Famous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 online

. (page 5 of 32)
Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 5 of 32)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook

called "the paradise of musicians." The orchestra fostered by the musical
Elector Karl Theodore was probably without a rival in Europe. It was
of unusual size. There were eleven first violins, eleven second, four
violas, four 'cellos, and four double basses; two flutes, two oboes,
two clarinets (instruments rarely used in those days), four bassoons,
two horns, and trumpets and drums. The conductor was Cannabich, a man of
knowledge and of temperament. The performances of this orchestra were
celebrated by all the critics of the time. Burney compared the _piano_
and _forte_ to different colors used by painters. Schubart wrote that the
_forte_ was a thunder-storm, the _crescendo_ a cataract, the _diminuendo_
like the purling of a crystal stream, the _piano_ like a breath of spring.
And Burney, again, compared the orchestra to an army of generals equally
prepared to direct the campaign and to fight. With these men Mozart
became intimate. Here also he knew the famous singers, Dorothea Wendling,
Franciska Danzi and Anton Raaff. Here too he met the famous Abbé Vogler,
the teacher in future years of Weber and Meyerbeer, whom he disliked to
the point of hatred. He sneered at his theoretical books, he called him
"charlatan" and "humbug." A harsh verdict, and one not fully deserved,
although this Vogler was truly an eccentric person, who boasted that he
could make a composer in three weeks and a singer in six months. Now,
certain members of the orchestra were engaged for concerts in Paris, and
they begged Mozart to go with them, saying that Paris was the only town
where such a composer would be appreciated and could make his fortune.
At first he embraced their views and tried to convince his father that
the plan was for the best. When everything seemed favorable, Leopold was
astonished by the receipt of letters from Wolfgang, saying that he had
abandoned the project, and at the same time giving ridiculous reasons for
the change. The truth was that the boy was in love.

Fridolin Weber, a man of good family and of education, was the prompter
and the copyist of the Mannheim theatre. Poor as he was, he had cultivated
the talents of his daughters. They were five in number. The second,
Aloysia, was fifteen, distinguished for her beauty and superb voice. She
and Mozart went together to the chateau of the Princess of Orange, - and
they loved each other. She sang for the Princess and he played, and the
letters written by Wolfgang to his father show more than a musician's
interest in Aloysia. For her he wrote a passionate aria, choosing
Metastasio's lines "Non so d'onde." This love making was stopped by a
sensible and kindly letter from Leopold, and the boy and his mother set
out for Paris. There were tears, and presents. Aloysia gave her lover two
pairs of mittens which she had worked, and Fridolin added a roll of music
paper and a copy of Molière. But Aloysia was piqued and never forgave
Wolfgang for his obedience to his father.

[Illustration: MARIA ANNA MOZART,

Sister of the composer and remarkable as a musical prodigy. This portrait
is idealized, being a reproduction from the Bruckmann collection.]

After a journey of nine days, mother and son arrived in Paris, the 23d
of March, 1778. Mozart, sick at heart, looked upon the gay scenes with
disapproving eyes. Even a month after his arrival, he wrote his father
that he was indifferent to all things and that nothing interested him. His
room was gloomy, and so small that he could not get a pianoforte between
the two cots. However he lost no time in calling upon Grimm and the
Mannheim friends. He met Legros, the director of the "Concert spirituel,"
who gave him work, and Noverre, the celebrated ballet-master, and for him
he wrote music for a ballet-pantomime called "Les Petits Riens," which was
produced at the Opera house June 11, 1778. It was preceded by an opera
of Piccini and ascribed to Noverre. The "demoiselle Asselin" was praised
by the journals, and nothing was said about the music. The manuscript was
discovered by Victor Wilder, and the ballet was played during the winter
of 1872-73 at a concert at the Grand Hotel, Paris. A few days after the
first performance of this ballet, Mozart's "Paris" Symphony was played in
the hall of the Tuileries and with success. A second symphony, played in
September, has disappeared.

Although in many ways this visit to Paris was a sore disappointment to
Mozart, and although he wrote bitterly about the condition of music in the
French capital, his stay was of great and beneficial influence upon his
career. He heard the operas of Gluck, Grétry, Monsigny, Philidor and the
Italians who then disputed the supremacy with the French. In after years
he was found surrounded by the works of Gluck and Grétry, and when asked
if the study of Italian masters was not more profitable, he replied: "Yes,
as regards melody; but not for true and dramatic expression."

