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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: Boy Loses Girl, Boy Gets Girl Again.

In his professional life, Mozart emblazoned the fickle fortunes of kings, warriors, fools and philanderers across the stage for all the world to see. In his personal life, he once had a serious quarrel with his future wife over - dramatic pause - the measurement of her calves. On April 29, 1782, Constanze Weber had harsh words for Wolfgang. who had been courting her quite in earnest for the previous nine months. Mozart wrote Constanze that day, "Do think over what you said to me today," and went on with a troubling digest of their conversation: "In spite of all my entreaties you have thrown me over three times and told me to my face that you intend to have nothing more to do with me." (trans. Emily Anderson) But Mozart dismissed Constanze's rejection as the mere besotted silliness it apparently was and claimed the upper hand, writing as only a young man certain of his belle's passion for him can write, "I (to whom it means more than it does to you to lose the object of my love) am not so hot-tempered, so rash and so senseless as to accept my dismissal. I love you far too well to do so." Mozart went on to ask Constanze to reconsider and, as he put it, "to ... reflect upon the cause of all this unpleasantness, which arose from my being annoyed that you were so impudently inconsiderate as to say to your sisters - and, be it noted, in my presence - that you had let a young man measure the calves of your legs. No woman who cares for her honour can do such a thing. [...]" And in a clear display of goose-gander inequity, Mozart even offered Constanze a suitable alternative - from his own personal experience. "If it was quite impossible for you to resist the desire to take part in the game ..., " Mozart wrote, "then why in the name of Heaven did you not take the ribbon and measure your own calves yourself (as all self-respecting women have done on similar occasions in my presence) and not allow a chapeau to do so?" And after tempering the situation with logic and common sense, Mozart, like any good lover, made his move. "You realise now how much I love you. If you will but surrender to your feelings, then I know that this very day I shall be able to say with absolute confidence that Constanze is the virtuous, honourable, prudent and loyal sweetheart of her honest and devoted Mozart." Evidently so. Less then a month later, Constanze was already playing the daughter-in-law. At Mozart's request, she wrote his father, Leopold, telling him that Wolfgang didn't have time to finish writing a letter to him before that day's mail pick-up, and that he would write more before the next one.