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The Loves of Great Composers

The Loves of Great Composers
Title: The Loves of Great Composers
Release Date: 2006-04-10
Type book: Text
Copyright Status: Public domain in the USA.
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The Project Gutenberg eBook, The Loves of Great Composers, by Gustav Kobb

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Title: The Loves of Great Composers

Author: Gustav Kobb

Release Date: April 10, 2006 [eBook #18138]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ISO-8859-1


E-text prepared by Al Haines

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (photogravure)

[Frontispiece: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (photogravure)]

The Loves of Great Composers

by Gustav Kobb

Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.
New York

Copyright, 1904 and 1905
By The Butterick Publishing Co. (Limited)
Copyright, 1905, by Thomas Y. Crowell & Co.

Published September, 1905

Composition and electrotype plates by
D. B. Updike, The Merrymount Press, Boston

To Charles Dwyer

Table of Contents

Mozart and his Constance

Beethoven and his "Immortal Beloved"

Mendelssohn and his Ccile

Chopin and the Countess Delphine Potocka

The Schumanns: Robert and Clara

Franz Liszt and his Carolyne

Wagner and Cosima

List of Illustrations

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (photogravure) . . . . Frontispiece

Mozart at the Age of Eleven

Constance, Wife of Mozart

Ludwig van Beethoven

Countess Therese von Brunswick

"Beethoven at Heiligenstadt"

Flix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy

Fanny Hensel, Sister of Mendelssohn

Ccile, Wife of Mendelssohn

The Mendelssohn Monument in Leipsic

Frdric Chopin [missing from book]

Countess Potocka

The Death of Chopin

Robert Schumann

Robert and Clara Schumann, in 1847

Clara Schumann at the Piano

The Schumann Monument in the Bonn Cemetery

Franz Liszt

Liszt at the Piano

The Princess Carolyne, in her Latter Years at Rome

The Altenburg, Weimar, where Liszt and Carolyne lived

Richard Wagner

Cosima, Wife of Wagner

Richard and Cosima Wagner

Richard and Cosima Wagner entertaining in their Home
Wahnfried, Liszt and Hans von Wolzogen

Mozart and His Constance

Nearly eight years after Mozart's death his widow, in response to arequest from a famous publishing house for relics of the composer,sent, among other Mozartiana, a packet of letters written to her by herhusband. In transmitting these she wrote:

"Especially characteristic is his great love for me, which breathesthrough all the letters. Is it not true—those from the last year ofhis life are just as tender as those written during the first year ofour marriage?" She added that she would like to have this factespecially mentioned "to his honor" in any biography in which the datashe sent were to be used. This request was not prompted by vanity, butby a just pride in the love her husband had borne her and which shestill cherished. The love of his Constance was the solace of Mozart'slife.

The wonder-child, born in Salzburg in 1756, and taken by his fatherfrom court to court, where he and his sister played to admiringaudiences, did not, like so many wonder-children, fade from publicview, but with manhood fulfilled the promise of his early years andbecame one of the world's great masters of music. But his genius wasnot appreciated until too late. The world of to-day sees in Mozart thetype of the brilliant, careless Bohemian, whom it loves to associatewith art, and long since has taken him to its heart. But the world ofhis own day, when he asked for bread, offered him a stone.

Mozart died young; he was only thirty-five. His sufferings werecrowded into a few years, but throughout these years there stood by hisside one whose love soothed his trials and brightened his life,—theConstance whom he adored. What she wrote to the publishers wasstrictly true. His last letters to her breathed a love as fervent asthe first.

Some six months before he died, she was obliged to go to Baden for herhealth. "You hardly will believe," he writes to her, "how heavily timehangs on my hands without you. I cannot exactly explain my feelings.There is a void that pains me; a certain longing that cannot besatisfied, hence never ceases, continues ever, aye, grows from day today. When I think how happy and childlike we would be together inBaden and what sad, tedious hours I pass here! I take no pleasure inmy work, because I cannot break it off now and then for a few wordswith you, as I am accustomed to. When I go to the piano and singsomething from the opera ["The Magic Flute"], I have to stop rightaway, it affects me so. Basta!—if this very hour I could see my wayclear to you, the next hour wouldn't find me here." In another letterwritten at this time he kisses her "in thought two thousand times."

When Mozart first met Constance, she was too young to attract hisnotice. He had stopped at Mannheim on his way to Paris, whither he wasgoing with his mother on a concert tour. Requiring the services of amusic copyist, he was recommended to Fridolin Weber, who eked out alivelihood by copying music and by acting as prompter at the theatre.His brother was the father of Weber, the famous composer, and his ownfamily, which consisted of four daughters, was musical. Mozart's visitto Mannheim occurred in 1777, when Constance Weber was only fourteen.

Mozart at the age of eleven.  From a painting by Van der Smissen in the Mozarteum, Salzburg.

[Illustration: Mozart at the age of eleven.
From a painting by Van der Smissen in the Mozarteum, Salzburg.]

Of her two older sisters the second, Aloysia, had a beautiful voice andno mean looks, and the young genius was greatly taken with her from thefirst. He induced his mother to linger in Mannheim much longer thanwas necessary. Aloysia became his pupil; and under his tuition hervoice improved wonderfully. She achieved brilliant success in public,and her father, delighted, watched with pleasure the sentimentalattachment that was springing up between her and Mozart. MeanwhileLeopold Mozart was in Salzburg wondering why his wife and son were solong delaying their further journey to Paris.

