Page:A Dictionary of Music and Musicians vol 2.djvu/404

From Wikisource
Jump to: navigation, search
This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

hurry. By way however of recognising his recent triumph at Prague, and in order to retain him in Vienna (his hankering after England being well known) he appointed him Kammer-compositor with a salary of 800 gulden[1] (about £80) Mozart looked upon this appointment as a mere beggar's dole, and when, according to custom, he had to send in a sealed letter stating his income, he wrote bitterly 'Too much for what I [2]produce; too little for what I could produce.' 'Don Giovanni' was not given in Vienna till May 7, 1788, and then did not please.[3] Mozart added a new air for Donna Elvira, No. 25 (K. 527), an air for Masetto, No. 26, a short air for Don Ottavio, No. 27, and a duet for Zerlina and Leporello, No. 28.

In spite of the success of his last opera, Mozart's pecuniary condition continued desperate. This is shown convincingly by a letter (June 27) to his friend Puchberg, in which the poor fellow begs piteously for a loan, and speaks of 'gloomy thoughts which he must repel with all his might.' And yet at the very height of his distress he manifests extraordinary power. Besides other compositions, he wrote within six weeks (June 26 to Aug. 10) his three last and finest symphonies, in E♭, G minor, and C (Jupiter) (543, 550, 551). But other very congenial work awaited him. From the beginning of his life in Vienna he had been acquainted with van Swieten, director of the Hofbibliothek, who was a great amateur of classical music, and who with a small band of friends devoted every Sunday morning to studying the works of the old masters. He himself sang the [4]treble, Mozart (who sat at the piano) the alto, and Starzer and Teyber tenor and bass. It was for these practices that Mozart sent for his MS. book of pieces by Michael Haydn and Eberlin, and afterwards for the fugues of Bach and Handel. They also served as an incentive to him to compose pianoforte pieces of a solid description; several remained fragments, but among those completed are—Prelude and Fugue, à 3, in C (394); Fugue in G minor (401); Claviersuite in the style of Bach and Handel (399); an arrangement of the fugue in C minor (originally for 2 P.F.s) for string-quartet, with a short adagio (546). He also arranged 5 fugues from Bach's Wohltemperirte Clavier for string-quartet (405).

By 1788, however, van Swieten's practices had assumed larger proportions. At his instigation a number of gentlemen united to provide the necessary funds for performances of oratorios with chorus and orchestra. The fine large hall of the Hofbibliothek served as their concert-room, Mozart conducted, and young Weigl took the pianoforte. It was for these performances that he added wind parts to Handel's 'Acis and Galatea'[5] (Nov. 1788), 'Messiah' (March 1789), 'Ode to St. Cecilia's Day,' and 'Alexander's Feast' (July, 1790).

Such work as this, however, did nothing to improve his pecuniary condition; and in the hope that the journey might bring to light some means of extricating himself, he gratefully accepted an invitation from his pupil and patron Prince Karl Lichnowsky, to accompany him to Berlin.

Leaving Vienna on April 8, 1789, their first halting-place worth noting was Dresden, where Mozart played at court, exciting great admiration and receiving 100 ducats. He was well received also in private circles, and the general interest was increased by a competition with J. W. Hassler of Erfurt, then distinguished as pianist and organist.[6] Without considering him a formidable opponent, Mozart acknowledged his talent. Here also he made the acquaintance of the poet Körner, and his sister-in-law Dora Stock, who drew a charming portrait of Mozart with a silver pencil. He produced a still greater effect in Leipzig, where he made the acquaintance of Rochlitz, who has preserved innumerable interesting traits both of the man and the artist. On April 22 he played the organ in the St. Thomas Church, Doles the Cantor and Görner the organist pulling out the stops for him. All present were enchanted, especially Doles, who could almost have believed in the restoration to life of his teacher, the great Bach himself. In return he made the choir of the Thomas-school sing Bach's 8-part motet 'Singet dem Herrn,' at which Mozart exclaimed with delight, 'Here is something from which one may still learn,' and having secured the parts of the other motets (no score being at hand), he spread them out before him, and became absorbed in study.

On their arrival in Berlin the travellers went straight to Potsdam, and Prince Lichnowsky presented Mozart to the King, who had been anxiously expecting him. Frederic William II. was musical, played the cello well, (he was a pupil of the elder Duport,) and had a wellselected orchestra. The opera was conducted by Reichardt, and the concerts by Duport. The King's favourable anticipations were fully realised in Mozart, but Reichardt and Duport were set against him by his candidly replying to the King's question, what he thought of the band, 'it contains great virtuosi, but if the gentlemen would play together, they would make a better effect.' The King apparently laid this remark to heart, for he offered Mozart the post of Capellmeister, with a salary of 3000 thalers (about £600). After a moment's hesitation, he replied with emotion, 'How could I abandon my good Emperor?'

In the meantime, preparations having been made for a concert, Mozart went again to Leipzig. The programme consisted entirely of his own unpublished compositions, and at the close he

  1. His father did not live to see this partial realisation of his hopes; he had died, as already stated, on May 28.
  2. Viz. the dances for the Imperial Redouten-balls, which it was his duty to supply.
  3. According to Da Ponte the Emperor said, 'The opera is divine, finer perhaps than Figaro, but it is not the meat for my Viennese.' When the saying was reported to Mozart he replied, 'We must give them time to chew it.'
  4. 'Diskant.' Mozart's letter, March 12, 1783.
  5. Also performed at Mozart's benefit-concert in the Jahn'sched Concertsaal in the same month.
  6. Hässler played a concerto of Mozart's at his concert in London. May 30, 1792. See Pohl's 'Haydn in London,' 200.