In May, 1778, the mother of Mozart sickened, and in July she died after
much suffering. She was stout and subject to apoplectic attacks. As she
had no confidence in French physicians, she was attended by an elderly
German who was more patriotic than learned. He gave her rhubarb and wine,
against Mozart's wishes, and when Grimm's doctor arrived it was too late
for cure. She was buried probably in the cemetery of the Innocents, which
was destroyed in 1785.

The grief of the son was terrible, and the father was uneasy. Grimm,
who was now wholly interested in Italian music sung by Italians,
advised Leopold to recall Wolfgang. The archbishop of Salzburg held out
inducements to father and son. The father at last commanded the return,
and in September, 1778, the philosopher Grimm accompanied the young
musician to the diligence and paid his way to Strasburg. When Wolfgang
finally saw that his return was unavoidable, he complained bitterly. "I
have committed the greatest folly in the world. With a little patience I
should surely have won in France a glorious reputation and a substantial

Karl Theodore of Mannheim was now elector of Bavaria. He took his court
to Munich, and Aloysia Weber sang in his theatre. Mozart stopped to see
her. She was slow to recognize him, and she did not approve of the black
buttons on his red coat, the French fashion of mourning dress. But he
wrote a grand aria for her, and even after her marriage to the play-actor
Lange he confessed to his father that he still cared for her.

It was in January, 1779, that Mozart again saw Salzburg, and for a year
and a half he stayed there working steadily. His illusions were gone; his
heart was sad. He loathed the town. "When I play in Salzburg, or when any
of my compositions are performed, the audience might as well be chairs or
tables." But he found some relief in work, and among the many compositions
of this period is the incidental music to "König Thamos," an Egyptian
drama. He also wrote an opera, "Zaide," which he abandoned, and which was
brought out in Frankfort in 1866. In 1780 he received a commission from
Karl Theodore to compose an opera for the Munich carnival of the following
year. The text was written by an Italian priest named Varesco, and it told
the story of Idomeneus, king of Crete, a story that is closely allied to
the famous adventure of Jephtha. In November Mozart went to Munich and
he was graciously received. His letters tell of the usual differences
that come up between composer and singers, and his father gave him good
advice: "You know that there are an hundred ignorant people for every ten
true connoisseurs; so do not forget what is called popular, and tickle
the long ears." The rehearsals gave great satisfaction and the Elector
remarked: "No one would imagine that such great things could come out of
such a little head." The opera was given January 29, 1781, and the Munich
News praised the scenery "of our well-known theatrical architect, the Herr
Councillor Lorenz Quaglio." It is not known how much Mozart received in

The Archbishop had only given leave of absence for six weeks; but Mozart
liked Munich and hated to return. He wrote church and instrumental pieces
for the Elector, and enjoyed the gay life, until in March the Archbishop,
who went to Vienna after the death of the Empress, summoned him. "And
there his destiny was to be fulfilled."

The Archbishop was in execrable humor. Joseph II. was not fond of priests,
and he had greeted him coolly. The wrath of Hieronymous was poured out on
the composer's head, for he had not forgotten or forgiven Mozart's brusque
departure, and he could not endure his independent spirit. He made him
eat with the servants. He would not allow him to play the pianoforte at
a concert given for the benefit of the widows and orphans of musicians;
and when he was forced into giving him permission, he hated him the more.
He ordered him to be present every morning in an antechamber to receive
orders; and when Mozart rebelled, he forgot his sacred calling and abused
him indecently; "black-guard, regular ass, idiot, dirty rascal," were
the mildest of the reproaches. He showed him the door, and Mozart, who
had kept his temper, said that if His Grace wished it, he would be only
too willing to resign; and he wrote his father that his prospects in
Vienna were bright and that he could not bear the thought of returning to
Salzburg and continual humiliation. His success as a pianoforte player
at the charitable concert was such that many desired to take lessons of
him, in spite of the price demanded by him - six ducats for twelve lessons.
"Thanks be to my pupils, I have as much as I want; but I will not have
many pupils; I prefer few, and to be better paid than other teachers."
He protests as follows: "If I were offered two thousand florins by the
Archbishop, and only one thousand florins in any other place, I should
go to the other place; for instead of the other one thousand florins I
should enjoy health and contentment of mind." But Leopold Mozart was not
the man of former days; he was nervous and almost hypochondriacal. He
had heard that his son was living a dissipated life; and he understood
that he was neglecting his religious duties; it even grieved him to
think that Wolfgang ate meat on fast-days. Nor did he approve of the
renewed intercourse with the Weber family, for Aloysia was now married to
Lange, "a jealous fool," and the mother and daughters were in Vienna. In
June, 1781, young Mozart determined to procure from the Archbishop his
dismission, as he heard that the departure to Salzburg was near at hand.
He found in the antechamber Count Arco ready to receive him. There were
violent words, and finally Arco kicked him out of the room. And thus was
Mozart set free.

