I HAVE JUST been reading Mozart’s letters for the second time (in the French translation by Henri de Curzon), and I think they ought to be included among the books of every library, for they are not only of interest to artists but instructive for other people as well. If you read these letters, Mozart will be your friend for life; his kind face will show itself in moments of trouble, and when you are miserable you will hear his merry boyish laugh and blush to give way to dark moods as you think of what he himself so courageously endured. Let us recall his memory; it is fast slipping into shadow.
The first thing that strikes us is his wonderful moral health. This is the more surprising because physically he was far from strong. All his faculties seem extraordinarily well balanced: his soul was full of feeling and yet master of itself; his mind was wonderfully calm, even in events like his mother’s death and his love for Constance Weber; his intellect was clear and instinctively grasped what people liked and the best way to achieve success; and he was able to bring his proud genius to conquer the world’s affections without hurt to himself.
This moral balance is rare in passionate natures; for all passion is excess of feeling. Mozart had every kind of feeling, but he had no passionexcept his terrible pride and a strong consciousness of his genius.
“The archbishop of Salzburg thinks you are steeped in pride,” said a friend to him one day.
Mozart did not seek to conceal this pride, and to those who hurt it he replied with an arrogance worthy of one of Rousseau’s republican contemporaries. “It is the heart that gives a man nobility,” he said, “and if I am not a count, I have perhaps more honor in me than many a count. And whether it is a valet or a count, he becomes a low scoundrel from the moment he insults me.” In 1777, when he was twenty-one years old, he said to two would-be jokers who laughed at his Cross of the Golden Spur, “It would be easier for me to get all the decorations that you could possibly receive than for you to become what I am now, even if you died and were born again twice over.” “I was boiling with rage,” he added.
He carefully used to keep and sometimes calmly quote all the flattering things that were said about him. In 1782 he said to a friend, “Prince Kaunitz told the archduke that people like myself came into the world only once in a hundred years.”
He was capable of intense hate when his pride was wounded He suffered greatly at the idea of being in the service of a prince: “The thought is intolerable,” he said ( October 15, 1778) . After he had heard the archbishop of Salzburg’s remark, “he trembled all over and reeled in the street like a drunken man. He was obliged to go home and get to bed, and he was still not himself on the following morning” (May 12, 1781). “I hate the archbishop with all my soul,” he said. Later on he remarked, “If anyone offends me I must revenge myself, and unless I revenge myself with interest I consider I have only re-paid my enemy and not corrected him,”
When his pride was at stake, or rather when his inclination was likely to be thwarted, this respectful and obedient son owned only the authority of his own desires.
“I did not recognize my father in a single line of your letter. It was certainly a letter from a father; but it was not from my father” ( May 19, 1781).
And he got married before he had received his father’s con-sent ( August 7,1782) .
If you take away Mozart’s great passion for pride, you will find him a pleasant and cheerful soul. He had quick sympathies and the gentleness of a womanor rather of a child, for he was given to tears and laughter, to teasing, and all the tricks of a warm-hearted boy.
Usually he was very lively, and amused at nothing in particular; he had difficulty in keeping still and was always singing and jumping about, nearly killing himself with laughter over anything funny, or even over things that were not funny. He loved good jokes and bad ones (especially the bad ones, and sometimes the coarse ones ), was without malice or arrière pen-sée, and enjoyed the sound of words without any sense in them: “Strul Stril … Knaller paller . . . Schnip…. Schnap.
Selman … Schnepeperll .. Snail” is what we find in the letter of July 6, 1791. In 1769 he writes:
“I am simply bursting with joy because this journey amuses me so much … because it is so hot in the carriage . and because our coachman is a good lad and drives like the wind when the road allows it!”
One may find hundreds of examples of his merriment at nothing at all, and of the laughter that comes from good health. The blood flowed freely in his veins, and his feelings were not over-sensitive.
“I saw four rogues hung today on the square by the cathedral. They hang them here as they do at Lyons” (November 30, 1770).
He had not very wide sympathy that “humanity” of modern artists. He loved those he knewhis father, his wife, and his friends; and he loved them tenderly and spoke of them with ardent affection, so that one’s heart is warmed as it is by his music.
“When my wife and I were married, we burst into tears, and everyone else was so affected by our emotion that they wept too” (August 7, 1782).
He had a splendid capacity for friendship, as only those who have been poor understand friendship. He himself says:
“Our best and truest friends are those who are poor. Rich people know nothing of friendship” (August 7, 1778).
