Produced by David Widger
LIFE OF MOZART
By Otto Jahn.
Translated from The German by Pauline D. Townsend.
With A Preface by George Grove, Esq., D.C.L.
In Three Volumes Vol. II.
London Novello, Ewer & Co.
|Volume I.||Volume III.|
CHAPTER XVIII. FRENCH OPERA.
MOZART and his mother left Mannheim on March 14, and arrived in Paris on the 23rd, after a journey of nine days and a-half. “We thought we should never get through it,” writes Wolfgang (March 24, 1778), 1 “and I never in my life was so tired. You can imagine what it was to leave Mannheim and all our dear, good friends there, and to be obliged to exist for ten days without a single soul even to speak to. God be praised, however, we are now at our journey’s end. I am in hopes that, with His help, all will go well. To-day we mean to take a fiacre and go to call on Grimm and Wendling. Early to-morrow I shall go to the Electoral Minister Herr von Sickingen, who is a great connoisseur and lover of music, and to whom I have letters of introduction from Herr von Gemmingen and Herr Cannabich.” L. Mozart was full of hope concerning this visit to Paris, and believed that Wolfgang could not fail to gain fame and, as a consequence, money in the French capital. He remembered the brilliant reception which had been given to him and his children fourteen years before, and he was convinced that a like support would be accorded to the youth who had fulfilled his early promise to a degree that to an intelligent observer must appear even more wonderful than his precocious performances as a child. He counted upon the support and assistance of many distinguished and influential persons, whose favour they had already experienced, and more especially on the tried friendship of Grimm, who had formerly given them the benefit of all his knowledge and power, and with whom they had continued in connection ever since. Grimm had lately passed through Salzburg with two FRENCH OPERA. friends, and was pleased to hear his “Amadeo,” as he called Wolfgang. He chanced to arrive at Augsburg on the evening of Wolfgang’s concert there, and was present at it without making himself known, since he was in haste, and had heard that Wolfgang was on his way to Paris. L. Mozart, who placed great confidence in Grimm’s friendship and experience, had made no secret to him of his precarious position in Salzburg, and of how greatly Wolfgang was in need of support; he commended his son entirely to Grimm’s favour (April 6, 1778):—
I recommend you most emphatically to endeavour by childlike confidence to merit, or rather to preserve, the favour, love, and friendship of the Baron von Grimm; to take counsel with him on every point, and to do nothing hastily or from impulse; in all things be careful of your own interests, which are those of us all. Life in Paris is very different from life in Germany, and the French ways of expressing oneself politely, of introducing oneself, of craving patronage, &c., are quite peculiar; so much so, that Baron von Grimm used always to instruct me as to what I should say, and how I should express myself. Be sure you tell him, with my best compliments, that I have reminded you of this, and he will tell you that I am right.
But, clever as he was, L. Mozart had miscalculated on several points. He did not reflect that Grimm had grown older, more indolent, and more stately, and that even formerly a tact and obsequiousness had been required in order to turn the great man’s friendship to account, which, natural as they were to himself, his son never did and never would acquire. He had not sufficiently realised that the attention of the public is far more easily attracted by what is strange and wonderful, than by the greatest intellectual and artistic endowments. This was peculiarly the case in Paris, where interest in musical performances only mounted to enthusiasm when some unusual circumstance accompanied them. True, such enthusiasm was at its height at the time of Mozart’s visit, but his father could not see that this very fact was against a young man who had so little of the art of ingratiating himself with others. To us it must ever appear as an extraordinary coincidence that Mozart, fresh from Mannheim, and the efforts there being made for the establishment of a national German opera, should have come to Paris at LULLY, 1652-1687. the very height of the struggle between Italian opera and the French opera, as reformed by Gluck, a struggle which appeared to be on the point of being fought out. In neither case did his strong feelings on the subject tempt him to take an active part; he maintained the attitude of a neutral observer, in preparation for the tasks to which he might be appointed.