Part 2 out of 4
THE MAGNIFICENT BACHELOR
Two young and flamboyant musickers, boon companions, one twenty-two and
the other eighteen, strike the town of Luebeck in 1703. They are drawn
thither by a vacancy in the post of town-organist. And their competition
is to be friendly.
Two flamboyant young musickers leave the town of Luebeck as soon as can
be. For they have learned that the successful candidate must marry the
daughter of the man in whose shoes they would fain have trodden the
pedals. One look at the daughter was enough. She was not fair to see,
and her years were thirty-four--just six years less than the total years
of the two young candidates.
Back to Hamburg the two friends go, and the next year their friendship
suffers a serious strain. The elder, now aged twenty-three, is producing
"Cleopatra," an opera of his own composition, and incidentally playing
the role of Antony. The younger of the friends is the conductor, and
presides, as is the custom of the time, at the clavecin. There is
another custom in the performance of that opera, a curious one, too. For
it is the wont of the composer-singer, when he has died as Antony, to
come to life again and conduct the rest of his opera at the clavecin.
But the younger friend, now full of the importance of nineteen years,
and being the successor to the great Reinhard Keiser, is not disposed to
yield the clavecin, even to his versatile friend. A quarrel that
narrowly escapes ruining the melodious swan-song of Cleopatra, is
postponed till after the final curtain. Then it takes the form of a
duel. The composer manages at last to elude the parry of the conductor;
he throws all his weight and venom into a lunge that must prove
fatal,--but a large brass button sheds the point of the sword and saves
its wearer for a better fate.
By the strange medicinal virtue of duels, the wound in the friendship is
healed, honour is poulticed, and the friendship begins again, lasting
with healthful interruptions until the younger musician goes his way
toward the fulness of his glory; the elder his way along the lines of
versatility--which leave him in the eyes of posterity rather valued as a
writer than aught else.
The old organist whose death had brought these two younkers on their
wild-goose chase was Dietrich Buxtehude, the famous man whom Johann
Sebastian Bach walked fifty miles on foot to hear, and whose
compositions he studied and profited from. Old Buxtehude, himself the
son of an organist, had himself married the daughter of the organist who
had preceded him. The daughter he left behind to frighten away aspiring
candidates did not languish long. According to Chrysander, a certain
J.C. Schieferdecker, who is famous for nothing else, wed the daughter,
and "got the pretty job" ("_erhielt den schoenen Dienst_").
The elder of the two young men was Johann Mattheson (1681--1764), a sort
of "Admirable Crichton," who married in 1709 Catherine Jennings,
daughter of an English clergyman and the relative of a British admiral.
That is all of his story that belongs here.
The younger man, whose life hung on a button, was that great personage
whose name has been spelled almost every way imaginable between Hendtler
and Handel--the later form being preferred by the English, who, as
somebody said, love to speak learnedly of "Handel and Glueck." It is not
needful here to tell the story of his brilliant life and the big events
it crowded into the four and seventy years between 1685 and 1759. His
friend Mattheson, like Beethoven, spent his later years in the dungeon
of deafness. Haendel, like his great rival Bach (who was born the same
year), spent seven years in almost total blindness, three operations
having failed. In almost every other respect the careers of these two
men were unlike, particularly in the obscure and prolific married life
of the one and in the almost royal prominence of the other's
Haendel never married, and seems never even to have been in love, though
he was an unusually pious son and a fond brother.
The only time on record when he took a woman into his arms was the
occasion when the great singer, Cuzzoni, refused to sing an air of his
the way he wished it. He seized her, and, dragging her to a window,
threatened to throw her out, thundering, "I always knew you were a
devil, but I'll show you that I am Beelzebub, the prince of devils."
Haendel's greatest love seems to have been for things to eat. In the
memoirs of him, published anonymously [by Doctor Mainwaring] in 1760,
the author says that Haendel was "always habituated to an uncommon
portion of food and nourishment," and accuses him of "excessive
indulgence in this lowest of gratifications."
"He certainly paid more attention to it than is becoming in any man; but
it is some excuse that Nature had given him so vigorous a constitution,
so exquisite a palate, so craving an appetite, that fortune enabled him
to obey these calls, and to satisfy these demands of nature.... Had he
hurt his health or fortune by indulgences of this kind, they would have
been vicious; as he did not, they were at the most indecorous."
A story is told of him that he once ordered up enough dinner for three.
Noting that the servant dawdled about, Haendel demanded why; the servant
answered that he was waiting for the company to come, whereupon Haendel
stormed, in his famous broken English, "Den pring up der tinner
prestissimo. I am de gombany."
In his later years Haendel was not so beautiful as he might have been,
and Queen Anne, alluding to his bulk, said that his hands were feet and
his fingers toes. Mrs. Bray, however, says that "in his youth he was the
most handsome man of his time."
Handel resembles Lully somewhat in his reputation for being a lover of
the table and a neglecter of womankind. Schoelcher in his biography
states "that not one woman occupies the smallest place in the long
career of his life." And yet contradicts himself in his very next
sentence, for he adds:
"When he was in Italy a certain lady named Vittoria fell in love with
him and even followed him from Florence to Venice. Burney describes
Vittoria as 'a songstress of talent.' Fetis calls her the Archduchess
Vittoria, but both agree that she was beautiful and that she filled the
part of the prima donna in 'Roderigo,' his first Italian score. At that
period, and even later, it was not uncommon to find princes and
princesses singing in the pieces which were produced at their courts.
Artist or archduchess, either title was enough to turn the head of a
young man twenty-four years old; but Haendel disdained her love. All the
English biographers say that he was too prudent to accept an attachment
which would have been ruin to both. This is calumny, for he was never
This Vittoria is an interesting problem in romance. Doctor Mainwaring
says that Haendel was Apollo and she Daphne. Chrysander in his great
biography properly notes that the legend has been twisted, and
represents here the god as fleeing from the nymph. Coxe says that
Vittoria was "an excellent singer, the favourite mistress of the Grand
Duke of Tuscany"--which gives a decidedly different look to Haendel's
Chrysander tries to prove that this Vittoria was no other than the
famous singer, Vittoria Tesi, "a contralto of masculine strength," as
one listener describes her voice. She was very dramatic, and made her
chief success in men's roles, singing bass songs transposed an octave
higher. She was born at Florence in 1690, and would have been seventeen
years old when Haendel's "Roderigo" was produced there in 1707. That she
should be capable of so ardent a love at that age need hardly be
mentioned when we remember that Romeo's Juliet was only twelve at the
time of her immortal amour. Love _a l'Italienne_ is precocious.
Wild stories are told of the escapades of this brilliant singer, whom
Haendel never brought to London among all his importations--and with
good reason, if she had once pursued him as legend tells. No stranger
account is given than that of Doctor Burney, who describes her peculiar
method of escaping the proposals of a certain nobleman who implored her
to marry him. She had no prejudices against the nobleman, but strong
prejudices against marriage. Finally, to quiet her lover's conscientious
appeals, she went out into the street and bribed the first labouring man
she met with fifty ducats to marry her. Her new husband sped from
dumbfounded delight to amazed regret, for he found that with her money
she bought only his name and a marriage document, as a final answer to
the count when next he came whimpering of conventional marriage.
In London Haendel reigned as never musician reigned before or since. He
is still reigning to the lasting detriment of English musical
He was a lordly man in his day was Haendel; and dared to cut that
terrible Dean Swift, whose love affairs are perhaps the chief riddle of
all amorous chronicle. Dean Swift is said to have said: "I admire Haendel
principally because he conceals his petticoat peccadillos with such
perfection." This statement may be taken as only a proof either that the
dean had so tangled a career of his own that he could not see any other
man's straight; or that Haendel was really more of a flirt than
tradition makes him out.
Rockstro said that Haendel was engaged more than once; once to the
aforementioned Vittoria Tesi--this in spite of the tradition that woman
proposed and man disposed; and later to two other women. Rockstro bases
this last doubtless on the account given in that strangely named book,
"Anecdotes of Haendel and J.C. Smith, with compositions by J.C. Smith."
This was published anonymously in London, in 1799, but it is known to
have been written by Dr. William Coxe. Smith _(ne_ Schmidt) was Haendel's
secretary and assistant. He was something of a composer himself, and on
his death-bed advised his widow to consult Doctor Coxe in every
emergency; whereupon, to simplify matters and have the counsellor handy,
in due time she married him.
Doctor Coxe indignantly denies Hawkins' statement that Haendel lacked
social affection; he says that two rich pupils loved him. The first
would have married him, but her mother said she should never marry a
fiddler. After the mother's death, the father implied that all obstacles
were now removed, but too late. He never saw the girl again, and she
fell into a decline, which soon terminated her existence. The second
woman was a personage of high estate, and offered to marry Haendel if he
would give up his career. But when he declined, she also declined, and
died after the fashion of the eighteenth century.
In his will Haendel left money to two cousins, also to two widows, and
one other woman.
He brought many singers to London for his operas, and their romances
would fill ten volumes. There is the famous tenor, Beard, for instance,
the creator of "Samson." He created Samsonian scandal by marrying Lady
Henrietta Herbert, the only daughter of the Earl of Waldegrave; she died
fourteen years later, and he built her a fine monument. Six years later
he married the daughter of a harlequin.
Then there was the singer Senesino, and Farinelli, whose heart and brain
were real though his voice was artificial. He became finally a sort of
vocal prime minister to Spain. To start one of these romances of singers
would be like throwing a match in a fireworks factory.
GLUCK THE DOMESTIC, ROUSSEAU THE CONFESSOR, AND THE AMIABLE PICCINNI
While Haendel was in London at the height of his autocracy, he was
visited by a composer named Gluck, whom we think of to-day as a
revolutionist in music, and a man of the utmost historical importance.
To the lordly Haendel, however, he was more or less contemptible, and
people who know nothing else of either genius, know that Haendel said,
"Gluck understood about as much counterpoint as my cook."
Gluck did not make a success on his London visit, and began to criticise
both his own work and contemporary schools of opera, with a thoroughness
that resulted in a determination to "reform it altogether." From London
he went to Vienna in 1748, and there he was soon a figure of importance,
moving in the best families, and entertained at the best homes. Among
the homes in which he was most cordially received, was that of the rich
banker and wholesale merchant, Joseph Pergin, who had a large business
with Holland. Both daughters of the house were, according to Reissman's
not particularly novel expression, "passionately fond of music." Gluck
was soon made thoroughly at home there.
"Soon also he was bound in most intimate affection to the elder
daughter, Maria Anne. She reciprocated the feelings, and the mother gave
her consent to the betrothal. Gluck dared to deem the year 1749, in
which this change took place, the happiest of his life; but it also
turned out to be his saddest, for the father refused his consent. This
man, haughty with his wealth, rejected the honoured artist, since he was
only a musician, and since, besides, his art offered no sufficient
promise or surety for the proper support of a young woman. The lovers
accepted the separation thus enforced, with patience, promising
themselves that it should not be for long, and that they would preserve
Gluck was called to Rome the next year, and there he had the news that
the stern father was dead. Accordingly, as soon as he could release
himself from his engagements, he hastened back to Vienna--as Schmid puts
it--"_auf dem Fluegeln der Liebe nach Wien zurueck_" On the 15th of
September, he was married to his Maria Anne, "with whom to his death he
dwelt in the happiest wedlock, and who went with him on his triumphal
journeys four years later." In 1754 the Pope knighted him; made him
Cavaliere, and henceforth this once poverty-smitten street fiddler and
strolling singer was known as Ritter von Gluck, the friend and protege
of his countrywoman, Marie Antoinette.
No children were born to the couple, but they took into their home a
niece, and Gluck's wife devoted much of her time to the poor.
