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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Austrian Composer

1756-1791

A selection from
THE LETTERS OF WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART

Narrated by Chris Ryan

Download mp3 file: The Letters Of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

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Paris, Sept. 11, 1778

I HAVE received your three letters. I shall only reply to the last, being the most important. When I read it, (Heina was with me and sends you his regards,) I trembled with joy, for I fancied myself already in your arms. True it is (and this you will yourself confess) that no great stroke of good fortune awaits me; still, when I think of once more embracing you and my dear sister, I care for no other advantage.

This is indeed the only excuse I can make to the people here, who are vociferous that I should remain in Paris; but my reply invariably is, "What would you have? I am content, and that is everything; I have now a place I can call my home, and where I can live in peace and quiet with my excellent father and beloved sister. I can do what I choose when not on duty. I shall be my own master, and have a certain competency; I may leave when I like, and travel every second year.

What can I wish for more?" The only thing that disgusts me with Salzburg, and I tell you of it just as I feel it, is the impossibility of having any satisfactory intercourse with the people, and that musicians are not in good repute there, and—that the Archbishop places no faith in the experience of intelligent persons who have seen the world. For I assure you that people who do not travel (especially artists and scientific men) are but poor creatures. And I at once say that if the Archbishop is not prepared to allow me to travel every second year, I cannot possibly accept the engagement.

A man of moderate talent will never rise above mediocrity, whether he travels or not, but a man of superior talents (which, without being unthankful to Providence, I cannot deny that I possess) deteriorates if he always remains in the same place. If the Archbishop would only place confidence in me, I could soon make his music celebrated; of this there can be no doubt. I also maintain that my journey has not been unprofitable to me—I mean, with regard to composition, for as to the piano, I play it as well as I ever shall.

One thing more I must settle about Salzburg, that I am not to take up the violin as I formerly did. I will no longer conduct with the violin; I intend to conduct, and also accompany airs, with the piano. It would have been a good thing to have got a written agreement about the situation of Capellmeister, for otherwise I may have the honor to discharge a double duty, and be paid only for one, and at last be superseded by some stranger.

My dear father, I must decidedly say that I really could not make up my mind to take this step were it not for the pleasure of seeing you both again; I wish also to get away from Paris, which I detest, though my affairs here begin to improve, and I don't doubt that if I could bring myself to endure this place for a few years, I could not fail to succeed. I am now pretty well known—that is, the people all know ME, even if I don't know them. I acquired considerable fame by my two symphonies; and (having heard that I was about to leave) they now really want me to write an opera, so I said to Noverre, "If you will be responsible for its BEING PERFORMED as soon as it is finished, and will name the exact sum that I am to receive for it, I will remain here for the next three months on purpose," for I could not at once decline, or they would have thought that I distrusted myself.

This was not, however, done; and I knew beforehand that they could not do it, for such is not the custom here. You probably know that in Paris it is thus:—When the opera is finished it is rehearsed, and if these stupid Frenchmen do not think it good it is not given, and the composer has had all his trouble for nothing; if they approve, it is then put on the stage; as its popularity increases, so does the rate of payment. There is no certainty. I reserve the discussion of these matters till we meet, but I must candidly say that my own affairs begin to prosper. It is no use trying to hurry matters—chi va piano, va sano. My complaisance has gained me both friends and patrons; were I to write you all, my fingers would ache.

I will relate it to you personally and place it clearly before you. M. Grimm may be able to help CHILDREN, but not grown-up people; and—but no, I had better not write on the subject. Yet I must! Do not imagine that he is the same that he was; were it not for Madame d'Epinay, I should be no longer in this house. And he has no great cause to be so proud of his good deeds towards me, for there were four houses where I could have had both board and lodging. The worthy man does not know that, if I had remained in Paris, I intended to have left him next month to go to a house that, unlike his, is neither stupid nor tiresome, and where a man has not constantly thrown in his face that a kindness has been done him.

Such conduct is enough to cause me to forget a benefit, but I will be more generous than he is. I regret not remaining here only because I should have liked to show him that I do not require him, and that I can do as much as his Piccini, although I am only a German! The greatest service he has done me consists in fifteen louis-d'or which he lent me bit by bit during my mother's life and at her death.

Is he afraid of losing them? If he has a doubt on the subject, then he deserves to be kicked, for in that case he must mistrust my honesty (which is the only thing that can rouse me to rage) and also my talents; but the latter, indeed, I know he does, for he once said to me that he did not believe I was capable of writing a French opera. I mean to repay him his fifteen louis-d'or, with thanks, when I go to take leave of him, accompanied by some polite expressions.

My poor mother often said to me, "I don't know why, but he seems to me somehow changed." But I always took his part, though I secretly felt convinced of the very same thing. He seldom spoke of me to any one, and when he did, it was always in a stupid, injudicious, or disparaging way. He was constantly urging me to go to see Piccini, and also Caribaldi,—for there is a miserable opera buffa here,—but I always said, "No, I will not go a single step," &c. In short, he is of the Italian faction; he is insincere himself, and strives to crush me.