[Illustration: ALOYSIA WEBER, sister to Mozart's wife, and her husband
JOS. LANGE, actor and painter.

From the first volume of "Die Ephemeriden der Litteratur und des
Theaters." Berlin, 1785. Drawn by Lange himself. We owe to him the last
portrait of Mozart.]

It was summer, the nobility had gone to their country seats, and there
were few lessons and few concerts. Mozart worked at pianoforte sonatas
and dreamed of an opera. Josephine Aurnhammer, remarkably fat, ugly, and
an excellent pianist, fell in love with him, and he was therefore obliged
to gradually break off his acquaintance with the "sentimental mastodon."
In December Clementi came to Vienna, and he and Mozart played before the
Emperor. Mozart was proclaimed victor, and the Emperor gave him fifty
ducats and saw in him the man to assist him in founding the lyric German
drama. Stephanie, the inspector of the opera, had provided the text
of "Die Entführung aus dem Serail" (The Escape from the Seraglio) and
Mozart had already written much of the music before Clementi's visit. In
a letter to his father he describes the work of a day. "At six o'clock
my hair-dresser awakes me; by seven I am shaven, curled, and dressed; I
compose until nine, and then give lessons until one; I then dine alone,
unless I am invited to some great house, in which case my dinner is put
off until two or three; then I work again about five or six, unless
I go to a concert, in which case I work after my return until one in
the morning." In July (the 13th or the 16th, for there is a dispute
concerning the date), 1782, "The Escape from the Seraglio" was given. The
house was crammed, there was no end to the applause and cheering, and
performances followed one another in quick succession. The German opera
was established; but the Emperor Joseph only said, "Too fine for our ears,
and too many notes." Mozart replied, "Just as many notes as are necessary,
your Majesty." It was in this opera, according to Carl Maria von Weber,
that Mozart arrived at the full maturity of his genius.

[Illustration: MOZART'S WIFE.

Constanze Weber. From a woodcut by A. Neumann, after a photograph from an
aquarelle painting on ivory, in the Mozarteum, in Salzburg.]

The 4th of August, 1782, Mozart married Constanze Weber, before the
arrival of his father's formal consent. He had been in love with her for
some months, and in December of the year before he had written his father
about her. "She is the martyr of the family.... She looks after everything
in the house, and yet can never do right. She is not ugly, but she is far
from being beautiful. Her whole beauty consists in her dark eyes and good
figure. She is not intellectual, but she has common sense enough to fulfil
her duties as a wife and mother. She is not inclined to extravagance;
on the contrary, she is always badly dressed, for the little her mother
can do is done for the two others, never for her. True, she likes to be
neat and clean, but not smart; and almost all that a woman needs she can
make for herself; she understands housekeeping, has the best heart in the
world - she loves me and I love her - tell me if I could wish for a better
wife?" The father was sorely vexed. He saw poverty and "starving brats."
He disapproved of the Weber family. With reluctance he finally sent the
parental blessing. The wedding was simple, and the supper was given by
the Baroness von Waldstädten, a famous pianist, and a woman of unsavory
reputation. The income of the newly-married couple was precarious and
uncertain, and so it was until the divorce of death, but man and wife were
very happy. They were young - Mozart was twenty-six and Constanze was about
eighteen - and they took no thought of the morrow. The morning after the
wedding the Abbé Stadler called upon them, and he was asked to breakfast.
Constanze in her marriage dress made the fire and prepared the coffee,
and with laughter they thus began their married life, without money and
with a carelessness that bordered on recklessness. To Constanze even this
pinched life was a relief, for she had long suffered from the intolerance
of a drunken mother. Mozart's love for his wife was town talk. Kelly,
the English tenor, in later years, spoke of "the passionate love" of the
composer. He told her everything, even his faults and sins, and she was
ever tender and faithful. She was not unmusical; in fact she played and
sang, and was especially fond of fugues. She told him stories while he
worked. She cut his meat for him at table. As she was not robust, he, in
turn, was most careful of her health, and often denied himself that she
might be more comfortable. There are German romances in existence that
deal with alleged love episodes in the life of Mozart, and in which he is
represented as often unfaithful to his wife. Grave historians have not
thought it an unworthy task to examine the current scandals of his life in
Vienna. It is true that the manners and customs of the Viennese were free
and easy. It was an age of gallantry. It is not improbable that he was
exposed to many temptations. At the same time the looseness of his life
was grossly exaggerated, and specific charges that were made are now known
to be legends. Hummel, who lived in Mozart's house as a pupil, wrote in
1831: "I declare it to be untrue that Mozart abandoned himself to excess,
except on those rare occasions when he was enticed by Schikaneder."

