Imatges de pÓgina

premature skill in infancy. Among these means may be enumerated the confinement and restraint both of body and mind, necessary to produce early mechanical dexterity of execution upon a difficult instrument; and public applause, which is too apt to make the pupil careless or conceited, and to lead him to imagine that he has little more to learn. From that moment his improvement is at an end; and when the years of childhood are passed, and the charms of novelty forgotten, his mind is become incapable of the habits of abstraction and study, on which alone his progress in science must depend. These speculations we shall however leave for the consideration of philosophers, to whom the facts contained in the history of the early years of Mozart, may perhaps present interesting subjects of inquiry.

When Mozart was only three years old, his father, an excellent musician at Saltzburg, first discovered his instinct, as it may almost be called, for music. His delight was to seek for thirds on the piano forte, and nothing could equal his joy when he had discovered this harmonious chord. When four years old, his father began to teach him almost in sport, some minuets and other pieces of music, an occupation as agreeable to the master as to the pupil. The child would learn a minuet in half an hour, and immediately afterwards play it with the greatest clearness, and perfectly in time. At five years of age, he played little pieces of his own invention; these his father used to write down, in order to encourage his rising talent, and he one day found Mozart himself busily employed in writing (a child hardly five years old!)

"What are you doing there, my little fellow?" said he, "I am composing a concerto for the harpsichord, and have almost got to the end of the first part." "Let us see this fine scrawl!" "No, I have not yet finished it." The father, however, took the paper, and shewed his friend a sheet full of notes which could scarcely be decyphered for the blots of ink. The two friends at first laughed heartily at this heap of scribbling; but after the father had looked at it with more attention, his eyes were fastened on the paper, and at length overflowed with tears of joy and wonder. "Look, my friend," said he, with a smile of delight, "every thing is composed according to the rules. It is a pity that the piece cannot be made any use of; but it is too difficult, nobody would be able to play it." "It is a concerto," replied the son, 66 and must be studied till it can be properly played. This is the style in which it ought to be executed." He accordingly began to play; but succeeded only so far as to give them an idea of what he had intended.'

This, if correctly told, is perhaps one of the most extraordinary anecdotes in the history of the human mind; that a child should, as it were intuitively, combine a series of musical passages according to the rules of composition, which it is impossible he could have learned, except from his own observation of what pleased the ear,

while he only failed from unavoidable ignorance of the mechanical part of the instrument on which his ideas were to be expressed. And now begins the public part of his education. When he was only six years old, his father, who had relinquished all other occupations, that he might devote his whole attention to his two children, made a tour to the courts of Munich and Vienna, in order to exhibit the infunt prodigy, who, with his sister, performed duetts upon the same piano forte. Of his exhibitions in Vienna before the Emperor Francis the First, the following characteristic anecdotes are preserved:

Francis remarked, that it was not very difficult to play on the harpsichord with all his fingers, but that to play with one only, without seeing the keys, would indeed be extraordinary.' Mozart, not at all surprized by this strange proposition, requested that the keys might be covered, and immediately played with one finger only, with as much clearness and precision as if he had long practised it.

From his earliest years, his mind, while at the piano forte, was so absorbed by music, that he paid little attention to the flattering praises of the great, however high their rank; and if they did not thoroughly understand music, he only played trifling pieces for their amusement; but whenever a connoisseur was present, he displayed all his powers; and when desired to play in the emperor's presence, he asked his majesty, 'Is not Mr. Wagenseil here? We must send for him; he understands the thing.' The emperor sent for Wagenseil, and gave up his place to him by the side of the piano forte. Sir,' said Mozart to the composer, I am going to play one of your concertos; you must turn over the leaves for me.'

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Many years afterwards, the Emperor Joseph the Second, who pretended to be a connoisseur in all the fine arts, ventured to criticize Mozart's Opera of L'Enlèvement du Sérail, saying, 'My dear Mozart, this is too fine for my ears, there are too many notes.' 'I beg your Majesty's pardon,' replied Mozart drily, there are just as many as are necessary.'

During his stay at Vienna, somebody had given him a small violin, with which he used to amuse himself; and soon after his return to Saltzburg, Wenzel, who had lately composed some new trios, wished to play them with old Mozart and his friend Schachtner. The latter has related the following anecdote upon this subject.

The father played the bass, Wenzel the first violin, and I was to play the second. Mozart requested permission to play the last part; but his father reproved him for his childish demand, observing, that as he had never received any regular lessons on the violin, he could not possibly play it properly. The son replied, that it did not appear to

him necessary to receive lessons, in order to play the second violin. His father, half angry at the reply, told him to go away, and not interrupt us. Mozart was so hurt at this, that he began to cry bitterly. As he was going away with his little violin, I begged that he might play with me, and the father, with much difficulty, consented. "Well," said he, "play very softly, and do not let yourself be heard, or I shall send you out directly." We began the trio, little Mozart playing with me, but I soon perceived with the greatest astonishment, that I was perfectly useless. Without saying any thing, I laid down my violin and looked at the father, who shed tears of affection at the sight. The child played all the six trios in the same manner; and the commendations we gave him made him pretend that he could play the first violin. To humour him, we let him try, and could not forbear laughing to hear him execute this part, very imperfectly it is true, but still so as never to be set fast.' So exquisite were Mozart's feelings, that he could distinguish and point out the slightest differences of sound, and every false or even rough note was highly painful to him. Till he had attained his tenth year, he had a horror of the sound of the trumpet, except when blended with that of other instruments. This antipathy his father tried to conquer, by causing that instrument to be blown in his presence. But at the first blast he turned pale, fell upon the ground, and would probably have been in convulsions if they had not immediately ceased.

