Mozart on His Journey
Ilona Ryder, MA
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*The term Raptus, in the context of classical music, is derived from Beethoven’s life. During his teens, he became friends with the von Breuning family in Bonn. Madame Helene von Breuning, who had a great influence over him, came to function as a substitute mother to him after the 1787 death of Maria Magdalena van Beethoven. She used to “make peace” between the often hot-tempered, stubborn young Beethoven and her family in asking for their patience with him, explaining to them that he “has his Raptus again”. Later, Beethoven would write to his lifetime friend, Dr. Franz Gerhard Wegeler, who married Eleonore von Breuning and with whom Madame von Breuning would live in Koblenz, to send greetings to the “Frau Hofräthin” and to confirm to her that he still had a Raptus now and again. Whenever I enjoy an extra fine musical performance of our Edmonton Symphony Orchestra, I feel that I am having a Raptus of some kind, as well, which then puts me into the mood of this writing activity. I have written this and the subsequent volumes as a ‘musical lay person’ who is addressing an interested lay audience. However, as a German retail bookseller, I have a good working knowledge of the German-speaking culture and of German literature.
This novella paints for the reader a lively character portrait of Mozart. The writer of the novella, Eduard Mörike, used the occasion of Mozart’s actual fall 1787 journey from Vienna to Prague to stage his new opera “Don Giovanni” there, as an occasion to have Mozart and his wife Konstanze spend some time in the company of the fictional family of a certain Count von Schinzberg.
As this charming story unfolds, we learn of how Mozart’s creative process often worked, what the overt reasons for his financial failure were, of his generosity as a human being, and of his own premonitions of his early death. The introduction to the novella leads the reader toward the topic by describing the author’s and translator’s own interest in Mozart on the basis of her ethnic background and of her interest in classical music, and by providing background information on Eduard Mörike and of his place in the history of German literature.
A literary work such as Mörike’s novella brings the composer to life to such an extent for readers who are new to the subject of musical biographies that they will feel compelled to “read more about it” and to listen to the composer’s celestial music with “new ears”.
A VERY PERSONAL INTRODUCTION . . .
Thank you for taking the time to read Volume 1 of the Raptus Collection. This Mozart volume is intended to make you acquainted with the composer’s character in an entertaining way. Before I send you on your way to MOZART ON HIS JOURNEY TO PRAGUE, I would like to explain to you my relationship to Mozart on the basis of my – rather European – background, why I translated this novella, what Mörike’s intentions were in writing this charming little work, where the writer came from, who the writer was, and some information about his work and about his place in the history of German literature. I can only hope that all of this will entertain you to some degree, as well, and that this information will help you to feel right at home with MOZART ON HIS JOURNEY TO PRAGUE.
The Bavarian Counts of Wittelsbach emerged as a "noble" family approximately around the year 1000 AD. In 1180 AD., several acts of disloyalty to his Stauffen Emperor, Frederick Barbarossa, "relieved" Duke Henry the Lion of Brunswick of his Duchy of Bavaria (Bayern 22-23). (In 1158, Henry the Lion had awarded Munich city rights; he and one of his sons would later join the crusades and, on their return home, his son would settle in Hungary (Rolland 263). The von Brunsvicks then became the ancestors of a family that supplied some of Beethoven's closest friends: Franz, Therese, and Josephine von Brunsvick, as well as Giulietta Guicciardi). Coming back to the Duchy of Bavaria, Frederick Barbarossa awarded it to Count Otto von Wittelsbach (Bayern 22-23), who was already a "Palatinate" Count. This meant that he administered Imperial or "Palatinate" holdings. With this began the 700+ years rule of the Wittelsbach dynasty. The dynasty prospered to the point that, within a few centuries, several "Bavarian" and "Palatinate" branches existed. It can be said that the Wittelsbachs were, as far as the European "noble" houses were concerned, sooner or later, married to everyone and that everyone was married to them.
Nevertheless, as all good things must come to an end, the last surviving branch of the Bavarian Wittelsbachs became extinct in 1777, with the December 30th death of Elector Max the Third. A Wittelsbach rule of succession, the so-called Primogeniturgesetz, stipulated that in such a case, the most eligible Palatinate branch would simply take over the Munich "family business". Karl Theodor, the Elector of Mannheim, under whose auspices science, music and literature had flourished there, became Elector of Bavaria. We do not know whether he envied his former residence the glory of playing a vital role in the subsequent German theatre revolution with which a sudden outburst of creativity in German drama had swept the country (Mannheim would continue to do so, with the 1781 staging of Schiller's first play, the Robbers, and with the staging of his subsequent plays, such as the Fiesco and Don Carlos), or whether the Elector could simply not get used to his new, rough Bavarian subjects when he let a chance at true greatness as a protector of the arts pass him by...
... For it was not long after that, in October 1780, that Karl Theodor commissioned Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to write an opera for the 1781 carnival. His opera seria, Idomeneo, Re di Creta, was a great success. As much as Mozart would have loved to stay and to be hired for a permanent position as Kapellmeister by the Elector, the latter did not retain him (Einstein 54, Solomon 236).
View of Munich's Nymphenburg Palace in the 18th century
Therefore I must admit that I was born in a city that, as far as Mozart was concerned, "blew it". Nevertheless, Munich at least holds a geographically strategic position, being situated 60 km southeast of Augsburg, Leopold Mozart's native city, and 120 km northwest of Salzburg, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's birth place. A lively interest in his music is one of the subjects Munichers love to indulge in, even its very own, now Rome-based Cardinal Josef Ratzinger...
When a Municher with a lively interest in classical music emigrates to a new country, he or she will carry that interest along in his/her luggage. I can assure everyone that this "luggage" does not weigh in very heavily at customs on entering Canada. I have lived in Edmonton for over ten years and consider myself, when it comes to classical music in general and to Mozart in particular, a very interested lay person.
What should such an interested lay person, in sharing this lively interest with like-minded Edmontonians, reply to the question, "I wonder what Mozart was really like as a person"? The mere status of a "very interested lay person" does not necessarily predestine one to provide a remotely adequate answer to that question.
In such a case it helps, however, to check one's "luggage" again for additional treasures. In my case, I found the heavy millstone called "German literature" that I now try to only carry around my neck when I am at home...
As a German retail bookseller and publishing assistant, one has to necessarily acquire a bit more than a mere "lively interest" in that subject. The involvement might not be as profound as that of a professional. Nevertheless, a "good working knowledge" can be gained.
With respect to the question as to Mozart's character, the reading of Eduard Mörike's 1855 novella may ‘prepare the ground’ for further actual biographical readings. In it, the writer, as he pointed out to his Tübingen publisher von Cotta (whose publishing house began to serve, more than fifty years prior to that, as Friedrich Schiller's publisher) in his letter of May 6, 1855:
"Meine Aufgabe bei dieser Erzählung war, ein kleines Charaktergemälde Mozarts (das erste seiner Art, soviel ich weiß) aufzustellen, wobei, mit Zugrundelegung frei erfundener Situationen, vorzüglich die heitere Seite zu lebendiger, konzentrierter Anschauung gebracht werden sollte."
A very free translation of the above is:
"My task in this story was to paint a small character portrait of Mozart (the first of its kind, as far as I know). In doing so, the more cheerful aspects of his nature were to be concentrated on. This was achieved by basing this little portrait on purely fictional events into which Mozart was placed."
Mörike further mentions in his letter to von Cotta that "das Büchlein könnte als Vorläufer der im Januar 1856 einfallenden Feier des hundertjährigen Geburtstags Mozarts betrachtet und angekündigt werden..." ("the booklet could be considered and announced as a forerunner to the January 1856 commencement of the celebration of the 100-year-anniversary of Mozart's birth...").
In order for me to share this story with others, I felt the urge to translate it into English, in spite of the fact that some translations may already exist. I did, however, not find any English language edition of Mörike's novella as being available for purchase in the Catalogue of Books in Print.
My rendering of this translation was also based on the recognition of the fact that, as the publisher of the edition I worked with, Philip Reclam jun. GmbH & Co., Stuttgart, re-assured me when I enquired with them, "it is, indeed, true that authors become 'free' 70 years after their deaths" and that I, therefore, could feel free to use Mörike's text for translation and publication, while the rights to derivative works such as other translations might not be as easily obtainable..
Having shared this little translation on a more private level and having realized that it evoked a certain degree of delight in Mozart friends, I considered to publish it. The first step that I took was that I asked Mrs. Ilona Ryder, M.A., to edit the English text of my translation. I am very grateful to her for her professional support in this! After having explored various means of publishing this little work, I finally decided to offer it for sale in the manner in which it is now presented in the Raptus Collection. In closing, I would like to provide you with some details of Eduard Mörike's life and work.
The facts of Eduard Mörike's life are fairly simple: He was born on September 8, 1804, in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. He underwent training as a Lutheran pastor and worked as such in the Württemberg village of Cleversulzbach, from 1834 to 1843. He had to retire early due to ill health. In 1851, he obtained a lecturing position in German Literature at the Katharinenstift in Stuttgart, which he held until 1866. He passed away in 1875. These are the facts that can be gleaned from J.G. Robertson's History of German Literature about this "shy, retiring man who came little into contact with the world" (Robertson 439). He was one of the four most famous poets and writers his native German state, Württemberg, would ever bring forth. The other three were: Friedrich von Schiller (1759 - 1805), Ludwig Uhland (1787 - 1862), and Wilhelm Hauff (1802 - 1827).
Perhaps it would help the reader to know what kind of country the heartland of Württemberg is and what kind of people it shapes: It is mainly situated along the Neckar river, with a few adjoining valleys and plains, and it is skirted by the Black Forest to the southwest, the flat Jurassic "mountain" range of the Swabian Alb to the south and east, and an area of rolling hills to the north, towards Hesse and Frankonia. The river valleys that comprise this heartland are hemmed in by beautiful hills that run along the river banks, widening and narrowing here and there. An especially tart kind of wine is made from the grapes that grow in the vineyards on the hillsides. Vinegar is the main product that can be gained from it. Every arable square foot of land is extensively cultivated. Württembergers of the pre-industrial ages built this culture, with their small, narrow homes in towns and villages being built closely enough next to each other that neighbours need never get an alarm clock, were they in agreement to "give each other a shout" in the morning. The character of this people becomes clear when one looks at the Swabian dialect word for "to work" which is "schaffe" (schaffen), the High German version of which is "arbeiten". The High-German second past tense of the word "schaffen", "geschafft", would mean that someone has accomplished something. Thus, the Swabians mean business when they work! During the industrial revolution, some of their most inventive citizens turned this area into one of the most prosperous industrial regions of Germany. When I was thrown into this environment, myself, for the first time, my heart almost stopped. I had a hard time in imagining how anyone would be able to develop any sense of individuality in this environment. How could the pre-industrial poets of Württemberg survive, especially under Württemberg's despotic rulers? The more fiery-tempered ones might have felt inclined to not only leave, but to literally flee. Schiller did that. (Ludwigsburg's (Mörikes birthplace) main treasure is the King's residence, Monrepos, while the nearby town of Asperg features the Fortress of Hohenasperg where the writer Daniel Schubart was incarcerated for ten years by Duke Carl Eugen, Schiller's as well as Schiller's father's employer).
The meeker individuals had to turn inward for inspiration. Mörike was of that kind. His lyrical poetry can, in its simplicity and refinement, hold its own with that of Goethe. Mörike’s collections of poetry are Peregrina (124ff), Jung Volker (1826). Das verlassene Mägdlein (1829), Agnes (1831), Der Gärtner (1837), Die Soldatenbraut (1837), and Ein Stündlein wohl vor Tag (1837). “The most unpretentious of singers, Mörike wrote verse that is often the quintessence of the Volkslied...” (Robertson 439). Mörike also wrote ballads, a genre at which he is considered to have been of lesser calibre than Uhland, and one novel, Maler Nolten (1832). This novel "is a landmark in the development of German romantic fiction, an important step forward in the direction of the greatest German novels of the Romantic model, Gottfried Keller's Der grüne Heinrich" (Robertson 440). Of his tales, Das Stuttgarter Huzelmännlein (a fairy tale published in 1853), and Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag, the latter is considered "the most delightful of Mörike's tales" (Robertson 441). Mörike is considered as belonging to the literary period of late Romanticism, of which he was one of its last shining stars while the writers of "young Germany" used their penmanship to further the ideals of national reunion in a parliamentary system, during the period of 1830 up to the failed March revolution of 1848. After that time, a general period of resignation set in in which younger and older writers preferred to reminisce rather than to take up the torch for new ideas. While the medieval age was the focus of early Romanticism, many works written in the period between 1848 and 1871 looked back at "better times" of the more recent past. The enclosed novella depicts as its "golden age" that of the German classic era and its most outstanding musical genius, using the literary tools of late Romanticism, yet also giving the reader a vague idea of what was to come during the following literary period of Realism.
The fact that this novella was written exactly at that point in the history of German literature sets it apart enough from previous ‘romantic’ literature in order to create a link to ‘actual biographical literature’ on Mozart that began to seriously develop that time and that may not, yet, have seen the ‘last word’ written on it even in Maynard Solomon’s 1995 biography ‘Mozart - A Life’. I hope that this novella can help direct you towards such a further ‘journey of the mind’.
MOZART ON HIS JOURNEY TO PRAGUE
The Long Journey by Stagecoach
(Vienna, Museen der Stadt)
Accompanied by his wife, Mozart went on a journey to Prague to stage "Don Juan" there, in the fall of 1787.
On the third day of this journey, the fourteenth of September, closer to eleven o'clock in the morning, the cheerful couple, not yet much further away from Vienna than a thirty hours' ride, travelled in a northwesterly direction past Mannhardsberg and the German Thaya river near Schrems, where one would soon have entirely crossed over the beautiful Moravian mountains.
The carriage, which is equipped with three horses," writes Baroness von T. to her friend, "a formidable carriage of yellowish-red colour, belonged to a certain Madam General Volkstett, who appears to always have made a point of emphasizing her contacts with the Mozarts and the favours she had done them." – Those who are familiar with the taste of the eighties will be able to complete for themselves in more detail the inaccurate description thus far provided of the vehicle in question. On each side, the carriage doors are decorated with the paintings of bouquets of flowers in their natural colours, with the edges being adorned with slender gold trimming; however, the surface is not yet lacquered as is the custom these days in Vienna; the body of the carriage is also not yet as fully rounded out as today, although it is elegantly curved towards the bottom; the carriage windows are covered with stiff leather drapes, which have been pulled back at present.
