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From the archives: monthly feature

Leopold Mozart: letter from Milan (1770), with a postscript by Wolfgang



From the archives
A recommendation by


Ravel (February 2012)
The Noske family, ca. 1880


(March 2012)
J.S. Bach: receipt, 1731
(April 2012)
J. and F. Giese, cellists
(May 2012)
Berlioz: a letter from
Rome (June 2012)
Alsbach: Album amicorum
(July 2012)
A violinist-aviator (1913)
(August 2012)
Mozart: letter (Milan 1770)
(September 2012)
Whose portrait?
(October 2012)
F. Nieuwenhuysen (1783)
(November 2012)

“Da bin ich auch, da habts mich.” When Wolfgang takes the pen from his father to add a postscript, he does it as another character appearing onstage. One week earlier he had signed with “der nehmliche Hanswurst”, “the same old buffoon”, and no doubt he is adopting the role of Hanswurst again. His writing is a good imitation of live prattling, and, as fits the role, no opportunity is missed for wordplay or references to the lower part of the body.

Very few letters by Wolfgang date from before this letter, and during the first Italian tour of 1770 he mostly added postscripts to his father’s letters. Making good use of the paper may have become a habit of Leopold’s, since postage was expensive; in London, 1764, he had written with some self-mockery: “My handwriting becomes smaller with increasing distance to Salzburg. If we were to sail over to America, it would probably become quite unreadable.”


Leopold Mozart: letter to Maria Anna Mozart, 17 February 1770, NMI Brievencollectie/1350

À Madame / Madame Marie Anne / Mozart / à / Salzbourg

No 10 aus Maÿland
2 März beantwortet

[1]
Maÿland den 17 Febr: 1770.
Dein Schreiben vom 9ten Feb: habe heut richtig erhalten. Ich hoffe der Husten wird dich / und die Nannerl verlassen haben. Wir sind, Gott Lob, beÿde gesund. daß der Winter / nicht so gefährlich in Italien ist wie der Sommer, will ich wohl glauben: allein, wir hoffen, / Gott werde uns erhalten; und wenn man seine Gesundheit nicht durch Unordnung und / überflüssiges fressen und Sauffen etc: verderbt, auch sonst keinen innerlichen Natursfehler / hat, so ist nichts zu besorgen. Wir sind aller Orten in der Hand Gottes. Mit Essen / und Trinken wird sich der Wolfg: nicht verderben. du weist, daß er sich selbst / mässiget; und ich kann dich versichern, daß ich ihn noch niemals so achtsamm / auf seine Gesundheit gesehen als in diesem Lande. alles was ihm nicht gut scheinet / lässt er stehen, und er isset manchen Tagen gar wenig; und befindet sich fett / und wohl auf und den ganzen tag Lustig und fröhlich. Ich schreibe dir dißes / im Grafl:
Firmianischen Hause beÿm HausHofmeister Sgr: Don Ferdinando unserm sonderhtl: / guten freund, und eben itzt kam der Schneider mit unsern Mänteln und Baiotten, / die wir uns musten machen lassen. ich sahe mich im Spiegl, da wir sie probierten, und / dachte mir: nun muß ich in meinen alten Tagen auch noch diese Narredeÿ mitmachen. / dem Wolfg: stehet es unvergleichlich an, und, da wir schon diese närrische Aus- / gaabe machen musten, so ist mein trost, daß man es zu allerhand anderen Sachen / wieder brauchen und wenigst zum Kleiderfutter, fürduch etc: gebrauchen kann.

À Madame / Madame / Marie Anne / Mozart / à / Salzbourg

Nr 10 from Milan
answered 2 March

[1]
Milan, 17 Febr. 1770
Your letter of 9 Febr. has arrived safely today. I hope that you and Nannerl will now be free from the cough. We are both well, praise be to God. That the winter in Italy is not so dangerous as the summer, that I will readily believe: yet we hope that God will keep us; and as long as one does not ruin one’s health by disorderliness and excessive eating and drinking etc., and has no other inner defects of the disposition, there is nothing to worry about. Wherever we are we are in God’s hand. By eating and drinking Wolfgang will not spoil his health. You know that he controls himself; and I can assure you that I’ve never seen him take such good care of himself as in this country. Whatever doesn’t seem right to him he leaves, and eats very little
on some days; yet he is fat and lively, and gay and cheerful all day long. I am writing this in the house of Count Firmian, at Sgr. Don Ferdinando’s who is his steward, our very good friend, and just a moment ago the tailor called with our cloaks and masks [baute], which we’ve had to order. I looked at myself in the mirror as we were trying them on, and thought: to engage in such tomfoolery, in my old age. It suits Wolfgang amazingly well, and since we could not escape from this foolish expenditure anyway, I take comfort in the fact that it can be useful for all sorts of other things and at least can be used for linings, aprons etc.