“Friend?” (he says elsewhere), “I call only that man a friend who, whatever the occasion, thinks of nothing but his friend’s welfare and does all he can to make him happy” (December 18, 1778).
His letters to his wife, especially those written between 1789 and 1791, are full of loving affection and mad gaiety; and he seems unaffected by the illness, cares, and terrible distress that went to make up this most cruel portion of his life. “Immer zwischen Angst and Hoffung” (Always between anxiety and hope), he says; but he does not say it, as you might think, in a kind of valiant effort to reassure his wife and deceive her as to his true circumstances; the words come from an irresistible desire to laugh, which he cannot conquer and which he had to satisfy even in the midst of the worst of his troubles. His laughter is very near to tearsthose happy tears that well up from a loving nature.
He was very happy though no life could have been harder than his. It was a perpetual fight against sickness and misery. Death put an end to itwhen he was thirty-five years old. Where could his happiness come from?
Well, first of all, from his religion, which was sound and free from all superstition, a firm, strong kind of faith which doubt had never injured though it may have touched it. It was also a calm and peaceful faith, without passion or mysticism: Credo quia verum. To his dying father he wrote:
“I am counting on good news although I make a practice of always imagining the worst. As death is the true purpose of life, I have, for many years, made myself familiar with that best friend of man; and his face has now no longer any terror for me, but is, if anything, calm and consoling to look upon. I thank God for this blessing . . . and I never go to bed without thinking that perhaps on the morrow I may no longer be alive. And yet no one who knows me could say that I am sad or discontented. I give thanks to my Creator for this happiness and hope with all my heart my fellow-creatures may share it” (April 4, 1787).
So he found happiness in the thought of eternity. His happiness on earth was in the love of those about him and especially in his love for them. In writing to his wife, he says:
“If I may only feel that you lack nothing, all my troubles will be precious to me and even pleasant. Yes! the most painful and complicated of difficulties would seem nothing but a trifle if I were sure that you were happy and in good health” ( July 6, 1791).
But Mozart’s true happiness was in creation.
In restless and unhealthy geniuses creation may be a torture the bitter seeking after an elusive ideal. But with healthy geniuses like Mozart creation was a perfect joy and so natural that it seemed almost a physical enjoyment. Composing was as important for his health as eating, drinking, and sleeping. It was a need, a necessitya happy necessity since he was able continually to satisfy it.
It is well to understand this if one would understand the pas-sages in the letter about money.
“Rest assured that my sole aim is to get as much money as possible; for, after health, it is the most precious possession” ( April 4, 1781).
This may seem a low ideal. But one must not forget that Mozart lacked money all his lifeand in this way his imagination was hampered and his health suffered in consequence, so that he was always obliged to think of success and of the money that would make him free. Nothing could be more natural. If Beethoven acted differently it was because his idealism carried him to another world and way of livingan unreal world (if we except the rich patrons who made secure his daily bread). But Mozart loved life and the world and the reality of things. He wished to live and conquer; and conquer he did for living was not exactly under his control.
The most wonderful fact about Mozart was that he directed his art toward success without any sacrifice of himself; and his music was always written with regard to its effect upon the public. Somehow it does not lose by this, and it says exactly what he wishes it to say. In this he was helped by his delicate perceptions, his shrewdness, and his sense of irony. He despised his audience, but he held himself in great esteem. He made no concessions that he need blush for; he deceived the public, but he guided it as well. He gave people the illusion that they understood his ideas; while, as a matter of fact, the applause that greeted his works was excited only by passages which were solely composed for applause. And what matter? So long as there was applause the work was successful, and the composer was free to create new works.
“Composing,” said Mozart, “is my one joy and passion” (October 10, 1777).
This fortunate genius seemed born to create. Few other examples are to be found of such robust artistic health; for one must not confound his extraordinary gift for composition with the indolent imagination of a man like Rossini. Bach worked perseveringly, and he used to say to his friends: “I am obliged to work, and whoever works as hard as I do will succeed quite as well as I.” Beethoven had to fight with all his strength when in the throes of composition. If his friends surprised him at work, they often found him in a state of extreme exhaustion. “His features were distorted, sweat ran down his face, and he seemed,” said Schindler, “as if he were doing battle with an army of contrapuntists.” It is true the reference here is to his Credo and Mass in D. Nevertheless, he was always making sketches of things, thinking them over, erasing or correcting what he had done, beginning all over again, or putting a couple of notes to the adagio of some sonata which he was supposed to have finished long ago and which had perhaps even been printed.