"He left his wife the chief heir. He even left it to her pleasure
whether his brothers and sisters should have anything or not, and said
in his will, 'Since the fundamental principle of every testament is the
appointment of an heir, I hereby appoint my dear wife, M. Anne von
Gluck, _nee_ Pergin, as my sole and exclusive heir; and that no doubts
may arise, as to whether the silver and other personal property be mine
or my wife's, I hereby also declare all the silver and other valuables
to be the sole property of my wife, and consequently not included in my
None of the letters of Gluck, that I have been able to find, concern his
married life, though many of them are in existence concerning his
Burney met him in 1773 in Paris, where he was living with his wife and
niece. In 1775, on his way back home from Paris, he stopped off at
Strasburg to meet the poet Klopstock. D.F. Strauss quotes a description
by a merchant of Karlsruhe of this scene: "Old Gluck sang and played,
_con amore_, many passages from the 'Messiah' set to music by himself;
his wife accompanying him in a few other pieces." On the 15th of
November, 1787, when Gluck was seventy-three years old, he was at his
home in Vienna under doctor's care. After dinner, it was his custom to
take coffee out-of-doors, in the free, fresh air and the golden
sunlight, where he used to have his piano placed when he would compose.
Two old friends from Paris had dined with him, and they were soon to
leave. Frau von Gluck left the guests for a moment, to order the
carriage. While she was gone, one of the guests declined the liqueur set
before him. Now Gluck was always addicted to looking upon the champagne
when it was yellow; in fact, he used always to have a bottle at each
wing of his piano, when he composed, and was wont to end his
compositions, his bottles, and his sobriety in one grand _Fine_. But now
he was forbidden to take wine, for fear of heating his blood.
On this day, however, he pretended to be angry at his guest for refusing
the choice liqueur. In a burlesque rage, he seized the glass, drained it
at a gulp, and jokingly begged the guests not to tell his wife. She came
back to the room to say that the carriage was ready. Frau von Gluck and
the guests left him for half an hour, and he bade them a cheerful
farewell. Fifteen minutes later his third stroke of apoplexy attacked
him, and his horrified wife returning found him unconscious. In a few
hours he was dead. This wife, with whom he lived so congenially, and
whose money gave him even more luxury than his operatic success could
have procured,--indeed, the very house he died in she had bought for
eleven thousand florins,--outlived him less than three years, dying
March 12, 1800, at the age of seventy-one. She was buried near him, and
her tomb, built by her nephew, has the following epitaph:
"Here rests in peace, near her husband, Maria Anne, Edle von Gluck, born
Pergin. She was a good Christian, and without ostentation a mother to
the poor. She was loved and cherished by all who knew her."
ROUSSEAU THE CONFESSOR
During the fierce battles Gluck fought in Paris, one of his most ardent
partisans was Jean Jacques Rousseau, who was a musician in a small way,
wrote songs, an enormously successful opera, "Le Devin du Village," and
other musical works, besides making an attempt to reform musical
notation, and writing a dictionary of music. The world, however, does
not accept him as a musician but as a writer, and his numerous and
curious love affairs are told in so much detail in his immortal
"Confessions," that I cannot attempt to treat them here. Vandam, in his
book on "Great Amours," dissects Rousseau's heart ruthlessly. For his
ability to do this, he must thank Rousseau most, for the unequalled
frankness of his own biography, Francis Greble, dissecting "Rousseau's
first love," has neatly dubbed him "the Great High Priest of those who
kiss and tell."
THE AMIABLE PICCINNI
In this same war of operatic schools and composers which raged in Paris
upon the reforms of Gluck, the Italian composer Piccinni was haled to
the front as an unwilling opponent of Gluck.
The world is needlessly cruel to those who happen to interfere in any
way with the favourites of posterity, and Piccinni's name is a byword in
the history of music. We hear much of the unscrupulous opposition that
his partisans made to the reforms of Gluck, but we should also take into
consideration the unscrupulous opposition that the partisans of Gluck
made to the prosperity and honest endeavours of Piccinni, a man of no
mean talent, whose misfortune and not whose fault it was, that he was
not a genius of the first order.
But we are not concerned here with the history of music, only with the
intimate history of musicians. Piccinni's domestic life was so
beautiful, that it makes it all the more pitiable that he should have
been dragged willy-nilly into a contest for which he had neither
inclination nor ability. Piccinni fell in love with a pupil, like him an
Italian, Vicenza Sibilla. When he was twenty-eight he married her. His
biographer Ginguene says: "She joined to the charms of her sex, a most
beautiful and touching voice. All that happy disposition, assiduous
study under so good a master could accomplish, especially when teacher
and pupil loved each other passionately, and were equally impassioned
for the art, which one taught, and the other learned, it is all that
which you must imagine, to get an idea of the talent of Mme. Piccinni.
He did not wish her to go on the stage, where everything promised her
the greatest success and the most brilliant fortune; but at home almost
every evening, at the private concerts, or, as the Italians say, in all
the 'academies' where one is glad to be invited, she sang only her
husband's music. She rendered it with the true spirit of the master; and
I have it from him, that he never heard his works, especially his 'Cara
Cecchina' sung with such perfect art, and what would put it above art,
so much soul, and expression, as by his wife."
In 1773 Piccinni found himself suddenly deprived of the fickle support
of the Roman public. Worst of all, it was his own pupil and protege,
Anfossi, who supplanted him. The tender-hearted Piccinni, like
Palestrina, was so overcome with this humiliation, that he fell ill, and
kept his bed for several months. Two years later, the Prince of
Brunswick's younger brother went to Naples to visit him, and there he
happened upon a domestic scene which gives us a pretty notion of
Piccinni's home life.
"He surprised Piccinni in the midst of his family, and was amazed at the
tableau. Piccinni was rocking the cradle of his youngest child, born
that same year; another of his children tugged at his coat to make him
tip over the cradle; the mother revelling in the spectacle. She fled in
dismay at seeing the stranger, who stood at the door, enjoying the scene
himself. The young prince made himself known, begged pardon for his
indiscretion, and said with feeling, 'I am charmed to see that so great
a man has so much simplicity, and that the author of "The Good Daughter"
[one of his most successful operas] can be so good a father.'"
The next year, 1776, Piccinni was called to Paris as an unwilling
conscript in the musical revolution, which was raging no less fiercely
than the American Revolution of the same time. It was a bitter December
day when Piccinni arrived in Paris with his wife, and his eldest
daughter, aged eighteen. "Devoted to his art, foreign to all intrigue,
to all ambition, to the morals, tastes, customs, and language of the
country, Piccinni lived in his family circle, and devoted himself
quietly to his work, in oblivion of the efforts that the Gluckists made
to thwart the success, and even to prevent the representation, of his
work. It must be said that Gluck himself stooped to be the instigator of
In spite of all, the day came for the presentation of Piccinni's opera,
"Roland," and the family broke into tears when he went to the theatre.
He alone was calm in the midst of this desolation, reassured his wife,
and departed with his friends. He returned home in a triumph, which was
perhaps greater than the work deserved, but certainly not greater than
so good a man merited.
Piccinni was large-hearted enough to cherish no malice against either of
his rivals, Sacchini or Gluck. When Sacchini died, Piccinni delivered
the funeral oration, and when, a year later, Gluck died in Vienna,
Piccinni made a vain effort to organise a fitting memorial festival.
He remained upon the field of battle, and the victory for the time must
be granted him, in spite of certain defeats. Then the French Revolution
broke out, and he lost his favour with the public, and the friendship of
the aristocracy became a danger to his very life. He went to Naples,
where he found some success, and was well received by the court. But
everything seemed now to conspire against him. The Republicans of Paris
had driven him to Italy, into the arms of the aristocracy there;
whereupon, in 1792, his daughter married a French Republican. This
brought him into such disgrace with the Italian court that he did not
dare leave his house, and fell into neglect and poverty.
In 1798 he made his way back to Paris, and there his reunited family
gave little operas, sung by his wife and daughters. Here "one heard with
pleasure always new airs taken from his Italian operas, sung by Mme.
Piccinni, with a voice that age had rendered more grave and less light,
without making it less beautiful or touching, and with a method as wise
as it was learned, and well opposed to these pretentious displays, these
eternal embroideries which disfigure Italian song to-day, and which
Piccinni never admitted into his school, but which he always detested."
So says Ginguene of the theories of Piccinni, which are not, as we see,
so opposed to the theories of Gluck as we are sometimes urged to
believe. In the course of time Napoleon took up Piccinni, but he was too
old to revive under this new favour, and Ginguene has this last picture
"It was in this state that he had the courage to give a concert at his
home. The small number of amateurs who gathered there will long remember
the impression of that which one may call the last song of the swan.
They were profoundly moved to hear Mme. Piccinni sing with due
expression the beautiful air from 'Zendia,' _Lasciami, o ciel pietoso_!
composed in all the vigour of youth, by this illustrious man, now old
and unfortunate. He accompanied it now with a languishing hand, but with
eyes relighted by this beautiful production of his genius. They will not
forget the admirable 'Sommeil d'Atys,' nor the trio from 'Iphigenia in
Aulis' executed, as it had been in Naples, by the mother and the two
daughters, grouped behind a husband and father who seemed, in
accompanying them, to be reborn in the touching accord of those voices,
so tender and so dear, and to feel again some spark of that fire which
had animated him when he produced those sublime works."
Poor old Piccinni died in 1800 at the age of seventy-two, and his tomb
said that he was "_Cher aux Arts et a l'Amitie_." He left to his widow
and six children no property but the memory of his genius. Madame
Piccinni was given a pension, but she proudly declined to accept it
purely as a charity, and asked that four pupils of the Conservatoire be
assigned to her for instruction, which was done. Piccinni left two
sons; the younger had some success as an opera writer, and the elder had
a natural son, who was quite successful as a composer of operas.
Of the other participants in the Gluck-Piccinni feud there is not much
to say. Sacchini was a man of notoriously luxurious and voluptuous life,
but I do not find that he married. Salieri--whom Gluck assisted in the
most generous manner, even to the extent of having one of Salieri's
operas produced under his own name, and declaring the true author when
it was a success--was married, and had many daughters, who lavished upon
him much affection. Mehul was befriended by a Doctor Gastoldi, and
married a daughter of his benefactor. They had no children, but adopted
It may be well here, while we are in the midst of opera composers, to
take a glance at some of the predecessors of these men, beginning with
the first of all opera composers, who, in his declaration of what opera
should be and do, very curiously foreshadowed almost the exact words of
Gluck and Wagner, revolutionists, who were really reactionists.
A FEW TUNESTERS OF FRANCE AND ITALY--PERI, MONTEVERDE, ET AL.
Though it sounds strange to speak of the "invention" of opera, that is
the word which may be applied to the work of Jacopo Peri and his
friends. They, however, thought of it rather as a revival of the manner
of the ancient Greek tragedy, which was, in a sense, a crude form of
Wagnerian recitation, with musical accompaniment.
As the English novel owes its origin to the commission given to Mr.
Samuel Richardson to prepare a Ready Letter Writer, which he decided to
put in the form of a story told in letters, so grand opera, which has
almost rivalled the novel in the world's favour, found its origin in a
conference among certain aristocratic gentlemen, of the city of
Florence, concerning the possibility of reviving part of Greek tragedy.
As an experiment, they prepared a small work called "Dafne" for private
presentation at the palace of the Corsi. Rinuccini was the first of a
long and usually incompetent lineage of librettists. The music was
written by Peri and Caccini. It was appropriate that they should have
chosen the love affairs of the first musician Orpheus and the coy
Daphne, seeing what a vast amount of love-making, pretended and real,
the school of opera has handed down upon the world. Reissman has
reckoned it out that twenty thousand lovers are joined or are parted
every night in the world's theatres.
