White Knights at the Black Eagle

He began his career when most of us are still working out whether our nursery school is up to expectations and ended it when many of us are still trying to decide whether ours was the right choice to make. One of the first free-lancers in his field, he desperately lacked an agent and an accountant who might have put his life and affairs in order. He wrote stuff more Italian in spirit than the Italians could have written themselves and yet was chastised for writing “German rubbish” by an emperor. He was one of the few first-class artists who could create successful works in all fields of his art. He loved writing literally shitty letters to his girl cousin and was quite anal about several other matters too. He could have contributed to mathematical theory if he’d wanted to and had covered walls in his infancy with calculations which bore fruit in several of his sublime later products. As in the case of other great men, critics still argue about whether his woman was behind him, on top of him or below him. What few dare argue about is the quality of his creations which bring them as close to perfection as it is possible in this imperfect world. He also appears, sometimes unexpectedly, in several of my favourite places – Chelsea London,


Saint Eustache Paris


and the centre of Florence – as I discovered on my recent electric bus trip on route C2:


Trazom, as he sometimes signed himself off in a fascination with mirrors, undertook three Italian trips under the tutelage of his dad. In that country he was feted, awarded and intrigued against: in Bologna, for example, he was accepted into its musical academy after a particularly rigorous entry exam and the Pope made him a knight but one of his specially commissioned operas was never staged because of an infamous cabal.

Nothing economically substantial, came out of Mozart’s Italian journeys and no permanent positions in the aristocratic entertainments industry were offered to him – not too surprising when, at that time, there weren’t even enough jobs for talented home-grown musicians themselves. Just to mention our area of Lucca, for example, Boccherini had to go to Spain to find work, Geminiani to London and Barsanti to Edinburgh. What hope for our ingenuous Salzburg child prodigy then?

Yet everything artistic came out of these journeys, as witness that cosmic trilogy of Italian opere buffe and drammi giocosi which will conclude with “Così fan Tutte” at Montecarlo’s Teatro degli Rassicurati this week-end.

Italy was truly the life-blood of Mozart’s earliest inspiration. His symphonies stem from the Italian models of Sammartini. His first string quartet was written at an inn in Lodi and his early operas were performed in Milan’s theatre. Fluent in the Italian language, Mozart had always a soft spot for the country that provided him with everything that gives solace to our souls – the cantabili, the serenate, the arie, the divertimenti, the notturni, the sinfonie, the concerti and the opere.

It is, therefore, fitting that the comune of Florence, in collaboration with that great Florentine musical festival, the Maggio musicale, have now erected a plaque commemorating Mozart’s stay, when fourteen, in their city in 1770 at the Black Eagle hotel, which formerly stood on the site of the present building.

Will we ever see the likes of Mozart’s meteor again, I wonder, before this world is finally extinguished?

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