratulations at the hands of the nobility upon the possession of so gifted a composer, he had contrived to evade an admission of Mozart’s genius by protesting, with a sardonic smile and outspread hands, that he knew nothing about such matters. Even this disclaimer, however, did not prevent the Archbishop from making use of Wolfgang’s powers whenever their display could be made to add to his own glorification. But nothing softened his ill-nature; no degree of praise which was justly awarded either to Mozart as a composer, or to his father for the care with which he had conducted his son’s musical training, availed to remove or even to mitigate the deeply-rooted dislike which Hieronymus bore to father and son. He professed to regard them both in the light of professional beggars, and he never lost an opportunity of speaking slightingly of Wolfgang’s compositions.
It was not long before the relations with the Archbishop became strained to breaking-point. Wolfgang was now twenty-one, with a reputation as a composer, but with no settled future; it was clear that nothing was to be hoped for by his remaining in Salzburg, and Leopold therefore resolved to undertake a professional tour with his son. For this purpose a prolonged leave of absence was necessary; but the Archbishop met Leopold’s application with a curt refusal.
Even Wolfgang’s docile nature would bend no further under such treatment, and he forthwith requested to be relieved of his duties. The salary connected with his post of Concertmeister was trifling in amount, and Hieronymus was fully aware of the value of the services which he professed to estimate so lightly. But that one for whom he had expressed contempt should thus presume to take action on his own behalf rendered him furious. He would have nothing to do with either father or son. ‘After the Gospel, you are both free to seek your fortunes wherever you please!’ was his reply to Wolfgang’s application. This hasty decision, however, he afterwards retracted with respect to Leopold, and the father realised that the only course left open to him was to allow Wolfgang and his mother to travel together.
Arrangements were accordingly made, and early in the morning of September 23, 1777, the carriage which was to convey the travellers drew up at the door of Leopold’s house. Now that the actual moment of parting had arrived the father could with difficulty restrain his emotion, and it was only when the carriage had driven off that he remembered that he had forgotten to bestow a blessing on his dear ones. Rushing to the window, he stretched forth his hand, to find that he was too late—the travellers were already out of sight.
Wolfgang’s spirits, however, rose as the towers of Salzburg faded into the haze of that September morning. No sorrow of parting could stifle the sense of freedom that was springing up in his breast; he had escaped from a town which was intimately associated in his mind with tyranny and oppression, to seek his fortune in a new and wider world, where he was confident that his gifts would meet with the recognition they deserved. Thus buoyed with hope and confidence he entered upon a sea of difficulty and trouble.
At Munich, where they first halted, Wolfgang endeavoured to secure an engagement at the Elector’s Court; but there was no vacancy, and although his playing brought forth many promises of future help in addition to applause, the prospect of obtaining immediate engagements fell empty to the ground. ‘Fine words and bravissimos pay neither the postboy nor the host,’ wrote the practical Leopold Mozart, when Wolfgang applied to him for advice, and so mother and son went on to Mannheim. Here, indeed, the prospects seemed to be much brighter. Mannheim was a thoroughly musical town, and Mozart soon won both esteem and admiration at the hands of the musicians. The Elector, Karl Theodor, maintained an excellent orchestra, and with Cannabich, the conductor, Wolfgang soon became great friends, giving music-lessons to his daughter Rose. Nevertheless, albeit so gifted, and capable of winning applause wherever he played, Mozart was constantly looking for work that would bring in sufficient ready-money to maintain himself and his mother, until something of a permanent nature could be found for him. But here again disappointment followed disappointment. He was desirous of staying the winter in Mannheim, in order to join some friends who were leaving for Paris in the spring, but he must first find something to do. He seized upon the opportunity of playing before the Elector and the Electress as a possible means of securing their children as pupils, and for some time success in this direction seemed imminent. But his application was put off from day to day; weeks passed over, and nothing was settled.
Amidst these hopes and delays Leopold Mozart was writing from Salzburg urging Wolfgang to decide upon a course of action. He reminded him that he had put his time to but little use up to the present, and that it was becoming increasingly difficult for him to supply the money for their maintenance. Wolfgang must give him longer notice of their change of plans, as ‘otherwise all will go wrong’; and he warns his son to be careful lest he be stranded without money—and ‘no money meant no friends.’
There was justice in these urgings and warnings, for it was a fact that to Wolfgang life in Mannheim had become so pleasant and easy-going that it was time that he should be reminded of the call of duty. In the midst of intercourse with friends, who were only too willing to second his wishes to remain in Mannheim, Mozart was in danger of forgetting the sacrifices which were being made for him at home. Both father and daughter were indeed denying themselves and working hard to keep up the supplies of money. In addition to being heavily in debt on Wolfgang’s account, Leopold had increased his labours by giving music-lessons at a small fee, whilst Marianne was practising all manner of shifts to make ends meet. Each fresh disappointment which her brother’s letters conveyed caused ‘Nannerl’s’ tears to flow with sympathy and vexation, and added to her father’s anxieties.