Morgen Kommen S:e D: der Herzog, und die Prinzessin von Modena |: die zukünftige / Braut des Erzh: Ferdinand :| zu S:r Ex: Grafen v Firmian den Wolfg: zu hören; / abends werden wir en Masque in die opera in galla fahren, nach der opera wird / der Ball seÿn, und dann werden wir mit dem Haus Hofmeister und seiner Frau auch wieder / nach Hause fahren. Kommenden freÿtag wird Accademia fürs ganze Publicum seÿn: / dann wollen wir sehen, was herauskommt. Ich kann dir also von unsern Umständen / eher nichts schreiben, bis wir nicht oder von hier weg, oder wenigst Reisefertig / sind. Viel wird in Italien nicht herauskommen: das einzige Vergnügen ist, daß eine / mehrere Begierde und Einsicht hier ist, und daß die Italiänr erkennen, was / der Wolfg: verstehet. übrigens muß man sich freÿlich meistens mit der 
[2]
Bewunderung, dem
Bravo bezahlen lassen, wobeÿ ich dir aber auch sagen muß, / daß wir mit all nur ersünnlichen Höflichkeit aller Orten empfangen und beÿ allen / Gelegenheiten zur Hohen Noblesse gezogen werden.

Nun muß dir auf deine fragen antworten. H: Martin Knoller ist hier / in Mayland. wenn h: Deibl schreiben will, darf er nur unten setzen: / in Casa di S: Ex: di C: di Firmian:
Das Schreiben t: h: HofRath von Mölk habe empf: allein ich muß alle / diese Herrn, die mir geschrieben, bitten, mir zu verzeihen. Es ist unmöglich / daß ich schreibe, indem du weist, wie es auf Reisen gehet, sonderheitl: / da ich Herr, diener, und alles bin.
Die 2 Perspecktiv sind richtig, und längstens – längstens übergeben worden.
Wer hat doch diese Zeitung von Mantua übersetzet?

Der Wolfg: last Sr:
Ex: der grafin von Arco die Hände unterthst küssen, / und danket für den geschickten Kuß, der ihm viel angenehmer ist, / als sehr viele junge Busserl.
Meine Emp: an ganz Salzb: –– ich bin dein alter
Mozart mp
wir küssen dich und die Nannerl.

Tomorrow His Highness the Duke and the Princess of Modena (the future wife of Archduke Ferdinand) will visit His Exc. Count Firmian in order to hear Wolfgang; in the evening we’re driving en masque to the opera gala, after the opera there will be the ball, and then we’ll drive home again with the steward and his wife. Next Friday there will be Accademia for the general public: we’ll see what that will bring in. I can therefore say very little about our situation until we’ve left this place or at least are ready to depart. Italy will not bring us much: our only pleasure is the greater enthusiasm and understanding in this country, and that the Italians appreciate Wolfgang's accomplishment. Otherwise one has to accept their
[2]
admiration and bravo as a reward, although I have to say that everywhere we’ve been received with every conceivable courtesy and have been introduced to the high nobility on all occasions.

Now I have to reply to your questions. Mr. Martin Knoller
is here in Milan. If Mr. Deibl wants to write, he should just subscribe: in Casa di S. Ex. di C. di Firmian.
Mr. Privy Councillor Mölk’s letter I have received, however I have to ask all those gentlemen who have written to pardon me. It’s impossible for me to write, as you know what it’s like while you’re travelling, especially since I’m master, servant and everything else at once.
The 2 telescopes have been handed over safely long, long ago.
Who may have translated this newspaper from Mantua? --
Wolfgang most humbly kisses the hands of Her Excellency Countess von Arco and thanks her for the kiss she sent, which pleases him much more than many a young lass’s. My greetings to all of Salzburg -- I am your old
Mozart m
[anu] p[ropria]
We kiss you and Nannerl.