Of the manner of clothing the travellers are wearing, let, moreover, be mentioned this much: In order to save the husband's new gala outfit, it was at present stored in the suitcase, while Frau Konstanze had modestly selected the following travelling suit for him: to the embroidered vest of an already slightly faded blue, his usual brown overcoat with its row of large buttons that were fashioned in such a manner that a layer of reddish tinsel glittered through its star-shaped texture, black breeches, stockings, and golden lashes on his shoes. Since it was unseasonably hot, he had taken off his overcoat half an hour ago and is now sitting, amicably chatting, in the carriage with bare head and in his shirt sleeves. Frau Mozart is wearing a comfortable outfit of light-green colour with white stripes; only halfway tied up, the waves of her beautiful, light-brown hair are draping her shoulders and her neck; her hair had never seen any powder, while her husband's full, braided-back hair was only slightly less powdered than usual..
One had arrived at the edge of a forest after having travelled up a softly rising hill between fertile fields which here and there interrupted an extended area of forestation.
“Through how many forests have we travelled today, yesterday, and the day before yesterday," said Mozart, "I did not think much of it, let alone did I consider to set foot into any one of them. Let us get out for once, sweetheart, and pick some of the blue bell-flowers, which are hiding so beautifully there in the shade. Your horses, coachman, may have some rest!"
While they were both getting up, a small mishap caught their attention, for which the maestro ended up being scolded by his wife. Due to his carelessness, a flaçon of expensive perfume was opened and its content was poured out over clothing and coach upholstery. "I should have thought so," she complained, "it has been smelling funny for some time now. Oh, my, an entire bottle of genuine Rosée d'Aurore has been emptied! I had cherished the bottle like precious gold." – "My dear fool," he tried to comfort her, "you must realize that only in this very fashion was the divine smelling schnapps used to our fullest benefit. First we had to sit in the carriage in the heat as if we were sitting in an oven, and all your waving with your fan did not help one bit, but soon the entire carriage interior seemed to have cooled down nicely; you attributed this to the few drops that I had poured on my jabot; we were invigorated, and our conversation flowed lively, instead of our sitting there limply with our heads hanging down like the lambs let their heads hang down when they travel on the slaughterer's cart, and this wonderful freshness will accompany us on our entire journey. But now let us poke our two Viennese noses bravely out into the wilderness."
Arm in arm, they stepped across the roadside ditch and immediately entered deeper into the dark thicket of the pine forest which, fairly soon turning completely dark, was only lightened now and then by a flash of sunlight filtering through and reflected glaringly by the velvety green moss on the ground. The refreshing coolness, in sudden contrast to the heat raging outside, could have proven dangerous to the husband were it not for the foresight of his wife. With great difficulty she had been able to force on him the protective piece of clothing she had taken along. – "Dear God, what a splendour!", he exclaimed, looking up on the tree stems that were rising up high, "it feels like being in church. I think I have never been in a forest, and only now do I realize what it means to be amongst an entire 'nation of trees!' No human hand has planted them. They grew by themselves and gathered 'round thus because it seemed a cheerful thing to do for them, to group together and to mutually benefit each other. You see, in my younger years I travelled across half of Europe, I have seen the Alps and the sea, the most majestic and the most beautiful that has ever been created; and now this fool all of a sudden finds himself standing before an ordinary pine forest at the Bohemian border, amazed and enchanted, that something like it should even exist, not just being a 'finzione di poeti' (poets' invention) such as their nymphs and fauns and the like, also not just a forest scene for a stage comedy, no, a real forest, grown from the earth, nourished and raised by moisture and sunlight! The stag with its wondrous crown of antlers is at home here, and so are the droll squirrel, the capercaillie, and the jay." – He bent down, broke off a mushroom and praised the marvellously deep-red colour of its top and the fragile white gills at the bottom; he also picked up several pine cones.
"One would think," said the wife, "that you have never looked even as far as twenty steps into the Prater, which also has such rarities to offer." "Never mind the Prater(1), for goodness' sake! How can you even mention this word here! With all the carriages, stately daggers, robes and fans, music and all the noise the world has to offer, who can even notice anything else? And even the trees there, no matter how much room they are trying to take up, I don't know – with beech-nuts and acorns strewn on the ground, to me they look like cousins who are standing next to each other, having dropped a great number of corks on the ground. From the Prater woods, one can smell the smell of waiters and gravies for two hours in each direction."
"Oh, really!", she exclaimed, "and this is the same man talking, one of whose greatest pleasures it is to eat baked chicken in the Prater!"
When both sat in the carriage once again and when the road, after leading through a stretch of flat terrain for a short while, started to lead gradually downhill through cheerful country that stretched all the way towards the mountains in the distance, our maestro, after some silence, started up again, "The earth is truly beautiful and no-one should be blamed for wanting to live on it as long as possible. Thank God, I feel as fresh and well as ever and am in the mood to tackle a thousand projects, which shall, one after another, get their turn, as soon as my new work has been completed and staged. How many beautiful things are out there in the world and at home, wondrous and beautiful things I do not know yet, such as miracles of nature, sciences, arts and useful trades! The charcoal burner over there in his hut knows just as much as I do about certain things, since there is also a desire in me to take a look at this and that which does not necessarily concern me directly."
"I came," she replied," across your old pocket calendar of Anno (domini) eighty-five a few days ago; in the back of it, you had made yourself a couple of notes. The first one of these is: 'In the middle of October the great lions are being cast in the Imperial Iron Ore Foundry!,' the second, underlined twice, reads: 'Visit Professor Gattner!' Who is he?"
"Oh right, I know – that's the good old gentleman at the observatory who has the habit of inviting me for a visit now and then. For a long time, I wanted to take you along so that the both of us could take a look at the moon and the little man in the moon. Now they have a fairly large telescope up there; one is supposed to be able to see on this incredible 'round of the moon', bright and clear almost close enough to touch, mountains, valleys, gorges, and from the side, where the sunshine does not reach, even the shadow that the mountains cast. For nearly three years I meant to go there; however, unfortunately and to my shame, I never found the time!"
"Well," she said, "the moon is not running away. We may yet catch up with it."
After a pause he continued, "Is it not like that with everything? Drat, I don't want to think of what one misses out on, postpones, and sets aside! – not to speak of duties towards God and our fellow men – I mean, to speak just of sheer delight, of the little, innocent joys, that surround us daily and are ours to take but for the taking."
Frau Mozart did not want to tear him away from the direction this easily incited train of thought of his was heading towards more and more, nay, she even had to agree with him wholeheartedly, when he continued with increased fervour, "Have I ever fully enjoyed the company of my children for a full hour? How much of it is only happening in passing! Taking the boys up on my knees, racing through the room with them for two minutes, basta!, on with my usual routine! Sometimes I regret that we never took time out to spend a beautiful day, say, at Easter or Whitsuntide, in a garden or in a forest, on a meadow, just the two of us and our children, frolicking, enjoying the flowers, playing games with the children, becoming children again ourselves. Life just races on and on. – Dear Lord!, considering this right, one could break out into sweat from the fright of it!"
With this just-pronounced self-accusation, a very serious conversation was opened all of a sudden, in all mutual respect, between the spouses. We will not divulge the details of this conversation but rather shed some light on the conditions that, in part very expressively and very immediately, provided the background to this conversation.
In this context, we are forced to face the fact that this fiery, incredibly sensitive individual who was so receptive to all the stimulations the world had to offer as well as for the highest that the striving mind might be able to grasp, as much as he had already experienced, enjoyed and brought forth in the short time span of his life thus far, had never in his entire life enjoyed a pure and quiet satisfaction with himself.
He who is not willing to look deeper into the root causes of this phenomenon, where these reasons will actually be found, will tend to look for the causes in those, as they appear, unsurmountably entrenched habits which we like to – and not without reason – bring into a kind of necessary connection with that which are our reasons for admiring Mozart.
The needs of the man were manifold, and his tendency to enjoy social distractions was extraordinarily prevalent. Being welcomed in and honoured as an incomparable talent by the noblest families of the city, he seldom declined invitations to festivities, parties and gatherings. In doing so, he also reciprocated in kind by extending invitations to his peers, to the fullest. The musical Sunday evening soirées in his apartment, as well as comfortable midday meals in the company of a few friends and acquaintances, two or three times a week, he would not have wanted to miss. Sometimes he would bring his guests, to the dismay of his wife, unannounced, having met them in the street and urged them to come along, people of differing personal worth, dilettantes, fellow artists, singers, and poets. Equally welcome were to him the selfish and lazy parasite whose sole redeeming quality might have been his constantly displayed good sense of humour, and that of the more profane kind, the intelligent connoisseur and the skilled virtuoso. The greater part of his personal recreation and relaxation, however, he looked for outside of his home. Day after day, one would be able to see him playing billiards after dinner in a coffeehouse, just as one could find him in the tavern or restaurant many an evening. He liked to take part in carriage or horse back rides out into the countryside; as a skilled dancer, he attended dances and balls, and he also enjoyed taking part in outdoor folk festivals, especially in the festival of St. Brigitte, at which he used to show up in a Pierrot costume.
These distractions, at times of a merry and hilarious, at other times of a quieter nature, were meant to provide the necessary relaxation to the mind of the artist that was often strained, for long periods of time, in incredible tours-de-force of creativity; as an aside, they also did not fail to provide to this mind through the mysterious ways in which genius inadvertently plays its game unconsciously, the fine fleeting impressions which sometimes thus become its source of inspiration. Unfortunately, in such hours, which always demanded to be enjoyed to the fullest, other considerations, be they considerations of prudence or of a sense of duty, of self- preservation, or of domesticity, did not receive a voice. Both in his enjoyment and in his creativity, Mozart did not know how to keep a healthy balance. Part of the night was always dedicated to composing. Early in the morning, sometimes still in bed, he revised his work. Then, at ten o'clock, he would set out, sometimes on foot, sometimes by carriage, to make his rounds in giving lessons, which might also take up part of the afternoon. "We are striving very hard," he once wrote to one of his patrons, "and it is sometimes difficult not to lose patience. As a reputable cembalist and music teacher, one takes on a dozen pupils, and still another one, irrespective as to whether the pupil is deserving, provided he pays a few talers in cash. Every Hungarian mustachio from the 'corps des genies' who is driven by the devil to study thoroughbass and counterpoint is welcome; the most capricious little countess who receives me, just like Master Coquerel, the hairdresser, with an angrily flushed face should I but once not knock at her door at the precise hour, etc." And when he then, tired from these and other occupations such as academy concerts, rehearsals and the like, was gasping for fresh air, his tired nerves only found superficial nourishment in new distractions and agitation. His health was slowly and quietly eroding, recurring bouts of depression were, if not created, at least nourished by this situation, and, at last, a premonition of his early death would follow him everywhere he went. He was used to sorrow of every kind, including a feeling of remorse, as a bitter pill in the midst of every joy he encountered. Yet we know that all this pain flowed, purified and transformed, into that deep well, out of which it again flowed unceasingly from a hundred sources and poured out into the variety of his melodies, all the pain and bliss a human heart could ever endure.
The detrimental effects of Mozart's lifestyle were most evident in his domestic situation. The accusation of foolhardy, imprudent waste would easily come to mind; it would even apply to one of his most endearing human qualities. If someone approached him who was in great need and asked him for a cash loan or for a guarantee on his behalf, the applicant was counting on the fact that he did not ask him for any credentials, collateral or security; he would, as little as a child, have known how to make use of these. He even preferred to outright give away in generosity what was asked for, particularly when he considered himself to be financially well off at the time.
The financial means that such expenditures, in addition to his household expenses, would have demanded, stood in no relation to the actual income. What was earned with concerts, theatre performances, with publications and from pupils, in addition to his Imperial pension, was not enough all the more because of the fact that the public had not decided yet if they should favour Mozart's works above all. Their transparent beauty, richness and depth was found strangely unusual, compared to the popular, lighter fare. Even though the Viennese could not get enough of "Belmonte and Konstanze" – thanks to the popular elements of this piece – , a few years later, "Figaro", and that certainly not alone due to the intrigues of the director, took an unexpected great fall in competition with the lovely, but by far lesser, "Cosa rara", the same "Figaro" which the more refined Praguers soon after received with such enthusiasm that the maestro, moved by this, resolved to write his next major opera especially for them. – In spite of the prevailing disfavour and in spite of the influence of his enemies, with a little more prudence Mozart should still have been able to make some profit from his art; the way things were, he even fell short when the masses applauded his works in certain productions. In short, all forces, fate and natural inclination and his own fault worked together so that the man could not prosper.
We can easily understand what a tough position a housewife must have been in under such circumstances, especially if she recognized her task. Although herself young and endowed with a zest for life, and, as the daughter of a musician, a full-blooded artist at heart, already used from her parents' home to make do with less, Konstanze was really willing to attack this evil at its root, to prevent many wrongs from happening, and to replace the occurring large-scale losses with savings here and there in the trivial daily household expenses. However, particularly in this she lacked a certain skill and prior experience. She was always in charge of cash money and kept the household accounts; every bill, every reminder and whatever else of this unpleasant nature would come into the house went exclusively to her. At times she must have felt as if she was drowning or swimming against the tide, especially when her financial worries were coupled with the need to cope with her husband's depressed mood in which he would remain for days on end, inactive and procrastinating, not receptive to any consolation, sitting in a corner by himself, pondering the one unhappy thought, namely that of dying, that dug itself ever deeper into the abyss of his despair. Very rarely did she lose her courage altogether; most of the time her cheerful mind found, at least temporarily, some solution to the problem on hand. However, what was gained in the long run, if she was able to convince him to stay home for a meal or an entire evening, or even just to sit with her and drink a cup of tea, through either humouring him or through earnestly pleading with him? He could, once in a while, with his conscience awakened at the sight of his wife's tears, be suddenly moved to honestly curse his habits, to promise to behave at his very best, which was more than she asked for – in vain, soon he would find himself again in his old rut. One was tempted to believe that it was not in his power to act otherwise, and that an order quite different from that which governs what is deemed prudent and wise for the rest of mankind, had somehow forced itself upon him, so as to literally have lifted him, this wonderful being, up, as if he had been moved by forces beyond his control.
