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The Domestic Life of Mozart

By Arthur Elson

Mozart was another musical genius who was forced to accept as second choice the sister of his first love, though in his case the results were not so disastrous as with Haydn. It was in Mannheim, on the way to Paris, that Mozart made the acquaintance of the copyist Weber, and succumbed to the charms of his daughter, Aloysia. But Leopold Mozart, wisely playing the rôle of stern father, soon sped the susceptible youth on his way to the French capital. It is a French proverb that tells us,—

"Nous revenons toujours
À nos premiers amours,"—

and a year later he returned. But Aloysia, now famous by her singing, soon made it plain that his affection was no longer returned. Mozart seems to have borne the blow well, and soon after her marriage to the actor Lange, who proved a jealous husband, he wrote home his decision to wed her younger sister, Constance. After much opposition from members of both families, he carried out his intention.

As in Haydn's case, the young couple were forced to live on "bread and cheese and kisses," with none too much of the first two articles. Mozart, more than any other composer, met with undeserved hardships. On every side his music was praised and his genius admired, but nobles and princes, and even the emperor, would give him no material aid. He made a devoted husband, and much of the money that disappeared so readily from his hands was probably used for the benefit of his wife, whose health was not of the best. Their life (in Vienna at first) was a continual effort to solve the old vexed problem of making both ends meet, and Constance must be given high praise for the wonderful skill with which she managed the small and uncertain income of her husband. Several times the young couple were brought face to face with the direst need, but their patience and cheerfulness carried them through the crisis. On one occasion, when there was no fuel on hand and no money to buy any, a visitor found the pair busily engaged in waltzing about their bare room in order to keep warm. At another time they were rescued from their extremity only by the kindness of their friend, the Baroness Waldstätten, who intervened just in time to save them from beggary. After three years, Leopold Mozart relented enough to visit his daughter-in-law, whom he found far more deserving than he had expected; but he himself was not well off, and could be of little financial help.

That Constance was of great aid to her husband, in spite of an easy-going nature, cannot be doubted. She possessed the faculty of telling interesting stories and novelettes, and with this apparently inexhaustible fund of invention she would amuse him between his periods of work. The description that we have of the composition of the great "Don Giovanni" overture gives a pleasing illustration of this phase of the family life. Owing to rehearsals and other work, the day before the performance arrived with no overture yet written. In the evening, according to his custom, Mozart began the task by sketching out the themes and a general plan of construction for the work. Near him sat his wife, ready to entertain him with her pleasing tales when he looked up from his work. For one or two hours he did indulge in actual repose; but all through the rest of the night he continued the work, relieving his mental concentration by listening to the storiettes or occasionally sipping a glass of his favourite punch. The manuscript was completed and ready for the copyist the next morning at seven o'clock, and along with the other numbers scored a complete success in the evening.

Some blame has attached to Constance for the lack of exact knowledge about Mozart's grave. At the hour of his burial, in the public cemetery, a violent storm drove away all the mourners. There was a cholera scare in Vienna at the time, which kept many people away from the graveyard. Her own neglect of the matter may have been caused by illness, but, whatever the reason, the fact remains that when public interest was aroused the exact location of Mozart's grave could no longer be defined.