My Mozart

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Mozart was her teacher, her mentor, her rescuer--and, finally, fatally, her lover. At dawn, in the marble palace of a Prince, a nine-year-old sings for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, then at the peak of his career. Always delighted by musical children, he accepts Nanina as a pupil. Gifted, intense and imaginative, she sees the great "Kapellmeister Mozart” as an avatar of Orpheus and her own, personal divinity. His lessons are irregular and playful, but the teacher/pupil bond grows strong. Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro premieres, and Nanina, now twelve, is given a solo part. For her, this is the beginning of a long stage career. For Mozart, it marks the start of his ruin. His greatest works will be composed in poverty and obscurity.

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Publié par
Date de parution 18 mars 2012
Nombre de visites sur la page 3
EAN13 9781773626802
Langue English

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My Mozart By Juliet Waldron
Digital ISBNs EPUB 978-1-77362-680-2 Kindle 978-1-927476-36-9 WEB 978-1-77362-681-9
Amazon Print 978-1-77362-682-6
Copyright 2012 by Juliet Waldron Cover art by Michelle Lee All rights reserved. Without limiting the rights under copyright reserved above, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in or introdu ced into a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form, or by any means (electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise) without the prior written permission of both the copyright owner and the above publisher of this book Acknowlegement "Most painfully affected of all by Mozart's fatal illness was Fraulein Nanina Gottlieb..." From Joseph Deiner's Memoirs, related at Vienna, 18 56
Chapter One "Mozart,Ich liebe dich. I love you. Love you." "Come here, Nanina Nightingale. Come and give your poor old Maestro some of your ‘specially sugary sugar." My mouth on his the friction produced warmth and sweetness, with a decided undertone of the expensive brandy he liked, flowing from his tongue to mine. I slid my arms across the brocade of his jacket, none too clean these days, and swayed a slender dancer's body against him. Let me assure you that my sophistication was assumed. It really doesn't matter - then, or now. I was young, foolish, and drowning in love. I was seventeen. He was thirty five. He had once been boyishly agile, doing handsprings over chairs, turning cartwheels of joy at a prima donna’s kiss or a perfect performance of his own celestial music. He was never tall, and was, like most men of his age, working on a bit of a belly. Still, he kept more or less in shape by a daily regimen which included running from bailiffs, dashi ng out the back doors of taverns to avoid payment, and climbing in and out of the bedroom windows of adventurous (and talented) musical gentlewomen. I believed he knew everything--that he could see right through me with those bright blue eyes. He probably could. He'd been my music master--and, more--my deity, ever since I'd met him, in my ninth year. His jacket, now spotted and stained, must have been fine enough to wear in the presence of the Emperor. Bright blue, it perfectly matched his eyes. I can still feel the fabric sliding under my fingers as my arms passed over his shoulders and around his neck. I can still see him a woolly frizz of blonde hair, long, aquiline nose--a ram that had once been an angel. Sometimes, when he was loving me in some exquisitely naughty way and joyfully smiling as he did it, I could almost see horns. So you will understand exactly how I loved him, so that you will know that it was a real passion, I'll tell you that I adored the feel of him, the smell of him, the taste of him. They've tried to turn him into a tinkling porcelain angel, but I'm here to tell you, here and now--he was not. Mozart's eyes were big, slightly protuberant, and as I’ve said, so blue. Alarming, those eyes! Once they'd shone with the pure light of genius, radiant and blissful as a summer noonday. Lately, they were simply wasted. My adored Maestro was mostly either drunk or hung over. He'd fallen from grace. Everyone knew it. Creditors hounded him. There were too many wild parties, not enough money. His wife had given up co ping, had gone back to the Baden spa where she had an on-going romance with a big, handsome Major. And who could blame her? Pretty Constance, in the last ungainly stages of yet another pregnancy, fleeing Vienna after a winter of freezing and begging for handouts... Even a seventeen year old idolater could recognize her defection for simple self preservation. I didn't judge her. I didn't judge myself. I was simply glad to have her out of the way. When she was gone, he was restless, at loose ends, spending most of his time hanging around our theater. Of course, nothing could have suited me better. Oh, I can still hear my pained Mama lecturing, tell ing me all about Wolfgang's debts, his drinking, and his wife. If I must go whoring, why couldn't I be sensible, make it pay? Naturally, I knew that the lady who filled his mind was one of his damned piano pupils. She was
