The early December dusk was closing in
over the quaint old city of
Salzburg. Up on the heights above the town the battlements of the great
castle caught a reflection of the last gleams of light in the sky. But
narrow streets below were quite in shadow.
In one of the substantial looking houses
on a principal thoroughfare,
called the Getreide Gasse, lights gleamed from windows on the third
Within, all was arranged as if for some special occasion. The larger
room, with its three windows looking on the street, was immaculate in
neatness. The brass candlesticks shone like gold, the mahogany table
polished like a mirror, the simple furniture likewise. For today was
Mozart's birthday and the little household was to celebrate the event.
Mother Mozart had been busy all day
putting everything in order while
Nannerl, the seven year old daughter, had been helping. Little
now three years old, in his childish eagerness to be as busy as the
had only hindered, and had to be reprimanded once in a while. One could
never be vexed with the little elf, even if he turned somersaults in
clean clothes, or made chalk figures all over the living-room chairs.
never meant to do any harm, and was always so tenderhearted and
was hard to scold him.
And this was the Father's birthday,
about the most important of all the
family celebrations. Already the roast on the spit was nearing
while in the oven a fine cake was browning.
When all was ready and Leopold Mozart
had received the good wishes of
little household, baby Wolfgang was mounted on a footstool to recite a
poem, in honor of the occasion. When he had finished it he stood
a moment then reaching out his tiny arms, clasped them tightly about
father's neck, and said:
"Dear papa, I love you very, very much;
after God, next comes my papa."
Leopold Mozart was a musician and held
the post of Vice-Capellmeister.
Music was honored in this simple home, and when two of the Court
friends of Father Mozart, came in to join the festivities on this
night, a toast was drunk to the honor of Musica, the divine
"I wonder if even a little of my own
musical knowledge and love for the
will overflow upon the two dear children," remarked Father Mozart,
down tenderly on the little ones.
"Why not," answered the mother; "you
long ago promised to begin lessons
with Nannerl; can she not start this very night?"
"Yes, indeed, Papachen, may I not learn
to play the piano? I promise to
work very hard."
"Very well," answered the father; "you
shall see I am grateful for all
the love you have showed me tonight, and I will begin to teach Nannerl
"I want to learn music too," broke in
little Wolfgang, looking at his
father with beaming eyes.
Every one laughed at this, while the
father said baby Wolfgang would
to grow some inches before he could reach the keys.
The lesson began, and the little girl
showed both quickness and
grasp the ideas. No one at first noticed the tiny child who planted
at his sister's elbow, the light of the candles falling on his
sensitive features and bright brown hair. His glance never left
fingers as they felt hesitatingly among the white and black keys, while
ear easily understood the intervals she tried to play.
When the little girl left the piano, or
the harpsichord, as it was
in those days, Wolfgang slipped into her place and began to repeat with
his tiny fingers what his father had taught her. He sought the
intervals, and when at last he found them, his little face beamed with
In a short time he was able to play all the simple exercises that had
given his sister.
The parents listened to their
wonder-child with ever increasing
astonishment, mingled with tears of emotion. It was plain to be seen
Wolfgang must have lessons as well as Nannerl. And what joy it would be
teach them both.
It was a happy household that retired
that night. Nannerl was happy
because she at last had the chance to take piano lessons. Wolfgang,
"Starbeam," dreamed of the wonderful Goddess of Music, who carried him
to fairyland which was filled with beautiful music. The parents were
with joy that heaven had granted them such blessings in their children.
The musical progress of the children was
quite remarkable. Marianne,
was Nannerl's real name, soon began to play very well indeed, while
Wolfgang hardly had to be told anything in music, for he seemed to know
already. The father would write Minuets for the little girl to study;
tiny brother would learn them in half an hour. Soon Wolfgang was able
compose his own Minuets. Several have come down to us which he wrote
he was five years old; and they are quite perfect in form and style.
One day Father Mozart brought home
Schachtner, the Court trumpeter, to
dinner. Coming suddenly into the living-room, they found the tiny elf
busily writing at his father's desk.
