Mozart's Wife


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Giddy sugarplum or calculating bitch? Pretty Konstanze aroused strong feelings among her contemporaries. Her in-law's loathed her. Mozart's friends, more than forty years after his death, remained eager to gossip about her "failures" as wife to the world's first superstar. Maturing from child, to wife, to hard-headed widow, Konstanze would pay Mozart's debts, provide for their children, and relentlessly market and mythologize her brilliant husband. Mozart's letters attest to his affection for Konstanze as well as to their powerful sexual bond. Nevertheless, prominent among the many mysteries surrounding the composer's untimely death: why did his much beloved Konstanze never mark his grave?



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Date de parution 20 décembre 2015
Nombre de visites sur la page 5
EAN13 9781772990164
Langue English

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Mozart’s Wife
By Juliet Waldron
EPUB 9781772990164
n Copyright 2 E. 2018 by Juliet Walron Cover art by Michelle Lee Dedication To my husband, Christopher, who has spent the last fifteen years putting up with me, Mozart, and his wife. Tradito, schernito Dal perfido cor, Lo sento che ancora Quest ’alma l ’adora, Lo sento per essa Le voci d ’amor Cosi Fan Tutte
Chapter One
At sixteen, my big sister Aloysia looked like the p ainted goddesses who reclined voluptuously above our heads on the ceiling of the opera house. Like them, she was blonde, rosy, round breasted, and narrow waisted. A lthough she didn’t fall in love with Mozart, as both he and my parents so ardently wishe d, I did. It happened because Papa staunchly maintained that no matter how tight things were, we could, “Always spare a little beer and som e of Jo’s fine liver dumplings.” He was forever bringing home traveling musicians from the court, absolutely certain that one of these fellows would be useful. Mama never be lieved his hospitality would yield anything to our advantage, but this peccadillo was the only one my father owned. Some of our guests were famous, most were not. All, however, had exciting stories to tell about the great courts they’d seen and famo us performers they’d heard. Besides, once they set eyes on Aloysia, they were glad to sp end an evening giving impromptu lessons. The most notable wanderer Papa brought home was Wol fgang Mozart. He had stopped at the Mannheim court on his way to Paris. After composing a piece for one of our noblemen, Herr Mozart had required a copyist. He was naturally, directed to my Papa, whose desperation was such that he took on every kind of odd job. Of course, Papa knew of him, this miracle of nature who’d been entertaining kings since his sixth year. With the copying job finished, Papa took his pay an d invited the famous Herr Mozart to The Ox. After downing a stein of our justly famo us beer, they would harmonize on a familiar tune—the treachery of the nobility. It qui ckly became apparent that our families had much in common. The story of Papa’s fall, without the questionable details with which Mama liked to embellish it, was central. Years ago, as a bailiff for Baron Schonau, Papa had provided handsomely for his growing family. His master, finding him compliant (what poor man wi th four daughters to dower is not?) involved him in a crooked business deal. When the deal went bad, Schonau had the perfect scapegoat. In the end, we had to flee t he baron’s lands in the middle of the night to escape arrest. On horseback, Papa decoyed the pursuing politzei aw ay, while Mama and the rest of us were driven across the border of the electora te in a farm wagon. Under the hay was hidden our klavier and a wardrobe; the latter s tuffed with a random collection of whatever had come first to hand. Mozart listened to this story of betrayal and ruin with great sympathy. He hated his master, Archbishop Colloredo, as thoroughly as Papa hated Baron Schonau. Mozart explained that his father, an educated man and an a ble musician, was constantly humiliated and bullied by the archbishop. In fact, Wolfgang was in Mannheim because he had resigned his commission and was traveling th rough the world looking for
another. Archbishop Colloredo was Mozart’s devil and Baron S chonau was Papa’s. They called for more beer and pondered the great questio n of the day: whether a talented, hardworking man could make his way in a world domin ated by aristocratic privilege. “Would you share my table some evening, Herr Mozart ?” asked Papa. “Nothing special, of course. Only what a poor, unlucky Germa n can offer. But my oldest girl cooks like an angel and my beautiful Aloysia, just sixteen, Herr Mozart, sings like one.” Papa had sized up his companion well. Such an invit ation, a combination of earthly and musical pleasure, proved absolutely irresistibl e. For days before the visit, Papa primed us. Herr Moz art was young, but he had already been commissioned to write operas for the m ost important Italian cities. To honor his guest, Papa found copies of two arias