The latest letter had brought the depressing intelligence that, after tedious delays, the Elector had decided that he could not see his way to offering Mozart the engagement which he sought. Nothing remained to be done, therefore, but to relinquish the idea of wintering in Mannheim. But coupled with this announcement of failure, Wolfgang had let drop some complaints on the subject of lesson-giving which aroused his father to the pitch of administering a severe rebuke. Wolfgang’s protest was to the effect that so long as he was called upon to seek work in the shape of music-lessons at small fees, the time which he felt ought to be given to composition must suffer serious curtailment, with the result that his progress would inevitably be hindered, if it were not brought to an actual standstill. There was doubtless sound sense behind this protest, for who could deny that Wolfgang’s aims were high, or that he possessed the power to accomplish great things with his art? It is, however, easy to understand that his expressed disinclination to give music-lessons touched his father on a tender point. ‘And so,’ Leopold writes, with more bitterness than he has ever shown before in his letters—’and so you will throw away chances of earning money, whilst your old father has to run from house to house for a wretched pittance in order to support himself and his daughter, and to send the little that remains to you, instead of paying his debts!’ He begs Wolfgang to reflect whether he was not treating him as hardly as the Archbishop himself. Then follows a remark which refers to Mozart’s proneness to place undue reliance on promises, instead of using his own judgment. ‘You have judgment,’ says Leopold, ‘but a trifle too much of conceit and self-love, and you are inclined to be over-confiding, and to open your heart to every one you meet.’
However, Wolfgang’s stay in Mannheim was, after all, prolonged over the winter, through the efforts which his friends made to procure him work; but when the spring came round, and the three musicians whom he had promised to accompany to Paris were ready to start upon their journey, he found an excuse for letting them go without him. Leopold Mozart was a deeply religious man, and when he learnt from Wolfgang that his reason for breaking off his intended journey was that his three companions had not a particle of religion in them, he approved his son’s judgment without expressing any surprise at the tardiness of his discovery.
But Mozart had a deeper reason, which he was not so anxious to disclose, and which perhaps he could not, without knowing his mind exactly at the time, have explained. Be this as it may, however, Mozart could never have been surer of anything than that his father would have disapproved in the strongest manner of the feelings which were swaying him at that moment. Yet if Leopold had but read between the lines of his son’s letters he must have seen why it was that Wolfgang was seemingly so blind to his own interests, and so forgetful of his duty to those who loved him at home. The fact is Wolfgang was in love. And if the vigilant eye of the kindest and tenderest father that ever watched with unremitting care over the welfare of a gifted son could have pierced the space that separated him from Wolfgang at the moment when he was perusing that letter of excuse, it might have lighted upon the following little scene which was being enacted in the parlour of a small house in Mannheim.
A young man is seated at the harpsichord playing the accompaniment of a song from the manuscript before him. Every now and then he lifts his eyes from the music-sheet to let them rest upon the fair young face of the maiden standing beside him, and that oft-repeated glance reveals more than admiration for the singer’s notes, pure and melodious as her singing is—more than a recognition of the singer’s charms, sweet beyond question as those charms are; it reveals, in a word, the love which is burning within the player’s breast, a love as yet unspoken, but beside which even art herself must for the time sink her supremacy.
Aloysia Weber, the fifteen-year-old maiden for whom Mozart had conceived this attachment, was the second daughter of Fridolin Weber, a member of the Elector’s band. The young composer had been attracted first by her voice, and later by her personal beauty, and both of these gifts had gained in power through the sympathy he felt for the family who were in poor circumstances. He longed to be able to help them; Aloysia’s singing was of a high order, and only needed to be heard in public to secure the approval of the connoisseurs; he had already written a song specially for her, and she sang it as well as he could wish. Thus he wrote to his father, in the hope of enlisting the latter’s interest in his protégé, adding that he only wished his father could hear her sing. But he gave no indication in the letter of those deeper feelings which animated his desire to be of use to the family.
