Various.

Famous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 online

. (page 4 of 32)
Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 4 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


the inventor and at which the musical world still marvelled. It is, with
all its faults, an amazing work for a man not far from three-score and ten
years of age; and it may still be listened to with pleasure, when the last
part is omitted; for the wooings and cooings of Adam and Eve have become
incurably old-fashioned; and the grace, melodiousness and tenderness of
the music do not atone for its monotonous effect and its lack of dramatic
color.

"The Seasons," by its well sustained pastoral tone, its fresh and
cheerful melodies, the fidelity with which the composer has adhered to
the spirit of his poem, and the simple grace of style that marks the work
throughout, make it still delightful in the hearing when it is produced
with care and in harmony with the chaste sentiment that pervades it.
When it is remembered that the composer compassed this work at the age
of 69, and consequently near the end of a busy life whose active pursuit
might well have exhausted his capacity to invent, its wealth of melody is
astonishing. And yet, he said to Michael Kelly, "It is the tune which is
the charm of music, and it is that which is most difficult to produce." In
our day it would seem that tune is exhausted or that it is more difficult
to produce than it was. In this connection another saying of Haydn's may
be reproduced for the felicity with which it applies to the present time:
"Where so many young composers fail is, that they string together a number
of fragments and break off almost as soon as they have begun; so that at
the end the hearer carries away no clear impression." By omitting the word
"young," the words will not be any the less true now.

Of Haydn's lighter vocal works there is no need to speak, for they have
passed away forever. His operas have been wholly forgotten, and not
unkindly. It is, however, as an instrumental composer that Haydn is
entitled to the most earnest consideration. In this field of his industry
he has left an imperishable name. He was, to all intents and purposes, the
creator of orchestral music. His place in musical history is among the
greatest in his art. He broke with pedantry at the outset of his career,
enlarged the scope and dignified the aim of music, and made the world the
happier for his presence and in the rich legacy he left it. Music has
changed greatly since his day, and in its progress it has departed widely
and is still departing, even more widely, from the conditions in which he
left it; but in all its changes it has left his position unassailed. His
best achievements in his art are yet listened to with delight, despite
the richer orchestration and the larger design that characterize the
music of our time. He has outlived every mutation thus far, and it is
perhaps not overbold to prophesy that his fame will endure long after the
vague, restless and labored music that is peculiar to the present era, is
forgotten. The moral of his life is devotion to art for art's sake. He was
loyal to it through poverty, suffering and disappointment, never doubting
his mission on earth. His early career was through tears, but as Heine
says: "The artist is the child in the fable, every one of whose tears was
a pearl. Ah! the world, that cruel step-mother, beats the poor child the
harder, to make him shed more tears."

[Illustration: B. E. Woolf.]

[Illustration: FRESCO IN THE VIENNA OPERA HOUSE

Illustrating Haydn's Oratorio of "The Creation."]

[Illustration: WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

_Reproduction of a photograph taken by Hanfstängl from an original
silver crayon (Silberstift) portrait, drawn by Dora Stock in 1789
at Dresden, during Mozart's visit - two years before his death. The
artist was a daughter-in-law of Mozart's friend Körner, the father
of the poet Theo. Körner. This portrait, though quite different from
the more familiar pictures, is the best and most characteristic life
portrait of Mozart in his later years. The date 1787 is incorrect._
]

[Illustration: MOZART]




[Illustration]




WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART


Johann Georg Mozart, the grandfather of the great composer, was a
bookbinder. He lived in Augsburg, and in 1708 he married Anna Maria
Peterin, the widow of a fellow-handicraftsman named Banneger. By her he
had five children, and the youngest boy was Johann Georg Leopold, the
author of the "Violin School" and the father of Wolfgang, the immortal
composer.

