Mozart Minute: A Wife is the Most Glorious Thing
In the final year of his life, Mozart composed his piano variations on the aria Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding – "A Wife Is the Most Glorious Thing" – from a Singspiel by his friend the singer and composer Benedikt Schack. Judging solely from Mozart's correspondence, Schack's aria could easily have served as Mozart's personal theme song.
When travel separated Mozart from Constanze, Mozart's letters to his wife revealed a man deliriously in love and in the throes of a happy family life.
Take Mozart's letter of July 7, 1791, written four months after the composer finished writing his variations on Schack's aria. At the time, Mozart was in Vienna writing to Constanze who, nearly nine months pregnant with their fifth child, had gone to Baden a month earlier to take the waters for a foot infection.
"You cannot imagine how I have been aching for you all this long while," Mozart wrote. "I can’t describe what I have been feeling – a kind of emptiness, which hurts me dreadfully – a kind of longing, which is never satisfied, which never ceases, and which persists, nay rather increases daily. When I think how merry we were at Baden – like children – and what sad, weary hours I am spending here! Even my work gives me no pleasure, because I am accustomed to stop working now and then and exchange a few words with you. Alas! This pleasure is no longer possible." (The Letters of Mozart and His Family, trans. Emily Anderson.)
Other letters from June and July 1791 carried similar sentiments. On June 7, Mozart wrote Constanze, "At five o’clock tomorrow morning, we are all driving out, three carriagefuls of us, and so between nine and ten I expect to find in your arms all the joy which only a man can feel who loves his wife as I do!" On June 12, he wrapped up a letter to Constanze with, "Adieu, little wife, love me as I do you." And throughout Constanze's time in Baden during summer 1791, Mozart's letters show him obsessed with the fear that his very pregnant wife might slip in the baths and fall.
All of these letters emerged before the backdrop of the Mozarts' increasingly strained finances, a hardship that would burden Constanze long after Mozart's death less than six months later, in December 1791. But ever the optimist, Mozart’s present moments – the ones filled with friends, family and, of course, great music – were all that really mattered.
This episode of The Mozart Minute was first published on July 17, 2015 at wosu.org/classical101.