"Whatever are you doing, Wolferl?" cried
his father, gazing at the ink
stained fingers of his little son and then at the paper covered with
"Oh, Papa, a piano sonata, but it isn't
"Never mind that," said Leopold Mozart,
"let us see it, it must be
something very fine." Taking up the paper the father and his friend
at it curiously. The sheets were bedaubed with ink stains that almost
concealed the notes. For the child had thrust his pen each time to the
bottom of the ink well, so that frequent blots on the paper were the
result. These did not trouble him in the least, for he merely rubbed
hand over the offending blot and proceeded with his writing.
At first the two friends laughed
heartily to see how the little
had written the notes over smudges, but soon the father's eyes filled
"Look, my dear Schachtner!" he cried.
"See how correct and orderly it
is, all written according to rule. Only one could never play it for it
seems to be too difficult."
"But it's a sonata, Papa, and one must
practice it first, of course,
this is the way it should go."
He sprang to the piano and began to
play. The small fingers could not
master the more intricate parts, but gave sufficient idea of how he
intended the piece to sound.
They stood in speechless astonishment at
this proof of the child's
then Leopold Mozart caught up the little composer and kissing him
"My Wolfgang, you will become a great musician."
Wolfgang, not content with merely
learning the piano, begged to study
the violin also. His violin lessons had hardly begun when one evening
father and two friends were about to play a set of six trios, composed
by Wentzl, one of the players. Wolfgang begged to be allowed to play
second violin. Needless to say his request was refused. At last he was
he might sit next to Schachtner and make believe play, though he must
The playing began, when before long it
was seen the boy was actually
playing the second violin part and doing it correctly. The second
ceased bowing in amazement and allowed Wolfgang to go on alone. After
this he was permitted to play all the second violin part of the whole
pieces. Emboldened by this success, he volunteered to attempt the first
violin part, an offer which was greeted with laughter; but nothing
he took up his violin and began. There were mistakes here and there, of
course, but he persisted to the end, to the astonishment of all.
Three years had passed swiftly by since
little Wolfgang Mozart began
to study music the night of his father's fortieth birthday. He had made
marvelous progress and already the fame of his powers had passed beyond
narrow limits of his native town. Leopold Mozart had no means other
the salary which he received from the Court. His children's musical
induced the father to turn them to advantage, both to supply the family
needs and to provide the children a broad education in music. He
to travel with the children. A first experiment in January, 1762, had
proved so successful that the following September they set out for
Wolfgang was now six years old and Marianne eleven.
At Linz they gave a successful concert
and every one was delighted with
playing of the children. From here they continued their journey as far
the monastery of Ips, where they expected to stay for the night. It had
been a wonderful day, spent in sailing down the majestic Danube, till
reached the grey old building with its battlemented walls. Soon after
arrived, Father Mozart took Wolfgang into the chapel to see the organ.
The child gazed with awe at the great
pipes, the keyboard and the
He begged his father to explain their working, and then as the father
filled the great bellows the tiny organist pushed aside the organ
stood upon the pedals and trod them, as though he had always known how.
monks in the monastery hastened to the chapel, holding their breath as
pointed to the figure of a tiny child in the organ loft. Was it
they asked themselves, that a child could produce such beautiful music?
They remained rooted to the spot, till Wolfgang happened to see them
crept meekly down from his perch.
All the rest of the journey to Vienna,
Wolfgang was the life of the
party, eager to know the name and history of everything they met. At
custom-house on the frontier, he made friends with the officials by
for them on his violin, and thus secured an easy pass for the party.
Arrived at Vienna, Leopold Mozart found
the fame of the children's
had preceded them. A kind and gracious welcome awaited the little party
when they went to the palace of Schönbrunn. The Emperor Franz
Josef took to
Wolfgang at once, was delighted with his playing and called him his
magician." The boy's powers were tested by being required to read
pieces at sight, and playing with one finger, as the Emperor jestingly
asked him to do. Next, the keyboard was covered with a cloth, as a
test, but little Wolfgang played as finely as before, to the great
of the company who applauded heartily. The little magician was so
with the kindness of both the Emperor and Empress that he returned it
his own childish way, by climbing into the lap of the Empress and
her a hug and a kiss, just as though she were his own mother. He was
greatly attracted by the little Princess Marie Antoinette, a beautiful
child of about his own age, with long fair curls and laughing blue
The two struck up an immediate friendship.
