Since Mozart’s Birthday was on January 27th, I felt a little pressure to post about him this Monday. But I didn’t want to write up a biography about him – of which there are gazillions on the WWW. And no, I didn’t want to post “10 Interesting Facts about Mozart” – there are already hundreds of those oh-so-intriguing lists as well. (The interesting facts usually consist of Mozart’s DOB, his wife’s name, that the cause of his death is unknown, and that it is also unknown whether Beethoven and Mozart actually met.) No, I wanted to bring you guys a fun post, full of truly intriguing bits of information about Mozart! I’ve divided the post into multiple categories, which include my favorite Mozart quotes, fun stories about Mozart, and some of his most widely played works. So, let’s get started!
Quotes by Mozart:
“Music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.”
“The music is not in the notes, but in the silence between.” (Mozart, Haydn, and many other classicists used silence in their works as a sort of musical punctuation – and Beethoven took it to a whole new dramatic level!)
“Our riches, being in our brains, die with us. Unless of course, someone chops off our head. In which case, we won’t need them anyway.” (I love Mozart’s humorous logic, don’t you?)
“I thank my God for graciously granting me the opportunity of learning that death is the key which unlocks the door to our true happiness.”
“It is a mistake to think that the practice of my art has become easy to me. I assure you, dear friend, no one has given so much care to the study of composition as I.” (Bach similarly remarked, “I worked hard. Anyone who works as hard as I did can achieve the same result.”)
“Melody is the essence of music.”
“To win applause one must write stuff so simple that a coachman might sing it.”
Quotes about Mozart:
“Beethoven, I take twice a week, Haydn four times, and Mozart every day!” – Rossini
“Mozart creates music from a mysterious center and so knows the limits to the right and the left, above and below. He maintains moderation.” – Karl Barth
“Mozart is the most inaccessible of the great masters.” – Artur Schnabel
“Mozart’s mental grip never loosens; he never abandons himself to any one sense; even at his most ecstatic moments, his mind is vigorous, alert, and on the wing. He dives unerringly on to his finest ideas like a bird of prey, and once an idea is seized he soars off again with an undiminished power.” – W. J. Turner
“Mozart does not give the listener time to catch his breath, for no sooner is one inclined to reflect upon a beautiful inspiration than another appears, even more splendid, which drives away the first, and this continues on and on, so that in the end one is unable to retain any of these beauties in the memory.” – Karl Ditters von Dittersdordf
“Does it not seem as if Mozart’s works become fresher and fresher the oftener we hear them?” – Robert Schumann
“Mozart encompasses the entire domain of musical creation, but I’ve got only the keyboard in my poor head.” – Chopin (See you piano people? Chopin admitted himself that he’s not perfect! Maggie begs to differ on that statement!)
“What gives Bach and Mozart a place apart is that these two great composers never sacrificed form to expression. As high as their expression may soar, their musical form remains supreme and all-efficient.” – Camille Saint-Saens
“Mozart’s music is particularly difficult to perform. His admirable clarity exacts absolute cleanness: the slightest mistake in it stands out like black on white. It is music in which all the notes must be heard.” – Gabriel Faure
“The works of Mozart may be easy to read, but they are very difficult to interpret. The least speck of dust spoils them. They are clear, transparent, and joyful as a spring, and not only those muddy pools which seem deep only because the bottom cannot be seen.”
– Wanda Landowska
“The sonatas of Mozart are unique: too easy for children, too difficult for adults. Children are given Mozart to play because of the quantity of notes; grown-ups avoid him because of the quality of notes.” – Artur Schnabel
“I never heard so much content in so short a period.” – Pinchas Zukerman
Mozart’s Genius in One-sentence Phrases:
He composed his first piece at age 5 (watch it below).
He performed in front of the royal family at age 6.
He composed his first symphony at age 8.
He performed in London at the age of 9 – some thought his playing was too good for a child and suspected him of being a very small man.
He wrote the overture to Don Giovanni the day before (or possibly the morning of) the premiere!
In his short lifetime of 35 years, he wrote over 40 symphonies, 12 violin concertos, 22 operas, 26 string quartets, plus countless other works.
Stories about Mozart:
Apparently, Mozart was quite fond of animals! When he was growing up, he had a dog as well as a pet canary. In his grown-up years, he kept a starling and actually featured a tune the starling sang in his 17th piano concerto! He also liked to imitate cats, especially when he was rehearsing an opera with his singers. It is said that when he grew bored, he would begin leaping over tables and chairs while meowing. (Now that is a funny picture!) As an added Mozart-and-animals bonus, Mozart had a frog named after him – Eleutherodactylus Amadeus – in 1987!
