MOZART’S SON, KARL THOMAS MOZART: MY PAGE:
September 21, 1858
Why, do come in, my friends. You are always most welcome, and I hope you feel at home here!
Your visit has caught me unawares, so please, dear friends, excuse the dishes I left over there at table.
Today is the cook’s day off, and my manservant is gone to fetch water.
I was just finished supping.
Let me tidy up quickly and serve you some hot tea and biscuits.
Yes, my friends, I quite understand your interest in my father, Herr Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
I am very proud of my father, love him dearly, and greatly cherish his memory.
Papa passed on when I was but seven years of age, but let me tell you, dear friends, somehow, Papa’s loving, comforting presence is always with me.
In many aspects of my life, I can never forget that I am Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s son.
My most cherished possession is a small portrait of my father, which I often lovingly hold in my hand as I drift off to sleep.
I feel Papa’s presence around me and within me even more strongly when I hold this portrait.
You know, we Mozarts and Webers have music in our blood as likely as not, and it was my late Mama’s fervent wish for many years that I honor Papa’s memory and develop my talents as a professional musician, do Papa proud, and continue his noble legacy.
My Mama harbored these same wishes for my younger brother, Franz Xaver. She saw to it that we both received a fine education in music.
I came into this world on September 21, 1784, and today, I celebrate my birthday.
As a child, I recall my father well, although my memories of him are not continuous and plentiful.
I remember well playing games of dice and soldiers on the floor with my Papa, and how joyously and enthusiastically he partook in these games with me. I remember Papa sitting beside me at the pianoforte and giving me instruction, and I recall how our apartment was so often filled with music.
I was an only child until nearly seven years of age when my mother presented me with a baby brother, Franz Xaver.
As a child, I already knew that tragedy and illness had visited my family, as it did so many families--more so then than in our modern times--because previously, my younger baby brother and then in succession two baby sisters had sickened and died. Years later, I learned that I had also had an older brother, Raimund, who likewise had passed away in infancy.
I am a dreamer, my friends. And my nature is a shy and retiring one.
I love to wander about in the garden for hours at a time, refreshed and renewed by the sweet breath of nature. I had that same disposition as a child, and I remember so well my frequent garden forays, how I loved to while away my time in that place of refuge—my secret garden--and daydream away.
I recall my Papa remarking to Mama about my unfortunate tendency to spend my days idling in this manner……
I have a vivid memory of the time my beloved Papa died.
I was seven years old.
It is very painful for me to talk about, and I have had recurring nightmares about that sorrowful time.
I was so frightened and terrified, hardly daring to look at my Papa, so ill in bed and suffering. His body was all swollen; I had a terrible premonition, and alas, it soon came to pass.
My beloved father, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, was no more.
I remember my mother’s anguished crying and wailing, the doctor, Herr Closset, and Papa’s student, Herr Suessmayr, scurrying about, and I remember my aunt Sophie’s love, kindness, and compassion as she held me in her arms and gently soothed me and rocked me to sleep.
My life was now irrevocably changed.
I remember the consistent and constant presence of my mother and Aunt Sophie in looking after me and Wowi, as we all called my younger brother.
And you know, dear friends, my memories of my beloved Papa are a child’s memories of his father.
I wish that when I became an adolescent and then a man, I could have known my father--as an adult—man-to-man, as a friend, on equal terms—a friend and beloved Papa—and have memories of him from an adult’s perspective.
I love both my parents and their memories dearly.
I had such a dear Mama, and I cherish the memory of my stepfather, Baron Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, my Mama’s second husband.
I was fortunate indeed to benefit from father’s (as I called Nissen) love and guidance.
And I certainly miss my loving, dear Aunt Sophie.
When I was nearly nine, my Grandmama Caecilia died.
I remember Grandmama’s strong personality, how my mother and aunts always deferred to her.
When I learned of Grandmama’s death, I was far from my native Vienna—in Prague.
When I was eight years of age, my mother made the important decision which did not come lightly, she told me—to take me to Prague to attend the Gymnasium and board with an old family friend, Herr Franz Niemetschek, a professor at the Gymnasium.
Another cherished family friend, Franz Duschek, taught me the pianoforte in Prague.
Mama explained to me that a male child such as I needed the guidance of a man in my life to raise me properly, that she believed a woman alone is not adequate to fulfill this important role.
I now look upon this period of my life, these five years I spent in Prague--as my happiest!
These two foster fathers gave me their love and guidance, and I thrived in this most charming of cities.
Another fortunate occurrence in 1797, during my adolescence, was the appearance of my future stepfather, Baron Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, a Danish diplomat, into my life.
You see, dear friends, my Mama had fallen in love for the second time and had the luck to again meet a man whom she could devote herself to and be her life’s companion.
Mama and Nissen were not able to marry until 1809 in Pressburg, Bohemia, during the time of Napoleon’s occupation of Vienna.
Nissen’s diplomatic job had specified that he remain single!
Mama and Nissen, however, were as man and wife and lived together, and Nissen always thought of my younger brother, Wowi, and I as his sons.
And we always addressed him as “father” and thought of him as a second father.