struggling with a very real fear of her husband and with her own natural chastity. Dear Mozart always imagined that if a lady played his music with "taste and feeling", she belonged to him in a deeper and more complete sense than she could ever belong to a mere husband. The notion proved in every case disappointing, and, in the final exercise, fatal. He often held forth upon "acting like a Kapellmeister/ dressing like a Kapellmeister", long after he'd been ejected both from the court and the wider world of gentlemanly convention. When sufficiently drunk, he used to amuse everyone at The Serpent, clowning with a violin like some impoverished, itinerant musiker. One night, a pair of Englishmen who'd been dining t here dropped a handful of kreutzers and asked in broken German if he knew the way to "the house of Kapellmeister Mozart." As the regulars roared, Mozart answered with the filthiest English curse he knew and haughtily stalked away, leaving the money on the floor. The waiter, Joseph Deiner, God bless him, scooped it up and applied it to Mozart's perennial bill. * * * It's hard to tell how you will like a true story, but to my mind, all the best tales grow. Have patience. This, I assure you, is a love story. * * * I was born a musiker, a poor, pretty, talented girl who could have become an actress or a singer, a dancer or a prostitute. When I was seventeen, with no parents and working for Emmanual Schikaneder, I'm afraid the latter was the fate most likely. Today my beauty and voice are gone. Memories are all that remain. Except for my old friend Joseph, it was lonely for a very long time, but lately troops of well meaning Volk have been knocking on my door, bringing little presents and asking questions about the old days. "Fraulein Gottlieb," they say, "you were the Magic Flute's first Pamina. Tell us about the way it was. Tell us about the great genius, Mozart." I hardly dare speak. Once well begun, this old woma n might ramble straight through from beginning to end. My adored, long dead Maestro has become famous, a kind of Martyr to Art. I have no wish to stain the marble purity of the image that his wife, with so much skill and determination, has spent the last thirty years creating. I understand the theater of life, this proscenium beneath the arching sky. Sometimes--paradoxically--honor requires a lie. So, to such visitors, I say the obvious, about how poorly his talent served him while he lived. Then they reply, as if this makes up for the pain: "His music survives." For a performer like me, it's the opposite. In that most present of present moments, we are the lark of song, the erotic geometry of dance, the dru m beat of declamation. For a performer there's nothing beyond the flashing now, and when we grow old all that is left for us is the rusty rumination of some aged member of a long ago audience. This being so, I'll tell you who I am, or rather who I was: Fraulein Anna Gottlieb, Nanina to my long dead friends. I was a performer once admired, first as a dancer, then as a singer, and last, when I grew older, as a comedienne who had learned all abo ut getting belly laughs from those two great clowns of the Volksoper stage, Barbara Gerl and Emm anuel-The-Devil-In-Human-Form