Peri played the part of Apollo, and he was fitted to play the sun-god by
his aureole of notoriously ardent hair. According to Fetis, Peri was
very avaricious. Of noble birth himself, he grew rich on the favour of
the Medicis, and added to his wealth by marrying a daughter of the house
of Fortini, who incidentally brought with her a very handsome dot. She
bore him a son, who won an early fame by his mathematics, his temper,
and his dissipations, which led his tutor, the famous Galileo, to call
him his demon. And this is all I know of the love affairs of the father
of modern opera.
His collaborator, Caccini, who was more famous among his contemporaries
than Peri, states in the preface to a book of his, that he was married
twice, both times to pupils. His former wife was a well-known singer,
and his daughters were musicians, the elder, Francesca, being also a
The name of Monteverde is immortal in the history of music, because,
although no one sings his songs now, or hears his operas, even the
strictest composers make constant use of certain musical procedures,
which were in his time forbidden, and which he fought for tooth and
nail. Irisi says that he entered the Church after the death of his wife,
and as he entered the priesthood in 1633, it would seem that she died
when he was about sixty-five years of age. He had two sons, the elder of
whom became a priest, and a tenor in his father's church; the younger
son became a physician--a good division of labour, for those patients
whom the doctor lost could send for the priest.
Monteverde's successor at St. Mark's was Heinrich Schuetz, a great
revolutionist in German music, whose chief work, and the first German
opera, was "Dafne," written to a libretto by Rinuccini, possibly the
same one used by Peri. When he was thirty-four, he married on June 1,
1619, a girl named Magdalena, who is described as "Christian Wildeck of
Saxony's land steward's bookkeeper's daughter," which description
Hawkins compares to that of "Pontius Pilate's wife's chambermaid's
sister's hat." She died six years later, having borne him two daughters.
He lived the rest of his eighty-seven years as a widower, and joined
the pathetic line of musicians who have gone deaf.
LULLY THE IMP
French opera, which was reformed by the Austrian Gluck, had been created
by the Italian Signor Lulli, who later, as Monsieur Lully, became most
French of the French. Though he was the son of a gentleman of Florence,
he was not gifted with wealth, and was taken to France to serve in the
kitchen of Mlle. de Montpensier, the chief princess of the French court.
The impishness which characterised his whole career inspired him to turn
a highly improper couplet on an accident that happened in public to
Mademoiselle,--and worst of all, he set it to music. She did not see the
fun of the joke, and dismissed him, but the king laughed so much at his
wit, that he had him presented, and interested himself in his musical
The kitchen lad was a born courtier and revelled in the "atmosphere of
passion, love, and pleasure, that radiant aurora." He was always a very
dissipated man, but in July, 1662, "regularised" his life by marrying
Madeleine Lambert, daughter of the music-master of the court. "The
honour of the new family, and the dot of twenty thousand francs which he
received, made Lully a personage, and the second phase of his life
commenced." His wife bore him three sons and three daughters, who are
said to have shared his stinginess, though they built him a magnificent
It was a brilliant circle Lully moved in. He had the honour of being
hated by Boileau and La Fontaine, and of being first the friend and
collaborator, and later the enemy, of Moliere. His contract of marriage
was signed by the king, queen, and the queen-mother. Of his marriage,
Fetis says: "Never was a union better arranged, for if Lully was quick
to procure riches, his wife knew how to fructify them by the order and
the economy that reigned in her house. Lully reserved for his _menus
plaisirs_ only the price of the sale of his works, which amounted
annually to seven or eight thousand francs."
His dissipations, like those of Haendel, were chiefly confined to
excesses in eating and drinking, but for all his doubtful fidelity to
his wife, he cannot have been an ideal husband, for he was of a miserly
disposition, and his temper was enforced by a ruthless brutality. On one
occasion the singer Rochis, being in a condition that compelled a
postponement of "Armide," he demanded, angrily, "_Qui t'a fait cela_?"
and gave her a kick _qui lui fit faire une fausse couche_. This poor
woman was revenged upon him by his own temper, for at the age of
fifty-four, while conducting his orchestra, he grew indignant, and in
wildly brandishing his baton struck his own foot so fierce a blow that
gangrene set in and he died of the wound. While he was on his death-bed,
he was called upon by one of his old friends, whom his wife reproached
with having been the last to get him drunk. Whereupon the dying man
spoke up with the gaiety for which he was famous, "That's true, my dear,
and when I get well he shall be the first to get me drunk again."
In his will he named his wife as executrix, and took great care that she
and the children should preserve the royal monopoly in the Academy of
Music. Lully had been reconciled only eight days before his death, with
his son, whom he had previously disinherited. His wife outlived him
twenty-three years, and died May 3, 1720, at the age of seventy-seven.
When the superb mausoleum was built for Lully by his widow, some unknown
poet, who hated him for his _moeurs infames_, scrawled on his tomb these
"Pourquoi, par un faste nouveau,
Nous rappeler la scandaleuse histoire
D'un libertin, indigne de memoire,
Peut-etre meme indigne du tombeau."
It was in some of his operas, I believe, that certain roles were sung by
Mlle. de Maupin, whose incredibly wild, scandalous, and ambiguous love
affairs, and duels in male costume, made the material for Gautier's
THE TACITURN RAMEAU
The next great master in French opera was Rameau (1683--1764), who
resembled Lully in his stinginess, but not in his brilliant social
qualities. As a boy he neglected his lessons in language for his
music-books. His parents' efforts were in vain, and his teachers gave
him up as hopeless; but at the age of sixteen or seventeen he fell in
love with a young widow, who was a neighbour of his. His letters to her,
brought from her the crushing statement:
"You spell like a scullion."
This rebuke woke him to his senses as far as orthography was concerned,
but his father did not approve of the widow as a teacher, and sent him
to Italy to break off the relation. Some years later he returned to the
town, but as he remained only a short time, he evidently did not
reillumine his first flame.
He did not wed until he was forty-three years old, and then on February
25, 1726, he married the eighteen-year-old Marie Louise Mangot. Of her
Maret says: "Madame Rameau is a virtuous woman, sweet and amiable, and
she has made her husband very happy. She has much talent for music, a
very pretty voice, and good taste in song." They had three children,
one a son, who became equerry to the king, a daughter who became a nun,
and another who married a musketeer.
Baron Grimm accuses Rameau of being "a savage, a stranger to every
sentiment of humanity." The great Diderot, in a book called "The Nephew
of Rameau," referred caustically to Rameau's experiments and theories in
acoustics, and added:
"He is a philosopher in his way; he thinks only of himself, and the rest
of the universe is as the puff of a bellows. His daughter and his wife
have only to die when they please; provided the bells of the parish
which toll for them continue to sound the 12th and the 17th overtones,
all will be well."
Fetis credits these feelings to men who loved neither Rameau nor French
music. He paid a pension to his invalid sister. "Sombre and unsociable
he fled the world, and kept, even amid his family, a silence almost
absolute." I do not know whether or not Rameau's wife survived him.
In his old age Rameau said that if he were twenty years younger, he
would go to Italy and take Pergolesi for his master in harmony. This
brilliant genius, Pergolesi, died in 1736, at the age of twenty-six. It
was consumption that carried him off, and I find no record of any love
of his. The saccharine romance-monger, Elise Polko, has a rather
mawkish story which she connects with his name, though on what
authority, I am ignorant. As Lincoln said, "For those that like that
sort of thing, it is about the sort of thing they'll like."
A contemporary of his was Reinhard Keiser, who died three years later at
the age of sixty-six, and who wrote one hundred and sixteen operas for
the German stage. Like his contemporary, Haendel, he attempted
management, and like Haendel went into a magnificent bankruptcy, but
quite unlike the woman-hater Haendel, he married his way out of poverty.
In 1709 he entered into a matrimonial and financial partnership with the
daughter of an aristocratic town musician of Oldenburg, Hamburg. She was
a distinguished singer, and her talent brought new charm to the
production of his works, and restored prosperity. She seems to have died
before him, for twenty years after his marriage he went to Moscow with
his daughter, who was a prominent singer, and had an engagement there.
She married a Russian violinist, Verocai, and her father spent his last
years at her home.
BONONCINI AND THE SCARLATTIS
Of that exquisite and elegant scamp Bononcini, who was the great rival
of Haendel in the London operatic war, I find no amorous gossip, though
Hawkins says he was the favourite of the Duchess of Marlborough, who
gave him a pension of L500 per year, and had him live in her home until
he was compelled to leave London, by various scandals attached to his
repute as an honest gentleman. He had been in his youth a great admirer
of the style of Alessandro Scarlatti, an eminent composer, both in opera
and sacred music, of whom little is known, except his work; he left a
son, Domenico, who was hardly less famous. But he was a confirmed
gambler, and left his family in great destitution, from which the famous
artificial soprano, Farinelli, rescued them.
As we come nearer to our own day, the documents concerning the personal
lives of composers begin to multiply. Of the love of Bach we have only
that tantalising allusion to the "stranger maiden." Of Haydn we have
amorous documents enough to make a brochure. When we reach Mozart, his
letters alone fill two comfortable volumes. Of Beethoven there are still
more numerous possessions. By Wagner and Liszt we are fairly
Search not for the artist's self in his works of art. This is good
cautious advice. But there are occasional exceptions, and of these
Mozart is the most radiant. The qualities of eternal youth and of
juventine gaiety; of intimate tenderness; of swagger that winks while it
swaggers; of love that is ever deep but sunlit to the depth; and of
tragedy with a touch of fatalistic horror,--all those qualities that are
found scattered through his sonatas and symphonies and his various
operas--all the qualities that are combined in "Don Giovanni," are the
qualities of Mozart's own nature, always excepting the ruthlessness and
the fanatic libertinism of his Don Juan.
Schopenhauer says that the genius is he who never quite outgrows the
childhood of his attitude toward the world. Mozart was always the
All the qualities of youth give life and personality to his letters, and
place them consequently among the most delightful letters in existence.
Ludwig Nohl collected most of them into two volumes, and Lady Wallace
has translated them into English, with a certain amount of inaccuracy,
but a surprising amount of spirit withal. They may be picked up without
much difficulty, though they are out of print; and any one interested in
musicians or in lovers or in letters, should make haste to add these two
golden volumes to his library.
As the first letter was written in his thirteenth year and the last in
the thirty-fifth and final year of his life, and as they constitute two
volumes of the size of this one, it is manifest that I am here empowered
only to make a skimming summary of his heart-history--woe's me!
The human affections grow by exercise. Mozart was so devoted and so
enthusiastic in his fondness for his father and mother and his sister
that his heart was graduated early for any demand. The most unmusical
people know that Mozart stands unrivalled among infant prodigies, that
he was a pocket-Paderewski, at a period when most children cannot even
trundle a hoop, and that he was deep in composition before the usual
child is out of kilts. Everybody has seen the pictures of the littler
Mozart and his little sister perched like robins on a piano stool and
giving a concert before crowned heads, with the assistance of the father
and the mother, themselves musicians.
The elder Mozart made a life-work out of the career of his children,
though he was a gifted musician and a shrewd and intelligent man on his
own account. He was in no sense one of your child-beating brutes who
make an easy livelihood by turning their children into slaves. He
believed that his son was capable of being one of the world's greatest
musicians, and he gave a splendid and permanent demonstration of his
theory. Through all his vicarious ambition he kept his son's love and
kept it almost to the point of idolatry. Indeed the boy once wrote,
"Next to God comes papa."