After the favor shown them at Court, the
gifted children became the
in Vienna society. Invitations poured in from every side, and many
Those bestowed by the royal family were perhaps the most valued.
present was a violet colored suit, trimmed with broad gold braid, while
Nannerl received a pretty white silk dress. Each of the children also
received a beautiful diamond ring from the Emperor. A portrait of the
in his gala suit, which was painted at the time, is still preserved.
The following year the Mozarts took the
children on a longer journey,
time with Paris in view. They stopped at many towns and cities on the
At Frankfort the first performance was so successful that three more
given. A newspaper of the time says "little Mozart is able to name all
notes played at a distance, whether single or in chords, whether played
on the piano, or any other instrument, bell, glass or clock." The
offered as an additional attraction that Wolfgang would play with the
The family stayed five months in Paris;
the children played before the
Court at Versailles, exciting surprise and enthusiasm there and
they appeared. From Paris they traveled to London, in April, 1764.
Leopold Mozart's first care on reaching
the great English metropolis
to obtain an introduction at Court. King George III and the Queen were
very fond of music, and it was not long before an invitation came for
children to attend at the Palace. The King showed the greatest interest
Wolfgang, asking him to play at sight difficult pieces by Bach and
Then the boy, after accompanying the Queen in a song, selected the bass
part in a piece by Handel, and improvised a charming melody to it. The
was so impressed that he wished him to play the organ, in the playing
which Wolfgang won a further triumph.
The King's birthday was to be celebrated
on June 4 and London was
with people from all parts of the country. Leopold Mozart had chosen
5 as the date for his first public concert. The hall was filled to
overflowing; one hundred guineas being taken in. Many of the assisting
performers would take no fee for their services, which added to the
father's gratitude and happiness.
Not long after this Leopold Mozart fell
ill, and the little family
to Chelsea, for the quiet and good air. Later they were given another
reception at Court, where, after Wolfgang's wonderful performances, the
children won much applause by playing some piano duets composed by the
boy—a style of composition then quite new.
In July, 1765, the family left London
and traveled in Holland, after
came a second visit to Paris, where they added to their former
in addition to playing in many towns on the way back. Finally the long
was brought to a close by the return to Salzburg in November, 1766.
At the period of musical history in
which the gifted boy lived, a
musician's education was not complete unless he went to Italy, for this
country stood first as the home of music. Leopold Mozart had made a
of trips to Vienna with his children, the account of which need not
us here. He had decided that Wolfgang must go to Italy, and breathe in
atmosphere of that land of song. And so in December, 1769, father and
set out for the sunny south, with high hopes for success.
Mozart's happy nature was jubilant over
the journey. He watched eagerly
the peasants as they danced on the vine-clad terraces, overlooking the
blue lakes,—or listened as they sang at their work in the sunny fields.
gazed at the wonderful processions of priests through narrow streets of
towns, but above all there was the grand music in the cathedrals.
The young musician had plenty of work to
do, more than most boys of
thirteen. For, besides the concerts he had to give, he was set
problems by the various professors who wished to test his powers. The
of his playing constantly spread, so the further he traveled into Italy
there were more demands to hear him. At Roveredo, where it was
he would play the organ in St. Thomas's Church, the crowd was so great
he could scarcely get to the organ-loft. The vast audience listened
spellbound, and then refused to disperse till they had caught a glimpse
the boy player. At Verona he had another triumph; one of his symphonies
performed, and his portrait was ordered to be painted.
When they reached Milan the Chief
musician of the city subjected the
severe tests, all of which he accomplished to the astonishment and
of everybody. It was at Bologna however, where he met the most
reception. Here was the home of the famous Padre Martini, the aged
of church music. Father Martini was almost worshiped by the Italians;
was a most lovable man and looked up to as a great composer. He had
ago given up attending concerts, so that every one was astonished when
he was present in the brilliant audience gathered at Count
mansion to listen to the boy's playing. Wolfgang did his best, for he
realized the importance of the event. Father Martini took the boy to
heart at once, invited him to visit him as often as possible during his
stay, and gave him several fugue subjects to work out. These the boy
accomplished with ease, and the Padre declared he was perfectly
with his knowledge of composition.
