In Suffering


[This is taken from Mozart, The Man and the Artist, by Friedrich Kerst.]

It is as difficult to call up in the fancy a picture of a suffering Mozart as a merry Beethoven. The effect of melancholy hours is scarcely to be found in Mozart’s music. When he composed,--i.e. according to his own expression “speculated” while walking up and down revolving musical ideas in his mind and forming them into orderly compositions, so that the subsequent transcription was a mechanical occupation which required but little effort,--he was transported to the realm of tones, far from the miseries of this world. Nor would his happy disposition permit him long to remain under the influence of grief and care.  None of the letters which sound notes of despair lacks a jest in which the writer forcibly tears himself away from his gloomy thoughts. His sufferings came to him from without; the fate of a Beethoven was spared him. Others brought him pain,--his rivals through envy, the Archbishop through malevolence, the Emperor through ignorance. Sufferings of this character challenged opposition and called out his powers, presenting to us a Mozart full of temperament and capable of measuring himself with any opponent.

He never lost hope even when hope seemed most deceptive. It is therefore impossible to speak of a suffering Mozart in the sense that we speak of a suffering Beethoven; fate was kind even at his death, which was preceded by but a brief illness.

215.     “I am still full of gall!...Three times this—I do not know what to call him—has assailed me to my face with impertinence and abuse of a kind that I did not want to write down, my best of fathers, and I did not immediately avenge the insult because I thought of you. He called me a wretch (Buben), a licentious fellow, told me to get out and I—suffered it all, feeling that not only my honor but yours as well was attacked; but,--it was your wish,--I held my tongue.”

 (Vienna, May 9, 1781, to his father, who had heard with deep concern of the treatment which his son was enduring at the hands of the Archbishop of Salzburg, and who feared for his own position. At the close of the letter Mozart writes: “I want to hear nothing more about Salzburg; I hate the archbishop to the verge of madness.”)

216.     “The edifying things which the Archbishop said to me in the three audiences, particularly in the last, and what I have again been told by this glorious man of God, had so admirable a physical effect on me that I had to leave the opera in the evening in the middle of the first act, go home, and to bed. I was in a fever, my whole body trembled, and I reeled like a drunken man in the street. The next day, yesterday, I remained at home and all forenoon in bed because I had taken the tamarind water.”

 (Vienna, May 12, 1781, to his father. The catastrophe between Mozart and the archbishop is approaching.)

217.     “Twice the Archbishop gave me the grossest impertinences and

I answered not a word; more, I played for him with the same zeal as if nothing had happened. Instead of recognizing the honesty of my service and my desire to please him at the moment when I was expecting something very different, he begins a third tirade in the most despicable manner in the world.”

(Vienna, June 13, 1781, to his father. See the chapter “Self-Respect and Honor.”)

218.     “All the world asserts that by my braggadocio and criticisms

I have made enemies of the professional musicians! Which world?  Presumably that of Salzburg, for anybody living in Vienna sees and hears differently; there is my answer.”

(Vienna, July 31, to his father, who had sent Mozart what the latter called “so indifferent and cold a letter,” when informed by his son of the great success of his opera, “Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.” As on previous occasions Salzburg talebearers had been busying themselves.)

219.     “I rejoice like a child at the prospect of being with you again. I should have to be ashamed of myself if people could look into my heart; so far as I am concerned it is cold,--cold as ice.  Yes, if you were with me I might find greater pleasure in the courteous treatment which I receive from the people; but as it is, it is all empty. Adieu!--Love!”

 (Frankfort, September 30, 1790, to his wife. Mozart had made the journey to Frankfort to give concerts amidst the festivities accompanying the coronation of Leopold II, hoping that he could better his financial condition. Not having been sent at the cost of the Emperor, like other Court musicians, he pawned his silver, bought a carriage and took with him his brother-in-law, a violinist named Hofer. “It took us only six days to make the journey.” He was disappointed in his expectations. “I have now decided to do as well as I can here and look joyfully towards a meeting with you. What a glorious life we shall lead; I shall work—work!”)

220.     “Dreams give me no concern, for there is no mortal man on earth who does not sometimes dream. But merry dreams! quiet, refreshing, sweet dreams! Those are the thing! Dreams which, if they were realities, would make tolerable my life which has more of sadness in it than merriment.”

 (Munich, December 31, 1778, to his father. During Mozart’s sojourn in Paris the love of Aloysia Weber had grown cold, and Mozart was in the dolors.)

221.     “Happy man! Now see,--I have got to give still another lesson in order to earn some money.”

 (1786, to Gyrowetz, on the latter’s departure for Italy.)

222.     “You can not doubt my honesty, for you know me too well for that. Nor can you be suspicious of my words, my conduct or my mode of life, because you know my conduct and mode of life.  Therefore,--forgive my confidence in you,--I am still very unhappy,--always between fear and hope.”

 (Vienna, July 17, 1788, to his faithful friend, Puchberg, whom he has asked for money on account of the severe illness of his wife.)

223.     “You know my circumstances;--to be brief, since I can not find a true friend, I am obliged to borrow money from usurers.  But as it takes time to hunt among these un-Christian persons for those who are the most Christian and to find them, I am so stripped that I must beg you, dear friend, for God’s sake to help me out with what you can spare.”

 (One of many requests for help sent to Puchberg. It was sent in 1790 and the original bears an endorsement: “May 17, sent 150 florins.”)

224.     “If you, worthy brother, do not help me out of my present predicament I shall lose my credit and honor, the only things which I care now to preserve.”

 (Vienna, June 27, 1788, to Puchberg, who had sent him 200 florins ten days before. Puchberg was a brother Mason.)

225.     “How I felt then! How I felt then! Such things will never return. Now we are sunk in the emptiness of everyday life.”

 (Remarked on remembering that at the age of fourteen he had composed a “Requiem” at the command of Empress Maria Theresa and had conducted it as chapelmaster of the imperial orchestra.)

226.     “Did I not tell you that I was composing this ‘Requiem’ for myself?”

 (Said on the day of his death while still working on the “Requiem” for which he had received so mysterious a commission.  The work had been ordered by a Count Walsegg, who made pretensions to musical composition, and who wished to palm it off as a work of his own, written in memory of his wife. Mozart never knew him.)

227.     “I shall not last much longer. I am sure that I have been poisoned! I can not rid myself of this thought.”

 (Mozart believed that he had been poisoned by one of his Italian rivals, his suspicion falling most strongly on Salieri. [”As regards Mozart, Salieri cannot escape censure, for though the accusation of having been the cause of his death has been long ago disproved, it is more than possible that he was not displeased at the removal of so formidable a rival. At any rate, though he had it in his power to influence the Emperor in Mozart’s favor, he not only neglected to do so, but even intrigued against him as Mozart himself relates in a letter to his friend Puchberg. After his death, however, Salieri befriended his son, and gave him a testimonial which secured him his first appointment.” C.F. Pohl, in “Grove’s Dictionary of Music and Musicians.”])

228.     “Stay with me to-night; you must see me die. I have long had the taste of death on my tongue, I smell death, and who will stand by my Constanze, if you do not stay?”

 (Reported by his sister-in-law, Sophie, sister of Constanze.)

229.     “And now I must go just as it had become possible for me to live quietly. Now I must leave my art just as I had freed myself from the slavery of fashion, had broken the bonds of speculators, and won the privilege of following my own feelings and compose freely and independently whatever my heart prompted! I must away from my family, from my poor children in the moment when I should have been able better to care for their welfare!”

 (Uttered on his death-bed.)

 

 



 

 

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