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the enormous success of "Figaro." Bohemia was a musical country, and at
the capital music was cultivated passionately. There was an excellent
school where pupils of talent were educated by the support of patrons.
The members of the nobility had their orchestras, and some demanded that
their servants should be musicians. "Figaro" was played by the Bondini
Italian company throughout the winter of 1786-7, and the public enthusiasm
was unbounded. The opera was turned into chamber music. It was arranged
for all combinations of instruments. It was sung in the streets; it was
whistled at street corners. Mozart with his wife arrived in Prague in
January, 1787, and they were entertained by Count Thun. His visit was one
of unalloyed happiness. He saw the beauties of Prague "hopping about to
the music of 'Figaro' turned into waltzes and country dances. The people
talked of nothing but 'Figaro.'" In the theatre he was welcomed with
uproarious applause. His two concerts were in every way successful. And
here he amused himself, doing little work, until Bondini made a contract
with him by which Mozart agreed to give him an opera for the next season
for one hundred ducats.

Naturally he thought at once of Da Ponte, and Da Ponte suggested the
legend of Don Juan Tenorio y Salazar, Lord of Albarren and Count of
Maraña. This story had already attracted the attention of mask-makers and
comedy-writers innumerable, among them Molière, Shadwell, Goldoni; and
Gluck and Righini, Tritto and Gazzaniga had set it to music, as ballet,
_dramma tragicomico, or opera buffa_. Da Ponte had made his fortune by the
text of "Figaro," and when he began the libretto for Mozart he was also at
work on texts for Martin and Salieri. He went from one story to the other,
with snuff-box and bottle of tokay before him, and the pretty daughter of
his hostess by his side. "Don Giovanni" and Martin's "L'Arbore di Diana"
were finished in sixty-three days. We know little or nothing of Mozart's
methods in writing the music of the work. His thematic catalogue shows
that from March till September few other important works were written, and
the greatest of these are the string quintets in C major and G minor. His
father died in May, and Mozart's grief may well be imagined. "Next to God
is papa" showed the depth of his love. In September Mozart took his wife
and boy to Prague. He worked in the vineyard of his old friend Duschek,
and his friends talked or played at bowls. German essayists and novelists
invented many stories, which reflect with discredit upon Mozart's morality
during this visit to Prague, and these stories, without real foundation,
were for a long time accepted as facts. He is said, for instance, to
have been violently in love with the women who sang at the theatre; and
continual intoxication is the mildest charge brought against him. Teresa
Saporiti, the "Donna Anna," said when she first saw him, "This illustrious
man has a most insignificant face," and yet their amorous adventures were
long taken for granted. Nor do we know whether the many traditions are
only traditions; such as his writing "_La ci darem_" five times before he
could satisfy the singers; Bassi's anger, and other tales. The overture
was unwritten the very evening before the day of performance. His wife
mixed punch for him and told him stories, "Cinderella," "Aladdin" and
tales of wonder and enchantment. Little by little, he grew sleepy as he
worked. The head would droop in spite of the efforts of Scheherazade. At
last he rested on the sofa, and at five o'clock Constanze aroused him.
The copyist came at seven; and the orchestra played the overture at sight
from wet sheets when October 29, 1787, "Don Giovanni" was first heard
by an enthusiastic public. The opera was an unqualified success. Mozart
stayed in Prague long enough to write a concert aria for Madame Duschek,
although she was obliged to lock him in a summer-house to get it; shortly
after his return to Vienna Gluck died, and December 7th he was appointed
Chamber Musician by Joseph. "Don Giovanni" was not given in Vienna until
May 7, 1788, and it was a failure. The Emperor is reported to have said,
"The opera is divine, perhaps even more beautiful than 'Figaro,' but it
will try the teeth of my Viennese." And Mozart said, "We will give them
time to chew it." It was first given in Berlin, Dec. 20, 1790; Paris,
1805, in a wretched version; London, in April, 1817. In 1825 Garcia,
with his daughters, was in New York; he met Da Ponte there, and at the
suggestion of the latter "Don Giovanni" was given. After it had made its
way in Germany, it was regarded as his masterpiece, and Mozart is reported
to have said that he wrote it not at all for Vienna, a little for Prague,
but mostly for himself and friends.


By the Sculptor Barrias.]

