Although unable to secure a musical appointment in Paris, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart did receive a commission to compose a symphony. But even with the work, times were still tough in the Mozart household. Wolfgang’s mother, Anna Maria, did not fare well being on the road. Continually besieged with illness, she finally succumbed to her ailments and passed away.
Under usual circumstances most children would contact other family members with the news. But since he wasn’t like most children, Mozart did not send a message home to his father. Instead, he continued to work on his symphony (K297 for Concert Spiritual).
There were many reasons for this behavior. Mozart knew his father would call him back home as soon as he sent the letter and he did not want to go home penniless, live under the dreary skies of Salzburg and see the disappointing eye of his first musical sponsor, Archbishop von Colloredo. Mainly, he wanted his freedom. So he continued on with the day to day and postponed the inevitable.
My question is how low on the totem pole was Mozart’s mother to warrant such treatment? Was she the equivalent of a household servant? Just look at the above family portrait. There is Wolfgang and his sister, Maria Anna, sitting on a piano bench while their father proudly looks on. Then far in the background, on the wall, residing in a frame is Anna Maria.
Why? Even though she passed away, why not fully paint her into the family portrait? Isn’t it a painting? Why paint a portrait into the portrait? Why only give her a head shot and hang her on a wall like she was a bowl of fruit? Is this how business was done back then or how the Mozart household dealt with people who decided to die so they no longer had to follow their children all over Europe? What kind of conversation would have ensued if Leopold surprised his only son by showing up unannounced in Paris just in time for breakfast?
LEOPOLD: (ENTERING) Wolfie, my boy.
WOLFGANG: (GETTING UP FROM HIS CHEERIOS) Papa! What a surprise. Did you have a safe trip?
LEOPOLD: Well, I didn’t get food poisoning or contract rheumatic fever.
LEOPOLD: Enough small talk. Have you secured an appointment?
WOLFGANG: I do have commission.
LEOPOLD: I’m sure mother is pleased.
LEOPOLD: And where is she? I know the road can be trying for her.
WOLFGANG: Oh, you know Mama. Never one to make a fuss…
LEOPOLD: Is she at the market?
WOLFGANG: I would say closer to the garden.
LEOPOLD: And when will she be returning?
WOLFGANG: It’s all in the hands of the creator. Is it not?
LEOPOLD: Wolfie, are you all right?
WOLFGANG: Funny you should mention it since you ask about Mama.
LEOPOLD: Do you have something to say?
WOLFGANG: With Mama unable to be here, I feel I must.
LEOPOLD: Then spit it out.
WOLFGANG: Mother may have passed on.
WOLFGANG: No, she did. She died. Three weeks it has been and I failed to notify you because of this commission to compose a symphony.
LEOPOLD: This commission. Tell me more. Have you already been paid?