When Mozart was 14, he and his father visited St. Peter’s Rome at Easter. While at St. Peter’s, the revered, almost “holy” Miserere by Allegri was performed. You must understand, this piece was only performed at Easter and the sheet music was closely guarded – only the musicians were given copies and they were under strict supervision. Anyway, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart heard the music one time and wrote the entire score down from memory after the performance. He returned later to St. Peter’s and fixed the few mistakes that he had made. The pope, instead of being furious at Mozart, was impressed – he even made Mozart a knight, of the Order of the Golden Spur!
One day, Mozart told Haydn that Haydn wouldn’t be able to play a piece which Mozart had written. Haydn sat at the harpsichord, began to play from the manuscript, then stopped abruptly. There was a note in the center of the keyboard while the right hand was playing in high treble and the left hand in the low bass.
“Nobody can play this with only two hands,” Haydn exclaimed.
“I can,” Mozart said quietly. When he reached the debated portion of his composition, he bent over and struck the central note with his nose.
“With a nose like yours,” Haydn conceded, “it becomes easier.”
(From Slonimsky’s Book of Musical Anecdotes, written by Nicolas Slonimsky)
“Once I went with your father after the Thursday service to your house, where we found Wolfgang, then four years old, busy with his pen.
Father: What are you doing?
Wolfgang: Writing a concerto for the clavier; it will soon be done.
Father: Let me see it.
Wolfgang: It’s not finished yet.
Father: Never mind; let me see it. It must be something very fine.
Your father took it from him and showed me a daub of notes, for the most part written over ink-blots. (The little fellow dipped his pen every time down to the very bottom of the ink-bottle, so that as soon as it reached the paper, down fell a blot; but that did not disturb him in the least, he rubbed the palm of his hand over it, wiped it off, and went on with his writing.) We laughed at first at this apparent nonsense, but then your father began to note the theme, the notes, the composition; his contemplation of the page became more earnest, and at last tears of wonder and delight fell from his eyes.
“Look, Herr Schachtner,” sad he, “how correct and how orderly it is; only it could never be of any use, for it is so extraordinarily difficult that no one in the world could play it. “
Then Wolfgang struck in, “That is why it is a concerto; it must be practiced till it is perfect; look, this is how it goes.”
He began to play, but could only bring out enough to show us what he meant by it. He had at that time a firm conviction that playing concertos and working miracles were the same thing.
(Letter to Mozart’s sister, Maria Anna, from Johann Andre Schanchtner, April 1792)
Fortunately for us, Mozart wrote lots of letters to his friends, family and wife. He kept up a particularly faithful correspondence with his father. Because of these letters we get a glimpse into Mozart’s character (and rather sardonic humor). So here’s a couple quotes from Mozart’s letters:
An astonishing number of kisses are flying about! I see a whole crowd of them. Ha! Ha! I have just caught three — They are delicious… I kiss you millions of times.
To Constanze Mozart, September 1790
Write to me and don’t be so lazy. Otherwise I shall have to give you a thrashing. What fun! I’ll break your head.
To his sister, June 1770
She’s only pretty in that she has two small black eyes and a good figure.
To Leopold Mozart, his opinion about Constanze, his future wife
The most stimulating and encouraging thought is that you, dearest father, and my dear sister, are well, that I am an honest German, and that if I am not always permitted to talk I can think what I please; but that is all.
Letter to Leopold Mozart, Paris, 29 April 1778
Well, above all else Mozart was a composer. So, it makes sense that I get to his most valued contributions – his music. Mozart wrote so many works, and each one is so unique that – it’s hard to put a list together of his most respected works. I did my best though; every video here is an intriguing piece and I love every one!
Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
Violin Concerto No. 3 (Side note: Hilary Hahn’s original cadenza at 7:19 is amazing!)
Symphony No. 40
Symphony No. 1 (Mozart wrote this when he was 8 years old)
The over-played Rondo Alla Turca gets its own twist when Yuja Wang plays it (you can watch the original here)!
Piano Sonata No 11 in A – Major, K.331 (The original Alla Turca is the 3rd movement of the Sonata.)
Overture to The Marriage of Figaro
The Violin Sonatas (particular favorites of mine)
Piano Sonata in B-flat major, K. 333
Piano Sonata in E-flat major, K 282, 1st movement.
Watch these videos to hear what Mozart’s own violin sounded like (it’s pretty amazing)!
The Detroit Symphony Orchestra just ended their Mozart Fest, but the before-the-program lectures about Mozart are available on YouTube. I highly suggest watching them!
I hope you enjoyed the post – I certainly had a lot of fun writing it! Do you have an intriguing bit of information about Mozart that you’d like to share? Do so in the comment section!