Mozart knew nothing, of these torments. He was able to do what he wished, and he never wished to do what was beyond him. His work is like a sweet scent in his lifeperhaps like a beautiful flower whose only care is to live. So easy was creation to him that at times it poured from him in a double or triple stream, and he performed incredible feats of mental activity without thinking about them. He would compose a prelude while writing a fugue; and once when he played a sonata for pianoforte and violin at a concert, he composed it the day be-fore, between eleven o’clock and midnight, hurriedly writing the violin part and having no time to write down the piano part or to rehearse it with his partner. The next day he played from memory what he had composed in his head (April 8, 1781). This is only one of many examples.
Such genius was likely to be spread over the whole domain of his art and in equal perfection. He was, however, especially fitted for musical drama. If we recall the chief traits in his nature, we find that he had a sane and well-balanced spirit, dominated by a strong, calm determination, and that he was without excess of passion, yet had fine perceptions and versatility. Such a man, if he has creative gifts, is best able to express life in an objective way. He is not bothered by the unreasonableness of a more passionate nature, which feels it must pour itself out in everything alike. Beethoven remained Beethoven on every page of his work; and it was well, for no other hero could interest us as he did. But Mozart, thanks to the happy mixture of his qualitiessensibility, shrewd perception, gentleness, and self-controlwas naturally fitted to understand the differences of character in others, to interest himself in the fashionable world of his time, and to reproduce it with poetic insight in his music. His soul was at peace within him, and no inner voice clamored to be heard. He loved life and was a keen observer of the world he lived in; and it cost him no effort to reproduce what he saw.
His gifts shine brightest in his dramatic works; and he seemed to feel this, for his letters tell us of his preference for dramatic composition:
“Simply to hear anyone speak of an opera, or to be in the theater, or to hear singing is enough to make me beside myself!” (October 11, 1777).
“I have a tremendous desire to write an opera” (Idem).
“I am jealous of anyone who writes an opera. Tears come to my eyes when I hear an operatic air. . . . My one idea is to write operas” (February 2 and 7, 1778).
“Opera to me comes before everything else” (August 17, 1782).
Let us see how Mozart conceived an opera.
To begin with, he was purely and simply a musician. There is very little trace of literary education or taste in him, such as we find in Beethoven, who taught himself, and did it well. One cannot say Mozart was more of a musician than anything else, for he was really nothing but a musician. He did not long trouble his head about the difficult question of the association of poetry and music in drama. He quickly decided that where music was there could be no rival.
“In an opera, it is absolutely imperative that poetry should be the obedient daughter of music” ( October 13, 1781). Later he says:
“Music reigns like a king, and the rest is of no account.”
But that does not mean Mozart was not interested in his libretto and that music was such a pleasure to him that the poem was only a pretext for the music. Quite the contrary: Mozart was convinced that opera should truthfully express characters and feelings; but he thought that it was the musician’s duty to achieve this, and not the poet’s. That was because he was more of a musician than a poet, because his genius made him jealous of sharing his work with another artist.
“I cannot express either my feelings or my thoughts in verse, for I am neither a poet nor a painter. But I can do this with sounds, for I am a musician” (November 8, 1777).
Poetry to Mozart simply furnished “a well-made plan,” dramatic situations, “obedient” words, and words written expressly for music. The rest was the composer’s affair, and he, according to Mozart, had at his disposal an utterance as exact as poetry and one that was quite as profound in its own way.
When Mozart wrote an opera his intentions were quite clear. He took the trouble to annotate several passages in Idomeneo and Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail; and his intelligent care for psychological analysis is clearly shown:
“As Osmin’s anger steadily increases and the audience imagines that the air is nearly ended, the allegro assai with its different time and different style should make a good effect; for a man carried away by such violent rage knows no longer what he is about and is bereft of his right senses; so the music should also seem to be beside itself” (September 26, 1781).
Referring to the air, “0 wie angstlich,” in the same opera, Mozart says:
“The beating of the heart is announced beforehand by octaves on the violins. The trembling irresolution and anguish of heart is expressed by a crescendo, and whisperings and sighs are given out by muted first violins and a flute in unison” (September 26,1781) .
Where will such seeking for truth of expression stop? Will it ever stop? Will music be always like anguish and beating of the heart? Yes, so long as this emotion is harmonious.
Because he was altogether a musician, Mozart did not allow poetry to make demands upon his music; and he would even force a dramatic situation to adapt itself to his music when there was any sign that it would overstep the limits of what he considered good taste.