The domestic relations of the family were indeed as happy as they well
could be. Mozart's letters to his sister, Maria Anna, who was nicknamed
"Nannerl," are brimful of cheerful affection and of sprightly interest
in her own love affairs. His relations with his mother and father were
full, not only of filial piety, but of that far better proof of real
affection, a playful humour.
Mozart's mother died in Paris when her son and she were there alone
together. He wrote the news of her death to a friend of his father's and
bade him tell the father only that she was seriously ill but would
probably recover, and gradually to prepare him for the worst. This
letter he wrote at two o'clock in the morning; the same night he wrote
his father a long letter full of news, incidentally saying that his
mother was very ill, but that he hoped for the best, and that, in any
case, resignation to the will of God was imperative. A few days later he
wrote another letter telling the bitter truth, and telling it with most
devout concern for his father's health and reconciliation with the
divine dispensation. In this letter he seems rather the father to his
own father than the young gallant of twenty-two. It was a good heart the
Mozart had been so much caressed and flattered by court beauties as a
child that he was precocious in flirtation. His sister was the
confidante and messenger of all sorts of boyish amours. There is a fine
mysteriousness in the letters he wrote his mother while he was making a
musical conquest of Milan like a veteran musician, and betraying his
fourteen-year-old boyishness only in such phrases as this: "I kiss
your hand a thousand times, and have a great deal to say to my sister;
but what? That is known only to God and myself. Please God I hope soon
to be able to confide it to her verbally."
This does not sound like the writing of a composer who was adding in a
letter a few days later, "Pray to God that my opera may be successful."
The opera was successful, and the Pope gave him a knighthood; and he was
only fourteen years old!
Perhaps this mysterious sweetheart is the same one he alludes to later
as Annamindl, and concerning whom he sends his sister such solemn
messages as these:
"Don't, I entreat, forget about _the one other_, where no other can ever
"Say to Fraulein W. von Moelk that I rejoice at the thought of Salzburg,
in the hope that I may again receive the same kind of present, for the
minuets which was bestowed on me at a similar concert. She knows all
"Carissima Sorella,--Spero che voi sarete stata dalla Signora, che voi
"My dearest Sister,--I entreat you not to forget before your journey, to
perform your promise, that is, to make a certain visit. I have my
reasons for this. Pray present my kind regards in that quarter, but in
the most impressive and tender manner,--the most tender; and, oh,--but I
need not be in such anxiety. I beg my compliments to Roxalana, who is to
drink tea this evening with the Sultan. All sorts of pretty speeches to
Madlle Mizerl; she must not doubt my love. I have her constantly before
my eyes in her fascinating _neglige_. I have seen many pretty girls
here, but not one whose beauty can be compared with hers." The
daughter of Doctor Barisani, the family physician, was for a time his
heart's queen. Later Rosa Cannabich was "the magnet." And Wendling's
daughter paid her visit to his heart's best room.
These instances of puppy-love can have given little anxiety to the
father and mother; but soon old Leopold began to fear that this amorous
activity might interfere with his son's wedlock to his art. When,
therefore, he was sixteen years old and began to take a solemn interest
in an opera singer at Munich, to weep over the beauty of her singing,
and to seek her acquaintance, the father began to protest. This was
Mlle. Keiserin, the daughter of a cook, and Mozart was later a little
ashamed of his easy enthusiasm.
There seems to be an implied affair, perhaps more serious, in this
letter to his father, dated 1777--he was born in 1756:
"As to the baker's daughter, I have no objection to make; I foresaw all
this long ago. This was the cause of my reluctance to leave home, and
finding it so difficult to go. I hope the affair is not by this time
known all over Salzburg. I beg you, dear papa, most urgently to keep the
matter quiet as long as possible, and in the meantime to pay her father
on my account any expense he may have incurred by her entrance into the
convent, which I will repay gladly when I return to Salzburg."
Meanwhile he was well immersed in his dalliance with his Baesle, or
cousin. In 1777, when Mozart was twenty-one and travelling on a
concert-tour with his mother, he met, at Augsburg, Marianne Mozart, the
daughter of his uncle, a book-binder. His experience at Augsburg with
certain impertinent snobs disgusted him with the place, and he wrote his
father that the meeting with his fair cousin was the only compensation
of visiting the town. He found her "pretty, intelligent, lovable,
clever, and gay," and, like him, "rather inclined to be satirical."
They struck up a correspondence which shows him in most hilarious moods.
His letters are full of that _possenhaften Jargon_ with which he
sprinkled his letters to his sister. He calls his cousin by the pet name
of Baesle, with which he rhymes "Haesle," a colloquial word for "rabbit."
His first letter to her overflows with nonsense and meaningless rhymes,
puns, and quibbles, such as:
"Ich hoffe, Sie werden auch meinen Brief--trief, welchen
ich Ihnen aus Mannheim geschrieben erhalten haben--schaben.
Desto besser, besser desto!"
Lady Wallace has made a translation which reproduces well the nonsense
if not literally the sense. This is a sample:
"My dear Coz-Buzz:--I have safely received your precious
epistle--thistle, and from it I perceive--achieve, that my
aunt--gaunt, and you--shoe, are quite well--bell. I have
to-day a letter--setter, from my papa--ah-ha, safe in my
A week later he writes her a letter beginning:
"My dear niece, cousin, daughter! mother, sister, and wife!--Potz
Himmel! Croatians, demons, witches, hags, and cross batteries! Potz
Element! air, earth, fire and water! Europe, Asia, Africa, and America!
Jesuits, Augustines, Benedictines, Capucins, Minorites, Franciscans,
Dominicans, Carthusians, and Knights of the Cross! privateers, canons
regular and irregular, sluggards, rascals, scoundrels, imps, and
villains all! donkeys, buffaloes, oxen, fools, blockheads, numskulls,
and foxes! What means this? Four soldiers and three shoulder-belts! Such
a packet and no portrait!"
It seems that she had promised him her picture! She sends it later, and
it is still in the Mozart Museum, showing her, as Jahn declares, to have
a good-natured and cheerful face, and rather a stocky figure; he adds,
"Without being beautiful she seems right pleasing." It is certain that
in whatever butterfly humour Mozart regarded her, she took him and his
kisses and his flowery declarations seriously. Had he not said in this
very letter, "love me as I love you, and then we shall never cease
loving each other?" Had he not thence broken into French?
"Je vous baise vos mains,--votre visage--afin, tout ce que vous me
permettez de baiser. Je suis de tout mon coeur," etc.
His sister later had a target painted for a club of Salzburg friends who
met for crossbow practice, and the target represented "the melancholy
farewell of two persons dissolved in tears, Wolfgang and the Baesle."
His flirtations with his cousin seemed to have angered his father, who
was eager for him to go to France and conquer Paris. The father was the
more indignant as Mozart was at the same time becoming entangled with
Aloysia Weber--of whom more later. Mozart loved his father and treated
him with the utmost respect, but he could rise to a sense of his own
dignity when the occasion demanded, and he wrote him:
"The bitter way in which you write about my merry and innocent
intercourse with your brother's daughter, makes me justly indignant; but
it is not as you think. I require to give you no answer on the subject."
A few days later he writes to his cousin with all the old hilarity, his
letter being mostly in doggerel rhyme beginning:
"You may think or believe that I have croaked (_crepirt_)
or kicked the bucket (_verreckt_). But I beg you not to think
so, for how could I write so beautifully if I were dead?"
Nearly a year later he writes to her regretting that he could not have
her visit him at Kaisersheim, and begging her to meet him in Munich.
In Munich it was Mozart's fate to find a tragedy awaiting him, for
Aloysia (whom he had loved as solemnly as he had loved his cousin
frivolously, and to whom he looked forward longingly after his long
absence) showed herself indifferent. He had planned that his cousin
should "have a great part to play in this meeting with Aloysia." This I
would rather interpret as evidence that Mozart was quite ignorant of any
deep affection in his cousin. There is nothing in his life that shows
him as anything other than the most tender-hearted of men, and it is
inconceivable that he should have brought his cousin to Munich simply to
drag her at the chariot of his triumph with Aloysia.
And yet his flirtation with the Baesle certainly went past mere bantering
and repartee. She stayed several weeks in Munich and must have furnished
Mozart grateful diversion from his humiliation. She went with him to
Salzburg and later, when she returned to her own home, we find him
writing with the same exuberance, addressing her as--
"Dearest, best, lovingest, fairest, enticingest,
With her name he puns on _Baesle_ and _Bass_, thence, "_Baeschen oder
Violoncellchen_"--a little bass-viol or violoncelline. He writes, as he
says, to appease her "alluring beauty (_visibilia et invisibilia_)
heightened by wrath to the height of your slipper-heel." Then he writes
her a passionate parody on a poem of Klopstock's, and writes it in
circular form around his own sketch of her portrait, which implies
neither beauty on her part nor art on his.
This is the last letter he seems ever to have written her excepting a
business letter two years later. And this marks the end of a flirtation
which he seems to have regarded as sheer frivolity. But this was not her
mood. Biographer Jahn says:
"The Baesle seems to have taken her cousin's courtship seriously; at
least all the neighbours thought from the way she spoke of him that
there was something of deluded expectation in her tone. She spoke
neither gladly nor often of this time. She was not musical and could not
have had a proper appreciation of Mozart's artistic value. His vivacity
and velocity of musical performance seemed comical to her. Of her later
life nothing is known to me; she lived later with the Postmaster Streite
in Bayreuth and died there Jan. 25, 1841, at the great age of
So much for the Baesle. Poor girl! But while the hollyhock was taking the
bee's fickleness so solemnly, a rose was revenging her upon him. A more
serious--for Mozart a very serious--affair, was his infatuation with
Aloysia Weber, a fifteen-year-old girl with much beauty and little
When Mozart was in Manheim in 1778, writing flowery letters to the
Baesle, he had occasion to have certain music copied, to be sung before
the Princess of Orange, who had become interested in his work. The
copyist was also a prompter in the theatre and a very poor, but
hospitable man. His name was Weber, and his brother became the father
of Carl Maria von Weber, the composer.
The fact that Weber was poor was the first recommendation to Mozart.
Another magnet was, that Weber had a daughter fifteen years old who was
gifted with a voice and seemed capable of a great artistic career. It
was this vicarious ambition that had interested him in the young singer
Keiserin some years before. And now we find him writing to his father on
Jan. 17, 1778, the following description of the Weber family:
"He has a daughter who sings admirably, and has a lovely pure voice; she
is only fifteen. She fails in nothing but in stage action; were it not
for that, she might be the prima donna of any theatre. Her father is a
downright honest German who brings up his children well, for which very
reason the girl is persecuted here. He has six children,--five girls and
a son. He and his wife and children have been obliged to live for the
last fourteen years on an income of 200 florins, but as he has already
done his duty well, and has lately provided a very accomplished singer
for the Elector, he has now actually 400 florins. My aria for De' Amicis
she sings to perfection with all its tremendous passages."
He and his mother had been living with the Wendlings. Frl. Wendling, who
had engaged Mozart's interest for a time, turned out to be a
disreputable character and the father to be devoid of all religion. The
deeply pious Mozart writes in the same letter to his father, "Friends
who have no religion cannot long be our friends." Then, with man's usual
consistency, he outlines the white lie by which he is going to break
off the association with the Wendlings; and goes on to say that he
wishes to form a similar connection with the Weber family. The daughter
Aloysia is improving vastly in her singing under his tuition; he has
written an aria especially for her, and he plans a trip to Italy
principally for her benefit. They could live very comfortably, he says,
because Aloysia's eldest sister could cook. The father Weber reminds him
greatly of his own father, and Aloysia will be, he is sure, a congenial
friend for Nannerl.