Leopold Mozart was a man of no ordinary parts. His face is known to us
by the engraving from the portrait painted by the amateur Carmontelle
in Paris, 1763, and by the family group in the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
It is an honest face, keen, austere; a mocking jest might have passed
the lips, but neither flatteries nor lies. His tastes were simple, his
life was ever free from dissipation. In money matters he was regarded
as close, and the reproach has been made by some that he acted as a
Barnum towards his two precocious children. The reproach is unjust. The
man was poor. His earnings were small. He needed money to pay his debts
and support his family. But no specific charge of meanness or avarice
has been substantiated. On the other hand he was scrupulously honest,
sincere in the duties of his profession, and of a profoundly religious
nature that was shown in profession and practice. At the same time he
was not a bigot. He would not yield to the tyranny of priests; he was
free from superstition of every sort; his sane spirit and his bitter wit
were exercised in spiritual as well as temporal affairs. Grimm, who was
no mean judge of men, wrote of him as follows: "The father is not only a
skilful musician, but a man of good sense and ready wit, and I have never
seen a man of his profession who was at the same time so talented and of
such sterling worth." As a musician he was thorough, well educated, and a
composer of merit. His treatise upon violin playing was known throughout
Europe, and it showed the solid qualities of the musician and the ironical
temperament of the man. All of his gifts were used, however, chiefly in
directing and developing most wisely the extraordinary genius of the young
Wolfgang. The affection shown him, however, was lavished equally upon his
wife and other children.

Salzburg is a town renowned for its beauty. "To see it shining in the sun,
with its large white façades, its flat roofs, its terraces, its church and
convent cupolas, its fountains, one would take it for an Italian city."
The advantages of its natural situation and the artifical charms of the
place were, if the opinion of the eighteenth century may be accepted,
only equalled by the stupidity of the inhabitants. There was a German
proverb that ran as follows: "He who comes to Salzburg grows foolish
the first year, becomes an idiot the second; but it is not until the
third year that he is a Salzburger." The German Harlequin _Hanswurst_,
however, was a Salzburg creation; and the inhabitants were fond of heavy
and coarse jokes. No wonder then that the town and the society were
distasteful to Leopold Mozart. He left his birthplace to study law in
Salzburg; and in 1743 he entered the service of the Archbishop Sigismund,
as a court-musician. Later he became court-composer and leader of the
orchestra; in 1762 he was second Kapellmeister. In 1747 he married Anna
Maria Pertl or Bertl. She was the daughter of the steward of a hospital.
She was very beautiful, good natured, loving, and of limited education.
Seven children were born of this marriage. Five died at a very early age.
The fourth, Maria Anna (born July 30, 1751), was familiarly known as
"Nannerl," and she was a musical prodigy. The seventh and last was born
at eight o'clock in the evening, Jan. 27, 1756, and the mother nearly
died in the child-bed. According to the certificate of baptism, he was
named Joannes-Chrysostomus-Wolfgangus-Theophilus. His first compositions
published in Paris in 1764 are signed J. G. Wolfgang. Later works bear the
name Wolfgang Amade. In private life he was known as Wolfgang. Variations
sometimes found in the biographies come from the fact that Theophilus and
Amadeus and Gottlieb are but one and the same name.

Schachtner, the court trumpeter, and a house-friend of the father,
preserved for us in a letter written to Mozart's sister many interesting
details of the early manifestations of the boy's genius. At the age of
three he sought thirds upon the keys of the pianoforte. At the age of
four his father began to teach him little pieces. When he was five he
dictated minuets to his father, which are of natural but correct harmony,
melodious and even characteristic. The first of these minuets is given
herewith. These are not legends, but well attested facts. Four minuets and
an allegro have been published by Otto Jahn in the second edition of his
"Mozart." Singular indeed are some of the stories related. Up to the age
of ten he could not endure the sound or sight of the trumpet. He wrote a
pianoforte concerto, clearly conceived, but of unsurmountable difficulty,
when he was four. His sense of pitch was extraordinary. The father watched
this astounding precocity with loving fear and prayed that he might be
wise enough to direct it.

[Music: MOZART'S FIRST COMPOSITION.

Minuet.]

[Illustration: VIEW OF SALZBURG.

From a photograph.]

[Illustration: MOZART IN HIS SIXTH YEAR.

The court dress was sent to him by the Empress Maria Theresa. Painter
unknown. Original in the Mozarteum in Salzburg. This is the earliest
portrait of Mozart.]

In 1762 Wolfgang and Maria Anna - the latter was now a pianoforte
virtuoso - played before the Elector of Bavaria in Munich, and the
enthusiasm provoked by their appearance was so great, that Leopold
obtained leave of absence in September of the same year and went with his
family to Vienna. At Passau the children played before the Bishop, who
marvelled greatly and gave the father a ducat. At Linz they gave their
first concert. They then descended the Danube to Vienna, stopping at the
monastery of Ips, where Wolfgang played so effectively upon the organ that
the Franciscan fathers left the dinner table that they might hear him;
which miracle is doubtless recorded in the annals of the abbey.