The journey to Rome was now continued,
and for Wolfgang it was a
of triumphs. At Florence he played before the Court of the Archduke
Leopold, and solved every problem put to him by the Court music
easily as though he were eating a bit of bread.
It was Holy Week when young Mozart and
his father entered Rome, and the
city lay under the spell of the great festival of the year. They soon
joined the throngs that filled the vast temple of St. Peter's, to which
turn during this solemn season. After attending a service and viewing
treasures of the Cathedral, they turned their steps to the Sistine
which contains the wonderful painting of the Last Judgment by Michael
Angelo. It was here that the celebrated Miserere by Allegri was
Wolfgang had been looking forward to this moment all through the latter
part of his journey. His father had told him how jealously guarded this
music was; it could never be performed in any other place, and the
could never take their parts out of the chapel. He was intensely eager
hear this work. And indeed it would be difficult to imagine anything
beautiful and impressive than the singing of the Miserere, which means
"Have Mercy." It follows the solemn service called Tenebrae, (Darkness)
during which the six tall candles on the altar are extinguished one by
one,—till but one is left, which is removed to a space behind the
Then in almost complete darkness the Miserere begins. A single voice is
heard singing the antiphon, or short introduction,—and then comes
a silence so profound that the listener scarcely dares to breathe for
of disturbing it. At length the first sad notes of the supplication are
heard, like the softest wailing of an anguished spirit; they gradually
force till the whole building seems to throb with the thrilling
of the music.
The young musician was profoundly moved;
the father too was much
by the solemn service. Neither spoke as they left the chapel and sought
their lodgings. After they had retired the boy could not sleep; his
thoughts were filled with the wonderful music he had heard. He arose,
the lamp, and got out pens and music paper. He worked industriously the
long night through. When morning dawned the boy sat with his beautiful
upon his folded arms, asleep, while before him on the table lay a score
the Miserere of Allegri, entirely written from memory.
The next day, Good Friday, the Miserere
was performed for the second
Wolfgang, the boy of fourteen, who had performed the wonderful feat of
writing this work out after one hearing, again attended the service,
keeping the score in his hat, and found his work was nearly perfect,
needing but a couple of trifling corrections.
The news of this startling feat gained
for the young musician a cordial
welcome into the houses of the great in Rome; during their stay father
son were fêted to their hearts' content.
At Naples, their next stopping place,
Wolfgang played before a
company, and excited so much astonishment, that people declared his
in playing came from a ring he wore on his finger. "He wears a charm,"
cried. Mozart smiled, took off the ring and played more brilliantly
ever. Then the enthusiasm was redoubled. The Neapolitans showed them
attention and honor. A carriage was provided for their use, and we have
account of how they drove through the best streets, the father wearing
maroon-colored coat with light blue facings, and Wolfgang in one of
green, with rose-colored facings and silver buttons.
It was indeed a wonderful tour which
they made in Italy, though there
not time to tell of many things that happened. On their return to Rome,
the Pope gave him the order of the Golden Spur, which made him
de Mozart. Arriving at Bologna the young musician was made a member of
Accademia Filharmonica. The test for this admission was setting an
in four parts. Wolfgang was locked in a room till the task should be
finished. To the astonishment of everybody he asked to be let out at
end of half an hour,—having completed the work.