“Passions, whether violent or not, should never be expressed when they reach an unpleasant stage; and music, even in the most terrible situations, should never offend the ear, but should charm it and always remain music” (September 26, 1781).
Thus music is a painting of life, but of a refined sort of life. And melodies, though they are the reflection of the spirit, must charm the spirit without wounding the flesh or “offending the ear.” So, according to Mozart, music is the harmonious expression of life.
This is not only true of Mozart’s operas but of all his work. His music, whatever it may seem to do, is addressed not to the intellect but to the heart and always expresses feeling or passion.
What is most remarkable is that the feelings that Mozart depicts are often not his but those of people he observes. One could hardly believe this, but he says so himself in one of his letters:
“I wished to compose an andante in accordance with Mlle. Rose’s character. And it is quite true to say that as Mlle. Cannabich is, so is the andante” (December 6, 1777).
Mozart’s dramatic spirit is so strong that it appears even in works least suited to its expressionin works into which the musician has put most of himself and his dreams.
Let us put away the letters and float down the stream of Mozart’s music. Here we shall find his soul, and with it his characteristic gentleness and understanding.
These two qualities seem to pervade his whole nature; they surround him and envelop him like a soft radiance. That is why he never succeeded in drawing, or attempted to draw, characters antipathetic to his own. We need only think of the tyrant in Fidelio, of the satanic characters in Freischiitz and Euryanthe, and of the monstrous heroes in the Ring, to know that through Beethoven, Weber, and Wagner music is capable of expressing and inspiring hate and scorn. But if, as the Duke says in Twelfth Night, “music is the food of love,” love is also its food. And Mozart’s music is truly the food of love, and that is why he has so many friends. And how well he returns their love! How tenderness and affection flow from his heart! As a child he had an almost morbid need of affection. It is recorded that one day he suddenly said to an Austrian princess, “Madame, do you love me?” And the princess, to tease him, said no. The child’s heart was wounded and he began to sob.
His heart remained that of a child, and beneath all his music we seem to hear a simple demand: “I love you; please love me.”
His compositions constantly sing of love. Warmed by his own feeling, the conventional characters of lyric tragedy, in spite of insipid .words and the sameness of love episodes, acquire a personal note and possess a lasting charm for all those who are themselves capable of love. There is nothing extravagant or romantic about Mozart’s love; he merely expresses the sweetness or the sadness of affection. As Mozart himself did not suffer from passion, so his heroes are not troubled with broken hearts. The sadness of Anna, or even the jealousy of Elektra in Idomeneo, bear no resemblance to the spirit let loose by Beethoven and Wagner. The only passions that Mozart knew well were anger and pride. The greatest of all passions-“the entire Venus”never appeared in him. It is this lack which gives his whole work a character of ineffable peace. Living as we do in a time when artists tend to show us love only by fleshly excesses or by hypocritical and hysterical “mysticism,” Mozart’s music charms us quite as much by its ignorance as by its knowledge.
There is, however, some sensuality in Mozart. Though less passionate than Gluck or Beethoven, he is more voluptuous. He is not a German idealist; he is from Salzburg, which is on the road from Venice to Vienna; and there would seem to be some-thing Italian in his nature. His art at times recalls the languid expression of Perugini’s beautiful archangels and celestial hermaphrodites, whose mouths are made for everything except prayer. Mozart’s canvas is larger than Perugini’s, and he finds stirring expressions for the world of religion in quite another way. It is perhaps only in Umbria that we may find comparisons for his both pure and sensual music. Think of those delightful dreamers about love-of Tamino with his freshness of heart and youthful love; of Zerlina; of Constance; of the countess and her gentle melancholy in Figaro; of Suzanne’s sleepy voluptuousness; of the Quintetto with its tears and laughter; of the Terzetto (“Soave sia ii vento”) in Cosi fan tutte, which is like “the sweet south, that breathes upon a bank of violets, stealing and giving odor.” How much grace and morbidezza we have there.