Schikaneder. I was the darling of the fickle Viennese for years. * * * My parents performed in Vienna and died there, and I grew up in that city a performer, as close to a free woman as it was possible to be. Papa was a violinist; Mama was a dancer. Their marriage was the kind often made in the "immoral" last century and quintessentially Viennese. It was a marriage of convenience. Mama had, for a few shining years, been a star of the Court ballet. She said quite frankly that of all the men who had been sleeping with her, Papa had been the only one willing to marry her when she'd discovered she was pregnant. My mother, once a member of the elite Court Figuranti, claimed my birth ruined her career. "After you have a baby, it's as if you've been anchored to the ground," she'd complain. "You just can't do those floating leaps anymore." Whenever mother told me this, she'd run her long hands reflectively down her sides. She was not, by any stretch of the imagination, fat, but she was continually in mourning for some lost, youthful perfection. "Poor child!" She’d stroke my dark curls, so unlike her own. "Of all the rich Papa's you might have had! Instead, the capricious womb opens for the seed of a poor musiker, a fellow I lay with in pity." Clearly the Fate in control of my destiny had done right. I loved my Papa and he loved me. I think he would have loved me no matter who had fathered me, but happily for both of us, I strongly favored him. We were both small, slender, pale brunettes, with thick, curly hair. To Papa, I was always "Princess." Like all young creatures, I was pretty enough, although I didn't have the particular flash that Nature gives to blondes. A woman the world judged beautiful, my lovely Mama could make conditions. She was quick to slap, quick to scream and scold. If Papa overheard that remark about "the capricious womb," he'd retort "Fool that I was to think that real devotion could reform a public woman." And then I would hide somewhere, for that was always the start of a battle. Mama would scream about Papa's lack of money while he detailed her infidelities. * * * My god, Mozart manifested on a beautiful June day, when the sun blazed in the bluest of skies. Mama hated dancing at garden parties. There were grass stains and insects, but to children summer was the best party time. We could run in gardens and make our own ballets and plays. It was a treat to be out of the hot, smelly streets of the summer city. There were always other children present, theater brats, just like me. Parties were an important part of our education, for this was the way we too would someday earn our bread. We could run through great halls or hide behind the tapestries. On bright summer days, we could romp through gardens big as city blocks. Unattended food was everywhere. As long as we didn't get in the way, break or steal, no one cared what we did. The first thing was always to extract a glass or two of wine from the tray of a passing servant and shar e it out. Then, enjoying the pleasantly giddy
sensation that followed, we’d wander out into the garden. Prince Cobenzl owned the best. There were roses, reds, whites and pinks, so many shades, so many scents, not only bushes, but an entire corrido r lined with rose trees, an amazing sight. Next came a topiary. There we gawked at dragons, peacocks and rabbits all cut from thick green hedge. One day, rounding a corner, we came up short, for we’d stumbled upon one of those unnerving adult activities. There stood an aristocratic lady and a somberly dressed gentleman, embracing across the obstacle of fashionable dress. Their lips and hands were the only parts in busy and ardent contact. The man had to be careful not to touch her white po wdered face or he would have caused it to turn blue, a tell tale sign of kissing. Their bodies were distant, for she was in full court dress, the panniers swelling out on each side in a wave of ivory satin and lace. She accepted his tribute like a great white statue, one hand caressing his cheek, the other holding a pink and white parasol over them both. As young as we were, we understood that here a basi c, underlying rule of the world had been violated. It was not simply that the lady was married to someone else. In the Vienna of those days, adultery was the ordinary way of things. The shocking part was that the Lady was titled, a Baroness. The man kissing her was a mere musiker, dressed in the plain white wig and dark livery of a servant. Kath and I were dumbfounded. We knew that noblemen made love to ladies of any class, but never before had we seen a woman cross the social barrier. Profoundly unsettled, we ran away as if the devil was in pursuit. Of all the love making I saw at parties, this was unquestionably the most dangerous. The lady had a husband, and the husband, could, with impunity, kill that trespassing servant. * * * Later the same day, while the orchestra tuned, we became part of the anticipating throng in an outdoor amphitheater. For ease of passage, we slipped hands and made our way separately among the ladies, who, like ships of silk and brocade, drifted in our way. The top step of a newly erected summer pavilion seemed a good place for us. In a passion