From ECO Trumpet, and host of Classics on WQLN Radio,
The sensitive side of Mozart in his own words.
Generally, based on the stories we’ve all been told, when asked to describe Mozart a few thoughts probably come to mind:
Precocious child prodigy? Prankster?
Yes, he was both of these things and more. He behaved like a child throughout his life. He had a fondness for jokes, pranks and “scatological humor” and he loved fashion and dancing. But did you know he was also a sensitive soul who loved his family, his pets and most deeply of all, his wife?
We know plenty about Mozart because of the letters he wrote. Mozart would often correspond with his family while he was on the road and the family pet, a dog named Bimperl, was often the subject!
In a letter dated August 21, 1773, Mozart wrote to his sister:
How is Miss Bimbes? Please present all manner of compliments to her.
In an October 1777 letter from Leopold (Mozart’s father) to Wolfgang, we read:
As the weather is fine, your sister and I take an early walk every day with our faithful Bimperl, who is in splendid trim and only becomes very sad and obviously most anxious when we are both out of the house, for then she thinks that because she has lost you two, she is now going to lose us as well. So when we went to the ball and she saw us masked, she refused to leave Mitzerl, and, when we got home, she was so overjoyed that I thought she would choke. Moreover, when we were out, she would not stay on her bed in the room, but remained lying on the ground outside the porter’s door. She would not sleep, but kept on moaning, wondering, I suppose, whether we should ever return.
Then, while Mozart was writing and rehearsing Idomoneo, K. 366, in 1780, he wrote to his father:
Give Pimperl a pinch of Spanish snuff, a good wine-biscuit, and three busses (kisses).
Mozart’s Sister, Nannaerl was often the recipient of his correspondence:
“Nannerl”, Wolfgang, Anna Maria and Leopold
…I only wish that my sister were in Rome, for this town would certainly please her, as St. Peter’s church and many other things in Rome are regular. The most beautiful flowers are now being carried past in the street—so Papa has just told me. I am a fool, as everyone knows. Oh, I am having a hard time, for in our rooms there is only one bed and so Mamma can well imagine that I get no sleep with Papa……I have just now drawn St. Peter with his keys and with him St. Paul with his sword and St. Luke with my sister and so forth. I have had the honor of kissing St. Peter’s foot in St. Peter’s church and as I have the misfortune to be so small, I, that same old dunce, had to be lifted up.
Here is another from 1772:
I hope you are well, my dear sister. When you receive this letter, my dear sister, my opera will be being performed that same evening. Think of me, my dear sister, and do your best to imagine, my dear sister, that you are watching and hearing it too, my dear sister…That reminds me, do you know what happened here today? I’ll tell you. We left Count Firmian’s to go home and when we reached our street, we opened the front door and what do you suppose happened then? We went in. Goodbye, my little lung. I embrace you, my liver, and remain, my stomach, ever your unworthy brother,
Please, my dear sister, something is biting me – please scratch me.
Mozart and his wife spent 10 happy years together and they were obviously, truly in love! On April 13, 1789, Wolfgang wrote a letter to Constanze, his wife describing all the silly things he would do with her little portrait while he was traveling:
If I were to tell you all the things that I do with your portrait, you would laugh heartily. For instance when I take it out of its prison house I say “God bless you, Stanzerl! God bless you, you little rascal, — Krallerballer — Sharpnose — little Bagatelle!” And when I put it back I let it slip down slowly and gradually and say “Nu, — Nu, — Nu, — Nu;” but with the emphasis which this highly significant word demands, and at the last, quickly: “Good-night, little Mouse, sleep well!” Now, I suppose, I have written down a lot of nonsense (at least so the world would think); but for us, who love each other so tenderly, it isn’t altogether silly.
He also wrote this lovely, heartbreaking letter to Constanze on July 7, 1791:
You cannot imagine how slowly time goes when you are not with me! I can’t describe the feeling; there is a sort of sense of emptiness, which hurts — a certain longing which cannot be satisfied, and hence never ends, but grows day by day. When I remember how childishly merry we were in Baden, and what mournful, tedious hours I pass here, my work gives me no pleasure, because it is not possible as was my wont, to chat a few words with you when stopping for a moment. If I go to the Clavier and sing something from the opera [Die Zauberflöte] I must stop at once because of my emotions. — Basta!
The next time you listen to Mozart, try to look past the notes, try to look past the stories you’ve been told and into the soul of a genius. You may find he is strikingly human.
(Letter excerpts taken from the blog Mozart’s Music. You can find it on Blogspot.com. You may also be interested in the book, MOZART, The Man and the Artist Revealed in His Own Words by Frederich Kerst)
Tune in to 91.3 FM WQLN weekdays from 9am-1pm for Classics with Brian Hannah.