Konstanze always hoped for a favourable turn of events insofar as this turn might be caused by outside forces: through a radical change for the better of their financial situation, which was bound to happen on the strength of her husband's growing fame. She thought that once the most oppressing necessity of his having to expend half of his time and energy in earning a living for his family, which he felt sometimes more and sometimes less, would fall off, once he would not have to chase after distractions but rather could enjoy them openly and with a better conscience, his entire burden would be lightened, his bearing would be that of one who is at ease and calm. Occasionally she also thought of their possibly changing their residence to another city, since she hoped that his preference for Vienna could, in the end, be overcome, convinced as she was that there was no real hope for him here.
Frau Mozart hoped for the next decisive move towards the realization of her hopes and dreams through a success of the new opera, which was the object of this journey.
More than half of the work had already been composed. Friends and confidantes who knew enough of the subject matter and who, witnessing the creation of this extraordinary work, would have gained an adequate impression of the effect and character of this work, everywhere spoke of it in such tones that even some of its opponents would count on this "Don Juan's" shaking up the musical world of Germany from one end of the country to the other and its taking this country by storm within less than half a year. More cautious and reasonable were the voices of other well-wishers who, in consideration of the situation of the music scene in their present day, did not dare to hope for a sweeping success of the work . . . Silently, the master shared their only too well-founded doubts.
Publication of the Libretto for "Don Giovanni"
printed in Prague
(Vienna, Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde)
Konstanze, however, as women often tend to do, once their lively enthusiasm has been kindled and, moreover, been nourished by their legitimate hopes for the improvement of their situation, and who, much less than men, can be swayed by later doubts, held steadfastly to her belief in success and found here, sitting in the carriage, once more an occasion to defend it. She did so in her cheerful and lively manner with twice the enthusiasm since Mozart's mood had changed for the worse during their earnest conversation that did not lead them anywhere and that was therefore abandoned. In good humour, she explained to her husband in detail the manner in which she would spend the 100 ducats that had been arrived at as the price for the score of the opera with the Prague theatre director, namely on paying down some of the most pressing debts and so forth, and how well she would be able to manage financially during the coming winter until spring.
"Your Herr Bondini (2) will be able to turn a nice profit from the opera, I am sure; and if he is only half the gentleman you always make him out to be, he will, in turn, share some of it with you, also afterwards of the monies that will come in from the fees other stages will have to pay for a copy of the score; if that will not happen, we still have, praise be to God, other prospects, which I think will even be a thousand times more realistic. I have my hunches in this."
"Let me hear them!"
"Not long ago, I heard a little bird singing, that the King of Prussia is looking for a Kapellmeister(3)."
"General Music Director, I meant to say. Let me dream on a bit about it! I have inherited this weakness from my mother."
"Go on, the more fantastic, the better!"
"No, all of this could happen very naturally. – First of all assume: next year around this time – ".
"When the Pope will marry Judy the Puppet – "
"Be quiet, Punch! As I am saying, next year at the feast of St. Aegidius, there will no longer be an Imperial Chamber composer by the name of Wolf Mozart in Vienna anywhere!"
"In my mind I can hear our friends talking about us after we will have left, and what they have to say about us."
"Just imagine, one morning our old admirer, Madam Volkstett, strutting eagerly in her vigorous battle mood across the Kohlmarkt. She had been away for three months to visit her brother-in-law in Saxony; her usual chatter, the way we know it, sets in: she has returned last night, and now, with her heart bursting with all that travelling excitement and all the news from her journey – off she struts to see the Madame Colonel and to tell her all about it – up the steps and knocking at her door, not even waiting for a 'come in!:' imagine the excitement, but also the embarrassment on both parts! – 'Now, my dear, best Madame Colonel,' she continues after some preliminary remarks, 'I bring you many greetings, can you guess from whom? I have not come back directly from Stendal, I made a little detour towards Brandenburg.' – 'What? Is it possible...You went to Berlin? have visited the Mozarts?' – 'Ten heavenly days!' – 'Oh, dear, sweet, one and only Madam General, tell me, tell me more! How are our dear people? Do they still like it there as much as in the beginning? It seems incredible, unthinkable, even today, and now all the more with you just returning from them – Mozart a Berliner! How does he fit in? What does he look like?' – 'Oh, he! You should just see him. This summer, the King sent him to Karlsbad. When would his oh-so-beloved Emperor Joseph ever have thought of that, right? They had both just returned from there when I arrived. He is a picture of health, round and jolly, yet as lively as mercury; happiness and comfort are literally laughing out of his eyes."
And now the wifely narrator began, in her assumed role, to describe their new situation in the brightest colours. She talked of his apartment Unter den Linden, of his garden and cottage, and of the sites of his creative activity and of the Court, where he had to accompany the queen on the piano; all that became lively reality through her narration. Entire conversations, the most beautiful anecdotes, came out of her mouth. She seemed, indeed, to be more familiar with that Royal residence, with Potsdam and with Sanssoucci than with Schönbrunn and the Hofburg. On top of that she was mischievous and clever enough to endow our hero with a number of new domestic qualities that had developed on the sober soil of his new Prussian existence and amongst which the said Volkstett had noticed as the most outstanding phenomenon and as proof of the fact how opposites sometimes attract each other, a little bit of healthy greed which suited him most admirably. "'Just imagine, he has a fixed salary of three thousand talers, and what for? For conducting a chamber concert once, and operas twice a week. – Oh, Madame Colonel, I have seen him, our dear, little golden man, in the midst of his marvellous orchestra that he has trained for his purposes and the members of which adore him! I sat with Frau Mozart in her box, just across from the highest nobility! And what was on the program, I ask you – just look at it, here it is written in big letters!' 'Heaven help us! – what? Tarar(4)!' – 'Just imagine, my friend, what one has to live through! Two years ago, when Mozart wrote the 'Don Juan' and when the cursed venomous, jealous Salieri silently set about to repeat the triumph he had with his piece in Paris, in the near future, on his own turf and let our good, dove-loving audience that loves to indulge in 'Cosa rara's, for once also see such a rare falcon, and when he and his cohorts stuck their heads together and plotted that they did not want to put the 'Don Juan', as nicely plucked as 'Figaro' before, neither dead nor alive, on any stage – well, you must know, I swore an oath then, if his infamous piece will be staged here, I will not go to see it – for no money in the world! And she kept her word. Everyone ran to see it – also our Madam Colonel – I stayed by my hearth, took my cat on my lap and ate my 'Kaldausche(5), and repeated this as often as the work was staged. But now, just imagine, Tarar on the stage of the Berlin opera house, the work of his deadly enemy, conducted by Mozart! – 'You have to go and see it!,' he said right during the first fifteen minutes of my arrival, 'and if only to tell the Viennese if I had harmed the boy Absalom by a hair. I wish he would be here himself, the notoriously jealous fool could see that I do not have to resort to botching someone else's work in order to remain who I have always been!'"
"Brava! bravissima!" shouted Mozart loudly and took his little wife by her ears, kissed, hugged and tickled her, so that this playing with beautiful soap bubbles of a dreamed-up future that would, unfortunately, never, not even in its most modest form, come true, finally ended in their sheer delight, noise and laughter.
By now they had arrived in the valley and were approaching a village which they had already spotted from the hilltop, and beyond which one could see in the charming valley a small palace of modern build, the residence of Count von Schinzberg. It was planned to stop in the village for their midday meal and some rest. The inn at which they stopped stood somewhat apart, at the end of the village by the road from which a poplar tree alley of a length of not more than six hundred feet led towards the park of the Count's property.
View of Linz, where the Mozarts
stayed with Count Thun-Hohenstein
After they had alighted from the carriage, Mozart left, as usual, the ordering of their meal to his wife. In the meantime, he ordered a glass of wine for himself, to be brought to the lower guest room, while she first asked for a glass of fresh water and after that only for a quiet area in which she could nap for an hour. She was led up a staircase, with her husband following, merrily singing and whistling to himself. In a room that was painted white and that had quickly been aired out, there was to be found, among other old-fashioned furniture of distinguished quality – no doubt all of it must have found its way here from the Count's palace – a clean, light bed with painted canopy, standing on a slim, lacquered frame of columns, the silken drapes of which had long been replaced by more ordinary fabric drapes. Konstanze made herself comfortable, he promised to wake her on time, she locked the door behind him, and after that he sought entertainment in the common guest room. There was no soul in it beside the innkeeper, and since the latter's conversation was as little to the guest's liking as his wine, he expressed his desire to go for a walk towards the park of the Count's palace before mealtime. As he heard, decent visitors were allowed access to this park. Moreover, the family had gone out today. He left and soon had made his way to the open park gate, and walked along an alley of old, high linden trees at the end of which, at its left side, he saw before him, not too far away, the Count's palace. It was built in the Italian style, painted bright, with a widely protruding outside double stairway; the shingled roof was decorated with a few statues of the usual kind, namely deities, and had a balustrade.
From the centre of two large flower beds that were filled with still lively blooming flowers, our master went towards the bushy part of the park, reached a group of beautiful dark stone- pines and led his steps along winding paths through the maze and eventually returned to the lighter part of it where he was attracted by a water fountain.
The fountain's wide, oval-shaped basin was surrounded by an orangery of potted trees, which was again skirted by laurel and oleander trees; a soft, sandy path ran around it which faced a slender, latticed arboretum. The arboretum provided a most delightful resting place; a small table stood in front of a bench, and Mozart sat down at it near the entrance..
His ear restfully listening to the sound of the water in the fountain, his eyes fixed on a bitter orange tree of medium size, which did not stand in a row but by itself close by his side and which bore a multitude of beautiful fruits, our friend was soon, on account of this nearly Southern-European scene, led back to a memory of his youth. Smiling, engrossed in his thoughts, he reached for the fruit next to him so as to feel in the hollow of his hands its beautiful roundness and its marvellous freshness. In connection with his boyhood memory that had again appeared before his mind he also encountered a somewhat hazy musical reminiscence, along the uncertain traces of which he dreamily travelled for a while. His eyes were glowing with excitement and they were searching here and there, a thought had him in its grip, which he immediately and eagerly followed. Absentmindedly, he touched the bitter orange for the second time, inadvertently loosened it from the tree, and held it in his hand. He saw this and yet did also not see it; his artistic absentmindedness even went so far that he, bouncing the fruit to and fro in his hands right beneath his nose, with sometimes the beginning or the middle of a melody on his lips, at last instinctively retrieved an enamelled case from the side pocket of his coat, took out a small knife with a silver handle and slowly cut up the round mass from top to bottom. He might have been guided along by a dim feeling of thirst, yet his stimulated senses were satisfied by breathing in the delicious smell of the fruit. For a few minutes, he stared at the two halves of the fruit, gently put them together, very gently, took them apart again and put them together again.
He could hear steps close by all of a sudden, was rattled awake, and an awareness of where he was and of what he had done suddenly overwhelmed him. Almost in the process of hiding the bitter orange, he halted, maybe out of pride, maybe because it was too late to hide it now. A tall, broad-shouldered man in servant's uniform, obviously the grounds keeper of the palace, stood before him. The latter had obviously seen Mozart's last, suspicious movement and remained painfully silent for a few seconds. Mozart, also speechless, literally nailed to his seat, looked at him half-smiling, visibly blushing, but also fresh and forward with his blue eyes; then he put the fruit – for a third party this would have been most comical to observe – apparently unharmed, down on the middle of the table with some stubborn emphasis..
"Pardon me," started the grounds keeper, after he had glanced over the promising attire of the stranger, "I don't know who I have the pleasure of – " "Kapellmeister Mozart from Vienna.".
"No doubt you are known to the Count?".
"I am a stranger here and passing through. Is the Count in his palace?".
"Is busy and must not be disturbed."
Mozart rose and prepared to leave.
"Pardon me, Sir, – how dare you take liberties like these here?"
"What?" shouted Mozart, "take liberties? By the devil, do you believe that I wanted to steal and eat this thing?"
"Sir, I believe what I see. The fruits have been counted, and I am responsible for them. The tree has been selected by the Count for a festivity, and it is supposed to be transported there immediately. I will not let you go before this incident is reported and before you tell me how it happened."
"So be it! I will wait here in the meantime. You can rely on it!"
The grounds keeper looked around and hesitated, and Mozart, thinking that he might be waiting for a tip, reached into his pocket, but he had no money with him.
Two workers actually came by, loaded the tree up and carried it away. In the meantime, our master had taken out his notebook, removed a white sheet from it and, while the grounds keeper never left his side, he started to write with pencil:
"Most gracious Lady! Here I sit, an unfortunate fellow in your paradise, like Adam at the beginning of time, after he had eaten from the apple. The unfortunate incident has happened, and I cannot even blame Eve for it, who at present is surrounded by the graces and amorettes of a canopy bed in the village inn and is innocently sleeping there. Command me, and I will deliver to Your Grace in person an account of my – to me inexplicable – misdeed. With the sincerest remorse,.
Your most obedient servant,
on his way to Prague."
He handed the note, which he had folded up rather clumsily, over to the waiting servant, providing him with the required instructions.
The Holy Inquisitor had barely left when a carriage could be heard rolling into the courtyard of the palace. It was the Count who had brought over a niece and her fiancé, a young rich Baron, from the neighbouring mansion. Since the mother of the latter had not been able to leave her home for years, the engagement festivities had been held there today; now the festivities were to continue here in the company of a few relatives where Eugenie had found a second home and where she was treated like a daughter. The Countess had returned somewhat earlier with her son Max, the Lieutenant, to see to things and to give her orders. Now one could see that everyone in the palace was moving about in the corridors and on the staircases, and the grounds keeper was only able to hand over his note to the Countess with great difficulty; the Countess did not open the note immediately, but rather hurried on with her business without paying much attention to the grounds keeper's words. He waited and waited, but she did not return. One after another of the servants, the butler, the chambermaid, the valet, hurried by him; he asked for the young Count – the latter was supposed to be changing at the moment; he looked for him and found Count Max in his room, talking to the Baron. In order to prevent the grounds keeper from saying anything about the upcoming festivities which should still remain a secret, Count Max cut him off with, "I'm coming right away, go on ahead!" It still took a while until both father and son, the old and the young Count, appeared and received his unpleasant news.
"Hell and damnation!" shouted the stocky, good-natured, yet also a bit abrupt man, "that is outrageous! A Viennese musician, you say? Probably one of those scoundrels who, in order to finance his travelling, steals whatever comes in handy?".
"Pardon, Your Grace, he does not exactly look like that. I think he is not quite right in his head; he is also very haughty. He calls himself Moser. He is waiting downstairs for a reply; I told Franz to keep an eye on him."