for all things classical, Prince Cobenzl had erected a repl ica of a little Roman temple. Here we perched, gazing over the white and silver audience to the red-coated orchestra. From among the violins, a bow lifted and waved. It was Papa. I waved back. Behind the orchestra, stood an oak tree, absolutely the broadest I'd ever seen. Powerful limbs lifted, it was a leafy, bark-armored Atlas. I could imagine it holding up the sky. One of those large new fortepianos had been set on delicate walnut leg s between the violins. An erect little man, seemingly not much more than a boy, sat before it. This, I thought, must be the new Kapellmeister, the pianist Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the one Papa liked so much. He wore the same uniform as the orchestra. He began to play. The allegro made me smile with pleasure, for it seemed as brilliant as the day. I was not alone in my pleasure, for among the audience there were some who threw back their heads. Some even swayed, as if they wanted to get up and dance. Champagne and joyful music buzzed in our heads. Notes splashed into the air and fell around in a sparkling cascade. I was carried away, straight into heaven. The fleecy cloud sheep that had dotted
the sky earlier wandered off. Now the aching blue suffered no interruption, except for the occasional flash of swallows. His music was a heart, beating inside me. Suddenly, my imagination aflame with music and wine, I saw the rough bark of the great tree shiver. It was breathing and alive, just like me—and that was when I heard it: "Orpheus!" I looked around to see a face that would acknowledge the words, but met only the questioning gray eyes of Kath. * * * The sparrows made their homes in the ivy and awoke me every morning with their chatter. I had grown beyond the child's bed in the corner of my parent's room. Sometimes I could hear them shift and sigh, the bed ropes creaking. Sometimes there would be an urgent rhythm. I knew the sound--a cadence, accompanied by sighs. This was the so called “lovemaking.” Unlike any of my friends, I was an only child. Twice, at least, I remember Mama taking her swollen belly to bed. Mina, a servant who'd been with us forever, dashed for the midwife and later carried away the bloody thing in the chamber pot. When I asked what had happened, I was told that my brothers and sisters wouldn’t stay inside long enough to ripen. Papa, the one I loved so much, is harder to remember. I have a miniature, but the painter was a friend and not a professional, so the skewed portrait doesn’t much resemble him. What I do remember are moments of comfort, of a warm lap beside a fire, of an agreeable leathery smell, of hugs, and scratchy Papa kisses. The clearest memories come in the brown of my mirrored eyes, or while watching the blurred fingers of a violinist deep in his art. As for Mama, well, she was beautiful but usually unhappy, at least while she lived with Papa. She lost her place in the Figuranti, and though she still performed, it was only in the corps de ballet, in mimes, or in the puppet dances. Even in this narrow sphere, she excelled. Puppet dances became a particular specialty. I remember people saying that she did the cleverest "peasant with a basket" they'd ever seen. Mama did teach me, and did so with a certain amount of violence. She was quick to cry "Clumsy!" and slap. Only the fact that I loved what I learned saved me from complete discouragement. By my ninth year, I was performing. Mama, assisted by her contacts at Court, got me parts. She painted my face and saw to my costumes. Although she never said much in the way of praise, Herr Franck, Master of the Figuranti, asked for me almost as much as he asked for pretty blonde Kath. I came to understand that I pleased him. My adoring Papa praised, but he didn't want me in t he ballet. Too many dancers became courtesans instead of wives. He wanted me to have a respectable life, so he taught me music. All his hopes rested upon my high, sweet voice. I remember performing for his orchestra friends. Such nice fellows, for they made us both happy, applauding "Gottlieb's Little Nightingale." I'd swell with pride. I can't remember a time when I didn't know the difference between "nightingale" and mere "canary." Encouraged, Papa had me sing scales for an hour every day. He also found time to teach me to read, to write and to figure. He was very demanding, exactly as if I'd been a son. He paid for me to attend, along with other musiker children, a teacher of French and Italian, the languages of the stage.
