“Mozart - His Life in Letters”
While the whole world knows Mozart the genius, the person Mozart remains strangely enigmatic and difficult to grasp. What was Mozart, the child, the man, the human being like - in his everyday life, in his relationships? Gloria Kaiser, a writer living in Austria and Brazil, does not attempt to answer these questions by writing just another biography. Instead, she allows Mozart to speak for himself through his correspondence which she has analyzed in meticulous archival work. Her book, Mozart - Perspectives from his Correspondence, which was recently presented at the Embassy of Austria in cooperation with the “American-Austrian Society,” not only traces the development of Mozart’s personality but also gives an idea of life in 18th century Europe.
It seems to be paradoxical that Mozart is presented as a writer of letters, for the whole world knows of his genius as a composer of great music. After all, encyclopedias and lexica are filled with listings of his works and with interpretations and reviews.
“I cannot write poetically - I am not a poet. I cannot organize the expressions so that they yield shadows and light - I am not a painter. I cannot express my convictions and my thoughts through interpretation and through pantomime - I am not a dancer. But I can express my thoughts through sounds, for I am a musician.” That was written by the twenty-one year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart to his father in November of 1777.
Mozart was surely not aware of how meaningful his writings would be to the ensuing ages by connecting his musical opus with some of the most significant phases of his life. In September 1788, he wrote to his wife Constanze after his six-month-old daughter Theresia had died:”The Lord God took our little Reserl to himself. Suddenly that light was extinguished. I cannot find any words for it. I wrote a symphony for our little girl, so that she will have a good time in heaven…,” Therefore, when we hear the Jupiter symphony (C major, No. 551 in the Köchel Catalogue of Mozart’s works), we should never forget that Mozart composed this wonderful music during a time of great personal mourning.
Apart from the insight into his personal life, Mozart’s correspondence also sheds light on aspects of his artistic work, including the significant role of his librettist and mentor Lorenzo Da Ponte. He wrote the libretti for Le nozze di Figaro and Don Giovanni, among others. In 1805 Da Ponte emigrated to New York where he was a professor of Italian language and literature at Columbia College. He made it his life’s goal to introduce Mozart’s music to the United States and on May 26, 1826, Don Giovanni was performed for the first time in New York.
Mozart’s correspondence also gives an idea of the developments occurring in Europe from 1760 to 1790, and reveals his critical mind when he reports about Rome and Pope Clement XIV or about Paris and Marie Antoinette. They show him as an amiable teacher when instructing the seventeen-year-old Beethoven.
As is true of every individual, Mozart was a man of many personae: the obedient son, the audacious cousin, the concerned brother and the loving husband. He was a friend to many but above all an artist who fought for his freedom and who did not allow himself to be diminished. He also had to perform many mundane duties, was dependent upon commissions, suffered through many intrigues, and was a supplicant for money. All his life he was a traveler and a cosmopolitan.
He lived in anticipation of what was to come and was quite concerned with final things, including the life beyond. In September of 1791 he wrote to Constanze: “I have no fear of Cousin Death. At the gate to the other, to the better world, there he stands, and beyond it is only happiness. His image has nothing terrifying for me, only a calming and comforting influence…” Two and a half months after that letter Mozart died, shortly before his 36th birthday. For Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, as for every genius, a different way of measuring time prevailed; phases of life and creativity were condensed and intense. For this reason his music is not bound to time or place but reaches everyone.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
(1756 - 1791)
“Perspectives from his Correspondence”
by Gloria Kaiser
English Translation by Lowell A. Bangerter
Ariadne Press, Riverside, CA
Gloria Kaiser was born in Köflach, Styria, in 1950. She lives in Graz, Austria and San Salvador, Brazil, where she works for cultural exchange, and spends the winter months in her second homeland. She is a writer of historical novels and a researcher at many libraries including the Library of Congress, the American Philosophical Society in Philadelphia, and the Biblioteca Nacional in Rio de Janeiro. Her novels translated into English include Dona Leopoldina (1998), Pedro II of Brazil (2000), and Saudade. The Life and Death of Queen Maria Glória of Lusitania (2005). A member of the PEN organization, she has been awarded many literary prizes.