Here’s to you some anecdotes about the composer Mozart.
One day, when he was plunged in a profound reverie, he heard a carriage stop at his door. A stranger was announced, who requested to speak with him. A person was introduced, handsomely dressed, of dignified and impressive manners. “I have been commissioned, sir, by a man of considerable importance, to call upon you.”—“Who is he?” interrupted Mozart. “He does not wish to be known.”— “Well, what does he want?” —“He has just lost a person whom he tenderly loved, and whose memory will be eternally dear to him. He is desirous of annually commemorating this mournful event by a solemn service, for which he requests you to compose a requiem.”—Mozart was forcibly struck by this discourse, by the grave manner in which it was uttered, and by the air of mystery in which the whole was involved. He engaged to write the requiem. The stranger continued, “Employ all your genius on this work; it is destined for a connoisseur.”—”So much the better.”— “What time do you require?”—“A month.”— “Very well; in a month’s time I shall return—what price do you set on your work?”— “A hundred ducats.” The stranger counted them on the table, and disappeared.
Mozart remained lost in thought for some time: he then suddenly called for pen, ink, and paper, and, in spite of his wife’s entreaties, began to write. This rage for composition continued several days; he wrote day and night, with an ardour which seemed continually to increase; but his constitution, already in a state of great debility, was unable to support this enthusiasm; one morning he fell senseless, and was obliged to suspend his work. Two or three days after, when his wife sought to divert his mind from the gloomy presages which occupied it, he said to her abruptly, “It is certain that I am writing this requiem for myself; it will serve for my funeral service.” Nothing could remove this impression from his mind.
Mozart and Haydn
One day, Mozart taunted Haydn that the latter would never be able to play a piece which Mozart had just 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 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 wih his nose.
“With a nose like yours,” Haydn conceded, “it becomes easier.”
Young Mozart Anecdotes
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)
Mozart and Beethoven
Beethoven arrived in Vienna in the spring of 1787 as a youth of great promise and was taken to play before Mozart. Assuming that his music was a showpiece specially prepared for the occasion, Mozart responded coolly. Beethoven begged him to state a theme on which he could improvise and began playing as if inspired by the Master’s presence, Mozart became engrossed. Finally he rejoined his friends in the next room and pronounced emphatically, “Keep your eyes on that young man. Some day he will give the world something to talk about.”