The Letters of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart — Volume 01

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In Two Volumes. Vol. I.

By Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Translated, From The Collection Of Ludwig Nohl, By Lady Wallace

With A Portrait And Facsimile

New York and Philadelphia: 1866.









A full and authentic edition of Mozart’s Letters ought to require no special apology; for, though their essential substance has already been made known by quotations from biographies by Nissen, Jahn, and myself, taken from the originals, still in these three works the letters are necessarily not only very imperfectly given, but in some parts so fragmentary, that the peculiar charm of this correspondence—namely, the familiar and confidential mood in which it was written at the time—is entirely destroyed. It was only possible to restore, and to enable others to enjoy this charm—a charm so novel, even to those already conversant with Mozart’s life, that the most familiar incidents acquire fresh zest from it—by an ungarbled edition of these letters. This is what I now offer, feeling convinced that it will be welcome not only to the mass of Mozart’s admirers, but also to professional musicians; for in them alone is strikingly set forth how Mozart lived and labored, enjoyed and suffered, and this with a degree of vivid and graphic reality which no biography, however complete, could ever succeed in giving. Who does not know the varied riches of Mozart’s life? All that agitated the minds of men in that day—nay, all that now moves, and ever will move, the heart of man—vibrated with fresh pulsation, and under the most manifold forms, in his sensitive soul, and mirrored itself in a series of letters, which indeed rather resemble a journal than a correspondence.

This artist, Nature had gifted in all respects with the most clear and vigorous intellect that ever man possessed. Even in a language which he had not so fully mastered as to acquire the facility of giving expression to his ideas, he contrived to relate to others all that he saw and heard, and felt and thought, with surprising clearness and the most charming sprightliness, combined with talent and good feeling. Above all, in his letters to his father when travelling, we meet with the most minute delineations of countries and people, of the progress of the fine arts, especially in the theatres and in music; we also see the impulses of his own heart and a hundred other things which, in fascination, and universal as well as artistic interest, have scarcely a parallel in our literature. The style may fail to a certain degree in polish, that is, in definite purpose in expressing what he wished to say in an attractive or congenial form,—an art, however, which Mozart so thoroughly understood in his music. His mode of writing, especially in the later letters from Vienna, is often very slovenly, evidencing how averse the Maestro was to the task. Still these letters are manifestly the unconstrained, natural, and simple outpourings of his heart, delightfully recalling to our minds all the sweetness and pathos, the spirit and grace, which have a thousand times enchanted us in the music of Mozart. The accounts of his visit to Paris may, indeed, lay claim to a certain aesthetic value, for they are written throughout with visible zest in his own descriptions, and also with wit, and charm, and characteristic energy. As these combined merits can only become apparent by an ungarbled series of the letters, I have resolved, after many long years of zealous research in collecting them, to undertake the work,—that is, to publish the letters entire that have come to my knowledge.

It now only remains for me to give some words of explanation as to the method I have pursued in editing them.

In the first place, this edition, (being transcribed closely from the originals,) if compared with the letters already published, will prove that the latter are open to many corrections, both in trivial and more important respects. I have forborne, however, attracting attention to the deviations from the original text, either in Nissen or Jahn. I have no wish to be punctilious about trifles, where, as in the case of Jahn, the principal points are correct. Further, by this faithful production of the letters, (nothing being omitted but the constant repetition of forms of greeting and subscription,) we find many an additional feature in the Maestro’s life, and chiefly various facts with regard to the creation and publication of his works, which may serve to complete and to amend various statements in Dr. Ludwig Ritter von Kochel’s “Chronological Thematic Catalogue of the Musical Compositions of W. A. Mozart,” (Leipzig, Breitkopf and Hartel). This will be effected not only by the hitherto unpublished letters, though comparatively few in number, but also by passages being given in full, which have been hitherto suppressed as of no consequence. I have referred to Nissen and Jahn only when, in spite of all my inquiries, I could not discover the proprietor of the original, or procure a correct copy.

I must also remark that all letters without a special address are written to his father. I have only adhered to Mozart’s defective orthography in his few letters of early date, and in the rest adopted the more modern fashion. I did so for this simple reason, that these defects form a charm in his juvenile letters, from being in accordance with their boyish contents, while, with regard to the others, they only tend to distract the attention from the substance of the letters, instead of imparting additional interest to them. Biographers can, and ought always to render faithfully the original writing, because quotations alternate with the text of the biographer; but in a regular and uninterrupted series of letters this attraction must be very sparingly used, or it will have a pernicious effect.

