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Expressions critical

69. "We wish that it were in our power to introduce the German
taste in minuets in Italy; minuets here last almost as long as
whole symphonies."

(Bologna, September 22, 1770, to his mother and sister. Mozart as
a lad was making a tour through Italy with his father. [There
might be a valuable hint here touching the proper tempo for the
minuets in Mozart's symphonies. Of late years the conductors, of
the Wagnerian school more particularly, have acted on the belief
that the symphonic minuets of Mozart and Haydn must be played
with the stately slowness of the old dance. Mozart himself was
plainly of another opinion. H.E.K.])

70. "Beecke told me (and it is true) that music is now played in
the cabinet of the Emperor (Joseph II) bad enough to set the dogs
a-running. I remarked that unless I quickly escape such music I
get a headache. 'It doesn't hurt me in the least; bad music
leaves my nerves unaffected, but I sometimes get a headache from
good music.' Then I thought to myself: Yes, such a shallow-pate
as you feels a pain as soon as he hears something which he can
not understand."

(Mannheim, November 13, 1777, to his father. Beecke was a
conceited pianist.)

71. "Nothing gives me so much pleasure in the anticipation as the
Concert spirituel in Paris, for I fancy I shall be called on to
compose something. The orchestra is said to be large and good,
and my principal favorites can be well performed there, that is
to say choruses, and I am right glad that the Frenchmen are fond
of them....Heretofore Paris has been used to the choruses of
Gluck. Depend on me; I shall labor with all my powers to do honor
to the name of Mozart."

(Mannheim. February 28, 1778, to his father. On March 7 he
writes: "I have centered all my hopes on Paris, for the German
princes are all niggards.")

72. "I do not know whether or not my symphony pleases, and, to
tell you the truth, I don't much care. Whom should it please? I
warrant it will please the few sensible Frenchmen who are here,
and there will be no great misfortune if it fails to please the
stupids. Still I have some hope that the asses too will find
something in it to their liking."

(Paris, June 12, 1778, to his father. The symphony is that known
as the "Parisian" (Kochel, No. 297). It is characterized by
brevity and wealth of melody.)

73. "The most of the symphonies are not to the local taste. If I
find time I shall revise a few violin concertos,--shorten them,--
for our taste in Germany is for long things; as a matter of fact,
short and good is better."

(Paris, September 11, 1778, to his father, in Salzburg.
In the same letter he says: "I assure you the journey was
not unprofitable to me--that is to say in the matter of

74. "If only this damned French language were not so ill adapted
to music! It is abominable; German is divine in comparison. And
then the singers!--men and women--they are unmentionable. They do
not sing; they shriek, they howl with all their might, through
throat, nose and gullet."

(Paris, July 9, 1778, to his father. Mozart was thinking of
writing a French opera.)

75. "Ah, if we too had clarinets! You can't conceive what a
wonderful effect a symphony with flutes, oboes and clarinets
makes. At the first audience with the Archbishop I shall have
much to tell him, and, probably, a few suggestions to make. Alas!
our music might be much better and more beautiful if only the
Archbishop were willing."

(Mannheim, December 3, 1778, to his father. Mozart was on his
return to Salzburg where he had received an appointment in the
Archiepiscopal chapel. It seems that wood-wind instruments were
still absent from the symphony orchestra in Salzburg.)

76. "Others know as well as you and I that tastes are continually
changing, and that the changes extend even into church music;
this should not be, but it accounts for the fact that true church
music is now found only in the attic and almost eaten up by the

(Vienna, April 12, 1783, to his father, who was active as Court
Chapelmaster in Salzburg, and who had been asked by his son in
the same letter, when it grew a little warmer, "to look in the
attic and send some of your (his) church music.")

77. "The themes pleased me most in the symphony; yet it will
be the least effective, for there is too much in it, and a
fragmentary performance of it sounds like an ant hill looks,--
that is as if the devil had been turned loose in it."

(In a letter written in 1789 to a nobleman who was a composer and
had submitted a symphony to Mozart for criticism.)

78. "So far as melody is concerned, yes; for dramatic effect, no.
Moreover the scores which you may see here, outside those of
Gretry, are by Gluck, Piccini and Salieri, and there is nothing
French about them except the words."

(A remark made to Joseph Frank, whom Mozart frequently found
occupied with French scores, and who had asked whether the study
of Italian scores were not preferable.)

79. "The ode is elevated, beautiful, everything you wish, but too
exaggerated and bombastic for my ears. But what would you? The
golden mean, the truth, is no longer recognized or valued. To win
applause one must write stuff so simple that a coachman might
sing it after you, or so incomprehensible that it pleases simply
because no sensible man can comprehend it. But it is not this
that I wanted to discuss with you, but another matter. I have a
strong desire to write a book, a little work on musical criticism
with illustrative examples. N.B., not under my name."

(Vienna, December 28, 1782, to his father. "I was working on a
very difficult task--a Bardic song by Denis on Gibraltar. It is a
secret, for a Hungarian lady wants thus to honor Denis." When
Gibraltar was gallantly defended against the Spaniards, Mozart's
father wrote to him calling his attention to the victory. Mozart
replied: "Yes, I have heard of England's triumph, and, indeed,
with great joy (for you know well that I am an arch-Englishman)."
The little book of criticism never appeared.)

80. "The orchestra in Berlin contains the greatest aggregation of
virtuosi in the world; I never heard such quartet playing as
here; but when all the gentlemen are together they might do

(To King Frederick William II, in 1789, when asked for an opinion
on the orchestra in Berlin. The king asked Mozart to transfer his
services to the Court at Berlin; Mozart replied: "Shall I forsake
my good Emperor?")

Jan 6, 2016
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