Wolfgang, the German

By Friedrich Kerst

Mozart’s Germanism is a matter of pride to the German people. To him “German” was no empty concept, as it was to the majority of his contemporaries. He is therefore honored as a champion of German character and German art, worthy as such to stand beside Richard Wagner. Properly to appreciate his patriotism it is necessary to hear in mind that in Mozart’s day Germany was a figment of the imagination, the French language, French manners and Italian music being everywhere dominant. Wagner, on the contrary, was privileged to see the promise of the fulfillment of his strivings in the light of the German victories of 1870-1871.  When the genius of Germany soared aloft she carried Wagner with her; Wagner’s days of glory in August, 1876, were conditioned by the great war with France. How insignificant must the patronage of Joseph II, scantily enough bestowed on Mozart in comparison with that showered on Salieri, appear, when we recall the Maecenas Ludwig II.

109.     “Frequently I fall into a mood of complete listlessness and indifference; nothing gives me great pleasure. The most stimulating and encouraging thought is that you, dearest father, and my dear sister, are well, that I am an honest German, and that if I am not always permitted to talk I can think what I please; but that is all.”

(Paris, May 29, 1778, to his father.)

110.     “The Duke de Guines was utterly without a sense of honor and thought that here was a young fellow, and a stupid German to boot,--as all Frenchmen think of the Germans,--he’ll be glad to take it. But the stupid German was not glad and refused to take the money. For two lessons he wanted to pay me the fee of one.”

(Paris, July 31, 1778, to his father. Mozart had given lessons in composition to the Duke’s daughter. See No. 51.)

111.     “An Italian ape, such as he is, who has lived in German countries and eaten German bread for years, ought to speak German, or mangle it, as well or ill as his French mouth will permit.”

(Said of the violoncellist Duport, the favorite of King William I, of Prussia, in 1789, when Mozart was in Berlin and Duport asked him to speak French.)

112.     “I pray God every day to give me grace to remain steadfast here, that I may do honor to myself and the entire German nation, to His greater honor and glory, and that He permit me to make my fortune so that I may help you out of your sorry condition, and bring it to pass that we soon meet again and live together in happiness and joy. But His will be done on earth as in heaven.”

(Paris, May 1, 1778, to his father who had plunged himself in debt and was giving lessons in order to promote the career of his son. His sister also helped nobly.)

113.     “If this were a place where the people had ears, hearts to feel, and a modicum of musical understanding and taste, I should laugh heartily at all these things; as it is I am among nothing but cattle and brutes (so far as music is concerned). How should it be otherwise since they are the same in all their acts and passions? There is no place like Paris. You must not think that I exaggerate when I talk thus of music. Turn to whom you please,--except to a born Frenchman,--you shall hear the same thing, provided you can find some one to turn to. Now that I am here I must endure out of regard for you. I shall thank God Almighty if I get out of here with a sound taste.”

(Paris, May 1, 1778.)

114.     “How popular I would be if I were to lift the national German stage to recognition in music! And this would surely happen for I was already full of desire to write when I heard the German Singspiel.”

(Munich, October 2, 1777. [A Singspiel is a German opera with spoken dialogue. H.E.K.])

115.     “If there were but a single patriot on the boards with me, a different face would be put on the matter. Then, mayhap, the budding National Theatre would blossom, and that would be an eternal disgrace to Germany,--if we Germans should once begin to think German, act German, speak German, and—even sing German!!!”

 (Vienna, March 21, 1785, to the playwright Anton Klein of Mannheim. It was purposed to open the Singspiel theatre in October.)

116.     “The German Opera is to be opened in October. For my part I am not promising it much luck. From the doings so far it looks as if an effort were making thoroughly to destroy the German opera which had suspended, perhaps only for a while, rather than to help it up again and preserve it. Only my sister-in-law Lange has been engaged for the German Singspiel. Cavalieri, Adamberger, Teyber, all Germans, of whom Germany can be proud, must remain with the Italian opera, must make war against their countrymen!”

 (Vienna, March 21, 1785, to Anton Klein. Madame Lange was Aloysia Weber, with whom he was in love before he married her sister Constanze.)

117.     “The gentlemen of Vienna (including most particularly the Emperor) must not be permitted to believe that I live only for the sake of Vienna. There is no monarch on the face of the earth whom I would rather serve than the Emperor, but I shall not beg service. I believe that I am capable of doing honor to any court.  If Germany, my beloved fatherland, of whom you know I am proud, will not accept me, then must I, in the name of God, again make France or England richer by one capable German;--and to the shame of the German nation. You know full well that in nearly all the arts those who excelled have nearly always been Germans. But where did they find fortune, where fame? Certainly not in Germany. Even Gluck;--did Germany make him a great man? Alas, no!”

(Vienna, August 17, 1782, to his father. Mozart’s answer in 1789, when King Frederick William II of Prussia said to him: “Stay with me; I offer you a salary of 3,000 thalers,” was touching in the extreme: “Shall I leave my good Emperor?” Thereupon the king said: “Think it over. I’ll keep my word even if you should come after a year and a day!” In spite of his financial difficulties, Mozart never gave serious consideration to the offer. When his father advised him against some of his foreign plans he answered:

“So far as France and England are concerned you are wholly right; this opening will never be closed to me; it will be better if I wait a while longer. Meanwhile it is possible that conditions may change in those countries.” In a preceding letter he had written:

“For some time I have been practicing myself daily in the French language, and I have also taken three lessons in English. In three months I hope to be able to read and understand English books fairly well.”)

118.     “The two of us played a sonata that I had composed for the occasion, and which had a success. This sonata I shall send you by Herr von Daubrawaick, who said that he would feel proud to have it in his trunk; his son, who is a Salzburger, told me this.

When the father went he said, quite loud, ‘I am proud to be your countryman. You are doing great honor to Salzburg; I hope that times will so change that we can have you amongst us, and then do not forget me.’ I answered: ‘My fatherland has always the first claim on me.’ “

(Vienna, November 24, 1781, to his father. Mozart is speaking of a concert which he had given. The sonata is the small one in D major (Kochel, No. 381). Mozart often made merry over the Salzburgians; he called them stupid and envious.)

119.     “Thoroughly convinced that I was talking to a German, I gave free rein to my tongue,--a thing which one is so seldom permitted to do that after such an outpouring of the heart it would be allowable to get a bit fuddled without risk of hurting one’s health.”

 (Vienna, March 21, 1785, to Anton Klein.)






Daniel McAdam's Guide to Music