Sometimes my parents quarreled about this. Mama, who could barely read-- although like most performers, she had, by ear, Italian and some French--thought formal education wasted on a daughter. "Girls don't need much. As for her voice, she's a soubrette, nothing grander. In another year Herr Franck says he'll be delighted to take her into the Court Figuranti. Even plain as she is, those legs of hers will get her a man quicker than you can blink." She couldn't imagine a larger life for me than the one she'd had herself. * * * Clothes and manners have changed. Basset horns have disappeared, and the oboe d'amore, too. The dainty klavier has metamorphosed into the big, loud pianoforte. A few things do remain the same. The oxen still drag wagons into town, their great brown and white heads nodding thoughtfully. Sleepy servants stagger out on errands at dawn. Butter and sugar on my porridge, today as yesterday, a warm slurry filling my stomach. There are chickens in the street, sparrows in the ivy, and men and women still break each other's hearts. I look up, half expecting to see Pieter shaving Papa by the tenuous light of the window. The cat--some cat--curled tight in my lap, the pleasant creaking warmth of our small smoky stove. "Nanina, Princess, did you know that Herr Mozart will be at the party tonight?" After the party at Cobenzl's, I'd been lucky enough to hear my Orpheus, Herr Mozart, many times. He could play prima vista the most difficult musi c, play it better and with more spirit than the composer. He could take themes and combine them into fugues worthy of old Johann Bach. At a party, after only one hearing, I saw him sit d own and play a song from memory. Herr Mozart, my Papa said, was the most learned Kapellmeister in Vienna. I had learned enough to understand why the adults w ere astonished, but the excitement I felt when Mozart played centered directly in my body, no t my mind. I wanted to spin for joy when he wove a tune into one of his cat's cradles of sound. Though he seemed hardly more than a boy, when he pl ayed he exuded the calm of absolute authority. Even the most jaded audiences were intimidated by his manner into polite silence. Listening to him play, I had the odd notion that this small man was larger than anyone else in the room. Still, when Papa's friends spoke of Herr Mozart, they weren't always complimentary. "Those wigs!" "Those French suits!" "Yes. He looks like Baron Zinzendorf’s valet." "It's his music that bothers me. Someone should tel l him that scholarship is no substitute for melody. I have indigestion from all those cadenzas." Papa would generally protest. "Rubbish, gentlemen. Mozart is brilliant; a young Haydn." "An den Haaren herbeigezogen, Gottlieb. Have you lost your mind?" "I couldn't agree more. Mozart's a novelty, just like all these other keyboard men that besiege the concert halls. He won't last." "Time will tell," was my father's serene reply. * * *
On this party night I remember so well, all the ent ertainments were over. My child's part in a pastoral singspiel was long over. One by one my friends had waved good-bye. It was very late now, and when my last companion left, I knew I'd better find my parents. Pelting through a succession of poorly lit, yawning rooms, I finally discovered few remaining guests. Every surface was covered with a litter of glasses and bottles. It had been a very successful party, the entertainment well received. The servants were as tired, and perhaps as drunk, as everyone else. Those who were devoted to music were here, listening, ignoring their work. Dancers stood around the klavier. Silhouettes of lo vely legs were visible through the thin gauze of skirts. Garlands of wilted flowers crowned their heads. One of them was Mama. A pair of gentleman dandies, peacocks of color and ornament, kept them company. The men struck poses, too. Perhaps for the benefit of the onlookers, or perhaps, like the males of every kind, to intimidate each other. A knot of musicians collected around Kapellmeister Mozart. Papa and two other string players stood by his klavier, instruments in hand. They were discussing a score. A prima donna, Madame Lange, was present. Her bejeweled fingers rested familiarly on the brocade of Mozart's shoulder. The company was intimidating, but I drew closer. After a few minutes, they set the music on stands where candles burned with long tongues of flame. The lowest was for the 'cellist, the higher one to be shared by Papa and a violist friend. Kape llmeister Mozart seemed to be playing from memory. After a quick one-two-three, they were off into a trio. Mozart’s hands traveled precisely over the black keys of the fortepiano. Caught in his net of sound, I had closed my eyes, hearing, seeing nothing else, when a skirt, weighted with paniers, struck me. Apparently one of the ladies had stepped back. Full court dress was more than a match for any skinny child. Abruptly, I found myself sitting on the floor. At my scuffling fall, the music stopped. There were scattered chuckles. Nearly obliterating me in skirts, with a monstrous hiss, the lady turned to see what had happened. "Why, look! I've downed a nymph." The red mouth in her whitened doll's face drew into a smile. The lady offered me a glittering hand. Such egalitarian kindness! Blushing, I tried to rise gracefully. Profoundly nervous, I dropped a curtsy which I hoped would adequately include all these great personages. "Frau Gottlieb's little girl, aren't you?" asked the lady. I dropped another curtsy and so did Mama, who had c ome hastening forward. I heard her murmur, "You honor us with your kind attention, Madame Baroness." Mozart, seated at the klavier, smiled. "Why, look, Herr Martin," he said to the gray headed 'cellist, who had watched the scene with irritation, "Here is Franz Gottlieb's Princess." What had my fond Papa been saying about me? Wanting to sink through the floor, I shot a look in his direction, but Papa, blind with parental pri de, could not see my discomfort. I could feel a wretched blush, that bane of my life, throbbing into my cheeks. "Your Papa says that you appreciate good music and that you sing." These were his first words to me. There wasn't a hint of condescension or mockery in his voice. Shy and proud as a cat, I had braced for it. "I hear all of your music that I can, Kapellmeister."