Mozart is so much in love with Aloysia that in this long letter to his
father he declares:
"I am so deeply touched with this oppressed family that my greatest wish
is to make them happy, and perhaps I may be able to do so.... I will be
answerable with my life for her singing, and her doing credit to my
recommendation.... I will gladly write an opera for Verona for thirty
zeccini, solely that Madlle. Weber may acquire fame by it; for if I
don't, I fear she may be sacrificed.... I have now written you of what
is in my heart; my mother is satisfied with my plans."
How well the mother was satisfied with the plans is evident from the
postscript in her own hand, added secretly to the letter and displaying
a slight touch of motherly jealousy:
"No doubt you perceive by the accompanying letter that when Wolfgang
makes new friends he would give his life for them. It is true that she
does sing incomparably; still, we ought not to lose sight of our own
interests. I write this quite secretly while he is at dinner, for I
don't wish him to know it."
Five days afterwards Mozart recurs to the subject, referring to a friend
who married for money and commenting:
"I hope never to marry in this way; I wish to make my wife happy, but
not to become rich by her means.... The nobility must not marry from
love or inclination, but from interest, and all kinds of other
considerations. It would not at all suit a grandee to love his wife
after she had done her duty, and brought in to the world an heir to his
property. But we poor humble people are privileged not only to choose a
wife who loves us, and whom we love, but we may, can, and do take such a
one, because we are neither noble, nor high-born, nor rich, but, on the
contrary, lowly, humble, and poor; we therefore need no wealthy wife,
for our wealth, being in our heads, dies with us, and these no man can
deprive us of, unless he cut them off, in which case we need nothing
Next week he writes again asking his father to concern himself for the
Webers. The poor father had been imploring Wolfgang to go to Paris for
fame and fortune's sake. Now he finds him so far from being willing to
pursue his own promising career, that he wishes to give up all thought
of Paris and subordinate his genius to the task of boosting into fame
the daughter of a poverty-stricken music-copyist!
Leopold answers in the violent tone he could adopt on occasions, and
tries to distract his son's attention by appealing to his ambition. He
asks him to decide whether he wishes to become "a commonplace artist
whom the world will forget, or a celebrated capellmeister of whom
posterity will read years after in books,--whether, infatuated with a
pretty face you one day breathe your last on a straw sack, your wife and
children in a state of starvation, or, after a well-spent Christian
life, you die in honour and independence and your family well provided
for.... Get to Paris without delay, take your place by the side of
really great people. _Aut Caesar ant nihil_."
Little the father could have realised how much truth there was to be in
the dark side of his prophecy; and that, too, in spite of the fact that
his son took his advice. Leaving Aloysia behind, the son and his mother
went to Paris.
He landed there in the very midst of the tempest raging around Gluck.
Paris did not at all please Mozart, and the French people disgusted him.
For this Paris was not entirely to blame, seeing that Mozart had gone
there unwillingly and was parted from his beloved Aloysia. It was in
Paris, too, that his mother died. And now, while he was so deeply
concerned for Aloysia's career and was trying so desperately to secure
her an engagement in Paris, she was blandly forgetting him. Of this,
however, he had no suspicion until he reached Munich, where she, the
star of his heart and of his ambition, was waiting for him.
What the change was that had come over Aloysia it is impossible to tell.
The first thought is that, having risen to prominence by Mozart's
tuition and assistance, she spurned the ladder that had uplifted her.
But Nohl's theory that her head was turned by her admission to the
favour that quickly surrounds the successful prima donna is hardly to be
held, in view of the fact that in rejecting a man of Mozart's prominence
she took the actor Lange, who had little, if any, more prominence. It
was doubtless simply the old story of the one who loves and the other
who lets herself be loved, just to keep up practice, until she learns to
When Mozart reached Munich, he was still in mourning for his mother, and
dressed according to the French custom of the time, in red coat with
black buttons. He hurried to meet Aloysia and felt at once the chill of
her jilt. The lips once so warm under his gave him merely the formal
German kiss. She seemed scarcely to recognise the one for whose sake
once she shed so many tears. Whereupon Mozart immediately flung himself
upon the piano stool and sang, in a loud voice, with forced gaiety, "Ich
lass das Maedel gern das mich nicht will,"--which you might translate,
"Gladly I give up the girl that gives up me." It was on Christmas Day
that Mozart had hastened to the presence of his beloved. For the
Christmas gift she gave him back his heart! and right gallantly he took
it. But his gaiety was hollow, and when he went to the house of a friend
he locked himself in a room and wept for days.
Still he continued to live with the Webers and to brave out his despair
before them all. He feared to turn to his father for full sympathy, and
his fears were apparently justified, for his father seemed only to have
answered with rebuking him for his foolish "dreams of pleasure." To this
ill-timed reproof Mozart answered:
"What do you mean by dreams of pleasure? I do not wish to give up
dreaming, for what mortal on the whole compass of the earth does not
often dream? above all, dreams of pleasure--peaceful dreams, sweet,
cheering dreams, if you will--dreams which, if realised, would have
rendered my life (now far rather sad than happy) more endurable."
In a few weeks, however, he returned home to Salzburg, and there his
cousin the Baesle, who had brightened a part of his trial in Munich,
followed him. And this was in the month of January of the year 1779.
As for Aloysia, she had cause enough to regret jilting one of the
greatest, as well as one of the most gentle, souls in the world. She
married the actor Lange and lived unhappily with him. According to
Jahn, each both gave and received cause for jealousy. Years after,
Mozart drifted back into her vicinity under curious circumstances. The
lovers became good friends, and such friends, that for him, at least,
Lange could not feel jealousy, according to Jahn, who adds, "Otherwise
he would hardly have taken the role of Pierrot in the pantomime in which
his wife played Columbine and Mozart the Harlequin."
Nohl thus sums up the whole affair: "Neither happiness nor riches
brightened Aloysia's path in life, nor the peace of mind arising from
the consciousness of purity of heart. Not till she was an aged woman,
and Mozart long dead, did she recognise what he had really been; she
liked to talk about him and his friendship, and in thus recalling the
brightest memories of her youth, some of that lovable charm seemed to
revive that Mozart had imparted to her and to all with whom he had any
intercourse. Every one was captivated by her gay, unassuming manner, her
freedom from all the usual virtuoso caprices in society, and her
readiness to give pleasure by her talent to every one, as if a portion
of the tender spirit with which Mozart once loved her had passed into
her soul and brought forth fresh leaves from a withered stem. But years
of faults and follies intervened for Aloysia. Meanwhile, he parted from
her with much pain, though the esteem with which he had hitherto
regarded her was no longer the same."
* * * * *
Of all strange things in the strange history of lives upon this earth,
there cannot be many more strange than this, that Mozart, after being so
sadly treated by this woman, should have his next love affair with her
youngest sister. A novelist would not dare tax the credulity of his
readers with such a plot. But such impossibilities and implausibilities
belong exclusively to the historian.
The Webers moved to Vienna where Aloysia was highly successful as a
prima donna. In March, 1781, the Archbishop, to whom Mozart played the
part of musical lackey, summoned him to the same city. The Archbishop
was one whose petty malicious and grinding temper almost drove the pious
Mozart to contempt of all churchmen. At least he drove him finally to a
declaration of independence which, in our modern eyes, he was very long
in reaching. The Archbishop's brother, Count Arco, was so infuriated at
the impertinence of a mere musical flunkey, like Mozart, daring to
present a formal resignation, that he heaped abuse upon him and finally
kicked him out of the room. Everybody knows about this kick, but
seemingly ignores the fact that Mozart was restrained from retaliation
only by the fact that he was in the apartment of the prince, and that
it was the dream of his life and his very definite plan to meet Count
Arco and return the kick with interest. But the Archbishop and the count
went back to Salzburg and the opportunity did not occur.
The portrait usually presented of Mozart meekly accepting the
humiliation is of a piece with the legend that Keats died of a broken
heart because of a bitter review of his poetry. The fact being, of
course, that Keats' death was due to constitutional weakness, and that
the emotion inspired by the attack upon his art was a burning desire to
punch the critic's head.
Strange to say, Mozart could not convince his pusillanimous father that
he did not owe an apology to the Archbishop for being kicked. But he was
so deeply offended that he never returned to Salzburg. So much for those
who cherish the pathetic belief that the days of patrons were of benefit
to the artist and his art.
Mozart did not starve upon being left positionless in Vienna. The
emperor desired to establish a national opera, and Mozart took up the
composition of his "Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail." In the first moment
of his quarrel with the Archbishop Mozart had left the retinue and
sought rooms outside. Where could he go for a home but back to the
household of the Webers?--now more than ever in poverty since the good
father had died and Aloysia had married soon after obtaining her new
The very name of Weber was a red rag to Leopold Mozart, and he began a
series of bitter rebukes, which the son answered with ample dignity and
"What you write about the Webers, I do assure, is not the fact. I was a
fool about Madame Lange, I own; but what is a man not when he is in
love? But I did love her truly, and even now I feel that she is not
indifferent to me; it is perhaps, therefore, fortunate that her husband
is a jealous booby and never leaves her, so that I seldom have an
opportunity of seeing her. Believe me when I say that old Madame Weber
is a very obliging person, and I cannot serve her in proportion to her
kindness to me, for indeed I have not time to do so."
A little later one of Mozart's letters is interrupted and is finished in
a strange hand as follows:
"Your good son has just been summoned by Countess
Thun, and he has not time to finish the letter to his dear
father, which he much regrets, and requests me to let you
know this, for, being post-day, he does not wish you to be
without a letter from him. Next post he will write again.
I hope you will excuse my P.S., which cannot be so agreeable
to you as what your son would have written. I beg
my compliments to your amiable daughter. I am your
This is the first appearance in Mozart's correspondence of this name.
Constanze Weber was the younger sister of Aloysia. She had no dramatic
or vocal ambition, though she had musical taste and sang and played
fairly well, especially at sight. Strangely enough, she had an unusual
fondness for fugues and made Mozart write down many of his
The gossips of Vienna lost no time in construing his renewal of
friendship with the Webers. The buzz became so noisy that it reached the
alert ears of the father in Salzburg, and he wrote demanding that
Wolfgang should move at once.
Mozart answered that he had been planning to move, but only to quiet the
gossip that he is to marry Constanze--ridiculous gossip, he calls it.
"I will not say that, living in the same house with the young lady to
whom people have married me, I am ill-bred and do not speak to her, but
I am not in love with her. I banter and jest with her when time permits
(which is only in the evenings when I chance to be at home, for in the
morning I write in my room, and in the afternoon am rarely in the
house), but nothing more. If I were obliged to marry all those with whom
I have jested, I should have at least two hundred wives."
Among the rooms elsewhere offered to Mozart was one at Aurnhammer's. The
daughter of the family threw herself at Mozart's head with a vengeance.
According to his picture of her, she was so ugly and untidy that even
Mozart could not flirt with her. He draws an amusing picture of his
predicament--a sort of Venus and Adonis affair, with a homely Venus:
"She is not satisfied with my being two hours every day with her,--I am
to sit there the livelong day while she tries to be agreeable. But,
worse still, she is seriously smitten with me. I thought at first it was
a joke, but now I know it to be a fact. When I first observed it--by her
beginning to take liberties, such as reproaching me tenderly if I came
later than usual, or could not stay long, and similar things--I was
obliged, to prevent her making a fool of herself, to tell her the truth
in a civil manner. This, however, did no good, and she became more
loving than ever. At last I was always very polite, except when she
began any of her pranks, and then I snubbed her bluntly; but one day she
took my hand and said, 'Dear Mozart, don't be so cross; you may say what
you please I shall always like you.' All the people here say that we are
to be married, and great surprise is expressed at my choosing such a
face. She told me that when she heard anything of the sort she always
laughed at it. I know, however, from a third person, that she confirms
it, adding that we are to travel immediately afterwards. This did enrage
me. I told her my opinion pretty plainly, and warned her not to take
advantage of my good nature. Now I no longer go there every day, but
only every two days, so the report will gradually die away. She is
nothing but an amorous fool."
