“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame. I simply follow my own feelings.” ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Mozart, born on this date (january 27th) 1756, who many would argue is the greatest of classical composers (we here at the Asylum go back and forth between Herr Mozart and Herr Beethoven as our particular favorites) composed over 626 pieces, with his first piece composed at the age of 5.
Extraordinarily gifted genius? Obviously. But he wasn’t “taking dictation from God”, as the line goes from the 1984 movie, Amadeus. In his own words, “…Moreover, it is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I. There is scarcely a famous master in music whose works I have not frequently and diligently studied.” Even genius has to put forth the effort. The 1984 movie, Amadeus, while only partially factual, is still a wonderfully entertaining movie and if nothing else introduces people to the genius of Mozart.
Mozart and his wife, Constanze, had 6 children together, only 2 of whom survived to adulthood. He wasn’t the drunken pauper as he’s sometimes been depicted to be. He was anything but that.
From a letter Mozart written to his sister, Nannerl, on February 13, 1782 at the age of 26, we catch a glimpse of his daily routine at the time:
At six o’clock in the morning I have my hair dressed, and have finished my toilet by seven o’clock. I write till nine. From nine to one I give lessons. I then dine, unless I am invited out, when dinner is usually at two o’clock, sometimes at three, as it was to-day, and will be to-morrow at Countess Zichi’s and Countess Thun’s. I cannot begin to work be-fore five or six o’clock in the evening, and I am often prevented doing so by some concert ; other- wise I write till nine o’clock. I then go to my dear Constanze, though our pleasure in meeting is frequently embittered by the unkind speeches of her mother, which I will explain to my father in my next letter. Thence comes my wish to liberate and rescue her as soon as possible. At half-past ten or eleven 1 go home, but this depends on the mother’s humor, or on my patience in bearing it. Owing to the number of concerts, and also the uncertainty whether I may not be summoned to one place or another, I cannot rely on my evening writing, so it is my custom (especially when I come home early) to write for a time before going to bed. I often sit up writing till one, and rise again at six.
And from the Washington Post’s book review by Sudip Bose of historian Paul Johnson’s biography of Mozart, we get a further glimpse into the life of Wolfgang:
“Was Mozart’s life fundamentally tragic? Not if you consider that he was an “easygoing person, whose brief spasms of hot temper and outbursts of grievances were mere cloudlets racing across a sunny view of life,” Johnson writes. “He enjoyed existence and wanted everyone to be as happy as he.” Deeply religious, Mozart could be exceedingly charming, while also displaying a crass sense of humor. He indulged his passion for dancing and billiards, all the while composing an astonishing number of symphonies, operas, concertos and chamber works.”
and more from the review…
True, cash was often short in the Mozart household, and the composer did incur debts and write letters to his friends begging for money. But Johnson notes that debt was common in Mozart’s day, due in part to a currency shortage. Mozart was actually “in the top 5 percent of the population in terms of earnings. He was a member of the select upper-middle class of pre-Revolution Austria. . . . Of the five different apartments he had in [Vienna] at various times, all were commodious. . . . He had a horse for exercise when he chose. He had a valet. He traveled by private coach. He dressed as the Chevalier Amadeus. He had access to a country dwelling beyond the suburbs. There were plenty of parties.”
A drunken pauper? Hardly. The last year of his life produced 31 works, which include his German Dances, Contradances, Ave Verum Corpus, Clarinet Concerto in A, and of course, his Requiem – to name but a few. Wir danker Ihnen, Wolfgang!
His brief but extraordinarily prolific life came to an end one month before his 36th birthday.
We could leave with so many pieces from Herr Mozart – we’ll simply include our favorite:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No. 20, (Romance)
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Photo credit: By MbahGondrong (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons