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The Mozart Letter

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The signature of Mozart at the bottom of the letter. (Photo courtesy of the Schubert Club)
The Schubert Club Museum in downtown St. Paul has a special letter on display -- a letter Mozart wrote to his wife Constanze in 1790. Mozart wrote this charming letter from Frankfurt, where he had gone for the coronation of Emperor Leopold II. He traveled to Frankfurt, hoping to make a good impression on the new emperor and perhaps gain a court position.

His letter home is intimate and affectionate, addressing Constanze as "Dearest Little Wife of my Heart." Classical host John Birge discussed the letter with the Schubert Club's Director of Museum Education, Holly Windle, about the letter.

St. Paul —

Transcript of the letter:

Dearest Little Wife of my Heart! If only I had a letter from you, all would be well. I hope that you have received mine from Efferding and Frankfurt. In my last one I told you to speak to Redcurrant Face. For safety's sake I should very much like to raise 2,000 gulden on Hoffmeister's draft. But you will have to give some other reason; you may say, for example, that I am making some speculation about which you know nothing.

My love, there is no doubt whatever that I shall make something in this place, but certainly not as much as you and some of my friends expect. That I am both known and respected here is undeniable. Well, we shall see. But as in every case I prefer to play for safety.

I should like to make that deal with H--- [probably Hoffmeister] as I shall thus obtain some money and not have to pay anything; all I shall have to do is to work, and that I shall willingly do for the sake of my dear little wife.

When you write to me, always address your letters Poste Restante. Where do you think I am living? In the same house as Böhm, and Hofer is with me too. We pay thirty gulden a month, which is wonderfully cheap, and we also take our meals there.

And whom do you think I have come across? The girl who so often played hide-and-seek with us in the Auge Gottes. I think her name was Buchner. She is now Madame Porsch and this is her second marriage. She asks me to send you all sorts of kind messages.

As I do not know whether you are at Baden or Vienna, I am addressing this letter again to Madame Hofer. I am as excited as a child at the thought of seeing you again. If people could see into my heart, I should almost feel ashamed.

To me everything is cold -- cold as ice. Perhaps if you were with me I might possibly take more pleasure in the kindness of those I meet here.

But, as it is, everything seems so empty. Adieu, my love.

I am ever your husband, who loves you with all his soul

Frankfurt am Main, 30 September 1790

Notes on the letter:

Mozart's letter mentions several members of his inner circle. "Redcurrant Face" was his nickname for Anton Stadler, a renowned clarinetist and basset-horn player, for whom Mozart wrote two of his most famous clarinet pieces.

Franz Hoffmeister was Mozart's publisher and himself a prolific composer. Johannes Böhm was the proprietor of a theatrical company that produced two of Mozart's operas later that year, Die Entführung aus dem Serail and La Finta Giardiniera.

Franz Hofer was an accomplished violinist and the husband of Mozart's sister-in-law Josepha (Madame Hofer).

On Sept. 22, 1790, Mozart left for Frankfurt to attend the coronation of Emperor Leopold II, paying for the trip by selling most of his household silver. He made the journey using his own coach, by far the most expensive way to travel at the time, and further evidence of Mozart's inability to handle his own finances.

Accompanied by his sister-in-law's husband, Franz Hofer, Mozart hoped to curry favor with the new emperor, possibly gaining a much-coveted appointment as Kapellmeister, or court composer. At the very least, he hoped to widen his small circle of admirers abroad. Mozart performed for Leopold on Oct. 15, 1790, and played two piano concertos: K. 459 in F (an older work), and a new composition written especially for the event, K. 537 in D, since known as the Coronation concerto.

Unfortunately, the performance was not received especially well. With an inadequate orchestra containing at the most five or six violins, his concertos lacked the brilliance and depth with which they are usually performed. Mozart left Frankfurt with less than he expected -- none the richer and decidedly dejected.

To listen to John Birge's interview with Holly Windle, choose the audio link in the right column.