[Wolfgang:]
Da bin ich auch, da habts mich: du,
Mariandel, mich freüet es recht von / arsch weg daß du so erschröglich -- lustig bist gewesen: den kinds- / menschen, der urscherl mit den kalten arsch sage: das ich immer meÿne, ich hätte ihr alle lieder wieder zurückgestelt, aber, Allenfals ich / hätte sie etwa in den wichtigen und hochen gedancken nach italien mit mir geschoben, so werde ich nicht ermangeln, wen ich es finde, in / den brief es hinein zu Prägen: addio, kinder, lebts wohl, der / Mama küsse ich Tausend mahl die hände, und dir, schicke ich hundert 
[3]
busserln oder schmazerl auf dain wunderbarres pferdengesicht,
per far / il fine bin ich deiner ec:

[Wolfgang to Nannerl:]
And here I am too, this is me: Mariandel, I’m arsefully happy that you’ve had such a frightful -- good time: tell this nanny, this cold arse Urscherl that I still think that I returned all the songs to her, but
if in my weighty and lofty thoughts I should have towed it along to Italy, I shall not fail, should I find it, to shove it into a letter: addio, children, farewell, a thousand kisses on Mama’s hands, and for you, I send you a hundred
[3]
pecks or smacks on your wonderful horseface, per far il fine I am your etc.

[Leopold:]
Wir haben keine
Cadenzen mitgenohmen. ja, ja. sie werden im Concert stecken! / die Concert wirst du in der Spartitur in meinem Kasten oben finden, wo die Synfonien / liegen, dort unter den Canabichischen abgeschriebenen Synfonien, liegen sie. 
du wirst wohl auch noch zu Zeiten singen? ––

[Leopold to Nannerl:]
We didn’t bring any cadenzas with us. Well, well. They must be with the concerto! You’ll find the concertos in full score in my cupboard upstairs, where the symphonies are kept, they’re beneath the copies of Cannabich’s symphonies.
You keep on singing once in a while?

As the number above the seal indicates, this is the tenth letter Leopold wrote to his wife, since he and Wolfgang had left Salzburg on 13 December 1769. Leopold urged Maria Anna to keep the letters well, not just as a keepsake, but because they were the basis of the monument he intended to leave for posterity. Leopold had been quick to interpret Wolfgang’s early signs of musical talent as a God-given ‘miracle’, and he made it his life’s mission to foster that miracle. A few months before the departure with Wolfgang to Italy, he published a second edition of his Gründliche Violinschule (the first edition had appeared in the year of Wolfgang’s birth, 1756), and used the preface to convey his missionary sense to the reader:

“I might use this opportunity to entertain the public with a story such as may occur only once in a century, and which in such a degree of the miraculous may never before have occurred in the realm of music; I might describe the miraculous genius of my son; relate his unbelievably rapid progress in the full extent of musical science since the age of five till the age of thirteen, in full detail [...].”

This of course he did not do: he was merely warming up his reader to the report to be published after the Italian journey, which he did not fail to mention. No such biographical report has materialized.

When Leopold Mozart took his son on their first tour through Italy, Wolfgang was thirteen years old. A trip to Vienna apart, the family had remained at home in Salzburg for three years since the Grand Tour of 1763-66, which had taken them to Germany, France, England, the Netherlands and Switzerland. In 1769, at age 18, Nannerl could no longer impress audiences by her youth. Wolfgang was approaching a stage between child prodigy and precocious genius, where it seemed important to get better acquainted with Italian music and Italian career opportunities. Mindful of the expenses, Leopold decided that the women should stay in Salzburg.

The miracle’s father has been subject to highly divergent character assessments. Since he so often moralizes in his letters, it is hard to refrain from moralizing about him. To judge a man’s character from his letters is however precarious. Even though Leopold may have written with a side-glance on posterity, these letters were adapted to their addressees, and written in circumstances we cannot fully comprehend. In any case, Leopold was not merely a competent musician and author of an acclaimed violin tutor; he was an intellectually ambitious, educated man, and as such felt himself above many of his colleagues. He did not only read widely, but sought contact with the literary world. Among his correspondents was Christian Fürchtegott Gellert (1715-1769), highly admired at the time for defining new standards of German style, advocating a mixture of moderate spontaneity, sentiment, wit, and a dose of healthy morals. He was also the author of two manuals on letter writing. Mozart jr. set him an irreverent epitaph in a postscript to his father’s letter from Milan of 26 January: “I have no news except that Mr. Gelehrt (“Mr. Highbrow”), the Leipzig poet, has died, and has stopped writing poetry since.”

The realization of his son’s exceptional gifts gave Leopold a sense of mission and of opportunity. He made himself totally responsible for Wolfgang’s education and musical progress; his role as educator may also have confirmed his self-image as not merely a musician, but man-of-the-world, moral philosopher, and medical expert. Unfortunately, traveling around Europe also involved the duties of a manager, secretary, and valet. That his merit as educator was not fully appreciated was inevitable: he had to step into the shadow of the child prodigy. As Wolfgang’s life unfolded in ways he didn’t control or condone, and as he himself was repeatedly passed over for promotion, the deputy chapel master of Salzburg increasingly found reason to consider himself a victim.