I remember rocking up on my toes. I absolutely couldn't stop myself. Here I was, talking to this magician! "She clearly has excellent taste. Come here, Princess Gottlieb. Sit beside me." Mama released me. I wanted to skip, or at least execute a few pirouettes, but I forced myself to walk properly. When I arrived, Mozart gravely leaned towards me and whispered, "You know, I'm a great dancer myself. I can turn cartwheels." I remember smiling uncertainly. Tumblers turned cartwheels, but I had never before heard of a Kapellmeister doing such a thing. The trio began again. I sat without a single fidget. Even from such a vantage point, I could see no effort. Contrarily, the more intricate the piece gr ew, the more relaxed and dreamy became his expression. When the beautiful sound concluded, I went where he pointed, to a cross-legged seat on the Turkey carpet beside the fortepiano. His sister-in-law, the wonderful Madame Lange, was going to give the gathered faithful one final aria. Modern opera lovers ask me about this lady, about what her voice was truly like. I lack the ability to be critical, for Aloysia Lange was another of my musical idols. Tall and curvaceous, with a voice like spun silk, she was to me a goddess. That night she wore a cream colored court dress. Her long hands flashed with the offerings of admirers, and her curls, the color of honey, were not powdered. The last of the Prince's party had been drawn into the room by the trio. The aria she sang was poignant, all about love in vain. As thrilled as I was to be there, I could feel sleep sitting heavily on my eyelids. Sometimes Madame Lange's soft passages were too delicate to be heard properly in a theater, but here, in this intimate setting, each exquisite phrase fell perfectly upon the ear. By the end, there wasn't a dry eye in the room, but the piece set the final seal upon the evening. Suddenly, it seemed, the party was over. Compliments were passed, music folded, adieus murmu red. All around were bows and hand clasps. Chins and cheeks were kissed, depending upon affection or familiarity. The musikers were making arrangements to meet in the morning, Sunday, to play in the Prater. That is, if anyone could will themselves out of bed by noon… Then, I can't remember exactly how it happened, Papa put a hand on the ivory sleeve of Mozart's jacket and asked a question I thought would stop my heart. "Will you hear my little girl sing sometime? Tell me what you think?" "Gottlieb, dear fellow, you know I don't teach singers." Papa had already dared as far as was in his nature. There the matter might have rested, except for Madame Lange. "Oh, Mozart," she said, "don't be a stump. You with your endless torrents of opinion! Have the child sing right now. You and I can tell good Herr Gottlieb the truth in a wink." I was wide awake now! I remember every nerve tingling, my heart threatening to leap through the walls of my skinny chest. Papa was overwhelmed to have his request so suddenly granted. I could tell he didn't think this was the best time, but Mama stepped forward, more t han ready to dispose of all Papa’s nonsense about my talent.