Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

struruent. Mozart tlien continued, and they thus played alternately a whole sonata with such precision, that the audience thought it was entirely executed by the same person.

At this period, he attracted the notice of an author, who was himself an acute observer of human nature. Dailies Barrington considered his extraordinary precocity a subject worthy of a communication to the Royal Society, from which we are enabled to judge of his natural disposition as well as his musical powers. We shall gratify our readers with the substance of this memoir, because the early volume of the Philosophical Transactions, in which it was published, has become exceedingly scarce; and because in biography one fact communicated by an eye-witness who knew what to observe, is better than a thousand speculations. In order to ascertain by his own observation whether Mozart actually felt and understood the compositions he played at sight, Daines Barrington laid before him a new vocal duett with accompaniments for three instruments, which it was utterly impossible that Mozart could have seen. The boy, without hesitation, played the symphony, not merely as if it had long been familiar to him, but as if he at once entered into the very feelings the composer intended to express; and this is a part of the science of music in which the greatest masters might have failed. He then sang the upper- part correctly, with a clear and firm, though weak and infantine voice. His father, who attempted the under part, occasionally made mistakes, when the boy looked at him with some anger, and taught him how it should be sung. While thus, as we should have supposed, fully employed, he introduced the leading passages of all the accompaniments, an effort of which musicians alone can estimate the difficulty.

Daines Barrington had been told that the boy was sometimes visited with musical ideas, to which he gave utterance in the middle of the night, and he was anxious to hear a specimen of his powers as an improvisatore. This, his father said, must depend upon his being at the moment musically inspired; and here Daines Barrington evinced his knowledge of human nature. He recollected Mozart's attachment to a celebrated singer, named Manzoli, and concluding that the most probable method of attaining his object would be to create in Mozart's mind an association of ideas which he would naturally attempt to express by music, he continued to turn the conversation upon the subject of Manzoli's talents, and observed, that he should like to hear a specimen of such a love song as he would sing in an opera. Mozart looked back with much archness, and immediately began five or six lines of a jargon recitative proper to introduce a love song; and, after an appropriate symphony, he sang a beautiful air to the word affetto. He then, of his own

accord, accord, invented another cantata expressive of rage, choosing for his subject the word perjido; and, in the course of the recitative, he gradually worked himself up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, that at last he rose up in his chair and beat the harpsichord like a person possessed. In the midst of his performance, a favourite cat happening to come into the room, gave his ideas a new direction, he abruptly left the harpsichord and caressed the animal with the greatest fondness. He afterwards rode about the room upon a stick with more than the usual vivacity and delight of an ordinary child of his age. His most trifling amusements were distinguished by the same enthusiastic ardour as his professional pursuits.

That nothing might be wanting to the cultivation of his talents, Mozart's next tour was through the principal cities of Italy, the native soil of music; but he soon convinced the professors m this favoured country, that he was already qualified to teach as well as to learn, by developing and performing without hesitation all the subjects of fugues proposed by the celebrated Martin, and by composing at fourteen years of age an opera, (Mithridates,) which was performed at Milan twenty nights in succession.

At Rome, he caused the greatest possible astonishment, by committing to memory, and afterwards writing down the whole of the famous service called the Miserere, by Allegri, performed in the pope's chapel exclusively twice during Passion week. We must, however, refer to the work itself for the account of this extraordinary effort of memory and musical skill, and for the curious and interesting description of the service itself, which is too long to be inserted, and will not admit of being properly abstracted.

The natural effect of these tours was, that Mozart learned at the fountain head, whatever was worth knowing in music throughout the principal cities of Europe; and thus, while poor Haydn was doomed to struggle with difficulties at every step, and to acquire knowledge, sometimes by labour and sometimes by artifice, Mozart lived in a round of continual variety aud pleasure; the astonishment and delight of all who beheld him; introduced into the first musical societies in the world; and possessing opportunities which he certainly did not neglect, of hearing and studying whatever was excellent in his profession. It is, however, a curious subject of inquiry, to trace the event of their different modes of education. Whatever Haydn painfully and laboriously acquired, was irrevocably fixed in his mind, and the necessity of early application and self-denial preserved him from the dissipated and irregular habits which checked the career, and probably shortened the life of Mozart.

After his return from Italy we hear little of Mozart till the twenty-fourth year of his age. We would willingly suppose, that

[graphic]

i

the intervening period was assiduously employed in the cultivation of his talents; but the silence of his biographer with regard to this period, and an observation, that the family of the lady, who afterwards became his wife, objected to him on account of his unsettled habits, and because his manners had been far from exemplary, have led us to consult other sources of information; from which we collect, that, with the best natural dispositions and a feeling heart, Mozart knew not how to restrain whatever appetites or passions it was in his power to gratify. He had an ardent and unconquerable love of pleasure in every shape; and, if his means of- enjoyment had been equal to his wishes, his name would probably have been added to the long list of forward children, of whose subsequent life no traces remain. The seeds of future excellence were sown during his residence in Italy; but none of the works, on which his posthumous fame is established, were composed till he had reached the age of manhood; and Dr. Burney has perhaps given a fair estimate of his talents at sixteen years of age, in a letter from a correspondent at Saltzburgh, published in his Musical Tour through Germany in 1772 :—

'This young man, who so much astonished all Europe by his productions, is still a great master of his instrument. I went to his father's house, to hear him and his sister play duetts on the same harpsichord; but she is now at her summit, which is not marvellous; and, if I may judge of the music, which I heard of his composition in the orchestra, he is one further instance of early fruit being more extraordinary than excellent.'