The father, however, was soon to receive a communication which startled him into a knowledge of the true state of affairs. Wolfgang had formed a project for helping the Webers by undertaking a journey to Italy in company with Aloysia and her father, with the object of writing an opera in which Aloysia should appear as prima donna. Their plans would embrace, with Leopold’s sanction, a visit to Salzburg by the way, when Wolfgang would have the pleasure of introducing the fair singer to his parent and ‘Nannerl,’ by whom he was sure she would be welcomed and beloved. Leopold was distracted by the proposal. ‘What!’ he writes, in reply to Wolfgang’s letter, ‘are you so mad as to prefer a vagabond life to Mannheim and fame! Away with you to Paris, and that immediately. Take up your position among those who are really great—aut Cæsar aut nihil. From Paris the name and fame of a man of talent spreads throughout the world.’ The father wisely refrained from making any direct allusion to the subject of Mozart’s attachment, trusting to the latter’s sense of what was due to one who had made such sacrifices on his behalf. His trust was not misplaced; duty and affection prevailed, and with a heavy heart Mozart yielded to his father’s wishes, and his love-dream came to an end. His ready compliance brought a most affectionate letter from Leopold, in which he assures his dear Wolfgang that he does not entertain the least mistrust of him; on the contrary, he has perfect confidence and hope in his filial love. His good judgment, if he will only listen to it, will direct him how to act. As for himself, he is resigned to separation, and he adjures Wolfgang to live the life of a good Catholic Christian. ‘Love God and fear Him,’ he continues; ‘pray to Him sincerely and devoutly, and let your conduct be such that, should I never see you again, my death-bed may be free from anxiety. From my heart I bless you.’
The departure for Paris was now fixed, but the leave-taking with the Webers was not accomplished without tears, for the family insisted on regarding Wolfgang as their ‘greatest benefactor.’ Aloysia was encouraged to hope for better things, for she had already been heard in public on several occasions through Mozart’s influence, and now she was to be placed under the care of a celebrated singer named Raaff, who had undertaken to carry on the training of her beautiful voice, and to assist in bringing her out.
The hopes which Leopold Mozart had built upon Wolfgang’s prospects of success in Paris were not destined to be fulfilled. The enthusiasm which he had evoked as a marvellous prodigy was not to be elicited by his matured powers as a young man, and the influence necessary to enforce his claims to be recognised as a composer of standing was lacking. Three months passed away in more or less unsuccessful endeavour, and then the mother, who had been his companion and comforter throughout this long period of trial and travel, was struck down by serious illness, and on July 3, 1778, she breathed her last in her son’s arms. Wolfgang’s first thought in the hour of sorrow was for his father, and he wrote to an old friend at Salzburg, begging him to break the sad news as gently as possible. When he knew that this had been done he himself wrote a letter to his father, full of sympathy and affection.
Mozart now determined to leave Paris at once, and his father was the more willing to acquiesce in this step because an offer had been made by Archbishop Hieronymus to instal Wolfgang in the place of the Court organist, who had just died, and to give him a salary of five hundred florins, with permission to absent himself whenever he might be called upon to conduct one of his own operas. The offer had also attached to it the near prospect of being made full Capellmeister at the Archbishop’s Court. Leopold urged Wolfgang’s acceptance, pointing out that their joint income would in such case amount to one thousand florins a year—a sum that would enable them to discharge their debts and live in comparative comfort.
Mozart, it must be owned, viewed the prospect of a return to Salzburg under the implied conditions with positive dismay, but he could not withstand his father’s appeal. He set out from Paris immediately, promising himself only one indulgence before entering upon the bondage which lay before him—and that was to take Mannheim on his homeward journey. Arrived at Mannheim, however, he found that the Webers had migrated to Munich, whither the Elector had already gone to take up his new residence. After exchanging greetings with a few old friends, therefore, he bent his steps to Munich, hoping to find consolation in a brief renewal of the happy hours which had left so strong an impression on his memory. But, alas! his disappointments found their crown within the Webers’ dwelling. The family, it is true, received him as warmly as of old; but she to whom his glance was first directed showed in her eyes nothing more than a friendly welcome, and Mozart was quick to perceive that his hopes had here no abiding-place. Aloysia was fickle, and her affection had so far waned as to be unable to withstand even the test afforded by Mozart’s change of dress. When he appeared before her with black buttons sewn upon his red coat, after the French fashion, to indicate that he was in mourning, she resented the innovation; and, after a brief intercourse, in which she plainly showed that she had forgotten him for whom her tears had flowed some months before, they parted.
It was with a mind stored with invaluable experience, but with a heart saddened and sore by disappointed love and ambition, that Mozart once more entered the portal of his Salzburg home. If anything could have cheered him at that moment and served to dispel the clouds which seemed to obscure his future, it would have been the warmth of the welcome bestowed upon him by the inmates of that home which he had left nearly two years before filled with the brightest anticipations. And, indeed, it was little short of triumphant, this greeting and homage which poured in upon him from father, sister, and friends. In their eyes, at least, his successes were unshadowed by his failures; to them he was still the Mozart, the genius amongst musicians, who was yet to leave his mark upon the roll of fame. But, grateful as he felt for these proofs of sincere affection and esteem, his aversion to Salzburg and his duties at the Court remained in full force, and it was with a new-kindled joy that he set forth once more for Munich, in November, 1780, to complete and produce the opera which he had been commissioned to write for the carnival of the following year.