from Lucio Silla, an opera Mozart had written five or six years earlier, and s et Aloysia to practice them. Unfortunately, for us, they were both bravura arias , written for a prima donna who loved to display not only the power of her voice, but a t hree-octave range. Aloysia was so diligent that our ears rang, and the neighbours kep t coming around to complain. On the day, which was to prove so fateful for me, J osepha was excused from cooking and I from sewing; such was our division of labour. Fat Josepha cooked, beautiful Aloysia sang, and I, curly-headed, chubby Konstanze, sewed. Sophie, the baby, belonged to Mother, and waited only upon her. In those days, I imagined my task the most rewardin g. For what happened to the fruit of my sisters’ long labour? The cook’s delici ous dinner disappeared into someone’s gullet and the singer’s aria vanished into thin air . On the other hand, a nicely embroidered petticoat or shirt gives pleasure again and again. I’ve always had an impulse to practicality. As the third daughter, my life was full of hand-me-downs. How else to get clothes that fit? “Herr Mozart mustn’t see you doing servant’s work,” said Mama. “Oh, Mama,” I fretted.” Why do we always have to pr etend we’re better off than we are?” That day I had been sewing a badly needed petticoat for myself. “Why don’t you do embroidery, darling? That always looks genteel.” Her favourite word! Nevertheless, the afternoon wou ld be easier to endure with busy hands. From beneath a pile of mending, I dug out a hoop of long neglected petit point. No sooner had I settled down with it than Herr Moza rt, surprisingly diminutive and wearing a jacket stiff with the most exotic French needlework I’d ever seen, arrived at the door. I’ll confess my eye dwelt upon the lavish ly ornamented jacket for a long time before I gave as much as a second look to the man i nside. Slender, boyish, and short, Herr Mozart looked nowh ere near his twenty-one years. To me, Papa’s “little mousekin” (or, in Jo’s nastie r parlance, the runt) our visitor’s lack of size was rather intriguing. His eyes were the feature, however, which finally s eized and held my attention. They were the largest, most luminous, sky-blue eyes I’d ever seen. They shone with alert good humor. I liked his hair, too—a curly blonde mop which had already begun an escape from
his queue. As you’d expect in a klavier player, his hands were shapely and restless. He kept fidgeting with his tricorn, turning it ‘round and ‘round. Aloysia had on her best dress, a peach satin that p erfectly complimented the bloom in her cheeks. Our maid, Marie, had spent an hour b rushing Aloysia’s hair, drawing the chestnut strands over a cushion to give it extra he ight. Men had already drowned in my sister’s eyes, but sh e was far too good for any of them. Too good especially for the young musikers of the orchestra who continuously besieged her with flowers, painted ribbons, and nec klaces. Broken hearts littered our small garden, the place where she disposed of all s uch importunate suitors. As Herr Mozart bent over Aloysia’s hand, I saw his blue eyes lift and fasten upon the bow ornamenting her bosom. At once, I knew that , world-famous wunderkind or not, he was going to be as big a fool as all the others. Aloysia always carried a fan during these parlour skirmishes. She snapped it open and f luttered it about as if it was a languid summer day instead of midwinter. The little gentleman wasn’t immune. Already his pal e cheeks were coloring. Jo made a disgusted face, but Mama delivered a pinch to one of her fat arms. “My other daughters, Herr Mozart.” One by one, Papa presented us. For me, perfect post ure was inevitable. My dress, one of Aloysia’s hand-me-downs, had been taken up, but during the altering, I hadn’t realized that the waist was too tight. By the time I did, it was far too late to do anything about it. To wedge me in, Mama had laced the stays so hard I couldn’t get a proper breath. Feeling a little faint, I bobbed a very straight cu rtsy and kept my chin up, all the time praying the seams of the dress would hold. As I ros e, I met Herr Mozart’s bright eyes. Was he laughing at me? I remember blushing, my emba rrassment about the dress —and myself—palpable. After some polite chat, Mozart took Aloysia’s hand and led her to the klavier. As soon as he saw his arias on the music stand, he gav e my father a veritable sunburst of a smile. “Wandering children returned to their Papa!” He lif ted the scores and gazed at them fondly. “Frau Wendling often sings these for our elector, b ut just wait until you hear my girl, Herr Mozart,” Papa said. After a little more about how pleased he was that h is music had found its way back to Germany, Mozart sat and began the prelude, dropp ing into the music as effortlessly as a muskrat slides into water. There was none of t he preliminary fussing I’d seen other pianists affect. Soon Aloysia’s coloratura was risi ng, fire to the heavens. The high notes floated effortlessly; the lows were likewise perfec t, full, rich, and round. My sister’s voice wasn’t the only faultless music I heard that afternoon. As Herr Mozart’s handsome hands flew over the keys I was am azed, not only by his easy manner, but also by the beautiful sounds he produce d from the strings of our weary, old klavier. Jo’s eyes became slits. Clearly, she wasn’t enjoyin g the show. The sad fact was
