Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/393

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MOZART.
381
 

which he detailed the facts and his own admiration and astonishment. After a second performance at court, the children gave their first concert on Tuesday June 5, at the Great Room in Spring Gardens. In the advertisement the father called his children 'prodigies of nature,' and directed special attention to Wolfgang; 'his father had brought him to England, not doubting but that he will meet with success in a kingdom where his countryman Handel, the late famous virtuoso, received during his lifetime such particular protection.' Town was very full for the King's birthday (June 4), and the receipts were as much as 100 guineas; moreover many of the professors engaged declined receiving any renumeration for their services. The sensation was immense; even the father was astonished, and wrote home describing their progress. 'To play the British patriot' he next allowed Wolfgang to play the harpsichord and organ at a concert at Ranelagh on June 29, 'for the benefit of a useful public [1]charity.' After this the family went to Tunbridge Wells, then at the height of its fashion, returning at the end of July; shortly after the father took cold in returning from a concert at Lord Thanet's, and had a severe illness. During his convalescence they went to Chelsea, then a detached village, and lived at the house of a Dr. Randal in Five-fields (now Lower Ebury Street). Not being able to play any instrument, on their father's account, Wolfgang composed his first Symphony (15), followed by three others in 1765 (17–19). On their return to town they lodged at Williamson's in Thrift Street (now Frith St., Soho); and on October 29 were again invited to court. In acknowledgement of so much gracious kindness, the father had six of Wolfgang's sonatas for harpsichord and violin (10–15) engraved at his own cost, and dedicated to the Queen, who sent him 50 guineas. The last two concerts, in which 'all the overtures were of the little boy's own composition,' took place respectively on Feb. 12, 1765, at the Little Theatre, Haymarket, and May 13, in Hickford's Great Room, Brewer Street, the latter at reduced prices, as the charm of novelty had worn off. Here the children played a piece of Wolfgang's for 4 hands on the same harpsichord, a thing then quite new. He also played on a pianoforte [App. p.720 "harpsichord"] with 2 manuals and pedals, made by Burkhard Shudy for the King of Prussia.

From this time the father put forth repeated invitations to the public to hear and test the youthful prodigies in private, 'every day from 12 to 3, admittance 2/6 each person,' first at their lodgings, and afterwards at the Swan and Hoop Tavern, Cornhill. Playing with the keyboard covered is mentioned as a special attraction. Visitors however became constantly fewer, in spite of the increasing urgency with which they were invited (the 'Advertiser' of July 11 contains the last advertisement), and some popular disturbances, together with the appearance of the first symptoms of George the Third's malady, made the elder Mozart determine to leave the country. The family however first visited the British Museum (opened Jan. 15, 1759), to which the father presented all Wolfgang's printed compositions, and a copy of the engraving from Carmontelle's picture. In memory of his visit Wolfgang composed, by request, a 4-part motet,[2] his only vocal piece to English words, and presented the autograph to the Museum, receiving a note of thanks from the secretary, Mr. Maty (July 19, 1765). They started July 24, stopped at Canterbury, and at Bourne with Horace Mann, and on August 1 left England for the Hague in consequence of an invitation to the court of Holland.

They were detained a month at Lille by Wolfgang's falling ill, but on their arrival at the Hague in September were most graciously received by the Prince of Orange and his sister Princess Caroline of Nassau- Weilburg. First however the little girl fell ill, and then Wolfgang took a violent fever which lasted many weeks. It was not till Jan. 1766 that he was able to give two concerts at Amsterdam, at which all the instrumental music was his own composition, including a symphony (22). In March they were again at the Hague for the fêtes on the installation of the Prince of Orange as Stadtholder, for which Wolfgang composed harpsichord variations on an allegretto, and on the old Volkslied 'Willem van Nassau' (24, 25), which were immediately printed. He also composed for the Festival a kind of concerto grosso which he called 'Galimathias musicum' (32); it concludes with a fugue on the Volkslied. Six sonatas for P.F. and violin (26–31), dedicated to the Princess, were also engraved. At Ghent and Haarlem he played the organ in public.

They next travelled by Mechlin to Paris, where they arrived on May 10. The children played repeatedly at court, and their improvement was appreciated, but here too there was a falling off in interest. On July 9 they left Paris, and passing through Lyons to Switzerland, spent many pleasant days at Lausanne, Berne, Zurich, and Schaffhausen. They were fêted everywhere, but most of all at Zurich by the poet Gessner, from whom they parted with great regret. It has lately been discovered[3] that the father took his children over from Geneva to Ferney, having a letter of introduction from Damilaville of Paris. But Voltaire had been in bed for six weeks, and Mme. Denis, Rameau's pupil, was ill too; 'Comment pourrais-je recevoir vôtre jeune joueur de clavecin? Ah! nous sommes bien loin de donner des fêtes!' he wrote to his friend in Paris; and so this strange encounter between Leopold Mozart the sincere believer, and Voltaire, did not take place. That the former should have desired it is a proof of his readiness to sacrifice even his scruples to the interests of his children.[4] At

  1. Probably the Lying-in-Hospital (Surrey), the fouadation-stone of which was laid in 1785.
  2. 'God is our Refuge and Strength.' For facsimile of the autograph see Pohl's 'Mozart in London.'
  3. 'Voltaire Musicien,' by Edmond van der Straeten.
  4. The above interesting fact throws light on the passage on Voltaire's death in Mozart's Letters (Paris, July 3, 1778).