To the realisation of these the first-fruits of his previous sojourn at Munich Mozart was to owe the establishment of his fame as a dramatic composer of the first rank. ‘Idomeneo,’ as the new opera was called, fulfilled the high expectations which his Munich friends had formed from the composer’s powers. Its reception at the rehearsals rendered success a certainty, and the Elector, who was present, joined with the performers in expressing his unqualified approval. At home the progress of the work was watched with the deepest interest. ‘The universal subject of conversation here,’ writes Leopold to his son, ‘is your opera.’ The first performance took place on January 29, and as the Archbishop was then staying in Vienna, Leopold and Marianne journeyed to Munich to witness Wolfgang’s triumph. It was a proud and happy moment for all three, and the enthusiastic applause which shook the theatre at the close of the performance must have seemed to the old father, who stood gazing with swimming eyes at the sea of waving hands around him, to set the seal of greatness upon his son’s career.
Mozart was soon, however, to taste the bitterness of his bondage by receiving orders from the Archbishop to attend him in Vienna. From the moment of his arrival the arrogant ecclesiastic gave him to understand that, except when his services were required for his master’s glorification, he would be expected to take his place amongst the servants of the household, to dine at their table, and to receive the like treatment and consideration. The indignities to which he was subjected beneath the Archbishop’s roof, however, did not for a time prevent Mozart from feeling happy, for the aristocracy as a body welcomed him with enthusiasm, and invited him to their houses to dine. To Hieronymus, on the other hand, who was cordially detested by the nobility, and especially by the Emperor Joseph, the fact that one of his musicians—a mere domestic of his establishment—was made the object of all this attention on the part of the great people of Vienna, was in itself sufficient to rekindle the hatred which he had always felt towards Mozart. It was a purely selfish feeling which had induced the Archbishop to reattach Mozart to his Court; and now, when he found that requests were flowing in from the nobility to be allowed to hear the composer play at their own houses, where Hieronymus himself was far from being a welcome guest, he gave full rein to his spite, with the result that Mozart’s life speedily became unbearable.
The culminating point was reached when the Emperor purposely left the Archbishop out of the list of guests invited to his summer residence at Laxenburg. Enraged at the slight thus offered to him, Hieronymus before leaving Vienna sought to gratify a portion of his revenge by turning Mozart from his doors. Mozart had just before made up his mind to quit the Archbishop’s service, for his treatment had of late become unendurable, and there was every prospect of his being able to make a living in Vienna. He now requested an audience for the purpose of ascertaining his position. Hieronymus seized the occasion for showering upon the head of his Concertmeister all the abuse which he could summon to his aid. Calling him ‘villain,’ ‘low wretch,’ ‘low fellow of the streets,’ the Archbishop declared that none of his servants treated him so badly. ‘Your Grace is dissatisfied with me, then?’ said Mozart. ‘What! you dare to employ threats! Fex! there is the door! I will have nothing more to do with such a vile wretch!’ ‘Nor I with, you,’ was Mozart’s retort, as he quitted the room.
Mozart was now virtually free from the intolerable burden under which he had suffered, but his actual discharge was not obtained without further indignity and insult. Leopold Mozart received the news of the rupture with alarm, and endeavoured to induce Wolfgang to reconsider his decision not to return to Salzburg. But even though an official acceptance of his resignation was not then forthcoming, Mozart made a stand for his independence. ‘Do not ask it,’ he wrote to his father in reply. ‘Demand of me anything but that. The very thought of it makes me tremble with rage. I hate the Archbishop almost to frenzy!’
We must pass over the time of struggle which followed the severance of Mozart’s connection with the Archbishop, when he found himself with only a single pupil as a visible means of support, but, fortunately, not without friends, and come to the point when, for the second time, he fell in love. He was lodging with his old friends the Webers. Fridolin Weber was dead; Aloysia had married, and was well known as a professional singer; and Madame Weber, with her two unmarried daughters, was living, in reduced circumstances, in Vienna. Mozart’s prospects had greatly improved, for his latest opera, ‘Entführung aus dem Serail,’ had brought him increased fame, both in Vienna and in Prague, and he had secured the patronage of many distinguished personages, in addition to that of the Emperor Joseph. Bachelorhood to him now seemed insupportable. ‘To my mind,’ he says in a letter to his father, ‘a bachelor lives only half a life,’ and so he had determined to marry. The object of his choice was Constanze Weber, the third daughter, and, despite Leopold’s remonstrances, Mozart made her his bride on August 16, 1782.
His marriage marked the beginning of a new era of struggle, for Constanze, though a devoted wife, was incapable of managing a home, and as their means were uncertain to start with, they were soon involved in a sea of monetary troubles, from which there seemed to be no prospect of their extricating themselves. An unpropitious note had been struck on the very day of the wedding, when it must have appeared to Mozart that he had committed a crime in robbing the family of one of its members. ‘As soon as we were married,’ he wrote to his father, ‘my wife and I both began to weep. All present, even the priest, were touched at seeing us so moved, and wept too.’