that her voice was every bit as fine as Aloysia’s, but she was plain, overweight, and a very good cook. All of this had kept her worldly en deavors, thus far, confined to our kitchen. On that long ago afternoon, our father was ready to burst with pride. Even our unmusical Mama seemed genuinely interested, althoug h perhaps it was only the richness of our guest’s jacket, and what that impli ed, that so intrigued her. Herr Mozart became a regular visitor. He was suppos ed to make his way to Paris if he couldn’t find a position in Mannheim, but he did n’t seem anxious to leave. Before meeting us, he’d spent most of his time with influe ntial members of the orchestra, like Herr Wendling, whose wife and daughter were stars o f the opera, or with Kapellmeister Cannabich. With innocent candor, Mozart told Papa that he pref erred us. “Being with you dear people is just like being home,” he said. Of course, the attraction was Aloysia. Unlike some of her other beaux, Herr Mozart seemed to admire her talent at least as much as her figure. After an hour of accompanying her, he rose from the klavier as flush ed and joyous as if they’d spent the time kissing. Mozart gave my sister lessons upon that instrument, and she soon was accompanying her singing with far more skill. He sw ore to Papa that he would do everything he could to help her career. What’s more , he was as good as his word. Among other important people, he introduced her to Herr Raaff, a famous tenor now living at the Mannheim court. Raaff was past his pr ime, but he had many important friends. The vain, old tenor was charmed by Aloysia. Immedia tely he invited Papa, Mozart, and his bella Signorina Aloysia to a party where th e guests were a heady mix of successful musicians and wealthy aficionados. Their evening proved a great triumph. In fact, the next night at the opera, a group of these same partygoers wildly applauded Aloysia’s on e, small canzonetta. They even called for an encore. This incident was to mark the beginning of my sister’s meteoric rise as a singer, but the immediate effect was to p ut the reigning prima donna’s nose out of joint and make Aloysia insufferable for days . When Mozart presented himself at our door, my littl e sister, Sophie, and I would scamper to open it. We knew, you see, that Aloysia would make him wait. It was a torment she routinely inflicted on all her admirers . Sophie and I didn’t care how long she took. While M ozart was waiting for his goddess, we had him all to ourselves. He was always obliging; a delightful playmate who showed us cat’s cradles we’d never seen. He was also a dangerous and incredibly dexterous opponent in games of jacks. As soon as Aloysia appeared, however, the fun was o ver. By the time the little man straightened from bowing to the coquette posing in the doorway, lover’s anxiety had entirely extinguished his natural sparkle. I couldn’t endure being around them then, even thou gh their music was beautiful. I hated the slave who now gazed from Wolfgang’s blue eyes. I hated the gushing Italian
compliments he paid. I knew my sister. The more he doted, the more she would despise. Poor Wolfgang! His tics, and he had a fair number, intensified in the presence of his idol mio. His nervous fingers were the worst, often going completely out of control, either drumming on the tabletop or tying his watch chain into hopeless knots. Within a few weeks Aloysia could mimic him perfectl y—his busy hands, his submissive bow, his florid Italian. Spiteful Jo was her most appreciative audience. Heaven knows, Mama and Papa, who had begun to dream about a match with the wunderkind from Salzburg, would not have been amuse d. “I think you’re both horrible,” I said, wanting to defend him, but this only sent Jo and Aloysia onto the sofa where they rolled about giggl ing in a most unladylike fashion. “Herr Mozart’s really nice,” I insisted. “He’s terr ibly clever and the best teacher you’ve ever had, Aloysia. You’re cruel to mock him so.” Aloysia arched her brows in high scorn. “Since when does anyone care what you think, Stanzi? You sound just like Papa and his tir esome Wolfgang Mozart-knows-music-forward-and-backwards-and-he’s-an-ab-so-lutel y-magnificent-klavier-player-the-best-I’ve-ever-heard.” She then imitated our sleepy, young priest as he sl urred the Latin of early Mass. Her violet eyes rolled towards Jo, who picked up th e cue at once. “Yes! You think he’s nice because he plays baby games with you and Sophie.” “The very idea that I could fall in love with Mozar t!” Aloysia continued. She’d sat up now, affecting hauteur. “Why, he’s a little runt! L ike you, Stanzi!” Nevertheless, Jo and I both knew Aloysia would rele ntlessly lead on this newest admirer. It was her nature.