The travelers now proceeded to Milan,
where Mozart was to work on his
opera, for which he had received a commission. It was a great task for
boy to accomplish and we find the young composer writing to his mother
sister to pray for his success. The opera was called "Mitridate," and
finished after three months' hard work. The first performance was given
Milan, December 26, 1770, and was conducted by Wolfgang himself. It was
proud, happy day for the father, indeed for the whole family.
succeeded beyond their hopes; it was given twenty times before crowded
houses; and its success brought an election to the Accademia, and also
commission to write a dramatic Serenata for an approaching royal
This work also was a great success. The Empress who had commissioned
to compose the work was so pleased, that besides the promised fee, she
the composer a gold watch with her portrait set in diamonds on the
Sunshine and success had followed the
gifted boy through all his
but now shadows and disappointments were to come, due to jealousy,
and indifference of those in power who might have helped him but failed
to recognize his genius. Shortly after the return of the father and son
to their home town of Salzburg, their protector and friend, the good
Archbishop of Salzburg, died. His successor was indifferent to art and
in contempt those who followed it as a profession. He persistently
to appoint the young musician to any office worthy his talent or to
recognize his gifts in any way. While Mozart remained at home in
hoping his prospects would improve, he worked at composing with
diligence. By the time he was twenty-one he had accumulated a mass of
that embraced every branch of the art. He had a growing reputation as a
composer but no settled future. He had the post of concertmaster, it is
true, but the salary was but a trifle and he was often pressed for
Leopold therefore decided to undertake another professional tour with
son. The Archbishop however prevented the father leaving Salzburg. So
the only course left open was to allow Wolfgang and his mother to
together. They set out on the morning of September 23, 1777. Wolfgang's
spirits rose as the town of Salzburg faded into the haze of that
morning; the sense of freedom was exhilarating; he had escaped the
associated in his mind with tyranny and oppression, to seek his fortune
new and wider fields.
At Munich where they first halted,
Wolfgang sought an engagement at the
Elector's Court. He had an audience at the Nymphenburg, a magnificent
palace on the outskirts of the city. The Elector said there was no
he did not know but later it might be possible to make one, after
had been to Italy and had made a name for himself. With these words the
Elector turned away. Mozart stood as if stunned. To Italy, when he had
concertized there for about seven years, and had been showered with
It was too much. He shook off the dust of Munich and he and his mother
went on to Mannheim. Here was a more congenial atmosphere. The Elector
maintained a fine orchestra, and with the conductor, Cannabich, Mozart
became great friends, giving music lessons to his daughter. But he
not seem to secure a permanent appointment at Court, worthy his genius
ability. Money became more scarce and the father and sister must make
sacrifices at home to send money to maintain mother and son. With the
of intentions Wolfgang failed to make his way except as a piano
The father had resorted to the same means of securing the extra sums
required, and wrote quite sharply to the son to bestir himself and get
something settled for the future.
For the young genius, Mannheim possessed
a special attraction of which
the father knew nothing. Shortly after their arrival in the city,
became acquainted with the Weber family. The two oldest daughters,
fifteen, and Constanza, fourteen, were charming girls just budding into
womanhood. Aloysia had a sweet, pure voice, and was studying for the
indeed she had already made her début in opera. It was not at
that young Mozart, who often joined the family circle, should fall in
with the girl's fair beauty and fresh voice, should write songs for her
and teach her to sing them as he wished. They were much together and
early attraction fast ripened into love. Wolfgang formed a project for
helping the Webers, who were in rather straitened circumstances, by
undertaking a journey to Italy in company with Aloysia and her father;
would write an opera in which Aloysia should appear as prima donna. Of
brilliant plan he wrote his father, saying they could stop in Salzburg
the way, when the father and Nannerl could meet the fair young singer,
they would be sure to love.
Leopold Mozart was distracted at news of
this project. He at once
advising his son to go to Paris and try there to make a name and fame
himself. The son dutifully yielded at once. With a heavy heart he
to leave Mannheim, where he had spent such a happy winter, and his love
dream came to an end. It was a sad parting with the Weber household,
they regarded Wolfgang as their greatest benefactor.
The hopes Leopold Mozart had built on
Wolfgang's success in Paris were
to be realized. The enthusiasm he had aroused as a child prodigy was
awarded to the matured musician. Three months passed away in more or
fruitless endeavor. Then the mother, who had been his constant
these trials and travels, fell seriously ill. On July 3, 1778, she
away in her son's arms.
Mozart prepared to leave Paris at once,
and his father was the more
willing, since the Archbishop of Salzburg offered Wolfgang the position
of Court organist, at a salary of 500 florins, with permission to
himself whenever he might be called upon to conduct his own operas.
urged Wolfgang's acceptance, as their joint income would amount to one
thousand florins a year—a sum that would enable them to pay their debts
and live in comparative comfort.