But the opera did not help him pecuniarily. He was in constant need
of money. He was not idle, however; the great symphonies in E-flat
major, G minor and C major were written in the summer months of 1788;
he prepared the music for the masked balls; he wrote compositions for
the pleasure of his pupils; and, at the instigation of Van Swieten, who
was an enthusiastic admirer of Handel, he prepared "Acis and Galatea,"
"The Messiah," "Ode for St. Cecilia's Day," and "Alexander's Feast" for
performance by strengthening the instrumentation. He also directed them
(1788-1790). In 1789 he was invited by Prince Lichnowsky to visit him in
Berlin; he gladly accepted the invitation, thinking he might better his
condition. They stopped at Prague; at Dresden, where he played before the
Court, and at Leipsic, where he played the organ and heard a Bach motet.
At Potsdam Mozart was presented to the King, Frederick William II., who
was an enlightened patron of music. He played upon the 'cello and was a
man of very catholic taste. The opera stage was free to Italian, French
and German composers. The orchestra in which the king often played at
rehearsals was directed by Duport; the opera by Reichardt, the musician
and journalist. Neither of these men looked upon Mozart's appearance in
Berlin with favor, and they were none the sweeter to him when he replied
to the King's question concerning the performances of the orchestra: "It
contains the best virtuosos, but if the gentlemen would play together,
it would be an improvement." The King offered him the position of
Kapellmeister, at a salary of three thousand thalers; but Mozart would not
leave his Emperor. He made a short visit to Leipsic for a benefit concert
which hardly paid the expenses of the journey. On his return to Berlin
he heard his "Seraglio." In a certain passage, the second violins played
D sharp instead of D, and Mozart cried out angrily, "Damn it, play D,
will you?" And here it is reported that he became enamored of Henriette
Baranius, a singer of remarkable beauty. The boy Hummel, his pupil,
gave a concert in Berlin, and was overjoyed to see him in the audience.
Just before Mozart's departure in May, the King sent him one hundred
friedrichsdor, and wished that he would write quartets for him. Constanze
received a letter in which her husband said that she must be glad to see
him, not the money he brought.

In June, 1789, Mozart worked at the quartets promised to the King. He
furnished the one in D major in a month, and received a gold snuff-box
with one hundred friedrichsdor. But he was poor, in debt, his wife was
often sick, and he wrote in July that he was most unhappy. In December
he worked busily on an opera, "Cosi fan tutte," which the Emperor had
requested, and Jan. 26, 1780, it was produced with success, although it
was not often given. Joseph II. died the 20th of February, and Leopold II.
reigned in his stead. Mozart could expect but little of him, and when King
Ferdinand of Naples visited Vienna in September, the greatest virtuoso of
the town was not asked to play before him, although the royal visitor was
passionately fond of music. Meanwhile his expenses were increasing, his
pupils falling off. In September he pawned his silver plate to pay the
passage, and went to Frankfort to attend the coronation of the Emperor.
He gave a concert there, and played two of his own concertos. He went
to Mayence, where he is said to have had a love-scrape, then to Munich,
where at the request of the Elector he played before the King of Naples.
Soon after his return to Vienna he said good-bye for ever to his dear
friend Haydn, who went with Salomon to England. He was sore distressed.
The position of second Kapellmeister was refused him, and the position of
assistant to Hoffmann, the cathedral Kapellmeister, which was granted by
the magistrates at his request, "without pay for the present," depended
upon the death of Hoffmann, who outlived him. In the midst of his troubles
he fell in with strange company, and among his associates was Emanuel
Johann Schikaneder, a wandering theatre director, poet, composer, and
play-actor. Restless, a bore, vain, improvident, and yet shrewd, he was
not without good qualities that had before this won him the friendship
of Mozart. In 1791 he was sorely embarrassed. He was the director of
the Auf der Wieden, a little theatre, no better than a booth, where
comic operas were played and sung. On the verge of failure, he had one
thing to console him, - a fairy drama which he had made out of "Lulu,
or the Enchanted Flute," a story by Wieland. He asked Mozart to write
the music for it; and Mozart, pleased with the _scenario_, accepted, and
said, "If I do not bring you out of your trouble, and if the work is not
successful, you must not blame me; for I have never written magic music."
Schikaneder knew the ease with which Mozart wrote; and he also knew that
it was necessary to keep watch over him, that he might be ready at the
appointed time. As Mozart's wife was then in Baden, the director found
the composer alone, and he put him in a little pavilion, which was in the
midst of a garden near his theatre. And in this pavilion and in a room
of the casino of Josephdorf the music of "The Magic Flute" was written.
Mozart was in a melancholy mood when he began his task, but Schikaneder
drove away his doleful dumps by surrounding him with the gay members of
the company. There was merry eating, there was clinking of glasses, there
was the laughter of women. Here is the origin of many of the exaggerated
stories concerning Mozart's dissipated habits. It was long believed that
he was then inspired by the melting eyes of the actress Gerl; a story
that probably rests on no better foundation than the Mrs. Hofdaemmel
tragedy, which even Jahn thought worthy of his attention. "The Magic
Flute" was given Sep. 30, at the Auf der Wieden theatre. The composer
led the first two performances. The opera at first disappointed the
expectations of the hearers, and Mozart was cut to the quick. The opera
soon became the fashion, thanks to Schikaneder's obstinacy, so that the
two hundredth representation was celebrated in Vienna in October, 1795. It
was translated into Dutch, Swedish, Danish, Polish, Italian. It was given
in Paris in 1801, under the name of "The Mysteries of Isis"; it was first
heard in London in 1811, in Italian.


