Posted on March 8th, 2011 by

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart –

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Like so many artists of his day, the young Mozart made his way to international success through the drawing rooms of the European nobility, of those of bon ton, and through meeting with other artists or amateurs, such as Lord Hamilton, with whom he and his father played trio sonatas in Lord Fortrose’s salon in Naples.

The Mozart’s spent their first night in London in 1764 at the ‘White Bear Tavern’ on Piccadilly. From there, Leopold wrote a friend:

‘In London everybody seems to me to be in fancy dress; and you cannot imagine what my wife and my little girl look like in English Hats and I and our big Wolfgang in English clothes.’

 The Mozart family were the latest dazzling foreign virtuoso performers to be brought to London to play at the concerts presented by Johann Christian Bach and Carl Friedrich Abel.

 His father described his first appearance in front of the Royal Family, the ultimate salon, where success was passport to every society drawing room:

 Leopold Mozart to L.Hagenauer] London, 28th May 1764: ‘The King placed before him some pieces by Wagenseil, and also others by Bach, Abel and Handel, and he played them all off, a prima vista. He played upon the King’s organ in such a way that all esteem his organ performance far above his Clavier playing. He then accompanied the Queen’s singing for an Aria, and a flutist in a solo. Finally, he took up the cello part of one of Handel’s arias (which chanced to lie before him) and upon the mere bass played the most beautiful melody, so that all were thrown into the extremest amazement. In a word, what he knew when we set out from Salzburg is but a mere shadow compared to what he knows now. It is beyond al conception. He joins with us in presenting you his compliments from the clavier stool, where he sits at this moment playing through Kapellmeister Bach’s Trio, and not a day passes but he speaks at lest 30 times of Salzburg and of his and our friends and patrons. His head is now forever full of an opera which he wishes to produce in Salzburg with none but young people. I have already frequently had to reckon up for him all the young people whom he may enlist for his orchestra.’

 Even though Mozart never crossed the channel as an adult, the impact of his visit as a wondrous boy, remained. In 1935, Bernard Shaw talked about what he had learnt from him, and a conversation with Edward Elgar:

 [Shaw 1935] I read Mozart’s Succinct Thoroughbass ( a scrap of paper with some helpful tips on it which he scrawled for his pupil Sussmaier); and this, many years later, Edward Elgar told me was the only document in existence of the smallest use to the student composer. It was, I grieve to say, of no use to me; but then, I was not a young composer.

 In 1923, a violin method published in London, put clear water between the high moral tone of the ideals of music as practised by Mozart, as opposed to the vaudevillian mountebank tendencies of Paganini:

  ‘Wherein lies the test of Musicianship-in a slow piece by Mozart, or in a Perpetual Motion by Paganini? You see a great virtuoso billed. You go. He dazzles with his box of ‘stunts’. Two years later he is announced for another tour. What percentage of those who have seen his tricks go again? The man with the mastery of the instrument, which is self-understood, who is poetic, is the one who ever attracts. The man with the singing sensuous tone of infinite colouring, with the delicate touch, with thundering might; the man who is imaginative, poetic, ideal; the artist who sings and breathes on that instrument, who makes of it of a sobbing human breast, that is the man who makes people think things they have never before dreamed of, who draws them to himself through magnetism, through the love he liberates in the his art.’

 But it is Rebecca West who perhaps best of all summed up the depth of meaning and experience which Mozart offered her, and every listener, eliminating the ‘idea of haste from life’:

 ‘We all drew on the comfort which is given out by the major works of Mozart, which as real and material as the warmth given by a glass of brandy, and I wondered, seeing if efficacy, what it nature might be. It is in part, no doubt, the work of the technical trick by which Mozart eliminates the idea of haste from life. His airs could not lag as they make their journey through the listener’s attention; they are not the right shape for loitering. But it is true that they never rush, they are never headlong or helter-skelter, they splash no mud, and they raise no dust. It is, indeed, inadequate to call the means of creating such an effect a mere technical device. For it changes the content of the work in which it is used, it presents a vision of the world where man is no longer the harassed victim of time, but accepts its discipline and established a harmony with it. This is not a little thing, for our struggle with time is one of the most distressing of our fundamental conflicts; it holds us back from the achievement and comprehension that should be the justification of our life.

 Click here for:

Mozart and the Divine Bohemian

Mozart at Wilton’s – listen

 A Musical Gazeteer of Great Britan and Ireland, Gerald Norris, David Charles, Newton Abbot/London, 1981, P.63

 The Spirit of Britain, Roy Strong, Hutchinson, P444

 Letters of W A Mozart> Ed. Hans Mersmann. Dover, New York 1972, Pp.2-3

Shaw’s Music-The Complete Musical Criticism of Bernard Shaw, Volume 1 1876-1890, ed. Dan Laurence, The Bodley Head, London, 1981, P.56

Arthur Hartmann, The Techniques of Violin Playing, 1923, London

 Black Lamb and Grey Falcon, Rebecca West, Canongate Classics, Edinburgh, 2001, Pp.507-8