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Mozart: The Boy Musician
by [?]

“Why it really seems to be composed by rule! But it is so difficult that no one could ever play it.”

“Oh, yes, they could, but it must be studied first,” exclaimed little Wolfgang eagerly, and running to the harpsichord, he added:

“See, this is the way it begins,” and he was able to play enough of it, to show what his idea in writing it had been, and his father and the friend who had before exchanged glances of amusement, now looked at each other with wonder not untouched with awe.

In the Mozart collection at Salzburg, there is still preserved a music book in which those early pieces written by little Wolfgang were written down by his father, and also the minuets he learned, and in the book his father wrote after them:

“The preceding minuets were learnt by Wolfgang in his fourth year,” and further on we find the record:

“This minuet and trio Wolfgang learned in half an hour on the 26th day of January, 1761, the day before his fifth birthday, at half-past nine at night.”

In his first composition the sense of perfect form is felt to a remarkable degree, and the little book in which it was written down, not only accompanied the family on their travels, but in it Wolfgang also wrote down his first sonatas, published in 1763.

When he was not much over five years old, Wolfgang was chosen to take the part of chorister in a Latin comedy which was given at the close of the school year of the Salzburg Gymnasium, and among the one hundred and fifty young people who took part in the entertainment one can picture the charming little musical fellow as the great feature of the occasion, and many stories were told at that time of his marvellous sense of sound, and the ease with which he overcame every technical difficulty. Meanwhile he learned to play on the violin, and could tell, it is said, when one violin was an eighth of a tone lower than another. Even games, to be interesting to him, had to be accompanied by music, and a family friend in writing of him says: “If he and I carried playthings from one room to another, the one who went empty-handed must sing, and play a march on the violin as he walked.”

On an evening when a number of violinists were gathered in the Mozart home to play together, Wolfgang, who had recently been learning to play the violin, begged to play with them. His father refused to let him, and told him to run away, but the second violinist called him back, saying:

“Never mind, little man; wipe away those tears and stand by me.” So close beside him stood the little chap, and presently all were surprised to hear a clear, clean-cut tone coming from the child’s violin. His touch was so exquisite, his interpretation so masterly, that presently the second violinist laid down his instrument and listened breathlessly, while Wolfgang played on and on, forgetful of everything but the magic spell of the music, and as his father listened, his heart throbbed with pride and joy, and tears rolled down his face, as he exclaimed:

“Little music-king thou art, my Wolferl, and thou shalt reign over us all!”

From that moment it was plain that Wolfgang Mozart was a musical prodigy, and as little Nannerl, too, had great talent, the proud father now determined to show them to a world which was ever eager to applaud such genius, and in 1762 he made his first experiment of taking the children on a concert tour. This was so successful that before Wolfgang was eight years old and Nannerl twelve, they had appeared at the Courts of Vienna, Paris, Munich and London, and everywhere Wolfgang made friends with rich and poor alike, his personality was so full of charm and simple dignity.

Once, during their travels, being detained by a heavy shower at Ypps, they took refuge in a monastery. The monks were at supper and did not know of the arrival of any stranger, until suddenly from the chapel came wonderful music, music grave and gay, sad, sweet, thrilling, and marvellous in its appeal to hearts and souls. The Fathers were frightened, not knowing who could have entered their sanctuary, thinking it must be a spirit, when at last a light was brought, and creeping into the chapel, they discovered little Wolfgang at the organ, not a vision, but just a mortal boy. The Fathers were overcome with amazement and lavished all possible courtesies on the wonderful little musician and his family while they remained.