[Illustration: MOZART IN HIS NINTH YEAR.

Original in the Mozarteum, in Salzburg. On the bottom of the music - "Th.
Helbling juv. pinx."]

The Austrian imperial family was passionately fond of music. Francis the
First was a distinguished connoisseur, and Maria Theresa was a pupil of
Wagenseil, as well as an accomplished singer. The Mozart children were
received with open arms. The courtiers were astonished at the display of
genius. The Emperor spent hours in testing and wondering at the powers of
Wolfgang. The young Marie Antoinette romped with the boy who promised to
marry her when he was old enough.

[Illustration: MOZART IN HIS TENTH YEAR.

Painted by Dominicus van der Smissen, 1766. The original in possession of
Mr. R. Hörner, in Ulm.]

The noble families of the town vied with each other in their attentions.
The children were given money, court dresses, and tokens of genuine
affection, and the first portrait of Wolfgang was painted then in Vienna,
in which he has powdered hair, and he carries a sword. The boy was seized
with scarlet fever in October, and in the beginning of 1763 Leopold went
back to Salzburg. But the 9th of June of the same year, with his wife and
children, he set out for Paris, having letters of credit from his good
friend Haguenauer. They had adventures, and they gave concerts on the way.
They arrived at Ludwigsburg, the Versailles of Stuttgart, where Jomelli,
with his carriages and horses, houses and yearly salary of four thousand
florins, brought to Leopold's mind his own modest condition, and provoked
him to bitter remarks. Frankfort, Bonn and Brussels were seen, and finally
the family arrived in Paris the 18th of November. The story of this
visit, as well as the visit of 1778, has been most entertainingly told by
Jullien in the brochure "Mozart à Paris," to which the reader is referred
for interesting details. The letters of Leopold contain much curious
information about the musical condition of the city. Frederick Melchior
Grimm, who was regarded as an authority, exerted himself most actively
in the behalf of his compatriots. They were presented at Court; they were
celebrated in prose and in verse; their portraits were painted; and four
sonatas "pour le clavecin" were engraved and published. In April, 1764,
Leopold left Paris for London, by Calais, Dover, and he took with him the
opinion that French music and French morals were detestable. In England
the family were received most kindly by the King and the Queen, who, as
is well known, were passionate amateurs of music. The curiosity of the
Londoners to hear the children was great; the learned Daines Barrington
proved the genius of Wolfgang in many ways, and then made it the subject
of a letter preserved in the annals of the "Philosophical Transactions"
of the year 1770; and guineas chinked pleasantly together in Leopold's
pocket. Here Wolfgang wrote three symphonies, four according to Jahn and
Koechel, but Wilder gives good reasons for doubting the date of the one
in B-flat major. He also dedicated six sonatas for pianoforte and violin
or flute to the Queen. His London visit benefited his education. Pohl in
his interesting and valuable "Mozart in London" gives a full account of
the condition of music at the time. Wolfgang had an opportunity of hearing
Handel's oratorios and Italian opera; he became intimate with Christian
Bach; he heard the castrate Tenducci, the master of cantabile; he took
singing lessons of the famous male soprano Manzuoli. In July 1765 Leopold
and the children started for the Hague; at Lille, Wolfgang was seriously
ill, and at the Hague the sister was attacked by a violent fever. Wolfgang
wrote while in Holland six sonatas and other pieces. After passing through
Paris and Swiss towns, the family arrived at Salzburg in November, 1766.
Wolfgang was pleased at seeing again his favorite cat, and then under his
father's direction he began the study of the "Gradus" of Fux. In 1767 he
learned Latin and set to Latin words a comedy, "Apollo et Hyacinthus," at
the instigation of the Archbishop, who had hitherto played the part of
doubting Thomas. He also wrote four pianoforte concertos for his own use
in concerts.

[Illustration: MOZART IN HIS FOURTEENTH YEAR.

Painted in Verona, Jan. 6 and 7, 1770. Painter unknown.]