To Mozart the thought of settling down
in Salzburg under the conditions
stated in his father's letter was distasteful, but he had not the heart
to withstand his father's appeal. He set out from Paris at once,
himself just one indulgence before entering the bondage which lay
him, a visit to his friends the Webers at Mannheim. When he arrived
he found they had gone to Munich to live. Therefore he pushed on to
The Weber family received him as warmly as of old, but in Aloysia's
there was only a friendly greeting, nothing more. A few short months
cooled her fickle attachment for the young composer. This discovery was
bitter trial to Wolfgang and he returned to his Salzburg home saddened
disappointed love and ambition.
Here in his old home he was cheered by a
rapturous welcome; it was
short of a triumph, this greeting and homage showered on him by father,
sister and friends. In their eyes his success was unshadowed by
them he was Mozart the great composer, the genius among musicians. He
very grateful for these proofs of affection and esteem, but he had
still the same aversion to Salzburg and his Court duties. So it was
new-kindled joy that he set out once more for Munich, in November,
to complete and produce the opera he had been commissioned to write for
carnival the following year.
The new opera, "Idomeneo," fulfilled the
high expectations his Munich
friends had formed of the composer's genius. Its reception at the
rehearsals proved success was certain, and the Elector who was present,
joined the performers in expressing his unqualified approval. At home
the progress of the work was followed with deepest interest. The first
performance of "Idomeneo" took place on January 29, 1781. Leopold and
Marianne journeyed to Munich to witness Wolfgang's triumph. It was a
proud, happy moment for all three; the enthusiastic acclaim which shook
theater seemed to the old father, who watched with swimming eyes the
waving hands around him, to set the seal of greatness on his son's
The Archbishop, under whom Mozart held
the meager office we have spoken
of, grew more overbearing in his treatment; he was undoubtedly jealous
great people of Vienna were so deferential to one of his servants, as
chose to call him. At last the rupture came; after a stormy scene
was dismissed from his service, and was free.
Father Mozart was alarmed when he heard
the news of the break, and
endeavored to induce Wolfgang to reconsider his decision and return to
Salzburg. But the son took a firm stand for his independence. "Do not
me to return to Salzburg," he wrote his father; "ask me anything but
And now came a time of struggling for
Mozart. His small salary was cut
and he had but one pupil. He had numerous friends, however, and soon
fortunes began to mend. He was lodging with his old friends the Webers.
Aloysia, his former beloved, had married; Madame Weber and her two
unmarried daughters were now in Vienna and in reduced circumstances.
Mozart's latest opera, "The Elopement," had brought him fame both in
and Prague, and he had the patronage of many distinguished persons, as
as that of Emperor Josef.
Mozart had now decided to make a home
for himself, and chose as his
Constanza Weber, a younger sister of Aloysia, his first love. In spite
Leopold Mozart's remonstrance, the young people were married August 16,
Constanza, though a devoted wife, was
inexperienced in home keeping.
young couple were soon involved in many financial troubles from which
seemed no way out, except by means of some Court appointment. This
the Emperor in spite of his sincere interest in the composer, seemed
disinclined to give.
Mozart now thought seriously of a
journey to London and Paris, but his
father's urgent appeal that he would wait and exercise patience,
him. Meanwhile he carried out an ardent desire to pay a visit to his
and sister in Salzburg, to present to them his bride. It was a very
visit, and later on, when Mozart and his wife were again settled in
they welcomed the father on a return visit. Leopold found his son
in work, and it gladdened his heart to see the appreciation in which
playing and compositions were held. One happy evening they spent with
Haydn who, after hearing some of Mozart's quartets played, took the
aside, saying: "I declare before God, as a man of honor, that your son
the greatest composer I know, either personally or by reputation. He
taste, but more than that the most consummate knowledge of the art of
This happy time was to be the last
meeting between father and son. Soon
after Leopold's return to Salzburg, he was stricken with illness, and
passed away May 28, 1787. The news reached the composer shortly after
had achieved one of the greatest successes of his life. The
his latest opera, "The Marriage of Figaro," had been hailed with
by enthusiastic crowds in Vienna and Prague; its songs were heard at
street corner, and village ale house. "Never was anything more complete
than the triumph of Mozart and his 'Nozze di Figaro,'" wrote a singer
and friend.—"And for Mozart himself, I shall never forget his face when
lighted up with the glowing rays of genius; it is as impossible to
as to paint sunbeams."