With the friends and influence which Mozart’s genius had ranged upon his side it was hoped that a post of importance would by this time have been found for him in Vienna. The bestowal of a Court appointment would have relieved him of much of the drudgery of teaching and the anxiety of tiding over periods when pupils and engagements were scarce, but the Emperor, despite his sincere interest in all that concerned the composer, showed a seeming disinclination to make a proposal. Yet there could be no doubt of the appreciation in which Mozart was held at the Court, for in a letter to his father at this time he quotes a remark made by Prince Kaunitz to the Archduke Maximilian on the subject of the Emperor’s inaction with regard to retaining Mozart’s services: ‘That men of that stamp only came into the world once in a hundred years, and that they ought not to be driven out of Germany, especially when, as good luck would have it, they were already in the capital.’
Mozart was, indeed, seriously contemplating a journey to London and Paris, and had even begun to make his preparations, but his father’s urgent appeals for patience and further effort had the effect of postponing for the time the carrying out of his schemes. In the meantime Mozart seized the opportunity for which he had been longing of paying a visit to Salzburg to present Constanze to his father, and at the same time of fulfilling a vow which he had made that, if Constanze became his wife, he would have a Mass composed by him for the occasion performed in her honour. It was, on the whole, a very happy visit, and later on, when Mozart and his wife had once more settled down in Vienna, they had the pleasure of welcoming the father on a return visit. Leopold found his son immersed in work, and it gladdened his heart to witness the appreciation in which his playing and compositions were held. One never-to-be-forgotten evening they spent together in the company of Haydn, when, after hearing several of Mozart’s quartets performed, Leopold was made the happy recipient of a testimony to his son’s greatness, which he treasured above all else that had been spoken or written in his favour, and which came as a fitting reward for the unremitting care and solicitude which he had bestowed upon Mozart’s welfare and training. Haydn took the old man aside at the close of the evening, and said: ‘I declare to you before God as a man of honour that your son is the greatest composer that I know, either personally or by reputation. He has taste, and, beyond that, the most consummate knowledge of the art of composition.’
This pleasant time was rendered the happier by the fact that Leopold found Wolfgang and his wife in somewhat better circumstances, and their home brightened by the presence of a little grandson, Karl, who clambered upon his grandfather’s knee, and filled the old man’s mind with tender recollections of a little son whom he had lost before Wolfgang’s birth. But it was destined to be the last meeting between Mozart and his father, for shortly after Leopold’s return he was seized with illness, on hearing of which Wolfgang wrote to him a letter, in which he expressed his own views on death. ‘As death, strictly speaking, is the true end and aim of our lives, I have accustomed myself during the last two years to so close a contemplation of this, our best and truest friend, that he possesses no more terrors for me—nothing but peace and consolation. And I thank God for enabling me to discern in death the key to our true blessedness. I never lie down in bed without remembering that, perhaps, young as I am, I may never see another day, and yet no one who knows me can say that I am melancholy or fanciful. For this blessing I thank God daily, and desire nothing more than to share it with my fellow-men.’
The news of his father’s death, which occurred on May 28, 1787, reached Mozart shortly after he had accomplished one of the greatest successes of his life. The name of his latest opera, ‘Le Nozze di Figaro,’ was on every one’s lips; its performances in Vienna and Prague had been hailed with enthusiastic delight by crowded audiences; its songs were to be heard in every street, and wandering minstrels in the country, as they halted at the village alehouses, were compelled to satisfy their groups of listeners with selections from its entrancing airs. Michael Kelly, the singer and friend of Mozart, who took part in the opera, has thus described its reception by the orchestra and performers: ‘Never was anything more complete than the triumph of Mozart, and his “Nozze di Figaro,” to which numerous overflowing audiences bore witness. Even at the first full-band rehearsal all present were roused to enthusiasm, and when Benucci came to the fine passage, “Cherubino, alla vittoria, alla gloria militar,” which he gave with stentorian lungs, the effect was electric, for the whole of the performers on the stage, and those in the orchestra, as if actuated by one feeling of delight, vociferated, “Bravo! bravo! Maestro! Viva, viva, grande Mozart!” Those in the orchestra I thought would never have ceased applauding by beating the bows of their violins against the music-desks.’ As for Mozart himself: ‘I never shall forget his little animated countenance when lighted up with the glowing rays of genius; it is as impossible to describe it as it would be to paint sunbeams.’
Despite the success of ‘Figaro’ Mozart still remained a poor man—still was he compelled to earn a living by the hated drudgery of teaching. ‘You happy man,’ he said to a young musician who was leaving for a tour in Italy; ‘as for me, I am off now to give a lesson to earn my bread.’ The desire to visit England was once more uppermost in his mind, and when the Emperor, with a view to retaining him in Germany, appointed him Kammer-compositor at a salary of eight hundred gulden (about eighty pounds sterling), it must have occurred to many besides Mozart himself that such a ‘beggarly dole’ but poorly represented the value which his Majesty professed to set upon the composer’s services to art. This feeling was accentuated in Mozart when he discovered how trivial were the requirements of his royal master in connection with the position. ‘Too much for what I produce, too little for what I could produce,’ were the bitter words which he penned on the official return stating the amount of his salary.