"What's the use of it now, I ask you? Even if I have him locked up now, the damage cannot be repaired, anymore! I have told you a thousand times, the front gate should remain locked at all times. The prank could have been prevented had you only taken the necessary precautions in time!"
At this moment, the Countess entered and exclaimed, the open note in her hand, "Do you know who is downstairs? For God's sake, read the note – Mozart from Vienna, the composer! We have to go down right away and ask him upstairs! – I am just afraid that he might be gone by now! what must he think of us! You, Velten, I hope, treated him with courtesy? What has happened, anyway?"
"Happened?" replied her husband, whose previous anger did not completely vanish at the prospect of a visit by the famous man, "the outrageous man has ripped off a bitter orange from the tree that I had selected as a present for Eugenie, that...monster! Our planned fun has all been for nothing now, and Max can forget about his poem!"
"O no!," said the excited lady, "the gap on the tree can easily be closed, leave that to me. Go, the both of you, relax, and receive the good man, as friendly and as graciously as you possibly can! I want him to stay tonight if that can be somehow arranged. If you cannot find him in the park anymore, look for him at the inn and bring him here with his wife. Coincidence could not have brought a better present, a bigger surprise, for Eugenie's day!"
"Certainly!" replied Max, "that was my first thought, as well. Come quick, Papa! And", he said, while they were hurrying to the staircase, "do not worry about the poem! The ninth muse shall not suffer altogether; to the contrary, we may yet turn this mishap around to our particular advantage."
"That is impossible."
"I am certain of it!"
"Well, if you think so, I will take you by your word – , so we shall treat this culprit with all the honours due to him!"
While all of this took place in the palace, our quasi- prisoner, fairly unconcerned with the outcome of the matter, had spent quite some time with writing. However, since nobody returned, he began pacing back and forth anxiously; at one point, an urgent message was delivered from the inn that the table had already been set for some time and that he should come immediately, as the inn's messenger requested. Thus he started to gather his belongings and wanted to leave, when the two gentlemen appeared in the arboretum.
The Count welcomed him, almost as cordially as an old acquaintance, with his loud voice, would not accept any excuses, but rather declared his desire to have the pleasure of his and his wife's company at least for this midday meal and also for this evening. "You, my dear maestro, are so little a stranger in our home that I can dare say that the name Mozart will hardly be uttered more enthusiastically than here. My niece sings and plays the piano and spends nearly all day at it, knows your works by heart and has the greatest desire to see you closer than it was possible for her last winter at a concert in Vienna. Since we will be going to Vienna soon for a couple of weeks, she has been promised an invitation of some relatives of ours to Prince Gallizin, where you can be found off and on. But now you are going to Prague and will very likely not return for some time, and God knows if your return journey will bring you back here. Put in a day of rest today and tomorrow! We shall send your carriage on its way, and we shall take care of your further transportation!"
The composer did not ponder this very long since he was generally inclined to sacrifice ten times more than was asked of him in this case; such friendly invitations that offered some distraction were always to his liking. He happily agreed to spend the rest of the day with them; the next morning, however, he would have to continue his journey as planned. Count Max asked for the pleasure of picking up Frau Mozart and of making the necessary arrangements at the inn. He left, and a carriage was to follow him right away.
Of this young man we can report that he had inherited from his mother and his father a cheerful disposition and that he had a great love for the "beautiful sciences," but not a real inclination towards soldiering; yet he had, as an officer, acquired a certain knowledge and good manners. He knew French literature and, at a time at which German poetry was not yet held in esteem in higher circles, he had acquired some skill in and earned praise for the lightness of his German poems which he had written after the examples of Hagedorn, Götz(6) and others. Today he had an especially joyful occasion to present his skill.
He found Madame Mozart chatting with the daughter of the innkeeper at the set table where she had already eaten a bowl of soup. She was too used to her husband's inclination towards serendipity and to his surprise decisions to show more concern at the appearance of the young officer. With unpretentious cheerfulness, levelheaded and skilfully, she arranged everything that needed to be arranged, herself. She re-packed, paid, dismissed the coachman, made her toilette without too much fuss, and accompanied her escort to the Count's palace, not even being able to guess in what manner her husband had introduced himself there.
In the meantime, the latter found himself most comfortably and cordially entertained. After a short while he met Eugenie, a blossoming, most graceful, sincere creature, with her fiancé. Her blond hair and her forehead were adorned with a string of precious pearls, and she was dressed festively in a carmouisin- red silk gown with precious embroidery. The Baron, only slightly older than she and of a mild, open character, seemed to be worthy of her in every respect.
The first part of their conversation was only too willingly carried by the well-disposed host, who entertained everyone with his little jokes and anecdotes in his loud manner. Refreshments were served which our traveller did not decline in the least.
Mozart accompanying the soprano
Catterina Cavalieri (ps. of Franziska Cavalieri)
Vienna, Museen der Stadt
Someone had opened the pianoforte – the score to "The Marriage of Figaro" lay open, and the young lady began, accompanied by her fiance, to sing Susanna's aria from that garden scene(7) in which we can inhale sweet passion in a current such as the mild air of a summer's night. The tender red complexion of Eugenie's face changed to extreme paleness for two mere seconds; with the first tone, however, that came from her lips, all inhibition fell off her. She kept smiling, feeling secure, carried by the inspiring wings of her muse, and the feeling of this moment, the only one of this kind she would, perhaps, ever have in her life, carried her along justifiably.
Mozart was ostensibly surprised. When she had ended, he stepped towards her and commented right from his heart, "what shall I say, dear child, here, where it is as with our dear sun that prefers to best praise itself, while everyone is warmed by it so well! Listening to such singing makes one feel as happy as an infant in the bathtub: it begins to laugh and is full of wonder and does not know of any greater happiness in this world. Besides, believe me, a man like myself cannot hear his own work performed so purely, so unadulterated and sincere, in Vienna, every day." – With that he took her hand and kissed it sincerely. The man's graciousness and friendliness, not any less than his honourable verdict on her talent, filled Eugenie with an irresistible feeling of being deeply moved which can sometimes arouse dizziness, and her eyes wanted to fill with tears, all of a sudden.
At this moment, Madame Mozart entered, followed by new guests who had been expected: a noble family that was closely related to the host family and that lived nearby, with a daughter, Franziska, who had been bound to the bride by ties of friendship from early childhood on.
Welcoming words were exchanged, everybody duly embraced and congratulated each other, the Viennese guests were introduced, and Mozart sat down by the pianoforte. He played a passage from the concerto of his which Eugenie was practising on at present.
The effect of such a performance in a small circle such as this differs, of course, from a similar one in a public place, due to the immense gratification that lies in the immediate contact with the person and the genius of the artist within familiar domestic surroundings.
It was one of those brilliant pieces in which pure beauty puts itself, maybe out of capriciousness, into the service of elegance; this was done, however, in such a manner that the work poured out its beautiful pathos almost only in a hidden fashion, covered by the more deliberate playful forms and by a multitude of bright lights; yet in every movement it displayed its genuine nobility.
The Countess observed by herself that most listeners, maybe not even excluding Eugenie, in spite of all of their enthralment and solemn silence during the enchanting performance, still had to divide their attention between the impressions their ears and their eyes received simultaneously. In their immediate observation of the composer in his simple, almost stiff position, his kind face, in the rounded movement of his little hands, it was surely not easy to resist the many thoughts about this miraculous man that crossed their minds.
After the maestro had risen, the Count said, directed to Madame Mozart, "How lucky are kings and emperors when it comes to adequately praising a famous artist! Everything that comes out of their mouths naturally has to be unique and significant. What liberties do they not have, and how convenient it is to, for example, stand closely behind your husband's chair, during the final chords of a brilliant fantasy, and to tap the classical man on his shoulder and to say, 'you are a devil of a fellow, dear Mozart!' Barely has the word been spoken that it goes through the room like wildfire, "what did he say to him?' – 'That he is a devil of a fellow, that is what he told him!' And everybody who fiddles, plays and composes, is beside himself because of this one word; in short, this is the great style, the familiar Imperial style, the incomparable one, for which I have always envied the Josephs and the Friedrichs, and which I am now lacking more than ever in this very moment, in which I would desperately need it and cannot find it, let alone can I find in any of my pockets any other brilliant bon mot!"
The manner in which he, the convivial joker, presented this, did him some honour, though, and inadvertently produced some laughter.
Now, however, on the invitation of the housewife, the company moved to the decorated round dining salon, which greeted them with a festive perfume of flowers and some cooler air that would not harm their appetites.
They all took their graciously assigned places, with the distinguished guest sitting opposite bride and bridegroom. At his one side was sitting a small elderly lady, an unmarried aunt of Franziska, at his other side the charming young niece herself, who soon charmed him with her wit and cheerful manner. Frau Konstanze was seated between the host and the kindly young Count who had fetched her; everyone else filled the remaining seats and all eleven of them formed a lively dinner party; the lower end of the table remained empty. On the long table stood two large porcelain centerpieces, painted with figurines, topped by wide bowls filled with natural fruits and flowers. The walls of the dining salon were decorated with festoons. Whatever was already on the table and what still followed, promised a rich, festive meal. Partly on the table, between bowls and platters, partly from the serving table, blinked the glass of the most exquisite drinks, from the darkest red to the most yellowish-white, the gay sparkle of which usually only crowned the second part of such a festivity.
Until this moment the general conversation, nourished from several sides, centred around diverse topics. However, since the Count had already alluded more generally in the beginning, and now more particularly, to Mozart's unique adventure in his garden, so that some of the guests quietly chuckled and others tried in vain to figure out in their minds what the Count was referring to, causing our famous friend to come right out with it.
"In God's name, let me confess," he began, "in what manner I had the honour of making the acquaintance of your noble house. In this I do not play the most honourable part, and by a hair I would now not sit here but rather in the Count's dungeon and could only look at the spider webs with an empty stomach."
"Well, now," said Madame Mozart, "I will get to hear nice things about you!"
He explained that he had left his wife behind in the village inn, the "Weißes Roß" (White Horse), that he had promenaded in the park, followed by the unlucky incident in the arboretum and his precarious dealings with the grounds keeper; in short, he told them in all honesty what we already know, to the sheer delight of the dining party. The laughter did not seem to find an end; even the level-headed Eugenie could not help shaking with laughter.
"Now," he continued, "the saying goes: he who ends up benefiting from a precarious situation, may also face some well- earned mockery! I have certainly profited from the incident, as you will see. However, you should also know how it happened that such an old silly fool as I am could forget himself in this way. A memory from my boyhood played a role in it.
“As a thirteen-year-old boy(8), I travelled to Italy with my father in the spring of 1770. We went from Rome to Naples. I had performed twice in the Conservatory and also at several other occasions. The nobility and the clergy honoured us with many favours. Especially attached to us became a certain Father who liked to be known as a connoisseur and who had some influence at the Court. On the day before our departure, he led us, in the company of several other gentlemen, to a Royal garden, the Villa reale, which is situated at the magnificent road by the seaside, where a company of Sicilian comedians were performing – figli di Nettuno(9), as they called themselves; among the spectators were even the young, charming Queen Karolina and two princesses; we sat on a long row of benches in the shade of a long, canopied gallery, the walls of which were greeted by the softly splashing waves of the sea. The sea in its many shades of blue marvellously reflected the blue, sunny sky. Right in front of us we saw Mount Vesuvius; to the left, a softly curved beach beckoned.”
“The first part of the performance was over; it had taken place on a stage of dry wooden boards that were mounted as a float on the water, which was nothing special; the second part of the performance, however, took place directly in the water and featured various boat performances, swimming and diving performances and stuck in my memory in all details.”
“From appropriate distances, two slender, lightly built barks approached each other, the riders of both of which were seemingly engaged in a pleasure ride. The one, a bit larger than the other, was covered halfway and, next to the rowing benches, was equipped with a slender mast and a sail and was beautifully painted, its tip golden. Five good-looking young men, barely dressed, were partly engaged in rowing and partly amusing themselves with an equal number of graceful girls, representing their lovers. One of these young girls who was sitting in the middle on top of the front cover of the bark and who was engaged in winding wreaths of flowers, excelled all others in beauty and build as well as in her adornment and costume. The others served her willingly, held a canvass over her to protect her from the sun and handed her flowers from a basket. A girl flautist sat at their feet, supporting the singing of the others with her playing. Also this exquisite beauty did not lack a protector; however, both protector and beauty acted somewhat indifferently toward each other, and the lover even seemed somewhat rough to me.”
“In the meantime, the other, somewhat more modestly decorated bark, approached. On this bark one could only see young men. As the former young men were dressed in bright red, so were these latter in sea green. They halted at the sight of the lovely young girls, waved their greetings and indicated that they would like to become acquainted with them. The most cheerful of the girls took a rose from her bosom, held it up mischievously, as if she was asking if such a present would be welcomed by them, to which they received obvious replies in the form of appropriate gestures from the other side. The young men who were dressed in red looked rather sinister, but they could not do anything when several of 'their' girls agreed to at least throw some food and drink over to the poor devils in the other bark. A basketful of oranges stood on the ground. It might only have been yellow balls which were painted in such a way as to resemble those fruits. With this began an enchanting little drama, accompanied by music, the orchestra of which played at the promenade. One of the maidens began by lightly throwing across a few bitter oranges that were caught elegantly on the other bark, and thrown back in likewise fashion.”
“Since more girls joined the game of throwing bitter oranges, more of these fruits flew back and forth, in ever increasing speed. The beauty in the middle did not take part in this fight, but rather watched eagerly from her chair. We could not admire the agility of both sides enough. The boats also slowly turned around by about thirty steps each, soon the flanks of the boats faced each other; soon thereafter each front in diagonal position; during all of this, twenty-four balls were constantly in the air, but in the confusion one believed to see even more. Sometimes it looked like a literal cross-fire, sometimes the balls flew high up into the air; hardly any of them ever missed, however. It was as if they were moving through the air by a special force and that they magnetically landed in open hands.”
“As pleasantly as the eye was entertained, equally lovely were to the ear the accompanying melodies: Sicilian songs, dances, Saltarelli (Italian dances), Canzonia ballo (dance songs), an entire Quodlibet, added on to each other like a garland. The younger princess, a sweet, innocent girl, about my age, accompanied the rhythm with the nods of her head; I can still see her smile and the long lashes of her eyes.”