[Illustration: THE MOZART FAMILY.

C. de Carmontelle del. Delafosse, Sculp. 1764.

Discouraged by the parsimony of the Emperor, failing in his endeavor to
become the teacher of the Princess Elizabeth, and believing himself to
be unappreciated, Mozart determined to leave Vienna and turned towards
France and England. At this time he was chiefly known in Vienna as a
pianoforte player. It was not until the appearance of the "Magic Flute"
that he was recognized there as a great operatic composer, and then it was
too late. The father, however, opposed the plans of his son, and he even
wrote to the Baroness von Waldstädten urging her to reason with Wolfgang,
and adding, "What is there to prevent his having a prosperous career in
Vienna, if only he has a little patience?" And so Mozart stayed in Vienna.
He gave lessons, which were apt to be of a desultory nature. He gave
concerts in the Augarten which was frequented by the fashionable people.
He gave concerts in the theatre and in different halls, and his own music
was performed with great success. His concertos and his playing were
cheered to the echo by the Emperor and the nobility. His old love Aloysia
sang at one of these concerts, and Gluck sat in a box and applauded. It is
not true that at this time Mozart was unappreciated by the public or that
the public was not willing to pay money for the pleasure of hearing him.
As a pianoforte player he was surfeited with applause. His subscription
concerts were crowded. At one he received four hundred and fifty ducats;
at two concerts in Prague in 1786 he received one thousand florins. He
played regularly in private concerts given by members of the nobility,
and it was the custom of the Viennese aristocracy to reward distinguished
artists liberally. On the other hand he made but little by the publication
of his compositions. Nor did he fare better in his dealings with
theatrical managers. The usual payment in Vienna for an opera was one
hundred ducats. Upon the whole, Mozart was probably as well treated from a
pecuniary point of view as the majority of the musicians of his time. He
had no head for business, and he was constantly in want of money. A few
months after his marriage he was threatened with an action for non-payment
of a bill. He was constantly borrowing small sums from Peter to pay Paul.
His letters abound in proofs of his embarrassments. At different times he
tried plans of reform; from March, 1784, until February, 1785, he kept an
account book, and the entries were neatly written. But Constanze was not
the housewife praised by King Lemuel.

A son was born in 1783, who died in the same year, and in the summer a
visit was paid to Salzburg. A mass, which Mozart had vowed in his heart
before his marriage if he succeeded in taking Constanze there as his wife,
was performed; he wrote duets for violin and viola to help Michael Haydn,
who was prevented by sickness from satisfying the Archbishop's command;
he sketched a part of an opera, "L'Oca del Cairo." In one way the visit
was a disappointment. Neither Leopold nor Marianna was really fond of
Constanze, and Mozart was displeased because none of the trinkets that
had been given him in his youth were offered to his wife. He returned to
Vienna in October. In 1785 the father returned the visit. He wept for
joy at hearing Wolfgang play the pianoforte concerto composed for the
blind pianist, Marie Paradies; he heard string quartets of his son played
by Haydn, Dittersdorf, Wolfgang and Vanhall; and Haydn said to him, "I
assure you solemnly and as an honest man, that I consider your son to be
the greatest composer of whom I have ever heard." Influenced by his son
he became a Freemason. There were secret associations, brotherhoods of
all descriptions, more or less closely allied to Freemasonry, throughout
Germany during the latter half of the eighteenth century. Many wished
to join together in fighting for liberty of conscience and independence
of thought; and, as Herder, Wieland, Goethe, they saw in Freemasonry "a
means of attaining their highest endeavors after universal good." In
Vienna nearly all the distinguished leaders of thought were Freemasons;
the lodges were fashionable, and in 1785 the Emperor Joseph placed them
under the protection of the state, although he first reduced the number.
It is not surprising that Mozart, with his love for humanity, his warm
sympathies for all that is good and noble, should enter eagerly into
masonic ties and duties. He contemplated the founding of a secret society
of his own. His lodge was the oldest in Vienna, "Zur gekrönten Hoffnung,"
and for this lodge he wrote vocal and instrumental works, one of which,
the "Trauermusik" is of great beauty and originality.