But Mozart’s heart is always-or nearly alwaysartless in its love; his poetry transfigures all it touches; and in the music of Figaro it would be difficult to recognize the showy but cold and corrupt characters of the French opera. Rossini’s shallow liveliness is nearer Beaumarchais in sentiment. The creation of Cherubino was something almost new in its expression of the disquiet and enchantment of a heart under the mysterious influence of love. Mozart’s healthy innocence skated over doubtful situations (such as that of Cherubino with the countess) and saw nothing in them but a subject for merry talk. In reality there is a wide gap between Mozart’s Figaros and Don Juans and those of our French authors. With Moliere the French mind had something bitter about it when it was not affected, hard, or foolish; and Beaumarchais is cold and bright. Mozart’s spirit was quite different and left no aftertaste of bitterness; he was without malice, filled with love and life and activity, and ready for mischief and enjoyment of the world. His characters are delightful creatures who amid laughter and thoughtless jests strive to hide the amorous emotion of their hearts. They make one think of the playful letters Mozart wrote his wife:
“Dear little wife, if I were to tell you all that I do with your dear picture you would laugh a good deal! For instance, when I take it from its cover I say, `God bless you, little Constance! … God bless you, you little rogue! . . . You rufflehead with the pointed nose!’ Then when I put it back again I slide it in slowly, coaxing it all the time. I finish by saying very quickly, `Good night, little mouse, sleep well.’ I am afraid I am writing silly thingsat least the world would think so. But this is the sixth day I have been parted from you, and it seems as if a year had gone. . . . Well, if other people could look into my heart, I should almost blush . . .” (April 13 and September 30, 1790) .
A great deal of gaiety leads to foolery, and Mozart had a share of both. The double influence of Italian opera buffa and Viennese taste encouraged it in him. It is his least interesting side, and one would willingly pass it by if it were not part of him. It is only natural that the body should have its needs as well as the spirit; and when Mozart was overflowing with merriment some pranks were sure to be the result. He amused him-self like a child; and one feels that characters like Leporello, Osmin, and Papageno gave him huge diversion.
Occasionally his buffoonery was almost sublime. Think of the character of Don Juan, and, indeed, of the rest of the opera in the hands of this writer of opera buffa. Farce here is mixed with the tragic action; it plays round the commander’s statue and Elvira’s grief. The serenade scene is a farcical situation; but Mozart’s spirit has turned it into a scene of excellent comedy. The whole character of Don Juan is drawn with extraordinary versatility. In truth, it is an exceptional composition, both in Mozart’s own work and perhaps even in the musical art of the eighteenth century.
We must go to Wagner to find in musical drama characters that have so true a life and that are as complete and reasonable. from one end of the opera to the other. If there is anything surprising in this, it is that Mozart was able to depict so surely the character of a skeptical and aristocratic libertine. But if one studies Don Juan a little closer, one sees in his brilliance, his selfishness, his teasing spirit, his pride, his sensuality, and his anger, the very traits that may be found in Mozart him-self, in the obscure depths of his soul where his genius felt the possibilities of the good and bad influences of the whole world.
But what a strange thing! Each of the words we have used to characterize Don Juan has already been used in connection with -Mozart’s own personality and gifts. We have spoken of the sensuality of his music and his jesting spirit; and we have remarked his pride and his fits of anger, as well as his terribleand legitimateegoism.
Thus (strange paradox) Mozart’s inner self was a potential Don Juan; and in his art he was able to realize in its entirety, by a different combination of the same elements, the kind of character that was furthest from his own. Even his winning affection is expressed by the fascination of Don Juan’s character. And yet, in spite of appearances, this affectionate nature would probably have failed to depict the transports of a Romeo. And so a Don Juan was Mozart’s most powerful creation and is an example of the paradoxical qualities of genius.
Mozart is the chosen friend of those who have loved and whose souls are quiet. Those who suffer can seek refuge else-where, in that great consoler, the man who suffered so himself and was beyond consolationI mean Beethoven.
Not that Mozart’s lot was an easy one; for fortune treated him even more roughly than she treated Beethoven. Mozart knew sadness in every form; he knew the pangs of mental suffering, the dread of the unknown, and the sadness of a lonely soul. He has told us about some of it in a way that has not been surpassed by either Beethoven or Weber. Among other things, think of his Fantasias and the Adagio in B minor for the piano. In these works a new power appears which I will call geniusif it does not seem an impertinence to imply that there is not genius in his other works. But I use “genius” in the sense of something outside a man’s being, something which gives wings to a soul that in other ways may be quite ordinarysome outside power which takes up its dwelling in the soul and is the god in us, the spirit higher than ourselves.
As yet we have only considered a Mozart who was marvelously endowed with life and joy and love; and it was always him-self that we found in the characters he created. Here we are on the threshold of a more mysterious world. It is the very essence of the soul that speaks here, a being impersonal-and universalthe Being, the common origin of souls, which only genius may express.