“Let me still explain the continuing plot of the drama, even if it is not directly related to today's incident! One can hardly imagine anything prettier. While the throwing game slowly came to an end and while only a few balls still flew through the air, while the girls gathered their golden apples and put them back in the basket, one of the boys on the other boat had almost playfully taken hold of a wide, green, knitted net, and held it under water for a short while; then he lifted it up, and to the amazement of everyone, a large, blue, green and golden-coloured fish could be seen in the net. The other boys eagerly approached to grab the fish, but it slid out of their hands as if it was a real fish and fell into the sea. This had been used as a deliberate ploy to entice the 'reds' to leave their boat. They, seemingly enchanted by the miracle, did not hesitate for one moment, once they realized that the fish would not sink into the water but remain floating on the surface, and jumped into the sea, the 'greens' followed, and thus one saw twelve agile, well- built swimmers chasing after one fleeing fish that was dancing on the waves, vanished for minutes beneath the water, popped up here and there between the swimmers' legs, chests or chins. All of a sudden, just when the 'reds' were the most eager to catch it, the other party saw their advantage and climbed, quick as lightning, on board the other boat where the girls had been left entirely by themselves, of course to the great noise of the girls' shrieking. The noblest of these boys, built like the god Mercury, joyfully approached the most beautiful girl, embraced and kissed her who, far from joining the shrieking of her girlfriends, hot-temperedly slung her arms around him. The betrayed team of the 'reds' swam back as quickly as possible; however, they were chased away from their own boat by the 'greens' hitting at them with the rudders and other weapons. Their fruitless anger, the fearful shrieking of the girls, the violent resistance some of them put up against their conquerors, their desperate pleadings, almost drowning in the general state of alarm of the water and of the music that had, suddenly, changed its character – all this was beautiful beyond description, and the audience broke out into stormy enthusiasm.”
“At this moment the sail that had, thus far, been tied down loosely, started to unfold: out of it stepped a rosy boy with silver wings, equipped with bow, arrow and quiver; in a graceful position he freely balanced on the mast. All rudders were being put to work again, the sail caught wind; more powerful, however, seemed the presence of the godhead in urging his team on to get away; this was done so vigorously that the swimmers who tried to follow their conquered boat, one of whom even held the golden fish high up with his left hand, soon gave up, however, and, due to their depleted strength, sought refuge on the simple bark that was left behind. In the meantime, the 'greens' had reached a lushly vegetated peninsula, where a large, armed boat was waiting for them in ambush. In the face of such overwhelmingly threatening circumstances the greens could do nothing but hoist a white flag as a sign that they were willing to negotiate in good faith. Encouraged by a small signal, they approached the peninsula, and soon one saw all girls, with the exception of one, happily re-joining their lovers on their big ship. – With this, the comedy was over."
"I think," whispered Eugenie to the Baron with sparkling eyes during a break in which everyone expressed their delight with the story, "that we have been following an enacted symphony from beginning to end, which is also a perfect analogy to Mozart's spirit, even in his most cheerful mood! Am I not right? Is not the entire grace of 'Figaro' perfectly reflected in this story?"
The bridegroom was ready to convey this remark to the composer when the latter continued.
"It had been seventeen years now that I have seen Italy. Who does not remember it for the rest of his life after he has seen it, especially Naples?, even if he was, as I, a mere boy when he visited! The memory had seldom revisited my mind as lively as today in your park. When I closed my eyes – the heavenly country appeared right before me, bright and clear! Sea and shore, mountain and city, the colourful crowd of spectators at the promenade and then the wondrous game of all balls being thrown back and forth! I thought I heard once again the same music, an entire rosary of joyful melodies paraded before my mind, foreign and familiar, one always replacing the other. All of a sudden, a little dance tune jumped out, in 6/8 rhythm, entirely new to me. – Hold on, I thought, what is going on here? This seems to be a devilishly cute thing! I took a closer look – just imagine! there is Masetto! there is Zerlina(10)!" – He glanced laughingly at Madame Mozart who immediately understood him.
"The matter," he continues, "is very simple. In my second Act(11) I still missed a small light interlude, a duet with chorus at a countryside wedding. Two months ago, when I was, chronologically, supposed to come up with it, I could not find the right idea for it. A simple, childlike tune, bubbling with joy, like a fresh bouquet of flowers, that's what it had to be. As one can never really force anything and since such trifles have the tendency of taking care of themselves, I let it be and did not get back to it in the greater context of this work. Today, when we travelled in the carriage, the text occurred to me again briefly before we entered the village; I did not know that anything would come of it. Well, an hour later, in the arboretum by the fountain, I caught a motive that could not be more suitable and which I would not have found at any other time, in any other manner. An artist's experiences can sometimes be of the most peculiar nature, but never had any melody occurred to me on the basis of such a prank! For a melody, almost 'tailored' for its purpose – yet, let us not get ahead of ourselves here, the bird's head is only – so-to-say – showing, so far, it has not entirely left the eggshell yet – but I at once continued to get that little bird free. Zerline's dance was vividly in my mind in this, and the beautiful country around the Bay of Naples appeared right before my very eyes. I also heard the interchanging voices of the bride and bridegroom at the country wedding, and those of the maidens and fellows in the choir."
A group of musicians accompanying
the bridal procession.
An 18th-century design by
Moritz von Schwind for the opera
"The Marriage of Figaro"
Here Mozart started merrily to sing the beginning of the song:
"Giovinette, che fatte all'amore, che fatte all'amore,
Non lasciate, che passi l'età, che passi l'età!
Se nel seno vi bulica il core, vi bulica il core,
Il remedia vedete lo quà! La la la! La la la!
Che piacer, che piacer che sarà!
Ah la la! Ah la la usf."
(Young girls, born to love, born to love,
Do not let the right time (for love) pass you by, pass you by!
If your heart is on fire, on fire,
The remedy you can see right here! La la la!
What pleasure there will be! La la la, etc.)
"In the meantime, my hands had committed the crime. My nemesis was already lurking behind the hedge and now appeared in the form of a man in blue servants' uniform. An eruption of Mount Vesuvius, had its black rain of ashes, on that divine evening by the sea, covered spectators and actors, even the entire beauty of Parthenope(12), by God, the catastrophe could not have come more as a surprise to me than his approach. What a devil he was! Hardly anyone else has ever frightened me more! An iron face – not unlike that of the cruel Roman Emperor Tiberius! When he had left I asked myself, 'if the servant looks like that, what may his master be like?' However, I must admit, I pretty well counted on protection from the ladies of the house, and that not without reason. For my Stanzel here, my dear little wife, who is a bit nosy by nature, had the fat woman at the inn tell her everything there is to know about the members of the Count's family, and that in my presence; I was standing next to them and so I heard – ".
At that point, Madame Mozart could not help herself but to interrupt him and to vehemently reassure them that, quite to the contrary, he had been the one asking the questions; hilarious denials followed between husband and wife, producing much laughter. – "Be it as it may," he said, "in short, I vaguely heard something about a sweet 'foster daughter' who was supposed to be a bride, very beautiful and kindness herself, and that she had the singing voice of an angel. Per Dio(13)!, it occurred to me that this might help me out of my present predicament! I told myself, 'sit down at once, write the little song down as far as you can, explain truthfully what happened, and you will be in for some good fun.' Said and done! I had enough time, and found a neat sheet of green lined paper. – And here is the product! I put it into these beautiful hands, a bridal song, composed on the spur of the moment, if you will accept it as such."
With this, he handed his neatly written score of the little song across the table to Eugenie, but her uncle's hand snatched it up before her and he exclaimed, "Patience for one more moment, my child!"
On his command the double door of the salon opened up wide, and a few servants entered ceremoniously and quietly carried in the fateful bitter orange tree and put it on a bench near the far end of the dining table; at the same time, two small myrtle trees were set beside it, one on each side. The stem of the orange tree had attached to it a plate on which the bride was described as the owner of the tree; in the front, at its mossy bottom, however, stood, covered by a napkin, a porcelain plate which, once the cloth napkin was lifted, showed the cut-up orange, next to which the uncle, looking mischievously, stuck the master's autograph, to which arose general jubilation.
"I almost believe," said the Countess, "that Eugenie does not know what is standing in front of her: She no longer recognizes her old favourite in its new attire, with all it new fruits!".
Flabbergasted, the young lady looked at the tree and then at her uncle. "It can't be possible," she said, "I thought it could not be saved."
"So you think," replied the latter, "that we have presented to you some kind of substitute? That would be something else! No, just have a look – I have to present it in the way as it is done in comedies, in which long-lost, presumed-dead sons or brothers prove their identities with their birth-marks or scars. Look at this outgrowth! and here this cross-shaped crack, you must have noticed that a hundred times. Now, is this your old tree or not?" – She could no longer doubt it; her amazement, her emotion and her joy were indescribable.
With this tree was connected for the family the over 100-year-old memory of an excellent woman who well deserves to be remembered here by us.
The uncle's grandfather, well-known through the merits of his diplomatic work with the government in Vienna, having been honoured with the confidence of two regents in a row, was not any less fortunate in his own family, calling his own a most excellent wife, Renate Leonore by name. Her repeated stays in France brought her in touch with the famous court of Louis XIV and with the most important men and women of this remarkable era. During her uninhibited participation in the constantly changing, sophisticated attractions this life style had to offer, she never denied in word and deed her inherited German steadfastness of character and her moral strength, which was reflected in her strong features in the painting that still existed of her. Due to her moral outlook, she represented a peculiarly naive opposing force in that society, and the correspondence she left behind shows many traces of the fact with how much frankness and hearty quick-wittedness, whether she discussed religious matters, literature and politics or any other matter, the original woman with her healthy principles and outlook was able to defend her views, and to expose the weaknesses of this society without in the least making a nuisance of herself. Her lively interest in all those who frequented the house of a Ninon(14), the very heart of the finest education of her mind was of such a nature that it did not harm her friendship with one of the noblest ladies of that era, Madame de Sévigné(15). Next to many a witty note Chapelle(16) addressed to the great old lady of the house, which the poet had written on sheets of paper that had borders of silver flowers printed on them, the most lovingly written letters of the said Marquise and her daughter to their honest friend from Austria could be found in an ebony chest after her death.
It was also Madame de Sévigné from whom this lady received the branch of a blooming bitter orange tree, handed to her at a festival at Trianon, on a garden terrace. She potted this branch immediately and took the safely growing little plant back with her to Germany.
For twenty-five years, she was able to watch its growth, and later it was lovingly tended to by her children and grandchildren. In addition to its sentimental value, this tree could also serve as a living symbol of the finer attractions that an almost idolized era had to offer, an era of which we could not retain any truly praiseworthy legacy and that also nourished a disastrous future, the beginning of which was not far removed in time from the time in which our harmless story takes place.
Eugenie was the one who cherished this legacy of her excellent ancestress the most so that her uncle often remarked that it should go to her. All the more painful was it for the young lady when, in the spring of last year, which she did not spend here, the tree began to slowly die with its leaves turning yellow and many branches dying off. Due to the fact that the cause for this could not be found and since no remedy that was tried seemed to work, the gardener soon considered the tree a lost cause, even though the natural life span of the tree would still promise a life of two or three times the number of years than its present age. The Count, however, had the tree treated secretly in a separate room according to certain mysterious recommendations and remedies as they are often used by peasant folk, and his hope that he would be able to some day surprise his niece by presenting to her her 'old friend', revitalized and bearing fruit once more, has been fulfilled beyond all expectations. Overcoming his impatience and not without being worried if the fruits, some of which had already ripened considerably, would stay on the tree, he postponed his joy for several weeks until today's festivity, and not much needs to be said now in order to express with what emotions the uncle saw his happiness almost being crushed in the last moment by the deed of a stranger.
Already before the meal was served, the Lieutenant took the time to revise his poetic contribution for the occasion of the festive presentation and to slightly alter the character of the somewhat serious verses by writing a different ending so as to adjust it to the changed circumstances. Now he pulled out his sheet of paper, rose from his chair, and, facing his cousin, began to read. The content of the verses is approximately this:.
An offspring of the much-praised tree of the Hesperides of old, having grown on a western island in the garden of Juno, as a wedding gift for her by Mother Earth, and over which the three melodic nymphs held watch, had always hoped to be destined for this, since the custom with which a bride was presented with a gift of her own kind, had been passed on to the mortals by the Gods.
After a period of long and desperate waiting, a maiden was found who it would be allowed to set its eyes on. She behaved graciously toward it and often spent time around it. However, the Laurel tree of the muses, a proud neighbour next to the Spring, had aroused its jealousy by threatening to rob the talented beauty's desire for the love of men. The myrtle tree tried to comfort it in vain and tried to teach it patience by its own example; after a short time, however, the constant absence of the beloved brought it much grief and made it so ill that it was bound to die.
The summer brought its beloved back, and that with her heart changed for the better. The village, the little place, the garden, everything received her joyfully. Roses and lilies in their full bloom looked up to her, enchanted yet shy, bushes and trees waved their good-luck wishes: oh, but for the one, the most noble, she came home too late; her fingers touched the lifeless stem and the bristling tips of its branches. The tree no longer saw or recognized its nurturing, beloved maiden. How she cried out, how flowed her tender wailing!.
From afar, Apollo heard the voice of his daughter. He arrived, approached her and looked at her grief with compassion. With his all-healing hands he touched the tree so that it shook from its very roots, the dried-up sap inside of it swelled on, causing young leaves to unfold, then white open blossoms here and there in divine splendour. What more – the Divine also caused beautiful, round fruits to grow, three times three, after the number of the nine sisters; they grew and grew, their youthful green changing to gold. Phoebus – as the poem ends –
Phoebus counted the fruits,
Rejoiced at them himself,
Why, at that moment
His mouth began to water.
With a smile, the God of tunes
Took possession of the juiciest one:
"Let us divide you, beautiful one,
And for Amor this – this cut!"
The poet received enthusiastic applause, and gladly forgiven was the baroque turn of the story that virtually took away the initial impression of an overly serious emotional whole..
Franziska, whose wit had already been sparked at several occasions by the host or by Mozart, quickly rushed from the room and returned with a large brown English etching that had hung, barely noticed, under glass and frame, in a remote small room of the palace.
"What I have always heard must be true," she exclaimed, while she put the etching up on the table, "that there is nothing new under the sun! Here's a scene from the Golden Age – and have we not just seen it today? I sure hope that Apollo will recognize himself in this situation.".
"Marvellous!" said Max triumphantly, "here we have him, the beautiful god, just bending thoughtfully over the holy spring. And that is not enough – there, just look, at the old Satyr in the bush who is eavesdropping on him! One could swear that Apollo is just remembering a long-forgotten Arcadian dance that Chiron had taught him to play on the Zither in his youth!".
