Mozart, 1762-1770 . An excerpt from: “Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven”, 2nd ed., by Prof. Dr. C. Krebs. (p.40-42). (Druck und Verlag von B.G. Teubner in Leipzig und Berlin 1913.)
By 1762, Nannerl and Wolfgang had advanced so far, their father decided to make their unusual talents more widely known. Concert excursions to Munich and Vienna enjoyed great success. In light of this, a larger journey was planned, despite risks, for the following year.
It is worth noting such concert trips at the time largely involved royal courts. A public concert life as currently found did not exist; or was only known in limited forms. These limited types involved musical circles, or amateur concerts. Sometimes foreign virtuosos appeared in these events. Solo concerts were rare. Thus the Mozart children also appeared mainly before royalty or other nobility.
This longer journey led through a series of smaller residences, then to a group of concerts in Mainz and Frankfurt; on to Paris, London; then through Holland. Both Wolfgang and Maria Anna became very ill there. The group returned to Paris, and finally, in November 1766, traveled through Switzerland and back to Salzburg.
The success was enormous. If Maria Anna’s deft keyboard performance was admired, even more was Wolfgang’s extraordinary musical ability seen, in addition to his technical command. For at age eight or nine, he executed musical tasks which were difficult for grown musicians. He accompanied any chamber music at the piano, a more challenging task in the 18th century than today. This follows from the keyboard performer as provided only with one voice over bass notes, so required to freely invent the accompaniment. Wolfgang barely needed the bass parts. Once he accompanied a singer in an aria he did not know only by hearing – with hesitation the first time through, and with security the second. With the aria thus firmly known, he went on to play the melody several times with continual variations in the accompaniment. Mozart transposed works into any key, improvised with imagination; in short, showed an “inner musicality,” not just artificial performance preparation.
Wolfgang’s first works appeared in print on this trip also: in Paris, four sonatas for violin and piano; in London, six more sonatas for piano and violin (or flute). The first symphonies were composed in London too. If recent studies have shown these youthful works, especially the sonatas, lean heavily on French models — or, at least on artists in Paris like Eckard or Schobert — it is also true Wolfgang assimilated and revised them with remarkable security.
The return to Salzburg lasted only about one year. This time was used for industrious study and composition. Then the father and the entire family travelled to Vienna, where he hoped Wolfgang’s gifts would have a dazzling effect. He was disappointed with the results. The children were received by the court, again, in a friendly way. The emperor proposed for Wolfgang to compose an Opera buffa, “La finta semplice”. This performance was supported also by the theatre director. However, as the work was finished, intrigues against the performance began: from musicians, who already feared Wolfgang as a competitor; from the public, under the influence of the musicians; from singers shying away from the general negativity surrounding the opera; and finally, from an orchestra not wanting to play under the leadership of a twelve year old boy. Performance plans were suspended.
Yet Mozart was artistically rehabilitated, as he was selected to compose the dedication music for the newly built Orphanage Church (mass, offertorium, and trumpet concerto). A performance on December 7, 1768 occurred “with widely shared admiration and applause, performed and directed by the composer with immense skill.” With this he had the satisfaction of a private performance of a short Singspiel [Opera with spoken dialogue], “Bastien und Bastienne”. (The original text was by J.J. Rousseau, the basis for his opera “Le Devin du Village”; which became the basis for a parody by Favart, adapted further by Weiskern.) Yet this could not compensate the father for maintaining the family for months in Vienna, with little income, drawing on savings from earlier concert travels.
Again after a brief pause, travel continued. They headed for Italy, an area still famous for its brilliantly developed church music and opera, where art richly filled the air. Every composer or virtuoso wanted strongly to find approval with this public, so understanding and enthusiastic in its musical life. So although Wolfgang was named concertmaster for the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1769, in December that year father and son left this city. They went via Innsbruck and Mantua, arriving in Milan during January of 1770. This became their first extended stay. It was also the beginning of the journey’s triumphs, gathered in series as links of a chain. […]
(Translation by Edward Eggleston.)