Nissen’s resigning from his diplomatic post in 1807 had enabled him and my mother to marry. Thereupon, my mother and Nissen moved to Copenhagen where they resided for eleven years.
My stepfather worked in Copenhagen as censor of political journals.
In 1810, he was elected councilor of state.
Nissen retired in 1820 and in 1821, Mama and he moved to Salzburg, where my stepfather passed away in 1826.
Aunt Sophie’s husband had passed away on the very same day, and my aunt moved to Salzburg and lived with Mama for the remainder of their long lives.
Mama was called to the Lord in 1842 and Aunt Sophie in 1846.
I had two other elderly, close relatives who lived out their later years in Salzburg—my aunts Aloysia, Mama’s older sister, and my Aunt Marianna, Papa’s big sister who had toured all over Europe and England with him when they both were children and celebrated as Wunderkinder.
I had thought during my childhood that the life of a composer and piano virtuoso, following in the steps of my esteemed father, Mozart, was for me.
However, I hated to practice the piano!
I could not stand spending the long hours—the many hours a day--practically tethered to my instrument--in order to perfect my craft.
I also regrettably discovered that I did not possess the creative gift—the genius—of my father.
At age fourteen, I was apprenticed to a commercial firm in Livorno, and at age one and twenty, I moved to Milan in order to study music with the court Kapellmeister, Bonifazio Asoli.
My mother then wrote to me:
“I leave everything to your judgment and shall certainly not advise you against doing so. But always bear in mind this warning which I give you with the greatest affection: any son of Mozart’s who is no more than mediocre will bring more shame than honor upon himself.”
Five years after arriving in Milan, I finally decided against becoming a professional musician and composer.
At six-and-twenty years of age, I became an official in the service of the Viceroy of Naples in Milan, and have from then on throughout my long life been a civil servant, in the employ of the government.
My position became more comfortable as the years passed.
I am now retired, dear friends.
Today--September 21, 1858--I celebrate reaching the venerable age of four-and-seventy years.
I had one child, dear friends, my cherished and beloved daughter, Constanza, whom the Almighty chose to take from me while she was still but a child.
I cannot explain to you the profound grief I felt upon losing my precious treasure, Constanza.
My dear mother was devastated as well upon the death of her only grandchild.
She loved that child deeply as I did! Mother took solace in her deep religious faith.
My daughter’s mother was the love of my life, but she herself was the wife of an army officer.
Her marriage was a marriage of convenience, dear friends, but I could ill afford to take a wife myself.
I did not have the means to support a high-born lady, as my beloved, longtime mistress was, and I did not desire to marry below my station in life, as my lifelong companion and I would have little in common.
My brother Franz Xaver found himself alas in the same predicament as I.
He also had not the means to support a wife of high standing and did not wish to marry below his own social standing.
He enjoyed a marriage—though not in name—with his great love, Countess Cavalcabo, herself married to a Count in Ukraine, near the Polish border.
My friends, all my life, I have greatly enjoyed playing the piano as an avocation, a hobby.
I love to sit at the piano and play!
I play solely for enjoyment.
How playing the piano refreshes and renews me!
But to do this as my livelihood?
If I had been endowed with the great talents, ambition, and propensity for that kind of life, I would have gladly embraced being a professional musician and composer.
Every week, I have concerts by the best artists performed here in my home, where my guests and I can enjoy my great father’s and other great masters’ works.
My brother Wowi, encouraged by my mother, did pursue a successful career as a composer and piano virtuoso, but Wowi was always haunted by the specter of his father, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and the great expectations placed upon his own shoulders.
Instead of taking his great legacy in stride, his heritage often discomforted Wowi and caused him at times to be depressed.
I am now the last Mozart still alive.
My brother Franz Xaver passed away fourteen years ago, aged three-and-fifty years.
My friends, if my late, beloved Papa, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, were still living—he would have celebrated his one-hundredth birthday two years ago, as the date of his birth was January 27, 1756!
Imagine! One hundred years! How different the world was then, so long ago!
I accepted the invitation from Salzburg in that centenary year to attend the festivities and music festival in my dear father’s honor.
It took place on the 6th and 7th of September, and many of my father’s compositions were performed.
On the way back to Italy, I stopped in Vienna, where centenary celebrations in honor of my father were also held.
Mozart’s famous “Requiem” was performed in Saint Stefan’s Cathedral, and there were many dignitaries present, seated at the front of the Cathedral.
I sat in the pew way in the back, and thought to myself that I am the last Mozart still alive.
No one noticed me there, but I am a retiring, unassuming person, and it was just as well.
These festive occasions so reminded me of the time I attended the musical celebrations at the unveiling of my father’s statue in Salzburg and the naming of the Mozartplatz in 1842.
Well, unfortunately, in my branch of the family, there will be no more Mozarts after me to carry on the family name.
My Aunt Nannerl’s children, of course, were Sonnenburgs, and are no longer living.
But in the long run, my friends, my father’s name—Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s name—will forever stand alone.
"MOZART’S SON, KARL THOMAS MOZART: MY PAGE" is the exclusive property of Marti Burger, and is not to be reprinted without her written permission.
"MOZART’S SON, KARL THOMAS MOZART: MY PAGE"
© Marti Burger 2003-2008