"That's right!" applauded Franziska who stood behind Mozart, "And," she continued, addressing him, "do you also notice the fruit-laden branch that is bending down to the god?".
"Quite right; it is the olive-tree that had been consecrated to him."
"Not at all! those fruits are the most beautiful oranges! In a moment, he will pluck one absentmindedly.".
"Quite contrary, instead, he will shut this loose mouth with a thousand kisses!" With that he grabbed her by her arm and swore not to let go of her until she offered him her lips, which she did without much resistance.
"Max, explain to us what is written beneath the picture," asked the Countess.
"Those are verses from an Ode of Horace. The Berlin poet Ramler(17) has recently rendered this piece in German excellently. It is a spirited poem. Just listen to this one marvellous passage:
" – -he, who is not carrying an unused bow
On his shoulders!
He who dwells in Delos' green motherly pastures,
And who dwells at Patars' shadowed shore,
He who dives his head's golden curls
Into the Castalian floods."
"Beautiful, truly beautiful," said the Count, "only here and there it needs an explanation, as for example, " – -he, who is not carrying an unused bow..." would simply mean: who has always been an active fiddler. However, what I meant to say, best Mozart, you sow weed between two tender hearts."
"I will not hope so – why?"
"Eugenie envies her friend, and has good reason for it."
"Well, you have noticed my weakness: But what will the bridegroom say?"
"Once or twice I will overlook it."
"Very well; we will take this opportunity, then. But never fear, Baron, as long as this god here does not lend me his face and his golden hair. I wish he did! May he have Mozart's braid including his most beautiful band right with it."
"Apollo will have to take care, then," laughed Franziska, "how he would dive into the Castalian floods gracefully with his new French hairdo!"
With this and similar jokes the merriment and frolicking increased. By and by, the men began to feel the wine, many times the glasses were lifted and somebody's health was toasted to, and Mozart fell into his habit of speaking in rhymes, in which the Lieutenant successfully competed with him and the father of the house did not want to be left out, either; to his own amazement, he came up with a few rhymes, as well. However, such things cannot be written down in a story very well, and they should also not be repeated here since that what makes them irresistible at the moment in a generally heightened mood, namely their spontaneity and immediacy, will be lost in their later transcription.
Amongst other jovialities, Mozart brought out a toast in the honour of Franziska's elderly aunt, which promised him a number of reciprocative 'immortal works'. – "À la bonne heure! I am game!," said Mozart and loudly tapped his glass. With this, the Count began to sing, with great strength and sure of his intonation, by the grace of his momentary inspiration:
May the Gods give him strength
For pleasant works –
br> Of which neither da Ponte
Nor the great Schikaneder(18) –
I am still the composer here,
At least as far as I know!
All of them, shall that
Major scoundrel of an Italian
Still live to see, I sincerely wish,
Our Signor Bonbonniere*!
(*This was what, among his friends, Mozart called his colleague Salieri who was always eating candy wherever he went, and in doing so he also referred to the delicacy of his physical appearance.)
Due to the Count's enthusiasm for singing, this ad-hoc-trio took up the last four lines and repeated them in a canon, and the elderly aunt had enough sense of humour to also join in at the appropriate moments with her somewhat weak and aged soprano voice. Later, Mozart promised to write down their little work of art, a promise that he held when he returned to Vienna.
As much as everyone enjoyed the delightful little piece, its content, with its abrupt transition, also increased the party's exuberant mood, in which the music itself is of a secondary nature, with our friend first giving the signal by getting up from the piano, heading for Franziska to persuade her to a little dance, while Max willingly picked up the violin. In time, everyone took a turn and even Franziska's elderly aunt did not refuse Max's offer to join her for a minuet, which visibly rejuvenated her. When, at last, Mozart danced the last dance with the bride, he also requested and received from her the promised kiss.
Evening had arrived, and the sun was almost setting; now it also became rather pleasant outside and therefore the Countess suggested to the ladies to relax in the park for a while. The Count, however, invited the gentlemen to the billiard room, since Mozart was very fond of this game. Thus the company divided into two groups, and we shall follow the women.
After they had promenaded leisurely up and down the main alley for a while, they climbed a round hill that was halfway fenced in by a vine railing. From there they could look out into the open fields, at the village and at the country road. The last rays of the autumn sun blinked through the vines.
"Wouldn't it be nice to sit here for a while comfortably," said the Countess, "while Madame Mozart would tell us something about herself and about her husband?"
Madame Mozart agreed willingly, and all of them sat down in chairs that they had found there as if waiting for them.
"I will tell you something that you absolutely have to hear, since it has to do with a little prank that I have planned. I want to present to the young Countess, the bride, a very special gift. It is so little an object of luxury or fashion, that it can only be of particular interest because of the story behind it."
"What might that be, Eugenie" said Franziska. "At least it might be the inkwell of a famous man.".
"Not too far off! You shall see it within the hour; it is in my suitcase. I shall now begin with my story, which will go back in time a bit."
"The winter before last I was very anxious about the state of Mozart's health; he was very irritable and feverish. While still very gregarious in company, often even more than would have been natural, he was very miserable at home, always complaining, and almost a recluse. The doctor recommended a diet, Pyrmont mineral water, and walks in fresh air outside of the city. The patient did not adhere to this well-meant regimen; the treatment was uncomfortable, time-consuming, and totally contrary to his daily habits. Seeing this, the doctor admonished him, and he had to listen to a long sermon on the nature of the human body and its blood circulation, on the blood particles, on proper breathing, and on Phlogiston(19)- -all very extraordinary concepts; also on how nature had intended that we eat, drink and digest, a matter that Mozart had, so far, given about as much thought to as a five-year old little boy. The lecture was very impressive, indeed. Half an hour after the doctor had left, I found my husband in his room, looking very thoughtfully at a walking cane that he had searched for and found among old treasures; I would not have thought that he even remembered it. It had belonged to my father and was a beautiful cane with a lapis lazuli handle. Never had one yet seen a cane in Mozart's hand; I had to laugh."
"'You see,' he said, 'I am about to get very serious with the course of my treatment. I shall drink the mineral water and shall get lots of exercise by walking in fresh air, and for this I shall use the cane. On that occasion, a few things occurred to me. There must be something to it that other people, I mean mature men, would not want to miss their canes. The Kommerzienrat, our neighbour, never crosses the street without his cane, when he goes to visit his cousin. Professionals and civil servants, office managers, merchants and customers, all of them carry their canes with them when they go for a walk outside of the city with their families on Sunday; each of them carries with him a well-used, decent walking cane. I have also noticed in particular how, about fifteen minutes before mass starts, honourable citizens stand together in groups in front of St. Stephen's Cathedral: they converse amicably and one can see how each of their quiet virtues, their industriousness and their sense of order, their patient demeanour, and their contentment so-to-say lean onto their canes for support. To put it in a nutshell: there must lie a blessing and a special comfort in this somewhat trivial habit of theirs. You may believe it or not, I can hardly wait to go out for my health walk with my good friend, my cane, to walk with it across the bridge, towards the race way! We have already become acquainted a bit, and I hope that our new bond will last forever!'"
"The new bond did not last very long; when they were out together for the third time, his new companion did not return home with him. A new cane was bought that remained faithful for a bit longer, and I attributed Mozart's steadfast adherence – for an entire three weeks – to his recommended regimen, to his bond with the walking cane. The benefits could also be seen right away; we had hardly ever seen him in such bright spirits and in such an even-tempered mood. However, this did not last longer than that, and I soon had my daily share of sorrows with him once again. It was at that time when he, tired from working all day, went very late to a musical soirée to please a few curious travellers – it was supposed to be just for an hour, as he solemnly promised me; but these are always the occasions when the people, once he is sitting at the pianoforte and is in his element, abuse his generosity the most; for there he then sits like the little man in the Montgolfiere, six miles above the ground, where one can no longer hear the church bells. I sent our servant there twice that night, in vain; he could not get through to his master. At three o'clock he finally came home. I decided to be seriously cross with him all day."
Here, Madame Mozart left out a few details. For one must know that at said entertainment, the young singer, Signora Malerbi, was also to be present, with whom Madame Mozart rightfully took offence. Through Mozart's intervention, this young artist from Rome had been hired by the opera house, and without any doubt did her capricious charms win her the favour of our master. Some would even go so far as contending that she had strung him along for a couple of months. Whether that was entirely true or exaggerated, it is certain that afterwards she took liberties and behaved very ungratefully and even mocked her mentor. It was entirely within her character that she called him, while in the company of a more fortunate admirer, 'un piccolo grifo raso' (a little shaved pig's snout). This idea, worthy of a siren of her kind, was all the more painful since, as must be admitted, there is a kernel of truth in it (one would have to keep in one's mind a profile picture of Mozart, which, well drawn and etched, is printed on the title page of a piano work of the composer, doubtless the best likeness of all portraits, especially of those now available for purchase).
When returning home from that event, at which the singer, coincidentally, was not present, a friend, in a state of tipsiness, was indiscreet enough to tell the master about this malicious description of him by the singer. It did not please him at all, as it was also the first proof he had of his protegee's heartlessness. Enraged about this, he did not even realize how cold his wife received him at home. She was already in bed. Barely catching his breath, he told her about the insult and this honesty should serve as proof of his relative innocence in the entire acquaintance. His wife almost felt sorry for him, but she did not let on; she thought that he should rather stew for another while. When he woke up around mid-day from a heavy sleep, he could not find his little wife and their two little boys at home; rather, the table was neatly set for him alone. There were few things that ever made Mozart as unhappy as when things did not run smoothly and amicably between him and his better half. And if he just knew what additional sorrow she had been carrying around with herself for the last couple of days! – one of the worst of them, indeed, the revelation of which to him she dragged out, as usual, as long as possible. The cash reserves were practically non-existent and there were no prospects for any earnings in sight. Without knowing of these domestic financial troubles, his heart was nevertheless heavy in a way that, somehow, was similar to her helplessness. He did not want to eat and he could not stay at home. Quickly he got completely dressed so that he could leave the stuffy apartment. On a blank sheet of paper, he wrote a few lines in Italian, "You have taught me a lesson, and you did it well. Now, I ask you, please don't be cross with me anymore, and greet me with your smile when I come home. I feel as if I want to join either the Carthusian or the Trappist monks, a real crying ox that I am, I can tell you!" – Then he picked up his hat, but not the walking cane, whose days of glory had long been gone by that time.
Since we have taken over from Frau Konstanze in telling this story, we may as well carry on for another while.
Turning to the right from his apartment near the Schranne towards the arsenal, our dear man walked – it was a warm, almost cloudless summer afternoon – casually, a bit caught up in his thoughts, across the so-called courtyard and by the Parish of Our Dear Lady, towards the Schottentor (Scottish Gate), where he climbed on to the Mölkerbastei towards the left and thereby conveniently missed coming across and having to talk to a few acquaintances who were just returning to the city. Only for a short while, he enjoyed the excellent view from the embankment of the Mölkerbastei across the green plains of the Glacis and the suburbs towards the Kahlenberg (the northernmost hill of the Viennese Woods) to the north and towards the Styrian Alps to the south, although a guard who was quietly parading up and down where the canons were posted did not bother him at all. With a sigh, he continued his walk along the Esplanade and then aimlessly towards the Alservorstadt suburb.
At the end of the Währinger Gasse (Währing Road), there was an inn with a bowling alley, whose owner, a rope-maker, was well known to the neighbours and to the country folk for his good merchandise and for the purity of his beer. Noises could be heard from the bowling alley, but otherwise the inn was rather quiet with only a good dozen patrons being present. A subconscious impulse to mingle with unassuming, simple people and to forget his sorrows for a while urged our musician to enter the premises. He sat down at a table that was sparsely overshadowed by some trees and joined a well-overseer and two other petits bourgeoises, ordered a pint and participated lively in their trivial conversation, walked about a bit now and then and watched the activity at the bowling alley.
Not far from it, at the side of the building, was the rope- maker's store, a narrow room, filled to capacity with merchandise, which, in addition to the usual wares of his trade, also displayed various wooden kitchen, cellar and agricultural tools as well as cart-oil, also some seeds such as dill and caraway seed. A girl who was waiting on the guests at the tables and who also had to mind the store at the same time, was tending to a farmer who, holding on to his little son with one hand, had stepped closer in order to buy a few items such as a fruit weighing scale, a brush, and a whip. He looked carefully at a few items, selected one, scrutinized it, put it back, picked up a second and a third and returned to the first one, not sure of himself; he could not come to a decision. The girl who had to leave him alone several times to wait on the tables, always returned and did not grow tired of trying to help him in choosing the right item and yet she did not prattle on, either.
Mozart observed all of this with great pleasure. As much as he liked the girl's sensible behaviour, her calm manner and the seriousness in her pleasant features, he was, at least for the moment, more interested in the farmer who still gave him much to think about even after he had left happily. He had identified completely with the man and had felt how important was to him even the last little detail to be considered in his purchase, how carefully and conscientiously he had considered the prices, even at a difference of only a few kreutzers. Then he considered what it must be like when the farmer returned home to his wife, when he praised himself for his prudent purchasing, when all children would gather around and not let up until they knew if he had brought something for them, as well; his wife, however, would hurry to serve him a refreshing drink of their home-made cider, for which he had yearned all the time on his way home.
Would it not be wonderful to be so happy, so independent from other people?, relying only on oneself and on what blessings nature provided, no matter through what hard work these were earned!
With my art, he thought, my lot is of a different nature which I would not trade with anyone, in the end; why, however, do I have to live in conditions that reflect exactly the opposite of such an innocent, simple existence? If I only had a small property, a small house nearby a village, in a nice part of the countryside, I would surely feel revived! Working diligently at my musical scores in the morning, the rest of the time I could spend with my family, I could plant trees, look at my small field; in the fall, the boys and I could pick the pears from our trees; once in a while, I could make a trip to the city when one of my works would be staged; at other odd times, friends could come to visit us – what a bliss! Well, you never know what might still happen.
