Sad Thoughts from Paris

Portrait of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1819 Portrait by Barbara Kraft)

In 1778, 22 year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart had gone with his mother to Paris, hoping to enhance his international reputation. He had gone reluctantly, and once he got there, he found one obstacle after another. On July 3, he wrote to his father in Salzburg:

“I have very painful and sad news to give you, which in fact accounts for my n ot having replied sooner to your letter. My dearest mother is very ill. They have bled her according to custom, which was indeed quite necessary and did her a lot of good. But a few days later she complained of shivering and feverishness.

As she became worse by the minute, could barely speak, and lost her hearing, we had to shout to her. Baron Grimm sent his doctor to see her. She is still very weak, still feverish and delirious. They do give me some hope, but I don’t have much. I wavered from hope to fear day and night, but I’m completely reconciled to the will of God, and hope that you and my sister will be too…

Let us put aside these sad thoughts, and still hope, but not too much. I have written a symphony for the opening of the Concert Spirituel, which was performed to great applause on Corpus Christi day. I was very nervous during the rehearsal because in my whole life I’ve never heard anything go so badly. You can’t imagine how they scraped and scurried through it twice. I was really very edgy, and would’ve been happy to have it rehearsed again, but there wasn’t time. So I went to bed with an aching heart, dissatisfied and angry.

The Next day I decided not to go to the concert at all, but the fair evening weather made me change my mind. I was nonetheless determined that if the performance proved as bad as the rehearsal, I would go into the orchestra, take the violin from the first violinist, and lead myself.”

Later that night, Mozart’s mother died.

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