Mozart Minute: Wolfgang the Wunderkind Takes Down the Naysayers
Even today, more than 200 years after Mozart’s death, his astonishing genius is still difficult to believe. Imagine encountering Mozart the boy wonder in a world that had never, well, seen a Mozart.
In 1768, Leopold Mozart took his son, Wolfgang, on a trip to Vienna in an effort to market the 12-year-old prodigy’s talents. In early February that year, Leopold sent a letter to his friend, Leopold Hagenauer, back in Salzburg, relating in detail the willful ignorance which he believed the Viennese were holding against Wolfgang’s uncanny gifts.
Here’s an excerpt from that letter, in Emily Anderson’s translation from The Letters Of Mozart & His Family: “The chief maxim of these people was to avoid most carefully every occasion of seeing us and of admitting that they might be asked whether they had heard this boy and what they thought of him, they could always say that they had not heard him and that it could not possibly be true; that it was all humbug and foolishness; … that it was ridiculous to think he could compose, and so forth.”
Leopold devised a scheme to expose the full truth of his son’s talents against one particular naysayer.
“We had arranged with someone to inform us quietly when the man in question would be there. Our friend was then to hand this person a most extraordinarily difficult concerto, which was to be put before little Wolfgang. So we turned up and the fellow had the opportunity, therefore, of hearing his concerto played off by little Wolfgang as if he knew it by heart. … Finally he declared, All I can say as an honest person is that this boy is the greatest man now living in the world. It was impossible to believe it.”