He went to the store, talked friendly with the girl and began to look more closely at the merchandise. Since these items were closely related to the idyllic nature of his daydream, he was attracted by the very neatness, brightness and smoothness and even by the smell of some of the wooden tools. All of a sudden it occurred to him to select a few things for his wife, that he thought she might find nice and useful. In this, he paid particular attention to the gardening tools. On his urging, Konstanze had leased a small plot near the Kärtnertor (Carinthian Gate) and had planted some vegetables on it; therefore, he now considered that a large rake, a smaller rake and a spade would be rather useful. He also looked at other items. To his honour it must be said that he tried to exercise common sense in that he put back a nice butter churn that he rather liked; however, a tall container with a beautifully carved handle, the use of which did not become clear to him, seemed, nevertheless, rather useful. It was put together of rods of two different kinds of wood, alternately dark and light, wider at the bottom than at the top, and perfectly pitched inside. Very well suited for the kitchen was a beautiful selection of wooden items: spoons, corrugated boards, cutting boards, plates of all sizes as well as a simple salt container that could be hung up.
Finally, he still looked at a rough wooden cane, the handle of which was covered with leather and well-studded with round brass nails. Since our peculiar customer was also tempted by this item, the sales girl laughingly remarked that the cane was not suitable for a gentleman. “You are right, my child,” he replied, “I think that the butchers carry those around on their travels; off with it, I do not want it. All the other items here that you helped me select you can bring to my house today or tomorrow.” With that, he gave her his name and his address. After that he returned to his table to finish his drink. He only found one of the three other patrons there who had sat there before, namely the plumber.
"The waitress is having a good day today," remarked the latter, "her cousin gives her a share of the profits from the sales she is making in the store.
Mozart was doubly happy about his purchase; soon, however, his concern for this young girl would even become greater. For when she walked by again, the plumber asked her, "How is it going, Kreszenz? What is the locksmith doing? Is he not yet working in his own workshop, filing his own piece of iron?"
"Oh, well!" she retorted while hurrying on, "that piece of iron, I think, is still buried deep in the mountain!"
"She is a good soul," said the plumber, "for the longest time she has looked after her stepfather and has nursed him during his illness, and when he was dead, she had to discover that he had spent her money, as well; ever since, she has been serving her relative here, looking after his entire business, the store, the restaurant, and also after his children. She knows a decent fellow and would like to marry him sooner than later, but there is a catch to that."
"What catch? Is he also poor?"
"Both of them have saved up some money, but it is not enough. Pretty soon, half of a house including a workshop will come up for auction; it would be easy for the rope-maker to lend her the difference so that they could bid successfully; however, he does not want to let her go. He has good friends in the city council and in the guild, and through these he is putting all kinds of stumbling blocks in her young fellow's path."
"Damned!" – Mozart shouted so that the plumber was startled and looked around so as to ascertain that nobody else was listening. "And there is nobody who would interfere to set things right? Who would stop her cousin? Those scoundrels! Just wait, I will get you for this!"
The plumber began to feel terribly awkward. He tried to lessen the impact of what he had said; he almost took everything back. Mozart, however, did not listen to him. "Shame on you, that's how you always act, you cowards, when it comes to standing up for something!" – And with that he turned his back to the coward without a farewell. To the waitress, who had her hands full with new guests he just said in passing, "Come early tomorrow, and send my regards to your fellow; I hope that your matter will turn out alright." She was a bit startled and had neither time nor presence of mind to thank him.
Faster than usual, since the scene had enraged him, he returned home, first the same way that he had arrived here, until he reached the Glacis, at which he slowed down and took a half- circle detour around the embankments. Totally absorbed in his thoughts about the unfortunate young couple, he went in his mind over a list of a number of acquaintances and patrons who could help in this matter. Since he still needed to learn more details about it from the girl, he decided to wait for her visit and returned, rushing ahead of his feet, home to his wife in mind and soul.
Inwardly, he was certain to be received by her joyfully, with a kiss and an embrace, and his yearning increased his pace when he walked through the Kärntnertor. Only a few steps further, the mail carrier shouted at him and handed him a small, heavy parcel, and Mozart immediately recognized the honest and neat handwriting on it. In order to sign the delivery slip, he stepped into the closest shop with the mail carrier; back on the street, he could not wait to get home, but broke the seal of the letter that was attached to the parcel, and started to read it while he was walking the rest of his way home.
"I sat," continued Madame Mozart, in her narration of the story to the ladies, "at my sewing table, heard my husband coming up the stairs and heard him asking the servant about me. His step and his voice seemed to me more confident and more cheerful than I had expected, and I secretly appreciated that. First he went to his room, but right after he entered the room I sat in. "Good evening!" he said. I, without getting up, replied timidly. After he had paced the room a couple of times, he pretended to yawn, picked up the fly swatter that hung behind the door, which he had never done before, and muttered to himself. 'Where all these flies come from!' – He started to swish at them here and there, and that as hard as possible. He himself never liked to hear and see it when I talked and behaved in that manner. Well, I thought, what one does oneself, especially when men do it, seems to be quite a different matter! By the way, I had not noticed that there were that many flies. His peculiar behaviour really annoyed me. – 'Six with one hit!' he shouted, 'do you want to see them?' – No reply. – Then he put something on my sewing cushion so that I had to notice it even if I did not take my eyes off my work. It was nothing short of a bunch of gold ducats, as many as one can hold between one's fingers. Behind my back, he continued with his peculiar behaviour and talked to himself, 'This rotten, useless, shameless breed of insects! What is its purpose on this earth? – Swish! – obviously only to be killed – Swish! – I am really good at this, I may say. – Biology tells us how these insects multiply – Swish, swash – : in my house, they get no chance to do that. Ah maledette! disperate! – Here, another twenty of them! Do you want them?' – He went on like before. If had so far been able to suppress my laughter, I could not hold on any longer and burst right out with it; he embraced me, and both of us giggled and laughed to our heart's content."
"'Where did you get the money, though,' I asked, while he rolled the rest of it out. – 'From Prince Esterhazy! through Haydn! – Just read the letter!' – I read:"
"'Eisenstadt, etc. Most worthy friend! His Highness, my most gracious Lord, has, to my greatest pleasure, instructed me to send you the attached sixty ducats. Lately, we played your quartets again, and His Highness was pleased by them to such a degree as had hardly been the case when he heard them the first time, three months ago. The Prince told me (I have to write this down word for word): when Mozart dedicated this work to you he believed to only honour you; however, I cannot deny that I see in them also a compliment to me. Tell him that I think of his genius as much as you do, and more he could not ask for in all eternity. – Amen!, I added. Are you satisfied?"
"Post scriptum: Some words of advice into your dear wife's ear: Kindly take care that your written thanks do not take too long to arrive here. It would be best, however, to deliver them in person. We have to keep such good tidings alive!'"
"'You angel of a man! Oh heavenly soul!', exclaimed Mozart again and again, and it is hard to say what he was more delighted with, the letter, the Prince's applause, or the money. As far as I was concerned, I was honestly most pleased with the money, since it came in so utterly handy. We spent a most pleasant evening that day."
"About the affair in the suburbs I did not hear anything, yet, on that day, also not on the following ones; the entire next week went by, no Krescenz showed up, and my husband, busy with all kinds of other matters, soon forgot about it. One Saturday evening, he had company; Captain Wesselt, Count Hardegg and others were over to play music. During a break I was called out- -there we finally had our delivery! I entered and asked, 'Have you ordered all kinds of wooden utensils from a shop in the Alservorstadt?' – 'My goodness, yes! A girl must be here! Just let her come in. – Thus she entered, humbly and friendly, carrying a full basket in one arm, a rake and a spade in the other, apologized for not coming sooner, explaining that she could not remember the name of the street and that she had to ask around today. Mozart took the things from her, one after another, which he self-confidently handed to me. With sincere pleasure I thanked for and looked at everything, praised it, and yet I wondered why he had bought the garden tools. – 'For your little parcel of land outside the city, of course!' – 'My goodness, we have gotten rid of that a long time ago! Because the water always caused so much damage and because not much came of my gardening. I told you about it and you had nothing against it.' – 'What? And what about all the asparagus that we ate this spring?' – 'That was always from the market!' – 'Just imagine,' he said, 'if I had only known that! I just praised them to be kind to you because I thought that you had grown them yourself and because I felt sorry for you, working so hard at your gardening! Actually, the asparagus pieces were as thin as tiny spools!'"
"The gentlemen who were present were very amused by all of this. Some of them gladly took the unwanted items from me to buy them themselves. Mozart, however, began to ask the girl about her marriage plans and encouraged her to speak freely; he indicated to her that whatever would be done to help her and her fiancé, would be done discreetly and without openly accusing or blaming anyone. Thus encouraged, she pleaded her case with such modesty, prudence and tact that she won over all of our guests who finally dismissed her with the most reassuring promises."
"'Those young people have to be helped,' said the Captain. 'The tactics with the guild are the least problem. I know someone who can set things right there. The main task is to come up with funds to purchase the house, to furnish it, and so on. How about holding a benefit concert for our friends in the Trattner Hall, at which every guest can pay as much of an admittance fee as he pleases? – This idea was heartily approved. One of the gentlemen lifted up the salt container and said, 'Someone should tell the story of the two young people, describe Herr Mozart's involvement and his philanthropic intentions, and this beautiful container here should be put on a table as a collection box, the two rakes should be put behind it for decoration in cross-form!'"
"This, however, did not happen literally; the concert, however, was held, and brought in quite some money; several contributions followed, so that the happy couple ended up with more than they needed, and all other obstacles were also removed. The Duscheks of Prague, our good Czech friends, in whose house we shall stay, heard of the story, and she, a very delightful, warm- hearted lady, asked to receive one of the utensils Mozart had bought from the girl, just out of curiosity and also so that she would have something to remember the incident by; therefore, I selected a few items most suitable for her and took them along. Now that we, by chance, have met a new dear friend of my husband's art who is about to be married and to establish her own household, and who would certainly not be displeased to receive as her wedding gift a common household item that Mozart had bought for his own family, I will divide my treasures up and you have the choice between a beautiful chocolate twirl and the salt container, which an artist has beautifully decorated by painting a tulip on it. I would recommend the second piece to you; the salt, this noble spice is, as far as I know, a symbol of domesticity and of hospitality, and we would add to this all our best wishes for your happiness!'"
Thus ended Madame Mozart's story. One can imagine how delighted all of the ladies were with it. The delight was repeated when, not soon after, in the presence of the gentlemen, the item of the highest patriarchal simplicity was formally presented, for which the young bride's uncle promised a place of honour in the new silver armoire that was also to become the property of the future wife, a place of honour that would ensure that this piece was cherished not any less than the famous work of art by the Florentinian Master(20) in the Ambrasian collection.
It was now almost eight o'clock, and tea was served. Soon, however, our musician saw himself urgently reminded of his promise to acquaint the company with the "hell fire" that he had already promised them at lunch and which was still safely buried in his travelling suitcase, though not too deeply. He agreed without hesitation. The explanation of the plot did not take long, the text book was opened, and the candles were lit at the fortepiano.
W. A. Mozart in an 18th-century engraving.
(Vienna, Museen der Stadt)
We would wish for our readers to grasp some of the special atmosphere in which a single chord of music electrifies us as it reaches our ear while we walk by a window, a chord that can only come from there, and how it mesmerizes us, just like the sweet anticipation that takes hold of us in a theatre while the members of the orchestra are still tuning their instruments, and while the curtain is still closed. Is that no so? When, on the threshold of the unveiling of every exalted tragic stage work, be it Macbeth, Oedipus, or any other, we feel the shudder of eternal beauty, would that not also hold true in the same manner right here? Man yearns for and at the same time fears to be "transported" out of his usual self; he feels as if the eternal had touched him and his chest tightens, while this eternal wants to expand him and take hold of his spirit. In addition to this, reverence for this sublime art fills him; the thought of enjoying a divine miracle, to embrace it as something familiar, carries with it a special kind of emotion and pride, perhaps of the happiest and purest we are capable of.
Our company, however, in becoming acquainted for the first time with a work that has been familiar to us from our youth, was in a position that is very different from ours, and, if one does not consider their enviable fortune of being able to experience this work first-hand in the presence of its creator, theirs was less fortunate than ours, since none of them could gain a pure and complete impression; and this could not even then have been possible in more than one aspect if the entire work could have been conveyed unabridged.
Of eighteen completed scenes (in this method of counting, one has to consider that Elvira's aria with recitative and Leporello's "Hab's verstanden" were originally not part of the opera), the composer was very likely not even in a position to present half of these to them (in the report on which our presentation is based, only the last of this sequence, the sextet, is expressly mentioned) – most of the time, he presented them in a free interpretation at the piano, singing occasionally to his playing, as the mood struck him. Of the wife it is also only reported that she sang two arias. We want to imagine her singing the first aria of Donna Anna ("Du kennst den Verräter" – "you know the traitor"), since her voice was supposed to have been equally as strong as it was lovely, as well as one of the two of Zerline's arias.
Considering their understanding, refinement and sensitivity, Eugenie and her fiancé were actually the only listeners such as the master would have wished for himself, and the former to a greater extent than the latter. Both of them sat in the middle of the room; the bride sat completely still and absorbed in the music to such a degree that even in the intervals in which others would inadvertently demonstrate their enthusiastic participation to a small degree with an expression of delight, she would only reply curtly to her fiancée's comments directed to her.
When Mozart had finished with the exuberantly beautiful sextet and when, after a while, a conversation began, he seemed to be particularly interested in and pleased with a few remarks the Baron had made. The conclusion of the opera was discussed as well as its premiere that was, tentatively, planned for the beginning of November and since someone thought that certain parts of the finale would still present a gigantic task, the master smiled reservedly; Konstanze, however, said to the Countess, so that he could hear it, "He still has a surprise up his sleeves which he keeps a secret, even from me."
"You are out of line, darling," he said, "in bringing this up now; what if I felt like starting from scratch! come to think of it, I might just do that."
"Leporello!" called the Count, jumping up merrily, and waved at his servant, "Wine! Sillery, three bottles!"
"No, really, we have had plenty! – My squire here is having his last one."
"To his health! – And to each his own!"
"My goodness, what have I done?", lamented Konstanze, looking at the clock, "it is nearly eleven o'clock, and tomorrow morning we have to be on our way – how will we manage?"
"That will not be possible, my dearest, it will be utterly impossible!"
"Sometimes," Mozart began, "things take a surprising turn. What will my Stanzel say when she learns that the piece she is now about to hear has been created at night time, at precisely this hour; and at that, also before a planned journey?"
"Would that be possible? When? Surely three weeks ago when you wanted to go to Eisenstadt?"