Whenever Wolfgang gave Aloysia klavier lessons, Jos epha and I regularly spied on them from behind the kitchen door. It didn’t turn o ut to be much fun, though. All they did was discuss music—and practice, practi ce, practice. Nothing as naughty as hugging or kissing ever seemed to happen , even though Mama hopefully left them unchaperoned. One evening the house was full of their heavenly mu sic and the equally heavenly smell of Josepha’s sugar rolls. These had just arri ved, carried up by the baker’s boy from the oven we rented at the shop on the first fl oor. At first we’d given them kreutzers for the privilege; these days the baker, knowing a good thing when he tasted it, simply took a tithe of Jo’s goodies to sell himself. I was eating a roll Jo had given me, cheerfully lic king off the sticky topping, when she put her finger to her lips and motioned for me to follow. Slipping to the door that led into the parlour, she cracked it open. We could see Mozart and Aloysia facing us over the klavier. Candlelight haloed their blonde heads. Aloysia was playing. She did not have the piece per formance-ready, however. She played smoothly, but she still had to lean forward and concentrate on the score. So much effort spoke volumes about the difficulty. Mozart’s big eyes were fixed on the tendrils of fai r hair, which curled along the nape of her neck. His expression was like that of our te rrier gazing at a roast on the table— such longing, such desire—but not quite the nerve to go for it. “He’s ready,” Josepha whispered, closing the door. I had a mouthful of warm bread, but managed to mumb le, “Ready for what?” Jo had a habit of thinking out loud. You couldn’t tell whe ther or not you were supposed to answer. “For the coup de grace,” she whispered, impatient w ith my slowness. “For Aloysia to trample over him as she makes her way to fame and f ortune. Papa said Herr Raaff has sworn to get her parts. The entire court is to hear her sing at Herr Wendling’s next week.” Jo favoured me with one of her crooked smiles. “She ’ll laugh in the little man’s face soon, mark my words.” I ached for him. Mozart had done more to help Aloys ia’s singing career in two months than our threadbare Papa had managed in the last three years. “You’re just jealous,” I murmured. Jo pushed the door ajar again. Her defiant, dark ey es made a silent exposition, darting from me to the couple at the klavier. Aloys ia was concentrating on Wolfgang’s music. Wolfgang was concentrating on Aloysia. They might as well have been blind. “No one in Mannheim will ever take that little man seriously,” she said. “And, I ask you, how can he ever get a position at court when a ll he does is hang about here?”
