Mozart is perhaps the most popular classical music composer in the world. Discover what he might have said about his life and music in this fictional interview. Mozart's answers are provided by portrayal artist S. K. Waller.
If we could go back in time and interview the people who lived in the 18th century, what do you think they would say about themselves and their times? We shall go back to 18th century Vienna, talk with perhaps the most popular classical music composer of the world, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and find out what he might have said about his life and music in such a situation.
With the assistance of Mozart portrayal artist S. K. Waller, the following is an example of how Mozart might have responded to the questions asked by your guide in a fictional interview. The answers in this interview are based on historical fact.
Rick: When and where were you born?
Mozart: I was born on the 27th day of January 1756, in the city-state of Salzburg in what is today known as Austria.
Rick: Which of your parents influenced you the most during your childhood and why?
Mozart: Having heard from my very birth, "Next to God comes Papa," it's no wonder that my father (Leopold Mozart) was my greatest influence. He was not only a loving and dedicated father, but also my teacher, counselor, and friend. My sister (Nannerl) and I did not receive formal educations because our father chose to teach us himself at home. Papa was a shrewd man, who possessed ambition and intellect, and who instilled in me a dedication to hard work.
At first, I learned a great deal from him musically, but before too long I was teaching him! Perhaps the greatest thing he did for me was to expose me to all styles of music by all manner of composers during my childhood when we traveled all over Europe on our concert tours.
Rick: What musical instruments did you play and which one was your favorite?
Mozart: Pretty much anything I could get my hands on but my main instruments were the organ, harpsichord, clavichord, fortepiano, violin and viola.
Rick: It is rumored that you once proposed to Maria Antoinette. Is this true and what were the circumstances for this rumor?
Mozart: When I was six years of age, my family journeyed to Vienna in order that my sister and I might gain our fame and fortune there. Our reputation as child prodigies had preceded us and we were invited to perform at Schönbrunn for Empress Maria Theresa, Emperor Francis I, and their family. One of their many children, Archduchess Maria Antonia, was at that time about ten, I believe. After our performance, the Empress led her children, my Mother, my sister and I from the music salon to the royal children's apartments. The floors were highly polished and I slipped and fell. Maria Antonia helped me back up and brushed off my breeches as she would her own little brother.
Now, my father had said on many occasions that one day I might marry a titled Lady who was kind enough to overlook my "lesser" station in society and the Archduchess was the kindest I had met this far. As she brushed me off and took my hand I looked up to her and said, "You're very kind. Perhaps one day we shall marry." Our mothers laughed and I received a number of kisses and hugs. That is all there was to it.
Rick: There are many biographies written about your life and music. Which one do you think best captures your life and times?
Mozart: I am particularly fond of the Robert W. Gutman biography, Mozart: A Cultural Biography. It is a scholarly work and not in the least bit sentimental. Moreover, it contains a great deal more information than others that are available, not only about me, but also about my century.
Rick: Of all the music that you have composed, which piece do you consider to be your greatest and why?
Mozart: This is possibly the most difficult question that is ever put to me. It's like asking a father which of his children is his favorite. Had I finished my Requiem myself I'd say it was my best work but since, I didn't, I'll say Le Nozze di Figaro is my greatest. Why? I feel this is because of my particular ability to delineate my characters so clearly through the music. In addition, I was given a remarkable group of characters! Credit must also go to Signor Lorenzo Da Ponte, whose sense of humor and good poetic taste provided me with a brilliant libretto.
Rick: Of all of the Royal houses that you performed for which of them did you like the most and which of them the least.
Mozart: Oh, I liked the Viennese court of Empress Maria Theresa the best. As a child, I was celebrated and doted on and was always welcome to sit on the Empress' lap and give her kisses. I didn't care much for her husband, Francis I, however. He put me to tests that I thought were childish and insipid. The court I liked least was the court at Versailles. I found it pretentious and cold. Madame de Pompadour wouldn't even kiss me-- and she was only the King's mistress! I was rather insulted by that as a child.
Rick: Is it true that you composed your works right the first time and only had one copy of your original manuscripts?