One evening in July a strange man called on Mozart with a strange errand.
He was tall, gaunt, haggard in face, solemn in demeanor: a fantastic
apparition, dressed completely in grey, or, as some affirm in black; such
a character as might have appeared to Hoffmann when in the black and dark
night, surrounded by spirits of his own conjuring, he wrote wild tales.
The visitor gravely handed him an anonymous letter sealed in black, which
begged him to write a Requiem as soon as possible, and asked the price.
Mozart named 50 ducats, some say 100; the visitor paid the sum, and as
Mozart did not name the time for the completion of the work, the unknown
man left him, saying, "I shall return, when it is time." The mystery
has been solved. The stranger was Leutgeb, the steward of Count Franz
von Walsegg of Stuppach; the Count was in the habit of ordering thus
mysteriously compositions from different musicians; he would copy them
and have them performed as his own; the requiem was ordered in memory of
his late wife; and it was sung as Walsegg's work under his direction Dec.
14, 1793. But Mozart knew nothing of the patron or the steward, and he
grew superstitious. In the middle of August he received a commission to
write a festival opera for the celebration of the coronation of Leopold
II. as King of Bohemia in Prague. The subject was Metastasio's "Clemenza
di Tito." The music was written hurriedly and first performed Sept. 6. It
was not successful; the Empress is said to have spoken bitterly concerning
the _porcheria_ of German music. Just as he was stepping into the carriage
for his journey to Prague, the thin and haggard man suddenly appeared
and asked him what would become of the Requiem. Mozart made his excuses.
"When will you be ready?" said Leutgeb. "I swear that I shall work on it
unceasingly when I return." "Good," said the solemn stranger, "I rely
on your promise." And as soon as the "Magic Flute" was completed and
performed Mozart worked eagerly on the Requiem. He postponed his lessons,
giving as an excuse that he had a work on hand which lay very near his
heart, and until it was finished he could think of nothing else. He had
become subject to fainting fits, and in Prague he was not at all well. He
became gloomy and superstitious. He thought some one had poisoned him, and
indeed, for a long time it was believed foolishly by some that Salieri had
hastened his death. He told Constanze that he was writing the Requiem for
himself. There was a slight improvement for a time, and Mozart worked on
the Requiem, which had been taken away from him, and finished a Masonic
cantata. The last of November his feet and hands began to swell; he
vomited violently; and he was melancholy in mind. The 28th his condition
was critical and his doctor consulted with the chief physician at the
hospital. The "Magic Flute" was now successful; he was certain of an
annual income of one thousand florins contributed by some of the Hungarian
nobility; and of a larger sum each year from Amsterdam in return for the
production of a few compositions exclusively for the subscribers; but it
was too late. The day before his death he said to Constanze, "I should
like to have heard my 'Magic Flute' once more," and he hummed feebly the
bird-catcher's song. In the afternoon he had the Requiem brought to his
bed, and he sang the alto part. At the first measures of the "Lacrimosa,"
he wept violently and laid the score aside. Mrs. Haible came in the
evening and Mozart said, "I am glad you are here; stay with me to-night,
and see me die." She tried to reason with him, and he answered. "I have
the flavor of death on my tongue: I taste death. Who will support my
dearest Constanze if you do not stay with her?" The story of his ending
as told by Otto Jahn is most pathetic. Mrs. Haible went to the priests of
St. Peter's and begged that one might be sent to Mozart, as if by chance.
They refused for a long time, and it was with difficulty she persuaded
"these clerical barbarians" to grant her request. When she returned,
she found Süssmayer at Mozart's bedside, in earnest conversation over
the Requiem. "Did I not say that I was writing the Requiem for myself?"
said he looking at it through his tears. "And he was so convinced of his
approaching death that he enjoined his wife to inform Albrechtsberger
of it before it became generally known, in order that he might secure
Mozart's place at the Stephanskirche, which belonged to him by every
right." The physician finally came; he was found in the theatre, where he
waited until the curtain fell. He saw there was no hope; cold bandages
were applied to the head; and then came delirium and unconsciousness.
Mozart was busy with his Requiem. He blew out his cheeks to imitate the
trumpets and the drums. About midnight he raised himself, opened his eyes
wide, then seemed to fall asleep. He died at one o'clock, Dec. 5th. There
was but little money in the house. The funeral expenses (third-class)
amounted to 8 fl., 36 kr., and there was an extra charge of three florins
for the hearse. In the afternoon of the 6th the body was blessed. There
was a fierce storm raging, and no one accompanied the body to the grave.
The body was put into a common vault, which was dug up about every ten
years. No stone was put above his resting-place, and no man knows his
grave. Constanze was left with two children and about sixty florins ready
money. The outstanding accounts and personal property hardly amounted to
five hundred florins. There were debts to be paid. She gave a concert, and
with the assistance of the Emperor the proceeds were sufficient to pay
them. In 1809 she married George Nissen and was comfortable until 1842,
the year of her death. Karl, the elder son of Mozart, pianist-merchant,
died in Milan in a subordinate official position. Wolfgang, born July 26,
1791, appeared in public in 1805; he afterward was a musical director and
composer in Lemberg and Vienna; he died in Carlsbad in 1844. A statue was
erected to Mozart in Salzburg in 1842, and one was raised in Vienna in
1859. The hundredth anniversary of his birth was celebrated throughout
Germany, and that of his death throughout the world.


