Old Scores and New Readings eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 159 pages of information about Old Scores and New Readings.

MOZART, HIS “DON GIOVANNI” AND THE REQUIEM

It may well be doubted whether Vienna thought even so much of Capellmeister Mozart as Leipzig thought of Capellmeister Bach.  Bach, it is true, was merely Capellmeister; he hardly dared to claim social equality with the citizens who tanned hides or slaughtered pigs; and probably the high personages who trimmed the local Serene Highness’s toe-nails scarcely knew of his existence.  Still, he was a burgher, even as the killers of pigs and the tanners of hides; he was thoroughly respectable, and probably paid his taxes as they came due; if only by necessity of his office, he went to church with regularity; and on the whole we may suppose that he got enough of respect to make life tolerable.  But Mozart was only one of a crowd who provided amusement for a gay population; and a gay population, always a heartless master, holds none in such contempt as the servants who provide it with amusement.  So Mozart got no respect from those he served, and his Bohemianism lost him the respect of the eminently respectable.  He lived in the eighteenth century equivalent of a “loose set”; he was miserably poor, and presumably never paid his taxes; we may doubt whether he often went to church; he composed for the theatre; and he lacked the self-assertion which enabled Handel, Beethoven, and Wagner to hold their own.  Treated as of no account, cheated by those he worked for, hardly permitted to earn his bread, he found life wholly intolerable, and as he grew older he lived more and more within himself and gave his thoughts only to the composition of masterpieces.  The crowd of mediocrities dimly felt him to be their master, and the greater the masterpieces he achieved the more vehemently did Salieri and his attendants protest that he was not a composer to compare with Salieri.  The noise impressed Da Ponte, the libretto-monger, and he asked Salieri to set his best libretto and gave Mozart only his second best; and thus by a curious irony stumbled into his immortality through sheer stupidity, for his second best libretto was “Don Giovanni”—­of all possible subjects precisely that which a wise man would have given to Mozart.  When Mozart laid down the pen after the memorable night’s work in which he transferred the finished overture from his brain to the paper, he had written the noblest Italian opera ever conceived; and the world knew it not, yet gradually came to know.  But the full fame of “Don Giovanni” was comparatively brief, and at this time there seems to be a hazy notion that its splendours have waned before the blaze of Wagner, just as the symphonies are supposed to have faded in the brilliant light of Beethoven.  At lectures on musical history it is reverently spoken of; but it is seldom sung, and the public declines to go to hear it; and, though few persons are so foolish as to admit their sad case, I suspect that more than a few agree with the sage critic who told us not long since that Mozart was

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Old Scores and New Readings from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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