Mozart: Not always. Some pieces came easily but most took a tremendous amount of work. However, even the easiest of compositions weren't written out on paper until they were figured out in my mind first. As for copies, the working drafts were always destroyed and the final draft was copied out either by a professional copyist, or later, by an able pupil.
Rick: Which of your contemporaries did you admire the most and why?
Mozart: Without a doubt, that would be Josef Haydn. Why do composers admire another's work? Who can say? He was a genius! He not only broke old rules, he also created new ones and he was never afraid to push the limits a little -- his timing was impeccable. He was also a dear friend who possessed an earthy personality and great wisdom.
Rick: What do you think of the American Revolution and the French Revolution?
Mozart: The American Revolution was inevitable. As much as I liked King George when I was a child, as an adult I understood the colonists' need for independence from a controlling father figure. It was bound to happen regardless of who the ruler was. I must add that the idea of a nation built on Masonic ideals fired my imagination and I at one time contemplated a journey to the Americas. However, since I had experienced exceeding seasickness just crossing the English Channel from Calais to Dover when I was a child, I never followed through. The French Revolution was an entirely different matter. I'm glad I didn't live to witness the end result. I think it began nobly enough. I mean, France was a mess and needed a change but it got out of control. What a shame. So sad.
Rick: Which political system do you most believe in and why?
Mozart: I believe that in its truest and purest state, democracy is the best. Getting it to work, however, is a problem because there's always that moneyed few who think that their say is more important than that of the "common folk." Nevertheless, this dilemma is as old as time itself and has little to do with any particular political system.
Rick: What sort of recreational activities did you pursue when you were not giving concerts or composing?
Mozart: I enjoyed the company of friends and often played billiards, boules and games of chance. In more solitary hours, I enjoyed reading and water painting. I attended the theater as often as possible and I enjoyed dancing and masquerades.
Rick: What is your impression of the music of the 20th century?
Mozart: Well, that which you call "classical" is courageous at best. It seems embarrassingly self-conscious to me and self-absorbed. In addition, much of that which is called "popular" music is too simple in form, texture and harmony. However, I suppose this is the folk music of your modern culture and folk music has always been simple. I am glad to hear beauty again; for so long there was just so much noise. For a time and this is only my opinion, composers seemed to write only for themselves and other musicians -- and not the audience. Happily, I see this changing.
Rick: On your web site, you state that you dared to tangle with the Vatican; in the end, you became Chevalier of the Pope. Could you explain this incident in further detail?
Mozart: There was a motet called Miserere, by Allegri that was played only in the Sistine Chapel. It was considered sacrosanct and was never allowed out. When my Father and I were in Vienna, I had the opportunity to hear it after someone dared to smuggle it out of the Vatican. In form, it was not unlike many motets with which I was familiar. After I heard it performed at the Tenebre Service at the Sistine Chapel in 1770, I wrote it out, partly from memory, and partly from knowledge of the form. My father, trying to drum up a little publicity during Easter Holy Week in Rome when no one was paying any attention to us, began bragging about my accomplishment and word got back to the wrong people. I was called on the carpet by the Vatican and had to hand over my copy of the Miserere. I was also made to swear I'd never again do such a thing and that was it. A few weeks later, when we returned to Rome from a pleasure trip to Milano, I was called before the Pope, given the Golden Spur and was knighted a chevalier at the age of fourteen.
Rick: What advice would you give to our young readers today?
Mozart: Learn everything you can about everything and don't rely only on teachers -- seek answers for yourself; study on your own about subjects that interest you that might not be taught in the classroom. Don't be afraid to ask daring questions of life and don't slink from the answers, even when they don't agree with what you would rather hear. Keep your mind open to all possibilities and always, always, listen to your heart. Take a little music every day -- and I mean good music. Read everything. Learn other languages. Travel. Be true to yourself and always do your very best to be everything you can be. Most importantly, love and allow yourself to be loved.
Check out these great resources about Mozart.
Mozart's Own Website
Yes, Mozart Has his own Web site where he tells the world about his life and times. Check it out and tell him that I sent you.
The Mozart Project
Another fine source for finding information about the world's best loved composer.