Sometimes Mozart’s individual self and his inner god engage in sublime discourse, especially at times when his dejected spirit seeks a refuge from the world. This duality of spirit may be seen often in Beethoven’s works; though Beethoven’s soul was violent, capricious, passionate, and strange. Mozart’s soul, on the other hand, is youthful and gentle, suffering at times from an excess of affection, yet full of peace; and he sings his troubles in rhythmical phrases, in his own charming way, and ends by falling asleep in the midst of his tears with a smile on his face. It is the contrast between his flower-like soul and his supreme genius that forms the charm of his poems in music. One of the fantasias is like a tree with a large trunk, throwing out great branches covered with finely indented leaves and delicately scented flowers. The Concerto in D minor for piano has a breath of heroism about it, and we seem to have lightning flashes alternating with smiles. The famous Fantasia and Sonata in C minor has the majesty of an Olympian god and the delicate sensitivity of one of Racine’s heroines. In the Adagio in B minor the god has a graver aspect and is ready to let loose his thunder; there the spirit sighs and does not leave the earth; its thoughts are on human affections, and in the end its plaint grows languorous and it falls asleep.
There are times when Mozart’s soul soars higher still and, casting aside his heroic dualism, attains sublime and quiet regions where the stirrings of human passion are unknown. At such times Mozart is equal to the greatest, and even Beethoven himself, in the visions of his old age, did not reach serener heights than these where Mozart is transfigured by his faith.
The unfortunate part is that these occasions are rare, and Mozart’s faith seems only to find such expression when he wishes to reassure himself. A man like Beethoven had to reconstruct his faith often and spoke of it constantly. Mozart was a believer from the first; his faith is firm and calm and knows no disquietudes, so he does not talk about it; rather does he speak of the gracious and ephemeral world about him, which he loves so well and which he wishes to love him. But when a dramatic subject opens a way to the expression of religious feeling, or, when grave cares and suffering or presentiments of death destroy the joy of life and turn his thoughts to God, then Mozart is himself no longer. (I am speaking of the Mozart the world knows and loves.) He then appears what he might have be-come if death had not stopped him on the wayan artist fitted to realize Goethe’s dream of the union of Christian feeling with pagan beauty, an artist who might have achieved “the reconciliation of the modem world”which was what Beethoven tried to accomplish in his Tenth Symphony and what Goethe tried to do in his second Faust.
In three works, particularly, has Mozart expressed the Divine; that is in the Requiem, in Don Giovanni, and in Die Zauberflöte. The Requiem breathes of Christian faith in all its purity. Mozart there put worldly pleasure away from him, and kept only his heart, which came fearfully and in humble repentance to speak with God. Sorrowful fear and gentle contrition united with a noble faith run through all that work. The touching sadness and personal accent of certain phrases suggest that Mozart was thinking of himself when he asked eternal repose for others.
In the two other works religious feeling also finds an outlet; and through the artist’s intuition it breaks away from the con-fines of an individual faith to show us the essence of all faith. The two works complete each other. Don Giovanni gives us the burden of predestination, which Don Juan has to carry as the slave of his vices and the worshiper of outside show. Die Zauberflöte sings of the joyous freedom of the Virtuous. Both by their simple strength and calm beauty have a classic character. The fatality in Don Giovanni and the serenity of Die Zauberflöte form perhaps the nearest approach of modem art to Greek art, not excepting Gluck’s tragedies. The perfect purity of certain harmonies in Die Zauberflöte soars to heights which are hardly even reached by the mystic zeal of the knights of the Grail. In such work everything is clear and full of light.
In the glow of this light Mozart died on December 5, 1791. The first performance of Die Zauberflöte had taken place on September 30 in the same year, and Mozart wrote the Requiem during the two last months of his life. Thus he had scarcely begun to unfold the secret of his being when death took himat thirty-five years of age. We will not think about that death. Mozart called it “his best friend”; and it was at death’s approach and under its inspiration that he first became conscious of the supreme power that had been captive within hima power to which he yielded himself in his last and highest work. It is only just to remember that at thirty-five Beethoven had not yet written either the Appassionata or the Symphony in C minor, and he was a long way from the conception of the Ninth Symphony and the Mass in D.
Death cut short the course of Mozart’s life, but such life as he was spared has been to others a never-failing source of peace. In the midst of the turmoil of passion which since the Revolution has entered all art and brought disquiet into music, it is comforting to seek refuge in this serenity, as one might seek it upon the heights of Olympus. From this quiet spot we may look down into the plain below and watch the combats of heroes and gods from other lands and hear the noise of the great world about them like the murmur of ocean billows on a distant shore.