Formerly at No. 934 Raubensteingasse. Building destroyed.]

The face of Mozart has been idealized. The authentic portraits coincide
with the descriptions of his contemporaries. He was small, thin, and pale;
with a large head and a large nose; eyes well shaped, but short-sighted,
although he never wore spectacles; he had plenty of fine hair, of which
he was proud, and he was vain of his hands and feet; he dressed carefully
and elegantly, and was fond of jewelry. He rode horseback, and took
great pleasure in playing billiards, bowls, and in dancing. He was very
fond of punch, of which beverage Kelly saw him take "copious draughts."
His prevailing characteristics were amiability, generosity, and a warm
appreciation of all that was good and noble in music or mankind. His
generosity was strikingly shown when, in the darkest hours of need, he
offered to take care of Mariana until her betrothed had found the position
necessary for marriage. It was no doubt often abused by such scapegraces
as Stadler and Schikaneder. He poured out his affection on the members of
his household. He associated freely, and apparently with equal enjoyment,
with aristocrats, learned men, members of the orchestra, singers, and
loungers in the taverns. He was full of fun, and he dearly loved a joke;
he delighted in doggerel rhymes. His intercourse with musicians was as a
rule friendly, and he seldom spoke ill of his neighbors. Gluck appreciated
him as much as Salieri envied him, but he and Mozart were never intimate,
although they dined together and paid each other compliments. Kozeluch
and other small fry hated him, and they also hated Haydn. His relations
with Paisiello, Sarti and Martin were most friendly; and nothing perhaps
illustrates more clearly the sweetness of Mozart's nature than his
immortalizing a theme from Martin's "Cosa rara," an opera which had
prevailed against his "Figaro," by introducing it in the second finale of
"Don Giovanni." He praised Pleyel, sympathized with Gyrowetz, foresaw the
greatness of Beethoven, mourned the death of Linley, and loved Haydn.