When he received from Wolfgang letters full of enthusiasm over hispupil, coupled with a proposal that instead of going to Paris, he andhis mother should change their destination to Italy and take the Weberfamily along, in order that Aloysia might further develop her talentsthere, he got an inkling of the true state of affairs and was furious.He had large plans for his son, knew Weber to be shiftless and thefamily poor, and concluded that, for their own advantage, they wereendeavoring to trap Wolfgang into a matrimonial alliance. Peremptoryletters sent wife and son on their way to Paris, and the elder Mozartwas greatly relieved when he knew them safely beyond the confines ofMannheim.

Mozart's stay in Paris was tragically brought to an end by his mother'sdeath. He set out for his return to Salzburg, intending, however, tostop at Mannheim, for he still remembered Aloysia affectionately.Finding that the Weber family had moved to Munich, he went there. Butas soon as he came into the presence of the beautiful young singer hermanner showed that her feelings toward him had cooled. Thereupon, hisardor was likewise chilled, and he continued on his way to Salzburg,where he arrived, much to his father's relief, still "unattached."

When Mozart departed from Munich, he probably thought that he wasleaving behind him forever, not only the fickle Aloysia, but the restof the Weber family as well. How slight our premonition of fate! For,if ever the inscrutable ways of Providence brought two people together,those two were Mozart and Constance Weber. Nor was Aloysia withoutfurther influence on his career. She married an actor named Lange,with whom she went to Vienna, where she became a singer at the opera.There Mozart composed for her the rle of Constance in his opera, "TheElopement from the Seraglio." For the eldest Weber girl, Josepha, whohad a high, flexible soprano, he wrote one of his most brilliant rles,that of the Queen of the Night in "The Magic Flute." I am anticipatingsomewhat in the order of events that I may correct an erroneousimpression regarding Mozart's marriage, which I find frequentlyobtains. He composed the rle of Constance for Aloysia shortly beforehe married the real Constance; and this has led many people to believethat he took the younger sister out of pique, because he had beenrejected by Aloysia. Whoever believes this has a very superficialacquaintance with Mozart's biography. Five years had passed since hehad parted from Aloysia at Munich. The youthful affair had blown over;and when they met again in Vienna she was Frau Lange. Mozart'smarriage with Constance was a genuine love-match. It was bitterlyopposed by his father, who never became wholly reconciled to the womanof his son's choice, and met with no favor from her mother. FridolinWeber had died. Altogether the omens were unfavorable, and there wereobstacles enough to have discouraged any but the most ardent couple.So much for the pique story.

Mozart went to Vienna in 1781 with the Archbishop of Salzburg, by whom,however, he was treated with such indignity that he left his service.Whom should he find in Vienna but his old friends the Webers! FrauWeber was glad enough of the opportunity to let lodgings to Mozart,for, as in Mannheim and Munich, the family was in straitenedcircumstances. As soon as the composer's father heard of thisarrangement, he began to expostulate. Finally Mozart changed hislodgings; but this step had the very opposite effect hoped for byLeopold Mozart, for separation only increased the love that had sprungup between the young people since they had met again in Vienna, andMozart had found the little fourteen-year-old girl of his Mannheimvisit grown to young womanhood.

There seems little doubt that the Webers, with the exception ofConstance, were a shiftless lot. They had drifted from place to placeand had finally come to Vienna, because Aloysia had moved there withher husband. When Mozart finally decided to marry Constance, come whatmight, he wrote his father a letter which shows that his eyes were wideopen to the faults of the family, and by the calm, almost judicial,manner in which he refers to the virtues of his future wife, that hiswas no hastily formed attachment, based merely on superficialattractions.

He does not spare the family in his analysis of their traits. If heseems ungallant in his references to his future Queen of the Night andto the prima donna of his "Elopement from the Seraglio," to say nothingof his former attachment for her, one must remember that this is aletter from a son to a father, in which frankness is permissible. Headmits the intemperance and shrewishness of the mother; characterizesJosepha as lazy and vulgar; calls Aloysia a malicious person andcoquette; dismisses the youngest, Sophie, as too young to be anythingbut simply a good though thoughtless creature. Surely not anattractive picture and not a family one would enter lightly.

What drew him to Constance? Let him answer that question himself."But the middle one, my good, dear Constance," he writes to his father,"is a martyr among them, and for that reason, perhaps, the besthearted, cleverest, and, in a word, the best among them.… She isneither homely nor beautiful. Her whole beauty lies in two small, darkeyes and in a fine figure. She is not brilliant, but has common senseenough to perform her duties as wife and mother. She is notextravagant; on the contrary, she is accustomed to go poorly dressed,because what little her mother can do for her children she does for theothers, but never for her. It is true that she would like to betastefully and becomingly dressed, but never expensively; and most ofthe things a woman needs she can make for herself. She does her owncoiffure every day [head-dress must have been something appalling inthose days]; understands housekeeping; has the best disposition in theworld. We love each other with all our hearts. Tell me if I could aska better wife for myself?"

The letter is so touchingly frank and simple that whoever reads

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