It is perfectly natural that a youth of this age should have retained his mechanical skill of playing upon the harpsichord, but that he should not yet have acquired the degree of science necessary to constitute a great composer. Mozart was, however, fortunately roused to new exertions by the powerful excitements of love and vanity.—His whole soul was devoted to Constance Weber; his vanity was piqued by the rejection of her family, and he determined to convince them, that, although he had no fixed situation in life, he had talents that would soon procure him an establishment.

In his twenty-fifth year the elector of Bavaria requested him to write the serious opera of Idomeneo: his love for Constance supplied him with the most impassioned airs, and his vanity impelled him to the greatest exertions in the arrangement of the accompaniments; and thus he composed his favourite work, the opera which he always considered his most fortunate effort, and from which he borrowed many ideas in his subsequent compositions. The effects of this opera were, to secure his mistress, to establish his fame, and to qualify him for future success.

What may be deemed his classical productions, as distinguished

from from his juvenile efforts, now succeeded each other with great rapidity till the end of his short career. His sonatas, quartetts, and symphonies, operas, and sacred compositions, may be immediately distinguished from those of all other masters; they all evince the originality of his genius and the fertility of his invention; and their appeal to the feelings of an audience was irresistible.

Mozart's peculiar method of composition was, first, to arrange in his mind the whole subject and all its details. This was the work of silent meditation during his walks, or on his pillow; and thus, while apparently idle, his mind was most intensely engaged. He next sat down to the piano-forte, generally in the stillness oF night, tried various experiments, and satisfied himself of the effect of his whole composition. In the morning he committed his ideas to paper; and this last operation was so entirely mechanical, from the whole subject having been previously arranged in his mind, that he wrote the score at once with the greatest neatness, and frequently without altering a single note. We have lately seen the original scores, in his own hand-writing, of his principal instrumental pieces, which narrowly escaped the iron grasp of Davoust at Hamburgh, and are now in London. In looking over these manuscripts, we could almost fancy ourselves in Mozart's closet while he composed them. The notes are small, but very clearly and distinctly written. His pages had been all previously numbered, that he might continue writing without a moment's interruption. In the two first of his inimitable quartetts, dedicated to Haydn, there is not a single alteration; and, on the margin of the first andante movement, are directions to his copyist, in provincial German, to 'write now the second violin and the tenor; the bass after dinner.' In the fifth quartett, several bars, which are struck out, show that his alterations were not made on revising his composition, but while he was writing it with the greatest rapidity, as in a literary production an author would substitute one word for another, while the first word was only half written. These occasional changes in his ideas are excellent studies for a composer. An eminent musician, while considering these alterations, exclaimed, ' How beautiful is this first idea! who could improve it?' And immediately afterwards, 'But ah! how exquisite is the new passage! who could have done this but Mozart!' At the beginning of his celebrated Fantasia, for the piano forte in C minor, he has written, 'for Madame Tratner.' It was so rapidly written, and the notes are showered down in such profusion, that his hand was evidently not quick enough to express the ideas that flowed from his mind. In a fugue for four instruments, written in imitation of those of Sebastian Bach, a species of composition that required more than usual study, he originally left the lower half of his paper

blank,

blank, on which he afterwards wrote the whole fugue over again in differently coloured ink, with such improvements as his subsequent experience suggested.

We hope these details will not appear tedious or misplaced; but that many of our readers will participate in the pleasure we feel in tracing the few relics of a man of genius like Mozart, which have been preserved in an entire state, his operas having been written for the copyist on separate papers, most of which were destroyed. We shall now give a short description of Mozart's personal appearance, and of his habits in private life. He never reached his full growth; he was pale and thin; his health was. always delicate, and there was nothing striking in his physiognomy except its extreme variableness. The changes in his countenauce expressed, in the liveliest manner, the pleasure or pain which he experienced; his body was constantly in motion, and his nervous irritability was evinced by the habit he had acquired of playing with his hands, or beating the ground with his foot. His hands were so habituated to the piano-forte, that they seemed hardly fit for any thing else. His mind was so constantly absorbed by a. crowd of ideas, that, in the common business of life, he was always a mere child. He had no idea of domestic affairs, of the use of money, of the judicious selection of his pleasures, or of temperance in their enjoyment; he never looked beyond the gratification of the moment. His affairs were necessarily managed for him, first by his father, and afterwards by his wife. He was absent, and devoted to trifling pursuits; but the momeut he was seated at the piano-forte his character changed; the harmony of sounds then absorbed his whole attention; and his ear was so accurate, that, even in the fullest orchestra, he would instantly detect and point out the instrument that had played the slightest false note; and we may imagine his feelings during the performance of his opera of L Enlevement du Serail, at Berlin, where he arrived late in the evening, and took his station at the entrance of the pit, to listen without being observed:—' Sometimes he wis so pleased with the execution of certain passages, aud at others so dissatisfied with the manner or the time in which they were performed, or with the embellishments added by the actors, that, continually expressing either his pleasure or disapprobation, he insensibly got up to the bar of the orchestra;' at last an air was played, in which the manager had taken the liberty of making some alterations; when Mozart, unable to restrain himself any longer, directed the orchestra how to play it. The eyes of the whole audience were fixed upon the man in a great coat, who made all this Boise. Mozart was recognized; and some of the performers were 80 agUated that they refused to come again upon the stage. Mozart

« AnteriorContinuar »