Leopold was not blind to the fact that Italy was the home of great
composers and illustrious singers; that its atmosphere was stimulating
to musical thought; that its very name was synonymous with music. Under
pretext of a short visit to Vienna, he made his excuses to the Archbishop
and started, in September, 1767, with his family on a longer journey. In
Vienna, the children were seized with small-pox, and it was not until
January, 1768, that they were able to enter into the musical life of the
town. They heard Gluck's "Alceste," and Leopold preferred to it Hasse's
"Partenope." Joseph II., a man of frugal mind, demanded of Wolfgang
an opera for his theatre, and the boy wrote "La Finta Simplice," an
opera-buffa in three acts. It won the unqualified praise of the singers
and such composers as Hasse, but the cabal against Wolfgang was too
strong, and the opera was not given. "Bastien und Bastienne," an opera in
one act, was written immediately after, and produced with great applause
in the house of a Vienna doctor. (The pastoral theme of the instrumental
introduction, the intrada, anticipates in a singular manner the opening of
Beethoven's Third Symphony.) Wolfgang's first mass was given in public,
and he himself directed. The Archbishop of Salzburg sent word to Leopold
that his pay would continue only while he was actually in Salzburg, and so
the family returned home. But the Italian journey was still in Leopold's
head, and hoping to pay the expenses of the trip by giving concerts, he
started out with Wolfgang in December, 1769. At Roveredo and Verona, the
enthusiasm of the people was unbounded; at Milan they met the generous Von
Firmian, who was the means of procuring a contract for Wolfgang to write
an opera for the Christmas holidays; at Bologna they became acquainted
with Father Martini and Farinelli; at Florence, Wolfgang met his friend
Manzuoli and Thomas Linley, the English violinist of his own age; and in
Holy Week they were at Rome, and they heard the Allegri _Miserere_. The
story of the boy memorizing this famous composition at a hearing, writing
it out, and correcting it after a second hearing, is familiar to all.
The feat provoked the wildest curiosity to see him, and he was looked
at superstitiously, just as, soon after, at Naples his virtuosoship was
attributed to a ring worn upon a finger of the left hand. The concerts
in these towns refilled the drained purse; in 1770, the pope ennobled
the boy, giving him the cross of the Golden Spur; and he was received
into the famous _accademia filarmonica_ of Bologna. Meanwhile Wolfgang
was considering the opera promised for Milan, and the 26th of December,
1770, "Mitridate, re di Ponto" was produced and received with unbounded
enthusiasm. It was given twenty times, and the impresario hastened to make
a new contract with the _cavaliere filarmonico_, as the Milanese called
him. Father and son then visited Turin and Venice, and about this time
Wolfgang probably wrote the oratorio "Betulia liberata." In the spring
of 1771 they returned to Salzburg, where they found a letter from Count
Firmian asking for a pastorale to celebrate the wedding of the Archduke
Ferdinand with the Princess Beatrice of Modena. And now the boy fell in
love with a woman ten years his elder. She was betrothed to another, and
her marriage and Wolfgang's return to Milan in August ended the affair.
Although in the house where he lodged, violinists, a singing teacher, and
an oboe player plied assiduously their business, Wolfgang finished the
promised composition, "Ascanio in Alba" in twelve days. It was first heard
October 17. Its success was so great that Hasse's opera "Ruggiero" was
neglected; and the kindly veteran simply said, "This young rascal will
cause us all to be forgotten."

[Illustration: HOUSE IN SALZBURG WHERE MOZART WAS BORN.

No. 9 Getreidegasse.]

About the time that Wolfgang returned home, December, 1771, Sigismund,
the Archbishop, died, and Hieronymus ruled in his stead. He was a man
of mean and tyrannical spirit, and his reputation had preceded him, so
that when he arrived in Salzburg he was received in gloomy silence.
Nevertheless there were festivities, and Wolfgang wrote "Il sogno di
Scipione," a composition unworthy of his pen. It was in this same year,
1772, that Dr. Charles Burney received a letter from a correspondent,
saying that the lad was still a pianoforte virtuoso of great merit, but
that as a composer he had reached his limit; and the writer then moralized
over musical precocities, comparing them to premature fruits. Yet at
this same epoch, Wolfgang wrote the celebrated Litany "de venerabile."
In November he visited Milan again to compose and put on the stage the
opera "Lucio Silla." There were many obstacles before and even during the
representation; but the success of the work was unquestioned. This was the
last opera written by Wolfgang for Italy. The impresarios were willing
and eager; but the Archbishop was reluctant in granting even ordinary
favors to his servant. And here is the end of the first period of Mozart's
musical career.

[Illustration: ROOM IN WHICH MOZART WAS BORN. - No. 9 GETREIDEGASSE,
SALZBURG, - THIRD FLOOR.