"Exactly! And it happened thus: I came home at ten o'clock from Richter's dinner; you were already asleep, and I wanted to go to bed soon, as well, as I had promised, to get up early in the morning and to take the coach. In the meantime Veit had, as usual, lit the candles at the desk; I mechanically put on my evening frock, and meant to quickly look over my work. Alas, oh mishap! this dreaded, quite untimely activity of women! You had cleaned up and packed the notes as they had to come along – the Prince had requested to hear a piece of the new work – I searched, grumbled, cursed, in vain! Then my eyes rested on a sealed envelope: from the Abbate, considering the awful chicken scratch of an address – yes, indeed! and he sent me the re-written rest of his text which I had not even hoped to see before the end of the month. Right away, I sat down and eagerly read the text and was delighted at how well the old fellow had grasped what I wanted. It was all much simpler, more compact and richer at the same time. The scene in the churchyard as well as the finale, up to the hero's doom, had, in every respect, gained in effect. (But you also should not have, excellent poet!, I thought, conjured up heaven and hell for the second time!). Now, it is normally not my habit to complete a part of the work that would sequentially have its turn later, no matter how tempting it was, since that is a bad habit that can have dreadful consequences. However, there are exceptions to this, and, to put it short, the scene by the rider's statue of the governor, the threat coming from the grave of the murder victim, that suddenly interrupts the laughter of the nightly wanderer, already had me in its grip. I played a chord and felt that I had knocked at the right door, behind which already lurked an entire legion of horrors that would be unleashed in the finale. Thus I first came up with an adagio: D minor, four measures only, then a second movement with five – this will, I imagined, produce an unusual effect in the theatre, when the wind instruments will accompany the voices. For now you shall hear it as best as I can reproduce it."
With that, he blew out the two candles next to him on the piano, and the terrible chorus, "Dein Lachen endet vor der Morgenröte" ("Thy laughter will end before dawn"), sounded through the dead silence of the room. As if coming form far- flung stars, the notes seemed to be falling out of silver trumpets ice-cold, chilling every bone in one's body, down into the blue of the night.
"Who is here? Answer!," one could hear Don Juan ask, then it started up again, monotonous as before, ordering the ruthless young man to leave the dead alone.
When even the last of those booming sounds had ebbed out, Mozart continued, "Understandably, now I could not stop. Once the ice at the shore breaks in one spot, all the ice on the lake begins to crack up, even in the remotest spots. I instinctively continued with Don Juan's nightly meal, when Donna Elvira had just left and when the ghost appears, as invited. – Just listen!"
Now followed the entire long, horrifying dialogue that even takes the most sober individual to the boundaries of human imagination, nay, even beyond those, where we hear and see the supernatural and where we feel helplessly torn from one extreme to the other.
Already alien to human tongues, the immortal voice of the demised speaks up, once more. Soon after the first terrible introduction, when the astral being refuses the human nourishment offered to him, how horribly does his voice climb up and down the scale! He demands an immediate decision in favour of repentance: the ghost's time here is short; and long, long, long is the path! And when Don Juan then, with incredible self-will, defying the eternal order of things, fighting the growing onslaught by the hellish forces, resists and squirms and finally goes down, still with a total expression of superiority in each of his gestures – whose heart will not tremble with fright and delight in equal measure? It is a feeling like that with which one would watch the drama of the terror of the unleashed forces of nature or the burning of a beautiful ship. Against our will we literally side with this blind greatness and, horrified, share its pain in its inevitable path toward self-destruction.
The composer had finished. For a while, no-one wanted to break the silence.
"Convey to us," the Countess finally started, still nearly out of breath, "convey to us, I beg of you, an idea of how you felt when you put your pen down that night!"
He looked up to her brightly, as if awakened from a quiet dream, collected himself and said, half to the lady, half to his wife: "Well, I must have felt dizzy in the end. I had continued to write this desperate Dibattimento(21), up to the chorus of the spirits, in one stretch, by the open window, and got up from my chair after a short rest, meaning to join you in your room, so that we could still chat for a while and so that I could calm down. Then, an awkward thought stopped me in the middle of the room." (At that point he looked at the floor for two seconds, and his voice betrayed, when he continued, that he was shaken up a bit), "I said to myself: if you would still die this very night and would have to leave your score at this very moment: would it let you find peace in your grave? – My eyes looked at the light in my hand and at the amount of melted wax. For a moment, a pain went through me at that thought; then I thought: if after that another, maybe even a foreigner, would get to finish the opera and would find everything neatly together, from the introduction to the seventeenth scene, with the exception of one piece; all healthy, ripe fruits, poured into the tall grass, so that he would only have to pick them up; he shuddered, however, in the middle of the finale, and he would, unexpectedly, find the big stumbling block already moved aside: would he not secretly laugh at his fortune? However, he would surely burn his fingers with it, since I would, at least, have left behind a few good friends who know my style and who would secure what is mine. – Now I left, thanked God by fully looking up to him in heaven and thanked, dear little wife, your genius who had held both of his hands over you so that you continued to sleep like a rat and could not talk to me even once. When I finally went to bed and when you sleepily asked me what time it was, I lied with a straight face and told you that it was a few hours earlier, since it was just nearing four o'clock. And now you will understand why you could not get me out of bed at six, and why you had to send the coachman away after you had re-scheduled the trip for the next day."
"Of course!", replied Konstanze, "it's just that the smart man should not think that one was stupid enough not to notice anything! For that you did not have to keep your nice head start a secret from me!"
"It was not only because of that."
"I know – you wanted to have your treasure remain untouched for the time being."
"I am only glad," said the gracious host, "that we need not insult a noble Viennese coachman's heart tomorrow if Herr Mozart cannot find out of bed. The order, 'Hans, unharness the horses!', always hurts very much."
This indirect request to his guests to stay a little longer, to which the other voices added their sincere approval, caused the travellers to ponder the more serious reasons against it; however, one arrived at the compromise of not setting out too early and to still have a nice breakfast together.
Everyone was now standing around in groups, chatting. Mozart looked for someone, evidently for the bride; since she, however, was not present, he naively directed his question at Franziska, who stood right next to him: "What do you think, overall, of our "Don Giovanni"? what good can you prophecy it?"
"I will," she replied with a laugh, "try to answer as well as I can in the name of my cousin: My humble opinion is that, if "Don Giovanni" does not shake up the entire world, God will close his music box, for an uncertain period of time, I mean, and will let mankind know – " – "And will," fell the uncle in correctingly, "hand to mankind a bag pipe and lock up the hearts of men so that they will worship Baal."
"God help us!," laughed Mozart, "well, during the next sixty, seventy years, after I will be long gone, many a false prophet will rise(22)."
Eugenie returned with the Baron and Max, the conversation started up again, turned serious and important once more, so that the composer, before the company dispersed, rejoiced at many a beautiful, fitting remark, kindling his hopes.
It was long after midnight when the party finally broke up; until that time, none of them had realized how much they needed their rest.
The next day (the weather was as beautiful as the day before), at ten o'clock, one could see a beautiful coach standing in the courtyard, packed with the belongings of the Viennese guests. The Count stood in front of it with Mozart, shortly before the horses were brought, and asked him how he liked it.
"Very well; it seems extremely comfortable."
"Well, then do me the favour and take it as a keepsake."
"What? Are you serious?"
"Holy Sixtus and Calixtus – Konstanze! Look!" he shouted up to the window from which she and the others looked down.
"The coach is to be mine! In future, you will be able to travel in your own coach!"
He embraced the smiling host, went around his new property and looked at it from all sides, opened the door, climbed in and called out, "I now consider myself as noble and as rich as Knight Gluck! What will they say in Vienna!" – "I hope," said the Countess, "to see your vehicle again on its return trip from Prague, adorned with wreaths all over!"
Not long after this last joyful scene, the much-praised carriage set in motion with the parting couple and the horses fell into a lively trot towards the highway. The Count lent them his horses up to Wittingau, where they would hire mail horses.
When good, splendid people bring life into our house for a short while, when they refreshen us with their lively spirit and give us new impetus, and when they let us fully enjoy the blessings that come with being a host, then their parting brings everything to an uncomfortable halt, at least for the rest of the day, as far as we are once again entirely on our own.
With our hosts, the latter was at least not the case. Franziska's parents and her old aunt soon left; the girlfriend, however, the fiancé and Max, of course, still stayed on. Eugenie, of whom we shall prefer to speak the most here, since she understood how to cherish this extraordinary event better than all others, one would think, could not miss anything, nothing should cloud her happiness; her pure happiness in having found a man who truly loved her and which love had just been formally reaffirmed, had to absorb everything else; rather, the most noble and most beautiful that could fill her heart, would have to melt into one with her personal fulfilment. It should have happened that way, had she now, yesterday and today been able to live for the present, and afterwards in a rejoicing over it. However, already when the artist's wife told them about his life, she was secretly filled with sorrow for him in whose amicable countenance she rejoiced; this premonition remained in her consciousness during his playing, behind all that unspeakable charm, through all the mysterious shudder of the music and finally, she was also surprised and moved by that which he mentioned of himself in that context. She was very certain, so very certain, that this man would, ever faster, be consumed by his own fire, that he would only be a passing mirage on earth, since the world could, in reality, not bear the abundance that he created.
This, amongst other thoughts, went through her mind after she had gone to bed, while the remnant notes of "Don Juan" wandered through the mazes of her inner ear. Tired, she only fell asleep when it almost turned daylight.
Now, the three ladies sat in the garden with their needlework; the men kept them company, and since the topic of their conversation was, of course, at first only Mozart, Eugenie did not hold back with her fears. Nobody wanted to agree with her in the least, even if the Baron understood her completely. In good company at the right hour, in a pure mood of gratitude, one likes to fight against any notion of doom that would disturb this mood. The most telling, cheerful counter-arguments were presented, and how much did Eugenie not like to listen to them.
A few moments later, when she went through the large room upstairs that had just been cleaned and put back into order and the green, drawn damask drapes of which only allowed in a dim light, she stopped sadly by the pianoforte. It seemed like a dream to her when she considered who was sitting there only a few hours ago. For a long time she looked at the keys of the piano, which he had last touched, lost in thought, then she quietly closed the lid and turned the key, in jealous sorrow that no other hand should open it again, too soon. Before walking away, she sorted a few song books, an old sheet fell out, the transcript of an old Bohemian folk song, that Franziska and sometimes also she used to sing. She picked it up, not without being moved by it. In a mood such as the one she was in, even the most natural coincidence can turn into an oracle. Whichever way she looked at it, the content was of such a nature that, when she read the simple verses again, hot tears began to stream:
A little pine tree is growing somewhere,
Who knows, in a forest,
A rose bush, who will tell,
In which garden?
These have already been chosen,
Consider, o soul,
To be planted on your grave,
To take root and grow there.
Two black horses are grazing,
In a meadow.
They are returning home to town,
They will be moving slowly,
Pulling your coffin,
Maybe, maybe already before
Their horseshoes will loosen,
That I now still see blinking.
Bayern, Adalbert von, Die Wittelsbacher: Geschichte unserer Familie. Munich: Prestel Verlag, 1979.
Einstein, Alfred, Mozart His Character His Work. (Translated by Arthur Mendel and Nathan Broder, Copyright 1945 by Oxford University Press, Inc.) New York: Oxford University Press, 1962.
Mörike, Eduard, Mozart auf der Reise nach Prag. Stuttgart: Philip Reclam jun. Gmbh, 1993.
Robertson, J.G.. A History of German Literature. (Fifth edition, Edna Purdie, ed.). Edinburgh and London: William Blackwood & Sons Ltd., 1966.
Rolland, Romain, Beethoven the Creator. (Translated by Ernest Newman, first published in 1929). New York: Dover Publications Inc., 1964.
Solomon, Maynard, Mozart A Life. New York: Harper Collins, 1995.
(1) The Viennese Prater is an all-year amusement park as well as a landscaped park.
(2) Mörike refers to Pasquale Bondini, the director of the Italian Opera Society in Prague. He had commissioned Mozart to write an opera for his theatre.
(3) In 1789, King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia offered Mozart the position of Kapellmeister for an annual salary of 1,000 talers. Mozart had gone to Berlin that year en route from Prague. Mozart was paid an annual salary of 800 florins as Imperial Chamber composer in Vienna. He replied to the offer, "Can I leave my good Emperor?" Mörike pre-dated all of these Berlin events by two years and coincides them with the 1787 Prague premiere of "Don Giovanni".
(4) Tarare, Opera by Antonio Salieri (1750 - 1825), the Imperial Chamber Organist and Conductor of the Italian Opera. The opera had such a resounding success in Vienna as Azur rè d'Ormus with the text of Mozart's librettist da Ponte that "Don Giovanni" could not compete.
(5) Unfamiliar form, probably related to the Bavarian word "Kalatschen", Austrian "Kolatsche": A sort of breaded bun or round cake made of light dough.
(6) Friedrich von Hagedorn (1708- 54) and Johann Nikolaus Götz (1721-81), poets of the German Anacreontic.
(7) Act IV, Scene 10, "Finally the hour is near when I will hold you, my Beloved, as my very own."
(8) In reality, in the spring of 1770, Mozart had already turned 14.
(9) Sons of Neptune.
(10) From "Don Giovanni".
(11) It is the 7th scene.
(12) Parthenope, the ancient name of Naples, referring to a Siren whose tomb was located there. On the basis of this, the Kingdom of Naples was named the Parthenopeian Republic in 1799.
(13) By God!
(14) Ninon de Lenclos (1616- 1706), whose famous salon was frequented by Molière, Scarron, Fontenelle, Le Rochefoucald, and others.
(15) Marquise de Sévigné (1626- 96), famous for her letters with which she kept her daughter, who lived in the country with her husband, updated on all the current events of Paris and of court life.
(16) The less important French poet Chapelle (1626-1686) belonged to the literary circle of Molière, Racine and Boileau.
(17) Karl Wilhelm Ramler (1725- 98), Anacreontic poet and translator of Horace, also an anthologist.
(18) Lorenzo da Ponte (1749- 1838), a Venetian Father and Court poet, is the writer of the text to "The Marriage of Figaro", "Don Giovanni", and "Cosi fan tutte". The text for "The Magic Flute" was written by the actor and theatre director Johann Emanuel Schikaneder (1751 - 1812).
(19) Phlogiston, according to the theory of Stahl (1660-1734), and his followers hypothetically the component of "burnable entities", here relating to the digestive process.
(20) The famous salt container cast by the gold founder Benvenuto Cellini.
(21) Fight, argument.
(22) Mörike probably had his contemporaries, Richard Wagner and Franz Liszt, in mind, for whose music he could not be enthused, at all.