The ‘beggarly dole,’ indeed, brought small relief to the domestic anxieties which now more than ever oppressed Mozart and his wife. The latter’s ill-health necessitated frequent change of air, and in this way tended to increase their embarrassments. Applications to friends for assistance became more and more numerous. ‘I am still most unfortunate,’ he writes in one of these appeals. ‘Always hovering between hope and anxiety.’ Repeated attempts were made at reform. Mozart even commenced to keep strict accounts of their expenditure, but they came to nothing, for the want of management was always apparent in every detail of his domestic life. Yet, despite all, the merry side of Mozart’s nature refused to succumb to the stress of adversity; amidst his difficulties he retained the sunshine of his boyish days, being as merry-hearted, and full of jokes, and as open as a child. One winter day an old friend found him and his wife dancing madly about the room; knowing Mozart’s fondness for this pastime—his favourite of all forms of amusement—the friend expressed his pleasure at finding them so light-hearted, when Mozart, pointing to the empty stove, explained that they were dancing in order to keep themselves warm, as they had no money to purchase fuel. Horror-struck, the caller darted from the house, and returned in a few minutes with his arms laden with logs.
To some extent a natural leaning to extravagance may be held accountable for Mozart’s embarrassments, for he was extremely fond of dress, and had a great weakness for lace and watch-chains. But if he indulged his tastes overmuch in this particular, he was no less lavish in regard to giving where he thought help was needed. He could never turn a deaf ear to the appeal of a beggar, and his kindness was frequently imposed upon; even when monetary help was not forthcoming to meet the request of a brother-musician, he would contrive to find time amidst the pressure of his own work to compose a concerto for the latter’s benefit. To the animal world, also, his affectionate nature went forth in no small degree, and he became deeply attached to a starling, which had learnt to pipe the subject of the Rondo of his ‘Pianoforte Concerto in G Major.’
And if his distresses failed to diminish his joy in the very fact of living, even less did they affect his powers of work. His father had declared that ‘procrastination was his besetting sin,’ and Mozart was certainly given to putting off the evil day as far as possible; but no one knew better than Leopold Mozart himself how tireless was Mozart’s industry, or how boundless his powers of coping with a gigantic task which he had set his mind to accomplish. When, in September, 1787, he was at Prague, writing the score of ‘Don Giovanni,’ his favourite resort was the vineyard belonging to his friend Duschek, situated close to the city; here he would be seated at his work whilst conversation or skittle-playing went on around him, often quitting his task to join in one or the other. The time was short, for the opera was to be produced on October 29, and when the evening of the 28th arrived it found the overture still unwritten. Nothing daunted, however, Mozart bade his wife brew him some punch, and bring her book of fairy-stories, and then, for hour after hour, he wrote on, whilst Constanze read aloud to keep him awake. When sleep could no longer be resisted he lay down for an hour or two, but when the copyist came for the score at seven o’clock in the morning it was ready for him. His musical memory was so marvellous that the merest scraps of notes, jotted down whilst driving, conversing, or soothing his wife in her pain, were sufficient to recall to mind without the slightest effort the exact ideas which he desired to reproduce. An entire work would thus be completed in his brain before he began to write a single note on paper, and it was no unusual thing for him to be thinking out a second part whilst writing down the first. ‘He never composed at the clavier,’ says his wife, in speaking of his manner of work, ‘but wrote music like letters, and never tried a movement until it was finished.’
The limits of our story forbid even a mention of the compositions which made up the life-work of Mozart; the few to which we have found space to refer are those connected with the chief episodes of his career. Much less can we convey an idea of his powers of improvisation. Hours snatched from sleep would be spent at the piano, and into the silence of the night drifted many a divine melody which no ear but his own was destined to hear. One who lived to be eighty, speaking of those wonderful improvisations, says: ‘I still, in my old age, seem to hear the echo of those heavenly harmonies, and I go to my grave with the full conviction that there can never be another Mozart.’
It was at such times that the inspiration of true genius shone forth in his expression. Ordinarily there was nothing distinguished about his appearance; the head, with its profusion of fine hair, was somewhat too large for the body, which was short and slim; the face was pale, and the nose a rather too prominent feature; the eyes were large, well-shaped, and shaded by long lashes and bushy eyebrows, but the expression was absent and restless. When seated at the piano, however, the whole countenance changed; the eye became calm and fixed, and every movement of his muscles spoke the emotion which his playing expressed.