This and an adjoining room form at present the Mozart-Museum in which are
deposited all original family pictures, busts, autographs, compositions,
letters, etc. Also, the spinet and grand piano used by Mozart in his later
years.]

The next five years were passed without material change in the
circumstances of the family. There was a trip to Vienna during the absence
of Hieronymus; and in December, 1774, Wolfgang, having obtained permission
from the Archbishop, who did not dare to offend the Elector of Bavaria,
went to Munich to write or to finish and bring out an opera-buffa, "La
finta giardiniera," which had been ordered by Maximilian III., who in
earlier years was much interested in the child. The opera was produced
with brilliant success, Jan. 13, 1775, and his dear sister was present
to share in the joy of the composer. After Mozart's return to Salzburg,
Hieronymus received a visit from the Archduke Maximilian, the brother of
Marie Antoinette. It no doubt occurred to him that one of his servants,
who was paid, by the way, about $5.50 a month, was not earning his wages;
and so Mozart was requested to write an opera, "II re Pastore," in honor
of the imperial guest. This was performed in April, 1775, and this year
and the next were years of great fertility: music for the church, violin
concertos, divertimenti, serenades, organ sonatas, etc. He worked at the
violin to please his father, who had a high opinion of his ability in this
direction; and besides, one of his duties was to play at the court, a
duty that he detested. In spite of all this work, these days in Salzburg
dragged along, sad and monotonous. The social life of the town was slow
and stupid. Risbeck and other travelers have given us curious details.
"The sovereign," writes one, "goes a-hunting and to church; the nobles go
to church and hunt; the tradespeople eat, drink and pray; the rest pray,
drink and eat." No wonder that he shot sarcastic arrows at his fellow
townsmen. He poked fun at a lover of his sister who gaped at everything he
saw in Munich, "so that one could easily tell he had only seen Salzburg
and Innsbruck." He was never tired of telling of a Salzburgian who
complained that he could not judge Paris satisfactorily, "as the houses
were too high and shut off the horizon." "I detest Salzburg and everything
that is born in it. The tone and the manners of the people are utterly
unsupportable." He avoided society. Sundays, to be sure, with a few of his
own age, he played at pea-shooting; and he was fond of going occasionally
to balls. Nor did he associate willingly with the musicians. His father
hated the Italians in the orchestra; and the German musicians were so
fond of their cups that when Leopold went to Mannheim he was surprised at
the sobriety of the orchestra. He spent most of his time at home, fond
of a canary bird and a dog, teasing his sister about her lovers, adoring
his father and mother. Finally the father and son plucked up courage and
asked Hieronymus for a leave of absence. It was refused, with the remark
that he did not wish one of his servants going about begging from town
to town. With his father's permission Wolfgang then sent a letter asking
for his dismission. The vanity of the archbishop was hurt, and he was
furiously angry; "After all," he said, "it is only one musician the less."
As Leopold could not leave the town, he confided his son to the protection
of the mother, and after a sorrowful leave-taking the two started on their
journey Sept. 23, 1777. In the anxiety of the moment, the father forgot to
give the boy his blessing.

[Illustration: MOZART'S FAVORITE CONCERT PIANO, AND SPINET OR SMALL
CLAVICHORD, now on exhibition at the Mozarteum, in Salzburg.

The piano was used by Mozart during the last ten years of his life. It has
five octaves and was made by the celebrated Anton Walter. Its value was
estimated, after Mozart's death, at 80 florins (about $25) and it probably
sold for less. It came into the possession of Hummel, the composer and
pianist, and finally to the Mozarteum.

The spinet has five octaves and was used in composing the Magic Flute,
Titus and The Requiem.

In the background is seen the large painting of the Mozart family, by
Carmontelle.]

And now began the struggles of his life, struggles that only ended with
a premature death. They went first to Munich, but there was nothing
there. The intendant of the theatre, a broker in music, would not accept
Wolfgang's proposition to furnish four operas a year for a ridiculously
small sum of money; and there was no other opening. Then a visit was made
to Wolfgang's uncle in Augsburg. Here he was kindly received. He became
intimate with Stein, the instrument-maker, and gave pianoforte lessons to
his daughter. He swore lasting fidelity to his own cousin. When he left,
there was an exchange of portraits, and afterward the cousins corresponded
vigorously for a time. The next stopping place was Mannheim, which was



Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 4 of 32)