Five things you probably didn’t know about Mozart

In 1764 his father was dangerously ill. No one was allowed to touch the piano. To keep himself occupied, young Wolfgang decided to compose his first symphony for full orchestra (K.16).

Mozart’s habit of laying in bed to compose alarmed his doctor, who advised him to stand while composing and get as much bodily exercise as he could. Mozart loved billiards, bowling, and skittles, largely because they did not occupy his mind. He could get some exercise and compose at the same time. His Trio for Piano, Clarinet, and Viola (K. 498) is known as the Kegelstatt Trio (skittles alley) because he is said to have written it while playing skittles.

While novelist Karoline Pichler was playing “Non più andrai” from The Marriage of Figaro, Mozart came for a visit. Pichler later wrote, “I must have been playing it to his satisfaction, for he hummed the melody as I played and beat the time on my shoulders; but then he suddenly moved a chair up, sat down, told me to carry on paying the bass, and began to improvise such wonderfully beautiful variations that everyone listened to the tones of the German Orpheus with bated breath. But then he suddenly tired of it, jumped up, and, in the mad mood which so often came over him, he began to leap over tables and chairs, miaow like a cat, and turn somersaults like an unruly boy.

Mozart gave his barber fits. He couldn’t sit still. Whenever a musical idea came to him, he had to run over to his piano to try it out. The poor barber had to chase after him.

While Don Giovanni made a hit in Prague, its Vienna premiere was a failure. The Emperor told librettist Lorenzo da Ponte, “That opera is divine; I s hould even venture that it is more beautiful that Figaro, but such music is not meat for the teeth of my Viennese.” When da Ponte told Mozart about it, Mozart answered, “Give them time to chew on it.”


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