Even the success of ‘Don Giovanni’—at the performance of which the Prague audience greeted Mozart’s appearance in the orchestra with thunders of applause and a triple flourish of trumpets—failed to remedy the desperate condition into which his affairs had fallen; and when his pupil and patron, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, proposed that he should accompany him to Berlin, Mozart gladly accepted the invitation. The visit, however, was productive of much honour, but very little money, and at its conclusion he wrote to his wife: ‘On my return you must be glad to have me, and not think about money.’ The King of Prussia received Mozart with every mark of kindness and respect, and being himself very musical, and desirous of having the best musicians about him, he sought Mozart’s advice regarding the proficiency of his band. ‘It contains some great players,’ replied Mozart; ‘but if the gentlemen would play together they would make a better effect.’ The King was evidently much impressed by this remark, for before Mozart left he offered him the post of Capellmeister, with a salary of three thousand thalers (equal to about six hundred pounds sterling). Mozart was deeply affected by the munificent offer, and for the moment he hardly knew how to reply; then, reflecting how much he owed to the Emperor Joseph for the latter’s friendship and interest, he said: ‘How could I abandon my good Emperor?’
Though his loyalty had thus withstood the temptation of an offer which, if accepted, would have ensured his liberation from the ‘net of embarrassments’ in which he was so hopelessly entangled, the feeling of resistance weakened later on, when his return to Vienna revealed no improvement in the situation of affairs. Yielding therefore to the advice of others, he told the Emperor of the King of Prussia’s offer, and at the same time tendered his resignation. Dismayed by this unlooked-for resolution, the Emperor exclaimed: ‘What, Mozart, do you mean to forsake me?’ The tone in which this remonstrance was uttered, and the expression which accompanied it had their effect upon the tender-hearted, grateful Mozart, and with emotion he answered: ‘Your Majesty, I throw myself upon your kindness—I remain.’
Thus perished the only chance which was destined to fall within Mozart’s grasp of freeing himself from his troubles, for soon afterwards the Emperor fell ill and died, and no renewal of the Berlin offer was forthcoming.
The coronation of the Emperor Joseph’s successor, the Emperor Leopold, took place at Frankfort, on October 9, 1790, and Mozart journeyed thither for the occasion, having first pawned all his valuables in order to raise the necessary funds. Whatever hopes Mozart may have built upon the results of this tour were doomed to disappointment, for though he visited and played at several towns on his return journey, and was the recipient of numerous honours, his efforts produced no permanent fruit, and the horizon remained as dark as ever. His arrival in Vienna was timed with the departure of Haydn, whom Salomon, the impressario, had come to carry off to London, and it was with a heart heavy with gloomy forebodings that Mozart said good-bye to his truest friend.
The month of July, 1791, found Mozart hard at work writing a magic opera to help a friend who had taken a little theatre in the suburb of Wieden. Whilst thus engaged he was visited by a stranger, ‘a tall, thin grave-looking man, dressed from head to foot in grey,’ who refused to divulge his name, but stated that his business was to commission Mozart to compose a Requiem for a personage whose identity must likewise remain concealed. After a brief colloquy the terms were arranged, and the mysterious stranger rose to take his leave. As he did so he looked fixedly at Mozart, and said warningly: ‘Make no effort to discover the identity either of myself or your patron; it will be in vain.’
Though somewhat disconcerted by the stranger’s mysterious injunction, Mozart felt all his love for Church music reawakened by the new commission, and he set to work upon the Requiem without delay. His labours on this composition, as well as on the magic opera, however, were interrupted by a pressing request from the Estates of Bohemia that he would compose an opera for the coronation of Leopold II. at Prague. As the ceremony was fixed for September 6 no time was to be lost, and, banishing every other thought from his mind, Mozart prepared to set out at once for Prague. The travelling carriage was at the door, and he was about to step into it when the mysterious stranger suddenly appeared, and inquired after the Requiem. Startled by the suddenness of the man’s appearance, and at a loss to explain his remissness, Mozart could only promise to fulfil the commission on his return, and, hastily entering his carriage, he drove away.
The strain involved by his arduous labours at Prague was increased by the indifference with which his opera, ‘La Clemenza di Tito,’ was received, and Mozart returned to Vienna with spirits depressed, and mind and body exhausted by overwork. Nevertheless, he braced himself anew, and on September 30 the new opera, ‘Die Zauberflöte’ (the Magic Flute) was produced. Though somewhat coldly received at first, the work increased in popularity at each subsequent representation, until its success was everything that could be desired. A friend who had a place in the orchestra on the first performance relates that he was so enchanted with the overture that he crept up to the chair in which Mozart sat conducting, and, seizing the composer’s hand, pressed it to his lips. Mozart glanced kindly at him, and, extending his right hand, gently stroked his cheek.