Things were however proceeding in a highly satisfactory way in Milan, where they arrived on 23 January. Milan was the capital of Lombardy, under Habsburg rule, and Leopold had left Salzburg with a recommendation to Count Karl Joseph Firmian, governor of Lombardy, who had a reputation as patron of the arts. After the public concert or Accademia on 23 February, they gave, on the insistence of Count Firmian, another concert in his house on 12 March. The programme included the newly composed arias K88 (Fra cento affanni) and K77 (Misero me), which made an impression strong enough to secure him the commission to write a complete opera, to be performed in December (Mitridate, re di Ponto). The successful production ran for 22 performances.

Leopold Mozart
(Pietro Antonio Lorenzoni)


Galimathias Musicum (The Hague 1766), Mozart's manuscript in the NMI

Letter written by Franz Liszt, 12 years old (1824), coll. NMI

“Scatology”, which flourishes in Wolfgang’s postscripts and most notoriously in the letters to his niece, the Bäsle-Briefe, has almost become a distinct branch of Mozart expertise. Enough has been written about the sociocultural context to dismiss a characterization of this kind of humour as pathological, though the focus on anal functions may still strike one as rather obsessive. The constant exposure to public attention may explain this constant buffoonery. In the first publication of this letter in Georg Nissen’s biography of 1828, the word “arsch” was omitted. The first unexpurgated edition was in Emily Anderson’s translation. The nanny (Kindsmensch = Kindsmagd) here referred to as “urscherl mit den kalten arsch” (“hier wohl wörtlich gemeint”, according to the editors of MBA V) has not been identified. In fact, the nanny’s name may not have even have been Ursula; in another letter a cook is referred to as “Ursula mit dem kalten Loch” (31 August 1784), and Goethe, in an unfinished farce of 1775 titled Hanswursts Hochzeit, also includes a “Ursel mit dem kalten Loch”. Since in this play “all German invectives appear as stage characters”, it must have been a common epithet.

Text and translation: Lodewijk Muns, 24-8-2012

Goethe:
Tag- und Jahreshefte. Von 1769
bis 1775

Aus meinem Leben. Dichtung
und Wahrheit

Hanswursts Hochzeit oder der
Lauf der Welt

 


Online editions:
Briefe und Aufzeichnungen zu W. A. Mozart und seiner Familie aus den Beständen der Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg, hrsg. von Anja Morgenstern, <http://dme.mozarteum.at>

With translations and notes:
Eisen, Cliff et al. Mit Mozarts Worten <http://letters.mozartways.com>. Version 1.0, hrsg. von HRI Online 2011.

Main references:

Halliwell, Ruth. The Mozart family: four lives in a social context. Oxford [England]; New York: Clarendon Press 1998

Hildesheimer, Wolfgang. Mozart. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp
1977.

MBA =
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus et al. Mozart: Briefe und Aufzeichnungen: Gesamtausgabe hrsg. von der Internationalen Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg; gesammelt und erl. von Wilhelm A. Bauer und Otto Erich Deutsch. Bd. I, 1755-1776; Bd. V. Kommentar I/II (erläut. von Joseph Heinz Eibl), 1755-1779. Kassel [etc.]: Bärenreiter 1962, 1971.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus. Mozarts Bäsle-Briefe: hrsg. und kommentiert von Joseph Heinz Eibl und Walter Senn. Kassel: Bärenreiter 1978.

Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus et al. The letters of Mozart and his family: chronologically arr., transl. and ed. with an introd., notes and indices by Emily Anderson. London: MacMillan and Co 1938

Nissen, Georg Nikolaus von. Biographie W.A. Mozart’s. Nach Originalbriefen, Sammlungen alles über ihn Geschriebenen mit vielen neuen Beylagen ... Von Georg Nikolaus von Nissen. Nach dessen Tode herausgegeben von Constanze, Wittwe von Nissen, früher Wittwe Mozart. Leipzig: Breitkppf und Härtel 1828.

Sadie, Stanley. Mozart. New York: Grossman
1970.

Schroeder, David P. Mozart in revolt: strategies of resistance, mischief, and deception. New Haven: Yale University Press
1999.

Solomon, Maynard. Mozart: a life. New York, NY: Harper Collins
1995.