In 1784 the German opera in Vienna was almost extinct. Aloysia Lange
chose Mozart's "Escape from the Seraglio" for her benefit, and the
composer directed it; Gluck's "Pilgrimme von Mekka" was given, as well
as Benda's melodramas. The next year it was proposed to reinstate German
opera in competition with the Italian, and the scheme was carried out,
but the performances were not equal to those of the Italian opera, and
Mozart was not pitted by the Emperor as a native composer against the
foreigner Salieri. For a festival in 1786 dramatic performances were
ordered in Italian and German, and Mozart wrote the music for "Der
Schauspieldirector" (The Theatre Director), while Salieri was more
fortunate in his text. The Italian operas were popular with the court
and the people, and the better singers went over to the Italian side.
Paesiello and Sarti were welcomed heartily in Vienna, and their operas
received the patronage of the Emperor. Mozart's prospects as an operatic
composer were gloomy, until in 1785 he was seriously benefited by his
acquaintance with Lorenzo da Ponte, abbé, poet, and rake. This singular
man was appointed theatrical poet by Joseph II. through the influence
of Salieri. He quarreled with his benefactor, who engaged a rival as
his librettist. Da Ponte looked about for a composer with whom he could
join against his enemies, and he entered into negotiations with Mozart.
Beaumarchais' comedy, "Le Mariage de Figaro," had finally been put on the
stage of the Théâtre-Français in April, 1784; it was exciting popular
attention; and Mozart wished an adaptation for his music. The adaptation
would be an easy task, but the comedy itself was not allowed in the Vienna
Theatre. The poet was in the good graces of the Emperor and he confided
the plan to him. Joseph admitted that Mozart was a good instrumental
composer, said that his opera did not amount to much, called Mozart to
him, heard portions of the work, and ordered that it should be put into
rehearsal immediately. If we believe the account given by Da Ponte, the
whole opera was finished in six weeks. There was a strong cabal, with
Salieri at the head, against the production, but it was brought out May
1st and with overwhelming success. Michael Kelly, who sang the parts of
_Basilio_ and _Don Curzio_, gives interesting accounts of the rehearsals
and the performance in his "Reminiscences." "Never was anything more
complete than the triumph of Mozart." At the second performance five
pieces were repeated: at the third, seven; "one little duet had to be
sung three times," we learn from a letter of Leopold Mozart. In November
Martin's "Cosa Rara" pleased "the fickle public" mightily, and during
1787 and 1788 "Figaro" was not given. It was first performed in Berlin,
Sept. 14, 1790: the critics praised it: the people preferred Martin and
Dittersdorf. It was heard later in all the great towns of Europe (Paris,
1793; London, 1812, with Catalani as _Susanna_); in Prague it was heard at
once and with the greatest success, and this led to "Don Giovanni."

[Illustration: THE MOZART FAMILY.

Large oil painting by de la Croce (born 1736, a pupil of Lorenzoni),
painted in 1780. The original is in the Salzburg Mozarteum and seems to
have been repeatedly and unskilfully retouched.]

The success of "Figaro" was not of material benefit to Mozart in Vienna.
He fretted at the necessity of teaching; he envied Gyrowetz, who went to
Italy. In 1786, a third child was born to him, Leopold, who died in the
spring of the next year. His English friends urged him to go to England.
He thought seriously of doing this, when he received one day a letter from
the orchestra of Prague, to which the leading connoisseurs and amateurs
had added their names, begging him to visit the town and see for himself

Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 5 of 32)