Mozart's Likes: Eight Random Things The Composer Couldn't Resist
Monday, November 11, 2013
If Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had a Facebook page, here are a few things you might find at the top of his list of "likes."
Mozart liked billiards and was apparently very good at it. He played often with his friend, the Irish tenor Michael Kelly, and almost always won. (Kelly sang Don Basilio and Don Curzio in the first performance of Figaro in 1786). When he couldn’t find a partner he would play by himself as he indicates in this 1791 letter to his wife. The opera he refers to is The Magic Flute: "As soon as you were gone I played two games of billiards with Herr von Mozart who wrote the opera for Schickaneder’s theatre…then I had [my servant] bring a black coffee, to which I smoked a glorious pipe of tobacco…”
A billiard table with five balls and 12 cues was among Mozart's estate when he died in 1791.
2. J.S. Bach
Mozart loved Bach’s music. He made arrangements for strings of several fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier and composed original preludes to go with each.
3. His Pets
Mozart composed this string quartet in August 1773 around the time he wrote a letter to his sister, in which he sends regards to his dog, a fox-terrier named Pimperl: "How is Miss Bimbes? Please present all manner of compliments to her.”
The composer also had a pet starling who could apparently sing the opening theme of the finale of Piano Concerto No. 17, K. 453. Next to his 1784 record of the purchase of the bird in his expense book, Mozart jotted down this theme and wrote “That was fine!” as he had apparently taught the bird this melody. (Although he did indicate that the bird sang one wrong note.) When the starling died, Mozart composed a heartfelt poem in its memory.
It has also been suggested that A Musical Joke (K. 522) was a direct copy of his beloved starling's meandering song.
Mozart loved liver dumplings with sauerkraut. On Feb. 17, 1770, Leopold Mozart wrote from Milan to his wife, Anna Maria:
"If one does not ruin one's health through undisciplined and excessive eating and drinking, etc., and has no other internal constitutional disorders, there is nothing to worry about. We are in God's hands wherever we are. Wolfgang will not ruin his health by eating and drinking. He is fat and in good health, and is merry and cheerful all day long."
5. His Mom, Anna Maria
He once wrote to her, “I kiss your hand 100,000 times. I can’t fit any more zeros on the page.” He didn’t compose the 12 variations on "Ah vous dirai-je, Maman" (K. 265) for her, but may have learned the tune during the time he was living in Paris with her. (Right: The Mozart family around 1780.)
6. Word play and riddles
Around the time he composed his opera, Der Schauspieldirektor (The Impresario), Mozart wrote a sequence of riddles that became so popular they were published in a national newspaper. In his letters, he wrote anagrams, wrote in code, and made up sophisticated riddles.
The Symphony No. 33, like the many others written when Mozart lived in Salzburg, has no clarinets in the wind scoring, because the orchestra in Salzburg had no clarinets. When Mozart discovered this instrument on tour he wrote to his father: “Ah, if we too had clarinets! You can’t conceive what a wonderful effect a symphony with flutes, oboes, and clarinets make!”
Some of his most beautiful pieces, such as the Clarinet Quintet and Concerto, were written for the clarinetist Anton Stadler.
8. Jokes - Mozart loved jokes and all kinds of humor, much of it quite bawdy. In the Minuetto and Trio movements of The Musical Joke he shows how performances can go awry, with passages evidently designed to mimic the effects of inaccurate notation and inept playing. Other pieces speak for themselves: