The Etude
Name the Composer . Etude Magazine Covers . Etude Magazine Ads & Images . Selected Etude Magazine Stories . About . Donate .


In Mozartland With Old Fogy

Salzburg, December 15, 1901.
 
Dear Mr. Editor: The Mozart number of The Etude has just reached up here in Mozart’s land, and to say that I devoured its contents at a sitting would be but the statement of a bare fact. Reading about Mozart and his music on the very ground he trod—I have seen, touched, wept over the stones worn away by his youthful feet—in the very room of his birth is quite a different experience from seeing the same articles in type in America. The written words of your contributors—all honor to them—are invested with deeper meanings here. As I toiled slowly up the steep stairs of the house No. 9 Getreidegasse—for my poor old bones are no longer sweetened by youth—I felt a glow within my bosom at the thought that above me was the floor on which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart first saw the light, first heard tone! I know this sounds old fashioned, I know that the unbosoming of a man’s dearest thoughts always runs the risk of ridicule; yet I cannot refrain from exposing my feelings, and thanking the Editor of The Etude for his sympathetic treatment of the greatest musician the world has yet known—Mozart.
 
mozart-fogy.jpgThe greatest? Yes, the greatest; greater than Bach, because less studied, less artificial, professional, and doctrinaire; greater than Beethoven, because Mozart’s was a blither, a more serene, spirit, and a spirit whose eyes had been anointed by beauty. Beethoven is not beautiful. He is dramatic, powerful, a maker of storms, a subduer of tempests; but his speech is the speech of a self-centered egotist. He is the father Of all the modern melomaniacs who, looking into their own souls, write what they see therein—misery, corruption, slighting selfishness, and ugliness. Beethoven, I say, was too near Mozart not to absorb some of his sanity, his sense of proportion, his glad outlook upon life; but the dissatisfied peasant in the composer of the Eroica, always in revolt, would not allow him tranquillity. Now is the fashion for soul hurricanes, these confessions of impotent wrath in music. Beethoven began this fashion; Mozart did not. Beethoven had himself eternally in view when he wrote. His music mirrors his wretched, though profound, soul; it also mirrors many weaknesses. I always remember Beethoven and Goethe standing side by side as some royal nobody—I forget the name—went by. Goethe doffed his bonnet and stood uncovered, head becomingly bowed. Beethoven folded his arms and made no obeisance. This anecdote, not an apochryphal one, is always hailed as an evidence of Beethoven’s sturdiness of character, his rank republicanism, while Goethe is slightly sniffed at for his snobbishness. Yet he was only behaving as a gentleman. If Mozart had been in Beethoven’s place, how courtly would have been the bow of the little, graceful Austrian composer! No, Beethoven was a boor, a clumsy one, and this quality abides in his music—for music is always the man. Put Beethoven in America in 1900 and he would have developed into a dangerous anarchist. Such a nature matures rapidly, and a century might have marked the evolution from a despiser of kings to a hater of all forms of restrictive government. But I’m getting in too deep, even for myself, and also far away from my original theme.
 
Suffice to say that Bach is pedantic when compared to Mozart, and Beethoven unbeautiful. Some day, and there are portents on the musical horizon, some day, I repeat, the reign of beauty in art will reassert its sway. Too long has Ugly been king, too long have we listened with half-cracked ear-drums to the noises of half-cracked men. Already the new generation is returning to Mozart—that is, to music for music’s sake, to the Beautiful.
 
I went to Salzburg deliberately. I needed a sight of the place, a glimpse of its romantic surroundings, to still my old pulse jangled out of tune by the horrors of Bayreuth. Yes, the truth must out. I went to Bayreuth at the express suggestion of my grandson, Old Fogy, 3d, a rip-roaring young blade who writes for a daily paper in your city. What he writes I know not. I only hope he lets music alone. He is supposed to be an authority on foot-ball and Russian caviar; his knowledge of the latter he acquired, so he says, in the great Thirst Belt of the United States. I sincerely hope that Philadelphia is not alluded to! I am also informed that the lad occasionally goes to concerts! Well, he begged me to visit Bayreuth just once before I died. We argued the thing all last June and July at Dussek Villa—you remember my little lodge up in the wilds of Wissahickon!—and at last was I, a sensible old fellow who should have known better, persuaded to sail across the sea to a horrible town, crowded with cheap tourists, vulgar with cheap musicians, and to hear what? Why, Wagner! There is no need of telling you again what I think of him. You know! I really think I left home to escape the terrible heat, and I am quite sure that I left Bayreuth to escape the terrible music. Apart from the fact that it was badly sung and played—who ever does play and sing this music well?—it was written by Wagner, and though I am not a prejudiced person—ahem!—I cannot stand noise for noise’s sake. Art for art they call it nowadays.
 