In his youth he showed a fondness for arithmetic, and in later years he
was a ready reckoner. He had an unmistakable talent for the languages;
he understood the French, English, and Italian tongues. He was acquainted
with Latin; he had read the works of excellent authors; he even wrote
poetry, but as a manner of jesting. He was not without knowledge of
history. He drew with skill. His letters are full of charm, and Nissen
regretted that a man who used his pen so cleverly had not written
concerning his art. The reply to this is simple, namely, that Mozart was
too busy in making music to write about it. This most honest and amiable
of men loved animals, and birds were particularly dear to him.

Whatever his religious convictions may have been after he reached man's
estate, he wrote to his father, on hearing of his illness, as follows: "As
death, strictly speaking, is the true end and aim of our lives, I have
for the last two years made myself so well acquainted with this true,
best friend of mankind, that his image no longer terrifies, but calms and
consoles me. And I thank God for giving me the opportunity of learning to
look upon death as the key that unlocks the gate of true bliss." The man
as seen in his life and letters was simple, true, averse to flattery and
sycophancy, generous, and eminently lovable.

[Illustration: Fac-simile of a letter from Mozart to his publisher,


[Illustration: Chorus by Mr. Wolfgang Mozart 1765.

Leopold Mozart brought his children Wolfgang (aged 8) and Maria Anna (aged
13), in April, 1764, to London, on a concert tour. The exhibition of these
wonder-children lasted till July, 1765. Before leaving, the party visited
the British Museum, which was opened to the public six years before (on
the 15th January, 1759). On this occasion Wolfgang was requested to leave
the Institution some manuscripts of his compositions. Mozart complied, and
among the manuscripts left was this, his first effort in Choral-writing,
and the only one composed on an English text. The father received the
following acknowledgment: -

SIR: - I am ordered by the Standing Committee of the Trustees of
the British Museum, to signify to You, that they have received the
present of the Musical performances of Your very ingenious Son,
which You were pleased lately to make Them, and to return You their
Thanks for the same.

British Museum,
July 19, 1765.


Painted by his brother-in-law Lange in 1791. The head is finished, but not
the coat.]

In considering the compositions of this man, who died before he was
thirty-six, and spent much time in travel, the most superficial
investigator must be struck by the mere number. There are 20 dramatic
works; 2 oratorios, a funeral hymn, 3 cantatas, and the reinstrumentation
of 4 oratorios by Handel; 66 vocal pieces with orchestral accompaniments;
23 canons and a collection of songs; 48 pieces for the church, and 20
masses, including the Requiem, which however was probably completed by
Süssmayer; 22 pianoforte sonatas and fantasias; 17 organ sonatas, 16
variations for bugle and pianoforte, 23 little pieces, and 11 sonatas
and pieces for four hands on two pianofortes; 45 sonatas for violin
and pianoforte; 8 trios, 2 quartets and 1 quintette for pianoforte and
strings; for strings alone there are 3 duos, 3 trios, 29 quartets, 8
quintets; then there are 2 quartets with flute, 1 with oboe, 1 quintet
with horn; 10 concertos for violin, 1 for two violins, 1 for violin
and viola, 28 for the pianoforte, 1 for two pianofortes, 1 for three
pianofortes, 1 for bassoon, 1 for oboe, 4 for flute and 1 for flute and
harp, 5 for horn, 1 for clarinet, - in all 55; in dance music there is
one gavotte, 39 contradances, 56 waltzes, 96 minuets, a pantomime and a
ballet; there are 27 different pieces of instrumental music, as marches,
adagios, etc., 33 divertissements, serenades or cassations, all pieces
of long breath, including each from 10 to 12 movements; there are 49
symphonies. These authentic works, accepted by Köchel, number in all 769
compositions. Then when one reflects on the quality of the music and its
artistic value, when one finds in nearly each work the traces at least
of genius, and reflects that a third of them are masterpieces, he begins
to realize the might of the man. He was naturally the most spontaneous
of musicians, and in this respect - in pure creation - without doubt the
greatest of them all. Rarely are seen such fecundity and such versatility.
Unlike Handel, when a work was finished, it was finished; it did not enter
again into another composition. The charge of plagiarism was never brought
against him except in one instance: the religious march in "Idomeneus" was
traced by a friend to the march in Gluck's "Alceste." He wrote as though
he could not help it. Jumping from the bed, he ran to the pianoforte. The
barber found him restless. His mind was preoccupied at table. In travel,

Online LibraryVariousFamous Composers and their Works, Vol. 2 → online text (page 6 of 32)