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Mozart Minute: Mozart Gives Himself Props for "The Best Work I Have Ever Composed"

image of a portrait of Mozart in which he wears a bright red coat
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Catch The Mozart Minute every Friday at noon during the Amadeus Deli, and listen to The Mozart Minute podcast at wosu.org/podcasts.

After Mozart left - or, rather, was sacked from - his Salzburg court job, he had to make it as a freelance musician in Vienna. To stay in the game and keep the wolf at bay, Mozart organized and performed concert series of his own music, including one in 1784 that gave him much to brag about.

  March and April of 1784 were a flurry of activity for Mozart. In a quirky twist of irony, he wrote his father why he had so little time to write that spring.

“You must forgive me if I don’t write very much, but it is impossible to find time to do so, as I am giving three subscription concerts in Trattner’s room on the last three Wednesdays of Lent, beginning on March 17th,” Mozart wrote. “I shall probably give two concerts in the (Royal National Court) theatre this year.” (Letters of Mozart and His Family, trans. Emily Anderson).

The good news was that more than 100 people subscribed to Mozart’s series. The not-so-good news was that Mozart found most of Vienna’s finest musicians tied up with other gigs, and so had to change one of his concert dates in order to put on the show at all.

On March 20, 1784, Mozart wrote his father, “My first concert in the theatre was to have been tomorrow. But Prince Louis Liechtenstein is producing an opera in his own house, and has not only run off with the cream of the nobility, but has bribed and seduced the best players in the orchestra. So I have postponed my concert until April 1st and have had a notice printed to this effect.” 

That April 1st performance included the premiere of Mozart’s Quintet for piano and winds (K. 452). Ever eager to crow about his own triumphs, Mozart wrote his father on April 10, “I have done myself great credit with my three subscription concerts, and the concert I gave in the theatre was most successful. I composed two grand concertos and then a quintet, which called forth the very greatest applause: I myself consider it to be the best work I have ever composed. […] How I wish you could have heard it! And how beautifully it was performed!”

And in case Leopold wasn’t paying attention earlier, Mozart added, “Well, to tell the truth I was really worn out in the end after playing so much – and it is greatly to my credit that my listeners never got tired.”

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.