I fled Bayreuth. I reached Munich. The weather was warm, yet of a delightful balminess. I was happy. Had I not got away from Wagner, that odious, bourgeois name and man! Munich, I argued, is a musical city. It must be, for it is the second largest beer-drinking city in Germany. Therefore it is given to melody. Besides, I had read of Munich’s
 
model Mozart performances. Here, I cried, here will I revel in a lovely atmosphere of art. My German was rather rusty since my Weimar days, but I took my accent, with my courage, in both hands and asked a coachman to drive me to the opera-house. Through green and luscious lanes of foliage this dumpy, red-faced scoundrel drove; by the beautiful Isar, across the magnificent Maximilian bridge over against the classic façade of the Maximilineum. Twisting tortuously about this superb edifice, we tore along another leafy road lined on one side by villas, on the other bordered by a park. Many carriages by this time had joined mine in the chase. What a happy city, I reflected, that enjoys its Mozart with such unanimity! Turning to the right we went at a grand gallop past a villa that I recognized as the Villa Stuck from the old pictures I had seen; past other palaces until we reached a vast space upon which stood a marmoreal pile I knew to be the Mozart theater. What a glorious city is Munich, to thus honor its Mozart! And the building as I neared it resembled, on a superior scale, the Bayreuth barn. But this one was of marble, granite, gold, and iron. Up to the esplanade, up under the massive portico where I gave my coachman a tip that made his mean eyes wink. Then skirting a big beadle in blue, policemen, and loungers, I reached the box-office.
 
“Have you a stall?” I inquired. “Twenty marks” ($5.00) he asked in turn. Phew! I said aloud: “Mozart comes high, but we must have him.” So I fetched out my lean purse, fished up a gold piece, put it down, and then an inspiration overtook me—I kept one finger on the money. “Is it “Don Giovanni’ or ‘Magic Flute’ this afternoon?” I demanded. The man stared at me angrily. “What you talk about? It is ‘Tristan und Isolde.’ This is the new Wagner theater!” I must have yelled loudly, for when I recovered the big beadle was slapping my back and urging me earnestly to keep in the open air. And that is why I went to Salzburg!
 
Despite Bayreuth, despite Munich, despite Wagner, I was soon happy in the old haunts of the man whose music I adore. I went through the Mozart collection, saw all the old pictures, relics, manuscripts, and I reverently fingered the harpsichord, the grand piano of the master. Even the piece of “genuine Court Plaister” from London, and numbered 42 in the catalogue, interested me. After I had read the visitors’ book, inscribed therein my own humble signature, after talking to death the husband and wife who act as guardians of these Mozart treasures, I visited the Mozart platz and saw the statue, saw Mozart’s residence, and finally—bliss of bliss—ascended the Kapuzinberg to the Mozart cottage, where the “Magic Flute” was finished.
 
Later, several weeks later, when the Wagner municipal delirium had passed, I left Salzburg with a sad heart and returned to Munich. There I was allowed to bathe in Mozart’s music and become healed. I heard an excellent performance of his “Cosi Fan Tutti” at the Residenztheater, an ideal spot for this music. With the accompaniment of an orchestra of thirty, more real music was made and sung than the whole Ring Cycle contains. Some day, after my death, without doubt, the world will come back to my way of thinking, and purge its eyes in the Pierian spring of Mozart, cleanse its vision of all the awful sights walled by the dissonantal harmonies of Beethoven, Schumann, Wagner, and Richard Strauss.
 
I fear that this letter will enrage my grandson; I care not. If he writes, do not waste valuable space on his “copy.” I inclose a picture of Mozart that I picked up in Salzburg. If you like it, you have my permission to reproduce it. I am here once more in Mozartland!
 

<< Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, January 27, 1756-December 5, 1791.     Josef Hofmann on Piano Practice and Technic >>

Monthly Archives

The Publisher of The Etude Will Supply Anything In Music