Life in Vienna has always been gay enough. In those days it was far from
prudish and Mozart was always of unusual fascination for women. He loved
frivolity and went about much, but he seems by no means to have deserved
the reputation given him by the gossip of that time and this, that he
was a confirmed rake. It is impossible for any one acquainted with
Mozart's career and letters to accuse him of studious hypocrisy, and
this accusation is necessary to support the theory that he was anything
but a serious-minded toiler, and for his time and surroundings a
well-behaved and conscientious man.
He finally left the home of the Webers and had previously written his
father, as we have seen, that he was not at all in love with Constanze.
But he was either in love with her without knowing it, or he soon
tumbled headlong in love with her; for, soon after leaving the house, he
plighted his troth with her.
He was some time, however, in mustering courage enough to break the news
to his father. To a letter dated December 5, 1781, he added a vague hint
of new ideas. This was enough to provoke his father's curiosity. It was
satisfied in Mozart's long reply of December 15th:
"My very dearest father, you demand an explanation of the words in the
closing sentence of my last letter. Oh! how gladly long ago would I have
opened my heart to you; but I was deterred, by the reproaches I dreaded,
from even thinking of such a thing at so unseasonable a time, although
merely thinking can never be unseasonable. My endeavours are directed at
present to securing a small but certain income, which, together with
what chance may put in my way, may enable me to live--and to marry! You
are alarmed at this idea; but I entreat you, my dearest, kindest father,
to listen to me. I have been obliged to disclose to you my purpose; you
must therefore allow me to disclose to you my reasons also, and very
well-grounded reasons they are.
"My feelings are strong, but I cannot live as many other young men do.
In the first place, I have too great a sense of religion, too much love
for my neighbour to do so, and too high a feeling of honour to deceive
any innocent girl. My disposition has always inclined me more to
domestic life than to excitement; I never have from my youth upward been
in the habit of taking any charge of my linen or clothes, etc., and I
think nothing is more desirable for me than a wife. I assure you I am
forced to spend a good deal owing to the want of proper care of what I
possess. I am quite convinced that I should be far better off with a
wife (and the same income I now have), for how many other superfluous
expenses would it save! An unmarried man, in my opinion, enjoys only
half of life.
"But now, who is the object of my love? Do not be startled, I entreat
you. Not one of the Webers, surely? Yes, one of the Webers,--not
Josepha, not Sophie, but the third daughter, Constanze. I never met with
such diversity of dispositions in any family. The eldest is idle,
coarse, and deceitful--crafty and cunning as a fox; Madame Lange
(Aloysia) is false and unprincipled, and a coquette; the youngest is
still too young to have her character defined,--she is merely a good
humoured, frivolous girl; may God guard her from temptation!
"The third, however, namely, my good and beloved Constanze, is the
martyr of the family, and, probably on this very account, the kindest
hearted, the cleverest, and, in short, the best of them all; she takes
charge of the whole house, and yet does nothing right in their eyes. Oh!
my dear father, I could write you pages were I to describe to you all
the scenes I have witnessed in that house. She is not plain, but at the
same time far from being handsome; her whole beauty consists of a pair
of bright black eyes and a pretty figure. She is not witty, but has
enough of sound good sense to enable her to fulfil her duties as a wife
and mother. Her dress is always neat and nice, however simple, and she
can herself make most of the things requisite for a young lady. She
dresses her own hair, understands housekeeping, and has the best heart
in the world. I love her with my whole soul, as she does me. Tell me if
I could wish for a better wife. All I now wish is, that I may procure
some permanent situation (and this, thank God, I have good hopes of),
and then I shall never cease entreating your consent to my rescuing this
poor girl, and thus making, I may say, all of us quite happy, as well as
Constanze and myself; for, if I am happy, you are sure to be so, dearest
father, and one-half of the proceeds of my situation shall be yours.
Pray, have compassion on your son."
This news was answered by a simoom of rage from Salzburg. The father had
a partial justification for his wrath in the fact that a busybody had
carried to him all manner of slander about Mozart and, likewise, slander
about Constanze. He writes reminding Wolfgang of his mistake about
Aloysia, and mentions a rumour that Wolfgang had been decoyed into
signing a written contract of marriage with Constanze. To this Mozart
writes very frankly and in a manner that shows Constanze in a beautiful
"You are well aware that, her father being no longer alive, a guardian
stands in his place. To him (who is not acquainted with me) busybodies
and officious gentlemen must have no doubt brought all sorts of reports,
such as, that he must beware of me, that I have no fixed income, that I
would perhaps leave her in the lurch, etc., etc. The guardian became
very uneasy at these insinuations. We conversed together, and the result
was (as I did not explain myself so clearly as he desired) that he
insisted on the mother putting an end to all intercourse between her
daughter and myself until I had settled the affair with him in writing.
What could I do? I was forced either to give a contract in writing or
renounce the girl. Who that sincerely and truly loves can forsake his
beloved? Would not the mother of the girl herself have placed the worst
interpretation on such conduct? Such was my position. The contract was
in this form:
"'I bind myself to marry Madlle. Constanze Weber in the course of three
years, and if it should so happen, which I consider impossible, that I
change my mind, she shall be entitled to draw on me every year for 300
"Nothing in the world could be easier than to write this, for I knew
that the payment of 300 florins never would be exacted, because I could
never forsake her; and if unhappily I altered my views, I would only be
too glad to get rid of her by paying the 300 florins; and Constanze, as
I knew her, would be too proud to let herself be sold in this way.
"But what did the angelic girl do when her guardian was gone? She
desired her mother to give her the written paper, saying to me, 'Dear
Mozart, I require no written contract from you. I rely on your promise.'
She tore up the paper. This trait endeared Constanze still more to me."
The correspondence between father and son waxed fast and furious. Mozart
does not attempt to defend Madame Weber or the guardian, but he will not
have a word said against the devotion and honour of his Constanze.
Jealous perhaps of the activity of the prospective father-in-law, Madame
Weber now began to go into training for a traditional rendition of the
role of mother-in-law. She made the life of her daughter and of Mozart
as miserable as possible, and fixed in them the determination that,
whatever happened, they would not live with her after they were married.
Mozart and his sweetheart made a determined combination to win the
affection of Mozart's sister, and Constanze sent to Nannerl many a
little present, apologising because she was too poor to send anything
worth sending. Finally she was bold enough to enclose a letter to
Nannerl. The composition of such a letter under such circumstances is,
at best, no easy matter, and I cannot help thinking that Constanze has
evolved a little model:
"MY DEAR AND VALUED FRIEND:--I never should have been so bold as to
yield to my wish and longing to write to you direct, if your brother had
not assured me that you would not take amiss this step on my part. I do
so from my earnest desire to make acquaintance, by writing at least,
with a person who, though as yet unknown to me, bears the name of
Mozart, a name so precious to me. May I venture to say that, though I
have not had the pleasure of seeing you, I already love and esteem you
as the sister of so excellent a brother? I therefore presume to ask you
for your friendship. Without undue pride I think I may say that I partly
deserve it, and shall wholly strive to do so. I venture to offer you
mine, which, indeed, has long been yours in my secret heart. I trust I
may do so, and in this hope I remain your faithful friend, CONSTANZE
"My compliments to your papa."
With so much quarrelling going on around them and concerning them, it is
small wonder that the two lovers were finally nagged into the condition
of such nervousness that they fell to quarrelling with each other. One
feud adds spice to the very first of these letters to Constanze, which
she so carefully guarded,--Aloysia Weber seems never to have preserved
any of Mozart's correspondence. It throws also a curious light on the
social diversions of Vienna society at that time.
"VIENNA, April 29, 1782.
"MY DEAR AND BELOVED FRIEND:--You still, I hope, allow me to give you
this name? Surely you do not hate me so much that I may no longer be
your friend, nor you mine? And even if you do not choose henceforth to
be called my friend, you cannot prevent my thinking of you as tenderly
as I have always done. Reflect well on what you said to me to-day. In
spite of my entreaties, you have met me on three occasions with a flat
refusal, and told me plainly that you wished to have no more to do with
me. It is not, however, a matter of the same indifference to me that it
seems to be to you, to lose the object of my love; I am not, therefore,
so passionate, so rash, or so reckless, as to accept your refusal. I
love you too dearly for such a step. I beg you then once more to weigh
well and calmly the cause of our quarrel, which arose from my being
displeased at your telling your sisters (N.B., in my presence) that at a
game of forfeits you had allowed the size of your leg to be measured by
a gentleman. No girl with becoming modesty would have permitted such a
thing. The maxim to do as others do is well enough, but there are many
things to be considered besides,--whether only intimate friends and
acquaintances are present,--whether you are a child, or a girl old
enough to be married,--but, above all, whether you are with people of
much higher rank than yourself. If it be true that the Baroness
[Waldstaedten] did the same, still it is quite another thing, because she
is a _passee_ elderly woman (who cannot possibly any longer charm), and
is always rather flighty. I hope, my dear friend, that you will never
lead a life like hers, even should you resolve never to become my wife.
But the thing is past, and a candid avowal of your heedless conduct
would have made me at once overlook it; and, allow me to say, if you
will not be offended, my dearest friend, will still make me do so. This
will show you how truly I love you. I do not fly into a passion like
you. I think, I reflect, and I feel. If you feel, and have feeling,
then I know I shall be able this very day to say with a tranquil mind:
My Constanze is the virtuous, honourable, discreet, and faithful darling
of her honest and kindly disposed,
This letter seems to have ended the quarrel--the only one we know of
their having. For, a week later in a letter to his father, Mozart
implies that Constanze and he are once more on excellent terms; also
that Nannerl had answered Constanze's letter with appropriate courtesy.
Meanwhile, in spite of the excitement of producing his opera and
fighting the strong opposition to it, Mozart is still more deeply
absorbed in gaining his father's consent to his marriage. He briefly
dismisses his account of his opera's immense success and bends all his
ardour to winning over his father. The agony of his soul quivers in
every line. Vienna is alive with gossip. Some say that he and Constanze
are already married. He fears to compromise the woman he loves. He hints
that if he cannot wed her with his father's blessing he will wed her
Meanwhile, the young woman's mother had by this time, got the bit fast
in her teeth. Now, the Baroness Waldstaedten had been touched by the
troubles of the young lovers and had invited Constanze to visit her for
some weeks. This excited the mother's apprehension, perhaps not unwisely
in view of the levity of the baroness' standards of conduct, and she
insisted upon Constanze cutting her visit short.
When Constanze refused this, Frau Weber sent word that if she did not
return immediately, the law would be sent for her. This threat drove
Mozart to desperation, and the marriage degenerated into a race between
the priest and the policeman. Fortunately the priest won. The baroness
wrote in person to the father for his consent, advancing Mozart 1,000
gulden to cover the 500 gulden which Constanze would have as a marriage
portion; and secured their release from the delayful necessity of
publishing the banns.
Romeo and his Juliet were married on August 4, 1782. Shortly after the
wedding the father's consent arrived. It was a rather stingy consent
however, and warned Mozart that he could not expect pecuniary assistance
and that he ought to tell Constanze of this fact.
There was an implied insult to the girl's love in this ungracious
remark, and it stung Mozart deeply. For Constanze, who had torn up the
contract of betrothal on a previous occasion, had not been the girl to
take money into account.