This seems incredible, does it not? But still such is the fact, and I give you the proof of it. I opened my whole heart to him as a true friend, and a pretty use he made of this! He always gave me bad advice, knowing that I would follow it; but he only succeeded in two or three instances, and latterly I never asked his opinion at all, and if he did advise me to do anything, I never did it, but always appeared to acquiesce, that I might not subject myself to further insolence on his part.

But enough of this; we can talk it over when we meet. At all events, Madame d'Epinay has a better heart. The room I inhabit belongs to her, not to him. It is the invalid's room—that is, if any one is ill in the house, he is put there; it has nothing to recommend it except the view,—only four bare walls, no chest of drawers—in fact, nothing. Now you may judge whether I could stand it any longer. I would have written this to you long ago, but feared you would not believe me. I can, however, no longer be silent, whether you believe me or not; but you do believe me, I feel sure.

I have still sufficient credit with you to persuade you that I speak the truth. I board too with Madame d'Epinay, and you must not suppose that he pays anything towards it, but indeed I cost her next to nothing. They have the same dinner whether I am there or not, for they never know when I am to be at home, so they can make no difference for me; and at night I eat fruit and drink one glass of wine.

All the time I have been in their house, now more than two months, I have not dined with them more than fourteen times at most, and with the exception of the fifteen louis-d'or, which I mean to repay with thanks, he has no outlay whatever on my account but candles, and I should really be ashamed of myself more than of him, were I to offer to supply these; in fact I could not bring myself to say such a thing. This is my nature. Recently, when he spoke to me in such a hard, senseless, and stupid way, I had not nerve to say that he need not be alarmed about his fifteen louis-d'or, because I was afraid of offending him; I only heard him calmly to the end, when I asked whether he had said all he wished—and then I was off! He presumes to say that I must leave this a week hence—IN SUCH HASTE IS HE.

I told him it was impossible, and my reasons for saying so. "Oh! that does not matter; it is your father's wish." "Excuse me, in his last letter he wrote that he would let me know in his next when I was to set off." "At all events hold yourself in readiness for your journey." But I must tell you plainly that it will be impossible for me to leave this before the beginning of next month, or at the soonest the end of the present one, for I have still six arias to write, which will be well paid.

I must also first get my money from Le Gros and the Duc de Guines; and as the court goes to Munich the end of this month, I should like to be there at the same time to present my sonatas myself to the Electress, which perhaps might bring me a present. I mean to sell my three concertos to the man who has printed them, provided he gives me ready money for them; one is dedicated to Jenomy, another to Litzau; the third is in B.

I shall do the same with my six difficult sonatas, if I can; even if not much, it is better than nothing. Money is much wanted on a journey. As for the symphonies, most of them are not according to the taste of the people here; if I have time, I mean to arrange some violin concertos from them, and curtail them; in Germany we rather like length, but after all it is better to be short and good. In your next letter I shall no doubt find instructions as to my journey; I only wish you had written to me alone, for I would rather have nothing more to do with Grimm.

I hope so, and in fact it would be better, for no doubt our friends Geschwender and Heina can arrange things better than this upstart Baron. Indeed, I am under greater obligations to Heina than to him, look at it as you will by the light of a farthing-candle. I expect a speedy reply to this, and shall not leave Paris till it comes. I have no reason to hurry away, nor am I here either in vain or fruitlessly, because I shut myself up and work, in order to make as much money as possible.

I have still a request, which I hope you will not refuse. If it should so happen, though I hope and believe it is not so, that the Webers are not in Munich, but still at Mannheim, I wish to have the pleasure of going there to visit them. It takes me, I own, rather out of my way, but not much—at all events it does not appear much to me. I don't believe, after all, that it will be necessary, for I think I shall meet them in Munich; but I shall ascertain this to-morrow by a letter.

If it is not the case, I feel beforehand that you will not deny me this happiness. My dear father, if the Archbishop wishes to have a new singer, I can, by heavens! find none better than her. He will never get a Teyberin or a De' Amicis, and the others are assuredly worse. I only lament that when people from Salzburg flock to the next Carnival, and "Rosamunde" is given, Madlle.

Weber will not please, or at all events they will not be able to judge of her merits as they deserve, for she has a miserable part, almost that of a dumb personage, having only to sing some stanzas between the choruses. She has one aria where something might be expected from the ritournelle; the voice part is, however, alla Schweitzer, as if dogs were yelping. There is only one air, a kind of rondo in the second act, where she has an opportunity of sustaining her voice, and thus showing what she can do. Unhappy indeed is the singer who falls into Schweitzer's hands; for never while he lives will he learn how to write for the voice.

When I go to Salzburg I shall certainly not fail to plead zealously for my dear friend; in the mean time you will not neglect doing all you can in her favor, for you cannot cause your son greater joy. I think of nothing now but the pleasure of soon embracing you. Pray see that everything the Archbishop promised you is made quite secure, and also what I stipulated, that my place should be at the piano. My kind regards to all my friends, and to Herr Bullinger in particular. How merry shall we be together! I have all this already in my thoughts, already before my eyes. Adieu!

More information about Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from Wikipedia




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