After supper one evening, Mama had a notion to make tracings of everyone’s hands. It was interesting to see how different each was. Aloysia had long, thin fingers and a narrow palm. M ama’s hand was startlingly similar. Josepha’s hand was fleshy and broad. Mine was the littlest of all, even smaller than Sophie’s. The proportion of palm to fingers wa s equal. “That means Konstanze is practical.” Aloysia knew the palmistry game. She held up her own slender hands and admired them. “I have lon g fingers, which means I’m sensitive and artistic.” She sent a soulful look to wards Wolfgang which he, poor dupe, returned. Mozart had such a muscular palm that it made his fi ngers appear short. They weren’t, though, for we measured. Fingers and palm were in exact proportion. “Just like Konstanze’s.” Sophie was the one to make the curious observation. Wolfgang playfully reached over to pinch my cheek. It seemed to amuse him that we had something in common. His hands might have been small, but they weren’t w eak. Sophie and I had discovered we couldn’t get anything away from him i f he didn’t want to let it go. Papa confirmed our observation, saying that a person had to have very strong hands to play as masterfully as Mozart did. After we made the tracings, Mama cut them out. “I’m going to put these into my scrap book,” she said. That, however, wasn’t her actual intention. The nex t day the outline of Mozart’s hand was presented to me. “Here, Konstanze. Why don’t you start a nice pair o f mittens for him? You’re so good at knitting, and he’ll be leaving for Paris so on. Remember how muscular his hands are and be sure to make the mittens full enough.” I recognized a command, but it didn’t matter. I lik ed Herr Mozart. He, unlike most visitors to our house, acted as if Sophie and I mat tered. Mittens were easy. I would have them done in no time. As soon as I finished, I dutifully turned them over to Mama. They were to be presented to him along with a book of the comedies of Molière that Papa had brought with him from the wreck of our old home in Breisgau . * * * It was blustery and cold the day of Wolfgang’s depa rture. When he said good-bye, his cheeks and nose grew red. As he formally carried Aloysia’s fingers to his lip s, I saw tears spill from those sky-blue eyes. Even then, he was a paradox: How could s omeone who was so clever also be so dumb? Sophie and I were genuinely grieving. Wolfgang had become a special kind of playmate; one we would miss. As I watched Papa give him the book, I wondered whe re my mittens were. Mama wasn’t holding them.
When Sophie and I attempted to follow Wolfgang and Aloysia out onto the landing, Mama blocked the way. “Stay inside. All the heat will go out.” She began to close the door, but as she did, I hear d Aloysia say, “Here, dear Mozart. You’ll need these in the cold.” Mozart’s reply was brimful of emotion. “Oh, my ange l! Did you knit—” The rest was lost in the closing of the door. I sta rted forward, but Mama caught me by the shoulder. “Konstanze Marie,” she hissed. “Do n’t you dare!” Understanding, when it came, was dumbfounding. I sp un around and ran straight to the bedroom we girls shared. Mama followed, but I d idn’t pay any attention. Jumping into bed, I pulled the covers over my head and burs t into tears. “Aloysia is the only one you love!” I sobbed. “Now stop that. You shouldn’t begrudge your sister. What if Herr Mozart gets a place at the great Paris court?” Mama argued and scolded, but I hurt all over. I kne w Aloysia was the important one, but this didn’t feel like the little thing Mama kep t insisting it was. “Talk to her, Fridolin,” she finally called to Papa . “The foolish creature has worked herself into a state.” Papa sat down on the edge of the bed and claimed he didn’t understand what all the fuss was about. “This is silly, Konstanze. I’ll have Aloysia give y ou something. You should be paid for your fine work, at least.” Silly? Paid? How could my own dear Papa talk like that? It gave me a horrible sinking feeling, for he was u sually the honest one. His betrayal, the blackest, was so terrible that it sta rted me crying all over again. Finally, Aloysia was summoned. “I only did it becau se you knit so much better than I do,” she said. “You don’t knit at all!” I cried, outrage bringing me from under the blankets. “Well...well...Mama said you wouldn’t mind, but I s houldn’t have believed her.” Sitting there, soggy faced, I had the sudden, stunn ing realization that, for the first time ever, I actually had the upper hand. At once, I threw myself face down upon the pillow and began to work up another bout of sobbing . At this point, it wasn’t too hard. “I’m sorry, Konstanze,” Aloysia said again. “Really , I am. Look here now. I have a present for you.” Papa’s tactic was to be employed. After a few more minutes of her coaxing, I sat up again. If my righteous anger was to be bribed away, it had better be with something really good! Her long thin fingers held a necklace, a silver hea rt hung on a matching chain, set with a glittering sapphire chip. Immediately I reco gnized it, the thing of hers that I, in the purest sense of the word, coveted. It became diffic ult to maintain a pout, even though I knew it would be no hardship for her to give this a way. “So what?” I made myself say. “You have a dozen nec klaces.” “But isn’t this the one you like best?” Aloysia fla shed her smooth cat’s smile. “Stop