Three days after the wedding Mozart wrote to his father a long account
of it with a promise that he and his bride would take the first
opportunity of asking forgiveness in person. "No one attended the
marriage but Constanze's mother and youngest sister, Herr von Thorwarth
in his capacity of guardian, Herr von Zetto (Landrath) who gave away the
bride, and Gilofsky, as my best man. When the ceremony was over, both my
wife and I shed tears; all present (even the priest) were touched on
seeing the emotion of our hearts. Our sole wedding festivities consisted
of a supper, which Baroness Waldstaedten gave us, and indeed it was more
princely than baronial. My darling is now one hundred times more joyful
at the idea of going to Salzburg; and I am willing to stake--ay, my very
life, that you will rejoice still more in my happiness when you really
know her; if, indeed, in your estimation, as in mine, a high-principled,
honest, virtuous, and pleasing wife ought to make a man happy."
Now we enter upon the test of this romantic devotion--this wedlock of
the twenty-six year old musician and the maiden of nineteen, who married
in spite of the opposition of both families and in spite of the poverty
that awaited them. There are many accounts of the domestic career of
these two, written in a tone of patronage or cynicism. But this tone is
gratuitous on the part of those who assume it. As thorough a study of
the facts and documents as I can make, shows no ground whatsoever for
refusing to accept this love-match as an ideal wedding of ideal
congeniality, and mutual and common devotion.
Poverty came with all its vicissitudes and settled upon the hearth, but
we ought not to forget that both Wolfgang and Constanze had always been
poor; that they were used to poverty, and were light-hearted in its
presence. When they had no money to buy fuel, they were found dancing
together to keep warm. Surely, for two such hearts, poverty was only a
detail, and could in no sense be counted of sufficient weight to
counterbalance the affection each found in each.
As for Mozart's career we must feel that no amount of wealth would have
availed against his improvidence and his extravagance in the small way
in which fate permitted him to be extravagant. Nor could a life of
bachelorhood or a life with some woman married for money conceivably
have made him produce greater compositions--for no greater compositions
than those he produced during his married life have ever been produced
by any composer under any circumstances. Let us then read without
conviction such accounts as we may find tending to belittle the goodness
or cheapen the virtues of Constanze or of Mozart.
The Webers had lived at Vienna in a house called Auge Gottes, and Mozart
used to refer to his elopement as "Die Entfuehrung aus dem Auge Gottes,"
as a pun on the name of the opera that had made his marriage possible,
"Die Entfuehrung aus dem Serail." It is a curious coincidence that the
name of the principal character of this opera was Constanze, and that
she was a model of devotion through all trials. Once away from the
wrangling mother-in-law, the young couple enjoyed domestic bliss to the
height. Later, mother Weber seems to have reformed and to have become a
welcome guest in Mozart's house, where Aloysia herself became also a
Nothing could exceed the tenderness of the lovers for each other. It
continued to the last. Constanze was so watchful of him that she cut up
his meat at dinner when his mind was on his compositions, lest he might
cut himself. She used to read aloud to him and tell him stories and hear
his improvisations and insist upon their being written out for
permanence. While the wife was showing all this solicitude, the husband,
genius though he was, was showing equal tenderness to the wife.
All Vienna gossiped about his devotion. When she was ill, he was the
most assiduous of nurses, and on one occasion got so into the habit of
putting his fingers to his lips and saying "Psst!" to any one who
entered the room where she was sleeping, that, on one occasion, on being
spoken to in the street, he involuntarily placed his finger on his lips
and gave the warning signal. When he was called away from home early,
before she was awake, he would leave such a note for her as this:
"_Guten Morgen, liebes Weibchen, Ich wuensche, dass Du gut geschlafen
habest_" etc., or, as it runs in English: "Good morning, my darling
wife! I hope that you slept well, that you were undisturbed, that you
will not rise too early, that you will not catch cold, nor stoop too
much, nor overstrain yourself, nor scold your servants, nor stumble over
the threshold of the adjoining room. Spare yourself all household
worries till I come back. May no evil befall you! I shall be home
Two weeks after the marriage we find Mozart writing to his father in
"Indeed, previous to our marriage we had for some time past attended
mass together, as well as confessed and taken Holy Communion; and I
found that I never prayed so fervently nor confessed so piously, as by
her side; and she felt the same. In short, we were made for each other,
and God, who orders all things, and consequently this also, will not
They looked forward with great eagerness to visiting Salzburg, and it is
not the least evidence of the kindness of Constanze's heart that one of
her chief ambitions seems to have been the winning over of the father
and the sister. The visit home was to be in November, 1782, but the
weather grew very cold, and the wife's condition forbade. Mozart writes
to his father that his wife "carries about a little silhouette of you,
which she kisses twenty times a day at least." His letters are full of
little domestic joys, such as a ball lasting from six o'clock in the
evening until seven in the morning,--a game of skittles of which
Constanze was especially fond,--a concert where Aloysia sang with great
success an aria Mozart wrote for her,--and financial troubles of the
most petty and annoying sort.
In June, 1783, Mozart writes his father asking him to be godfather to
the expected visitor, who was to be named after the grandfather, either
"Leopold" or "Leopoldine," according as fate decided. Fate decided that
the first-born should be a son, and the young couple started gaily to
Salzburg, for a visit.
But fate also decided that the visit should not be in any sense a
success. Even as they set forth, they were stopped at the carriage by a
creditor who demanded thirty gulden [about $15], a small sum, but not in
Mozart's power to pay. At Salzburg, Mozart's father and sister seemed
not to have outdone themselves in cordiality, and, worst of all, "the
poor little fat baby" died after six months of life.
There is little profit and less pleasure in describing the financial
troubles of the young couple. They are generally blamed for extravagance
and bad management, for which Constanze is chiefly held responsible; but
there are many reasons for disbelieving this charge, perhaps the chief
of all being old Leopold Mozart's own statement that when he visited
them he found them very economical. That was praise from Sir Hubert.
Of Mozart's devotion to his wife in the depths of his heart, there can
be no doubt. But the circle he moved in, and his volatile, mischievous,
beauty-idolising nature played havoc with his good intentions, though
not to the extent implied by some critics who have pictured him as a
reckless voluptuary. But just herein is the final proof of Constanze's
devotion and her understanding of him, for, while there never was a
breath of slander against herself, she found heart to forgive Mozart's
ficklenesses. He actually made her the confessional of his excursions
from the path of rectitude, and found forgiveness there! "He loved her
dearly, and confided everything to her, even his little sins, and she
requited him with tenderness and true solicitude."
She always said, "One had to forgive him, one had to be good to him,
since he was himself so good."
Four children were born to the devoted couple, all sons; the first child
lived, as we have seen, only six months; the second was named Carl; the
third was named Leopold; the fourth, Wolfgang Amadeus. Nohl says, "His
wife's recovery on these occasions was always very tedious."
In 1787 Mozart's father died, and his letters to his sister show the
depth of his grief. Nannerl had married three years before. Her first
lover had relinquished her on account of her poverty, but she had
captured a widower of means and position.
Mozart's letters to Constanze are not very numerous, because he was
away from home neither often nor long. But they make up in tenderness
and radiant congeniality what they lack in numbers. In 1789 he decided
that a concert tour was necessary to replenish his flattened resources
and to take him out of the rut in which the emperor was gradually
dropping him as a mere composer of dance music for masked balls at the
court. Mozart travelled in the carriage of his friend and pupil, Prince
Carl Lichnowsky; and those who consider railroad travelling unpoetical
will do well to read in Mozart's and Beethoven's letters the vivid
pictures of the downright misery and tedium of the traveller of that
time, even in a princely carriage, to say nothing of the common
diligence. Mozart wrote to his wife frequently, and always in the most
loverly fashion. He ends his first letter on this journey as follows:
"At nine o'clock at night we start for Dresden, where we hope to arrive
to-morrow. My darling wife, I do so long for news of you! Perhaps I may
find a letter from you in Dresden. May Providence realise this wish! [_O
Gott! mache meine Wuensche wahr!_] After receiving my letter, you must
write to me Poste Restante, Leipzig. Adieu, love! I must conclude, or I
shall miss the post. Kiss our Carl a thousand times for me, and [_ich
bin Dich von ganzem Herzen kuessend, Dein ewig getreuer Mozart_] I am,
kissing you with all my heart, your ever faithful,
_"Adieu! aime-moi et gardez votre sante, si precieuse a votre epoux."_
In his next, three days later, he says:
"MY DARLING WIFE:--Would that I had a letter from you! If I were to tell
you all my follies about your dear portrait, it would make you laugh.
For instance, when I take it out of its case, I say to it, God bless
you, my Stanzerl! God bless you Spitzbub, Krallerballer, Spitzignas,
Bagatellerl, schluck, und druck! and when I put it away again, I let it
slip gently into its hiding-place, saying, Now, now, now, now!
[_Nu--nu--nu--nu!_] but with an appropriate emphasis on this significant
word; and at the last one I say, quickly, 'Good night, darling mouse,
sleep soundly!' I know I have written something very foolish (for the
world at all events), but not in the least foolish for us, who love each
other so fondly. This is the sixth day that I have been absent from you,
and, by heavens! it seems to me a year. Love me as I shall ever love
you. I send you a million of the most tender kisses, and am ever your
fondly loving husband."
Again three days, and we find him writing at midnight to his "_liebstes
bestes Weibchen_" an account of his activities:
"After the opera we went home. Then came the happiest of all moments to
me; I found the long ardently wished-for letter from you, my darling, my
beloved! I went quickly in triumph to my room, and kissed it over and
over again before I broke it open, and then rather devoured than read
it. I stayed a long time in my room, for I could not read over your
letter often enough, or kiss it often enough.
"Darling wife, I have a number of requests to make of you:
"1st. I beg you not to be melancholy. 2d. That you will take care of
yourself, and not expose yourself to the spring breezes. 3d. That you
will not go out to walk alone,--indeed, it would be better not to walk
at all. 4th. That you feel entirely assured of my love. I have not
written you a single letter without placing your dear portrait before
me. 5th. I beg you not only to be careful of your honour and mine in
your conduct, but to be equally guarded as to appearances. Do not be
angry at this request; indeed, it ought to make you love me still
better, from seeing the regard I have for my honour. 6th. Lastly, I wish
you would enter more into details in your letters. Now farewell, my best
beloved! Remember that every night before going to bed I converse with
your portrait for a good half-hour, and the same when I awake. O _stru!
stru!_ I kiss and embrace you 1,095,060,437,082 times (this will give
you a fine opportunity to exercise yourself in counting), and am ever
your most faithful husband and friend."
Some of his letters are apparently lost, for one dated May 23d gives a
list of the letters he had written to his wife--eleven in all (one of
them in French)--between April 8th and May 23d. He complains bitterly
that in this same time he had only six from her. There is worse news yet
to add, seeing how poor they were:
"My darling little wife, when I return, you must rejoice more in me than
in the money I bring. 100 Friedrichs-d'or don't make 900, but 700,
florins,--at least so I am told here. 2d. Lichnowsky being in haste left
me here, so I am obliged to pay my own board (in that expensive place,
Potsdam). 3d.----borrowed 100 florins from me, his purse being at so
low an ebb. I really could not refuse his request--you know why. 4th. My
concert at Leipzig turned out badly, as I always predicted it would; so
I went out of my way nearly a hundred miles almost for nothing. You must
be satisfied with me, and with hearing that I am so fortunate as to be
in favour with the king. What I have written to you must rest between
His disappointment at the meagre financial returns from his tour was
embittered by the serious illness of his Constanze and the drain upon
his sympathy, his time, and his money. It was necessary for him to
despatch in various directions a series of those pathetic begging
letters that make up so much of his later correspondence.