Despite the success of Figaro, Mozart
was still a poor man, and must
his bread by giving music lessons. Finally the Emperor, hoping to keep
him in Germany, appointed him Chamber-composer at a salary of about
pounds a year. It must have seemed to Mozart and his friends a beggarly
for the value his Majesty professed to set upon the composer's services
art. "Too much for the little I am asked to produce, too little for
I could produce," were the bitter words he penned on the official
stating the amount of his salary.
Mozart was inclined to be somewhat
extravagant in dress and household
expenditure, also very generous to any one who needed assistance. These
trials, added to the fact that his wife was frequently in ill health,
and not very economical, served to keep the family in continual
Occasionally they were even without fire or food, though friends always
assisted such dire distress. Mozart's father had declared
was his son's besetting sin. Yet the son was a tireless worker, never
In September, 1787, he was at Prague, writing the score of his greatest
opera, "Don Giovanni"; the time was short, as the work was to be
October 29. On the evening of the 28th it was found he had not yet
the overture. It only had to be written down, for this wonderful genius
the music quite complete in his head. He set to work, while his wife
read fairy tales aloud to keep him awake, and gave him strong punch at
intervals. By seven o'clock next morning the score was ready for the
copyist. It was played in the evening without rehearsal, with the ink
scarcely dry on the paper.
Even the successes of "Don Giovanni,"
which was received with thunders
applause, failed to remedy his desperate financial straits. Shortly
this his pupil and patron, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, proposed he should
accompany him to Berlin. Mozart gladly consented, hoping for some
betterment to his fortunes. The King of Prussia received him with honor
and respect and offered him the post of Capellmeister, at a salary
to about three thousand dollars. This sum would have liberated him from
his financial embarrassments, and he was strongly tempted to accept.
loyalty to his good Emperor Josef caused him to decline the offer.
The month of July, 1791, found Mozart at
home in Vienna at work on a
opera to help his friend Salieri, who had taken a little theater in the
suburb of Wieden. One day he was visited by a stranger, a tall man, who
said he came to commission Mozart to compose a Requiem. He would
give his own name nor that of the person who had sent him.
Mozart was somewhat depressed by this
mysterious commission; however he
to work on the Requiem at once. The composing of both this and the
opera was suddenly interrupted by a pressing request that he would
an opera for the coronation of Leopold II at Prague. The ceremony was
for September 6, so no time was to be lost. Mozart set out at once for
Prague. The traveling carriage was at the door. As he was about to
it, the mysterious stranger suddenly appeared and enquired for the
The composer could only promise to finish on his return, when hastily
entering his carriage, he drove away.
The new opera, "La Clemenza di Tito,"
was finished in time and
but was received somewhat indifferently. Mozart returned to Vienna with
spirits depressed and body exhausted by overwork. However, he braced
himself anew, and on September 30th, the new fairy opera, the "Magic
Flute," was produced, and its success increased with each performance.
The Requiem was not yet finished and to
this work Mozart now turned.
the strain and excitement he had undergone for the past few months had
their work: a succession of fainting spells overcame him, and the
powers which had always been his seemed no longer at his command. He
he would not live to complete the work. "It is for myself I am writing
Requiem," he said sadly to Constanza, one day.
On the evening of December 4, friends
who had gathered at his bedside,
handed him, at his desire, the score of the Requiem, and, propped up by
pillows he tried to sing one of the passages. The effort was too great;
manuscript slipped from his nerveless hand and he fell back speechless
emotion. A few hours later, on the morning of December 5, 1791, this
master of whom it was prophesied that he would cause all others to
be forgotten, passed from the scene of his many struggles and greater