His natural disposition appears to have been as gentle and affectionate as his talents were extraordinary; and the admiration he excited, neither made him self-willed nor conceited. Although a man in talent, he was in all other respects an obedient and docile child. All his pursuits were distinguished by the same enthusiasm. While learning arithmetic, even music was neglected; the walls of his room were covered with figures, and his progress was so rapid, that he was soon able to solve the most difficult numerical problems. The natural vivacity of his mind was easily attracted by new objects; but he always returned with fresh ardour to music, the science that eventually absorbed his whole attention.

In 1765, the family of Mozart visited Brussels and Paris, and the two children performed before the court of Versailles; and, in the following year, when only eight years old, Mozart made his first appearance in London; where his performances on the organ were more admired than his exhibitions on the harpsichord; and the incredulity of sceptics was satisfied by his playing at sight with the greatest correctness, various difficult compositions of Handel, Bach, and other great masters. In the presence of the king, he invented and played extempore, a beautiful melody from a few bass notes that were laid before him; and Christian Bach afterwards took the child between his knees and played a few bars on the in


strument. Mozart then continued, and they thus played alternately a whole sonata with such precision, that the audience thought it was entirely executed by the same person.

At this period, he attracted the notice of an author, who was himself an acute observer of human nature. Daines Barrington considered his extraordinary precocity a subject worthy of a communication to the Royal Society, from which we are enabled to judge of his natural disposition as well as his musical powers. We shall gratify our readers with the substance of this memoir, because the early volume of the Philosophical Transactions, in which it was published, has become exceedingly scarce; and because in biography one fact communicated by an eye-witness who knew what to observe, is better than a thousand speculations. In order to ascertain by his own observation whether Mozart actually felt and understood the compositions he played at sight, Daines Barrington laid before him a new vocal duett with accompaniments for three instruments, which it was utterly impossible that Mozart could have seen. The boy, without hesitation, played the symphony, not merely as if it had long been familiar to him, but as if he at once entered into the very feelings the composer intended to express; and this is a part of the science of music in which the greatest masters might have failed. He then sang the upper part correctly, with a clear and firm, though weak and infantine voice. His father, who attempted the under part, occasionally made mistakes, when the boy looked at him with some anger, and taught him how it should be sung. While thus, as we should have supposed, fully employed, he introduced the leading passages of all the accompaniments, an effort of which musicians alone can estimate the difficulty.

Daines Barrington had been told that the boy was sometimes visited with musical ideas, to which he gave utterance in the middle of the night, and he was anxious to hear a specimen of his powers as an improvisatore. This, his father said, must depend upon his being at the moment musically inspired; and here Daines Barrington evinced his knowledge of human nature. He recollected Mozart's attachment to a celebrated singer, named Manzoli, and concluding that the most probable method of attaining his object would be to create in Mozart's mind an association of ideas which he would naturally attempt to express by music, he continued to turn the conversation upon the subject of Manzoli's talents, and observed, that he should like to hear a specimen of such a love song as he would sing in an opera. Mozart looked back with much archness, and immediately began five or six lines of a jargon recitative proper to introduce a love song; and, after an appropriate symphony, he sang a beautiful air to the word affetto. He then, of his own


accord, invented another cantata expressive of rage, choosing for his subject the word perfido; and, in the course of the recitative, he gradually worked himself up to such a pitch of enthusiasm, that at last he rose up in his chair and beat the harpsichord like a person possessed. In the midst of his performance, a favourite cat happening to come into the room, gave his ideas a new direction, he abruptly left the harpsichord and caressed the animal with the greatest fondness. He afterwards rode about the room upon a stick with more than the usual vivacity and delight of an ordinary child of his age. His most trifling amusements were distinguished by the same enthusiastic ardour as his professional pursuits.

That nothing might be wanting to the cultivation of his talents, Mozart's next tour was through the principal cities of Italy, the native soil of music; but he soon convinced the professors in this favoured country, that he was already qualified to teach as well as to learn, by developing and performing without hesitation all the subjects of fugues proposed by the celebrated Martin, and by composing at fourteen years of age an opera, (Mithridates,) which was performed at Milan twenty nights in succession.

At Rome, he caused the greatest possible astonishment, by committing to memory, and afterwards writing down the whole of the famous service called the Miserere, by Allegri, performed in the pope's chapel exclusively twice during Passion week. We must, however, refer to the work itself for the account of this extraordinary effort of memory and musical skill, and for the curious and interesting description of the service itself, which is too long to be inserted, and will not admit of being properly abstracted.

The natural effect of these tours was, that Mozart learned at the fountain head, whatever was worth knowing in music throughout the principal cities of Europe; and thus, while poor Haydn was doomed to struggle with difficulties at every step, and to acquire knowledge, sometimes by labour and sometimes by artifice, Mozart lived in a round of continual variety and pleasure; the astonishment and delight of all who beheld him; introduced into the first musical societies in the world; and possessing opportunities which he certainly did not neglect, of hearing and studying whatever was excellent in his profession. It is, however, a curious subject of inquiry, to trace the event of their different modes of education. Whatever Haydn painfully and laboriously acquired, was irrevocably fixed in his mind, and the necessity of early application and self-denial preserved him from the dissipated and irregular habits which checked the career, and probably shortened the life of Mozart.

After his return from Italy we hear little of Mozart till the twenty-fourth year of his age. We would willingly suppose, that


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