Shortly after the failure of his concert tour, desperation goaded him to
set forth again. He writes again to his _Herzens Weibchen_ or his
_Herzaller-liebstes_ with renewed hope:
"I am quite determined to do the best I can for myself here, and shall
then be heartily glad to return to you. What a delightful life we shall
lead! I will work, and work in such a manner that I may never again be
placed by unforeseen events in so distressing a position. Were you with
me, I should possibly take more pleasure in the kindness of those I meet
here, but all seems to me so empty. Adieu, my love! I am ever your
"P.S.--While writing the last page, many a tear has fallen on it. But
now let us be merry. Look! Swarms of kisses are flying about--Quick!
catch some! I have caught three, and delicious they are."
This tour was again unsatisfactory. He came back almost poorer than he
In March, 1791, Constanze had to go to Baden to take the waters for her
health. Mozart wrote a letter in advance engaging rooms for her, and
taking great care that they were on the ground floor. While Constanze
was at Baden, Mozart was getting deeper and deeper into financial hot
water, but his letters betrayed great anxiety that she should not be
worried, especially as she was about to become a mother again. One of
his letters to her was as follows; part of it is French, which I have
not translated, and the rest in German, part of which also it seems more
vivid to leave in the original:
"MA TRES-CHERE EPOUSE:--J'ecris cette lettre dans la petite chambre au
Jardin chez Leitgeb [a Salzburg horn-player]; ou j'ai couche cette nuit
excellement--et j'espere que ma chere epouse aura passe cette nuit aussi
bien que moi. J'attend avec beaucoup d'impatience une lettre que
m'apprendra comme vous avez passe le jour d'hier; je tremble quand je
pense au baigne de St. Antoine; car je crains toujours le risque de
tomber sur l'escalier en sortant--et je me trouve entre l'esperance et
la crainte--une situation bien desagreable! Si vous n'eties pas grosse,
je craignerais moins--mais abandonons cette idee triste!--Le ciel aura
eu certainement soin de ma chere Stanza Maria!...
"I have this moment received your dear letter, and find that you are
well and in good spirits. Madame Leitgeb tied my neck-cloth for me
to-day--but how? Good heavens! I told her repeatedly, 'This is the way
my wife does it,' but it was all in vain. I rejoice to hear that you
have so good an appetite;... You must walk a great deal, but I don't
like you taking such long walks without me. Pray do all I tell you, for
it comes from my heart. Adieu, my darling, my only love! I send you
2,999 and 1/2 kisses flying about in the air till you catch them. Nun
sag ich dir etwas ins Ohr--du nun mir--nun machen wir dass Maul auf und
zu immer mehr--und mehr--endlich sagen wir;--es ist wagen
Slampi--Strampi, du kannst dir nun dabei denken was du willst das ist
ebben die Comoditaet. Adieu, 1,000 tender kisses. Ever your Mozart."
It is evident that during her stay in Baden some person attempted
familiarity with Constanze and was rewarded with a box on the ears.
Mozart wrote playfully to her advising her to be even more generous with
her punishment, and suggesting that the man's wife would probably assist
her if informed.
It was about this time that Mozart was implicated by the gossips in a
domestic tragedy. Frau Hofdaemmel was a pupil of Mozart's whose husband
grew fiendishly jealous of her, attacked her with a razor, wounded her
almost to death, and then committed suicide. The story gradually grew up
that Mozart was the cause of the man's jealousy, and Otto Jahn, in his
first edition of his monumental biography, accepted the story, which he
later discarded after Koechel, another biographer, had succeeded in
proving that the assault and suicide took place five days after Mozart's
death. Hofdaemmel seems to have been so far from jealousy of Mozart that
he was one of the elect to whom Mozart applied for a loan. There was,
however, a young and beautiful singer, Henriette Baranius, in Berlin,
who seems to have woven a stray web around Mozart while he was there in
1789--90. She sang in his "Entfuehrung," and it was said that his friends
had to help him out of his entanglement with her. But Jahn scouts the
Among the most dramatic, and therefore the most familiar incidents of
Mozart's life, is the strange story of the anonymous commission he
received to write a Requiem Mass. We are sure now that it was Count
Walsegg who wished to palm off the composition as one of his own. To
Mozart, however, there was something uncanny in the whole matter, and he
could not work off the suspicious dread that the death-music he was
writing was an omen of his own end. Shortly before his father had died,
Mozart had written him a letter begging him to be reconciled to death
when it should come, and speaking of death as "this good and faithful
friend of man," and adding: "I never lie down at night without thinking,
young as I am, that I may be no more before the morning dawns."
Constanze, having been away for the cure at Baden, returned to find him
suddenly declining in health. To divert him, she took him for a drive,
but he could talk only of his death and of his morbid conviction that he
had been poisoned. Constanze, greatly alarmed, called in the family
physician, Doctor Closset. He blamed Mozart's state to overwork and
overabsorption in the composition of the Requiem Mass, which he toiled
at and brooded over until he swooned away in his chair.
After a brief recovery of spirits, he sank rapidly again and could not
leave his bed. Constanze attended him devoutly, and her younger sister,
Sophie, and her mother, now much endeared to Mozart, were very
solicitous and attentive. It is Sophie who described in a letter the
last hours of this genius, who died at the age of thirty-five. Mozart,
even in his ultimate agonies, was most solicitous for his wife, and said
to Sophie that she must spend the night at the house and see him die.
When she tried to speak more cheerfully, he would only answer:
"I have the taste of death on my tongue; I smell the grave. And who can
comfort my Constanze if you do not stay here?"
Sophie went home to tell her mother, and Constanze followed her to the
door, begging her, for God's sake, to go to the priests at St. Peter's
and ask one of them to call, as if by chance. But the priests hesitated
for some time, and she had great difficulty in persuading one of "these
unchristian Fathers" to do as she wished.
After a long search the family doctor was found at the theatre, but he
would not come until the end of the piece, and then ordered cold
applications to Mozart's feverish head, which shocked him into
unconsciousness. He died at one o'clock in the morning of November 5,
1791, and the last movement of his lips was an effort to direct where
the kettledrums should be sounded in his Requiem. The ruling passion!
Crowds, the next day, passed the house of Mozart and wept before his
windows. As for Constanze, her grief was boundless, and she stretched
herself out upon his bed in the hope of being attacked by his disease,
thought to be malignant typhus. She wished to die with him. Her grief
was indeed so fierce that it broke her health completely. She was taken
to the home of a friend, and by the time of his funeral she was unable
to leave the house. On that day so furious a tempest raged that the
friends decided not to follow the coffin through the driving rain and
sleet. So the body went unattended to the cemetery and was thrust into a
pauper's grave, three corpses deep.
It was some time before Constanze was strong enough to leave the house.
She then went to the cemetery to find the grave. It could not be
identified, and never since has it been found. No one had tipped the old
sexton to strengthen his memory of the resting-place, and it was a new
and ignorant sexton that greeted the anxious Constanze.
There are those who speak ill of this devoted wife, and even Mr.
Krehbiel, whose book of essays I have quoted from with such pleasure,
speaks of Constanze as "indifferent to the disposition of the mortal
remains of her husband whose genius she never half appreciated."
For this and other slighting allusions to Constanze in other
biographies, there exists absolutely no supporting evidence. But for the
highest praise of her wifely devotion, her patience and unchanging
love, and for her lofty admiration of Mozart, both as man and musician,
there is a superfluity of proof.
After his death she found herself in the deepest financial distress and
was compelled to appeal to the emperor for a small pension, which he
granted. Her nobility of character can be seen also in the concert of
her husband's works, which she arranged, and with such success that she
paid all Mozart's debts, some three thousand gulden ($1,500). Thus she
took the last stain from his memory. She also interested herself, like
Mrs. Purcell, in the publication of her husband's compositions. She was
only twenty-seven when he died, and her interest in his honour, as well
as the conspicuous motherliness she showed to the children he had left
her, were all the more praiseworthy. Neimtschek, who published a
biography of Mozart in 1798, emphasises her fidelity to "our Raphael of
Music," her grief still keen for him, and her devotion to the children
he left fatherless and penniless.
For eighteen years Constanze mourned her husband. Indeed, she never
ceased to mourn him. But, after nearly a score of years, in 1809, when
she had reached the age of forty-five, she was sought in marriage by a
councillor from Denmark, George Nicolaus von Nissen. He undertook the
education of her two boys, and won her hand. She lived with him in
Copenhagen till 1820, when she returned to Salzburg. The quaintness of
this affair should not blind us to the unusual depth of affection it
revealed. Constanze inspired even her new husband with such devotion to
Mozart's fame that Nissen wrote a biography of his predecessor in her
There cannot be many instances of a second husband writing a eulogistic
biography of the first, but Nissen wrote his with a candour and
enthusiasm that spoke volumes for his goodness and for that of
Constanze. He died, however, before the biography was completed, and
Constanze finished it herself. She includes in the publication a
portrait of Nissen and a tender tribute to his memory. Many of the most
beautiful anecdotes of Mozart's life we owe to Nissen's gentle
unjealousy, and Constanze could frankly sign herself "widow of
Staatsrath Nissen, previously widow of Mozart."
She includes an anonymous poem on Mozart's death, beginning:
"Wo ist dein Grab? Wo duften die Cypressen?"
Which is in its way evidence enough that she did not hold herself, or
her "indifference," responsible for the dingy entombment of this genius,
and the disappearance of his grave. As her last words to the public she
says: "May the reader accept this apologetic, this intimate
love-offering, in the spirit in which it is given. Salzburg, 1828."
What reader can refuse this sympathy to one who felt and gave so much to
one who craved sympathy as the very food of his soul?
When Constanze was elderly and the second time widowed, she was,
according to Crowest, visited by an English lady and her husband--an
eminent musician--both of whom were anxious to converse with the relict
of the great master. Notwithstanding the years that had passed, Frau
Nissen's enthusiasm for her first husband was far from extinguished. She
was much affected at the regard which the visitors showed for his
memory, and willingly entered into conversation about him.
"Mozart," she said, "loved all the arts and possessed a taste for most
of them. He could draw, and was an excellent dancer. He was generally
cheerful and in good humour; rarely melancholy, though sometimes
pensive. Indeed," she continued, "he was an angel on earth, and is one
in heaven now."
Constanze outlived her second husband by sixteen years, and died in
March, 1842, at the age of seventy-eight. Composers' widows live long.
Taken in the entirety, in shine and shade, footlights and firelights,
for poorer, for richer, for all that could torment or delight a
sensitive artist, a great gentle-souled creative genius, as well as a
tender and sympathetic woman, the married life of Wolfgang and Constanze
Mozart must be placed among the most satisfactory in the catalogue of
the relations of man and woman. They were lovers always.
BEETHOVEN: THE GREAT BUMBLEBEE
"No artist has ever penetrated further, for none has ever thrust the
thorn of life deeper into his own heart, and won, by the surrender of
it, his success and his immortality."
So says the profuse Ludwig Nohl in his reprint of the diary of a young
Spanish-Italian woman, Fanny Giannatasio del Rio, who knew Beethoven
well and loved him well, and as mutely as "a violet blooming at his feet
in utter disregard."
Beethoven the man would be voted altogether impossible either as friend
or as lover, if he had not had so marvellous, so compulsive, a genius.
He was short, pock-marked, ugly, slovenly, surly to the point of
ferocity, whimsical to the brink of mania, egotistic to the environs of
self-idolatry, diseased and deaf, embittered, morose--all the brutal
epithets you wish to hurl at him. But withal he had the majesty of a
Prometheus chained to the rocks; like Prometheus, he had stolen the very