The explanatory remarks, and also the supplementary Lexicon, in which I have availed myself of Jahn’s catalogue, will make the letters more intelligible to the world at large. The Index, too, has been most carefully prepared to facilitate references.

Lastly, I return my best thanks to the keeper of the Archives of the Mozarteum in Salzburg, to Herr Jellinck, and to all the librarians and collectors of autographs who have assisted me in my task, either by furnishing me with copies of their Mozart letters, or by letting me know where I could procure them. I would also earnestly request all who may possess any Mozart letters to send me an exact transcript of them in the interest of Art; for those here given allude to many still unknown, which are no doubt scattered about here and there, waiting to be brought to light.

With respect to myself, the best reward I aspire to in return for the many sacrifices this collection has cost me, is, that my readers may do justice to the purpose which chiefly guided me throughout this publication,—my desire being not merely to benefit science, and to give a graphic description of the amiability and purity of heart which so distinguished this attractive man, (for such was my aim in my “Life of Mozart,”) but above all to draw attention afresh to the unremitting zeal with which Mozart did homage to every advance in Art, striving to make music more and more the interpreter of man’s innermost being. I also wished to show how much his course was impeded by the sluggishness and stupidity of the multitude, though partly sustained by the sympathy of kindred souls, till the glorious victory was won over routine and imbecility. Amidst all the fatiguing process of copying and collating letters already so familiar to me, these considerations moved me more vividly than ever; and no work on the Maestro can ever bring them with such force before the intelligent reader as this connected succession of letters, containing his own details of his unwearied artistic struggles and productions. May these letters, then, kindle fresh zeal in our artists of the present day, both in youthful genius and in laurel-crowned Maestri!—especially may they have the happiest influence on those who devote themselves to that phase of Art in which Mozart attained the highest renown!—may they impart that energetic courage which is derived from the experience that incessant efforts for the progress of Art and its appliances enlarge the limits of human intellect, and can alone insure an immortal crown!


MUNICH, October 1, 1864.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg on the 17th January, 1756. His father, Leopold Mozart, belonged to a respectable tradesman’s family in the free city of Augsburg. Conscious of being gifted with no small portion of intellectual endowments, he followed the impulse that led him to aim at a higher position in life, and went to the then celebrated University of Salzburg in order to study jurisprudence. As he did not, however, at once succeed in procuring employment in this profession, he was forced, from his straitened means, to enter the service of Canon Count Thun as valet. Subsequently, however, his talents, and that thorough knowledge of music by which he had already (according to the custom of many students) gained some part of his livelihood, obtained for him a better position. In the year 1743 he was received into the band (Kapelle) of the Salzburg cathedral by Archbishop Sigismund; and as his capabilities and fame as a violinist increased, the same Prince shortly afterwards promoted him to the situation of Hof-Componist (Court Composer) and leader of the orchestra, and in 1762 he was appointed Hof-Kapellmeister (conductor of the Court music).

In 1747 Leopold Mozart married Anna Maria Pertlin, a foster-child of the Convent of St. Gilgen. The fruits of this marriage were seven children, two of whom alone survived,—Maria Anna, (the fourth), called Nannerl, born in 1751; and the youngest, Wolfgang Amadeus Johannes Chrysostomus. The daughter at a very early age displayed a most remarkable talent for music, and when her father began to give her instructions in it, an inborn and passionate love of this art was soon evident in her little brother of three years old, who at once gave tokens of a degree of genius far surpassing all experience, and really bordering on the marvellous. In his fourth year he could play all sorts of little pieces on the piano. He only required half an hour to learn a minuet, and one hour for a longer movement; and in his fifth year he actually composed some pretty short pieces, several of which are still extant.

[Footnote: The Grand Duchess Helene Paulowna, a few weeks ago, made a present to the Mozarteum of the music-book from which Mozart learned music, and in which he wrote down his first compositions.]

The wonderful acquirements of both these children, to which Wolfgang soon added skilful playing on the violin and organ, induced their father to travel with them. In January, 1702, when the boy was just six years old, they went first to Munich, and in the autumn to Vienna, the children everywhere on their journey exciting the greatest sensation, and being handsomely remunerated. Leopold Mozart, therefore, soon afterwards resolved to undertake a longer journey, accompanied by his whole family. This lasted more than three years, extending from the smaller towns in West Germany to Paris and London, while they visited, on their way back, Holland, France, and Switzerland. The careful musical instruction which the father perseveringly bestowed on his son, went hand in hand with the most admirable education, and the boy was soon as universally beloved for his amiable disposition and natural simplicity and candor, as admired for his rare gifts and acquirements.

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