The Requiem was still far from finished, and to this work Mozart now turned his attention. But it was too late; the strain and excitement which he had undergone during the past few months had done their work, a succession of fainting fits followed, and it was evident that the marvellous powers which he had controlled in the past were no longer under his command. With fast-fleeting strength came the oppressive thought, haunting him from day to day, that he would not live to complete the work. ‘It is for myself that I am writing this Requiem,’ he said one day to Constanze, whilst his eyes filled with tears. Vainly she endeavoured to comfort him; he declared that he felt his end approaching, and, indeed, death—the ‘best and truest friend’—was very near him now, far nearer than they who gathered about his bed, and sought to cheer him with the news that his freedom from anxiety was at last to be assured by the combined action of the nobility in securing to him an annuity—far nearer than they, or other well-wishers, whose tardy recognition of his claims had come too late, imagined. He who had ‘always hovered between hope and anxiety’ was now hovering between life and death, soon to be released from all earthly travail.
On the evening of December 4 they brought the score of the Requiem to him at his request, and, propped up by pillows, he began to sing one of the passages, in company with three of his friends. They had not proceeded far, however, before Mozart laid the manuscript aside, and, bursting into tears, declared that it would never be finished. A few hours later, at one o’clock in the morning of December 5, 1791, he passed away in sleep.
The body was removed from the house on the following day, and taken to St. Stephen’s Church, where it received benediction. The hearse, with the few mourners, then proceeded to St. Mark’s Churchyard, but before the burial-place was reached a terrific storm of snow and rain burst overhead, and with one accord the followers turned back, and left the hearse to proceed alone. And thus the master of whom it was prophesied that he would cause all others to be forgotten—he whose triumphs had caused him to be acclaimed by thousands as ‘grande Mozart’—was left to be buried by the hands of strangers in a pauper’s grave, without even a stone to mark the spot where he was laid.
And to this day no one knows exactly which is the resting-place of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
From STORY-LIVES OF GREAT MUSICIANS by Francis Jameson Rowbotham
MOZART’S PRINCIPAL COMPOSITIONS
Bastien und Bastienne. 1768.
La finta Semplice. 1768.
Mitridate, Ré di Ponto. 1770.
Ascanio in Alba. 1771.
La finta Giardiniera. 1774.
Il Ré Pastore. 1775.
King Thamos. 1780.[The three motets, ‘Splendente Te Deus,’ ‘Ne pulvis et cinis,’ and ‘Deus Tibi laus et honor,’ are adaptations from this work.]
Idomeneo, Ré di Creta. 1781.
Die Entführung aus dem Serail. 1782.
Der Schauspieldirector. 1786.
Le Nozze di Figaro. 1786.
Il Don Giovanni. 1787.
Cosi fan tutte. 1790.
Die Zauberflöte. 1791.
La Clemenza di Tito. 1791.
15 Masses (1768-1783) and 1 Requiem (1791).[The masses published by Novello as No. 7 (B♭), No. 8 (C), No. 9 (G), No. 12 (G), Nos. 13 and 16 (E♭—one Mass), and No. 17 (C), are not considered authentic. The same may be said of the Requiem in D minor (No. 18). The celebrated Requiem (also in D minor, Novello, No. 15) was completed by Süssmayer after Mozart’s death. The well-known Novello No. 1 (in C) and No. 2 (also in C) were composed in 1779 and 1776.]
4 Litanies.2 Vespers. 1779 and 1780. [The ‘Laudate Dominum’ (in A) of the earlier setting is well known.]
Te Deum in C. 1772.
Motet, Ave verum. 1791.
Cantata, Davidde Penitente. 1785.
41 Arias for different voices.
6 Vocal Trios and 1 Quartet.
41 Symphonies.[The earliest symphony was in E♭ (1764). Mention may also be made of three in the key of D—the Parisian (1778), the Haffner (1782), and the Prague (1786)—and of his three last and greatest—in E♭, G minor, and C, the Jupiter—all composed in 1788.]
31 Divertimenti, Serenades, etc.
Masonic Dirge in C minor. 1785.
8 Quintets for strings.
1 Quintet for clarinet and strings. 1789.
26 Quartets for strings. 1770-1790.[The six quartets dedicated to Haydn were composed in 1782-85.]
6 Concertos for violin.
4 Concertos for horn.
1 Concerto for clarinet. 1791.
25 Concertos for pianoforte.[We may mention the Concerto in D (1773), in D minor (1784), that in G (1784), two in C (1784 and 1786), and one in C minor (1786).]
Concerto for two pianofortes in E♭. 1780.
Concerto for three pianofortes in F. 1776.
2 Quartets for pianoforte and strings.
7 Trios for pianoforte and strings.
42 Sonatas for pianoforte and violin.[The sonata in B♭, dedicated to Mlle. Strinasacchi, was composed in 1784.]
17 Sonatas for pianoforte solo.
5 Sonatas for pianoforte, four hands.
Rondo in A minor for pianoforte. 1787.
17 Sonatas for organ, with accompaniment.