01-02-2006 - Traces, n.2

Mozart (1756-1791)

Amadeus. A Continuous Font of Beauty
An insignificant, solitary little man. He knew it, but didn’t care. For him, the Beauty that had filled his void was enough. The profound sentiments of the musician laid bare in his very human letters

by Enrico Raggi

There is a little known Mozart, unsatisfied and serious, laced through with a strain of blackness, and animated by an irrepressible religious sense, who probably will not be mentioned during the celebrations marking the anniversary of his birth (1756). It is difficult to discover him by reading his correspondences, because complete translations do not yet exist. Mozart’s letters are a bottomless mire. Wolfgang continually adopted different masks, changing style according to the recipient of his message, modifying his language according to the goal he intended to achieve. He was a great man of the theater, in art and in life.
When writing to his father, he used a serious, well-mannered tone, like a good son, polite and very devout. “For a long period, even before marrying, Constance and I went to Holy Mass to confess and receive Communion, and I noted that I had never prayed with such fervor, nor had I ever confessed with such devotion as I have since Constance has been at my side, and the same has been true for her as well. In a word, we are made for each other.” Instead, with those he had to entreat for a loan, he became suppliant, humble, and formal, using the tone of accompanied recitative. He was playful everywhere; he loved swearwords, wrote words backwards, cut them in half, and changed their order. He invented names, wrote sentences in code, used acronyms, and used series of periods to indicate suspended thoughts.

Softened image
After his death, his wife Constance destroyed many of his letters in order to create the image of the eternal boy, a softened, cleaned up, perfect image. To this end, many of the surviving letters are also full of erasures. Other letters are modern inventions. The famous one about his death, addressed to Lorenzo da Ponte, dated September 1791–“I have nothing left to fear, now that the hour is tolling and I draw near to my last breath. I have finished before enjoying the fruits of my talent. And yet life was so beautiful, and my career opened out under such fortunate auspices, but one cannot change one’s destiny. No one can measure his own days; we must resign ourselves. It will be as Providence is pleased to have it. I’ll close. Here is my funeral song; I mustn’t leave it imperfect.”–does not exist; no one has ever seen it, and it has been passed on for centuries from who knows what corrupted source.
And then again, we can never tell from Mozart’s letters whether he’s feigning or not. No one has ever written as much as he, and yet no one has so hidden himself within a river of words. Mozart belongs to hell’s circle of the silent. The more he wrote, the less he revealed of himself.

A certain emptiness
And yet, between the lines, distractedly, he murmured to himself, amidst a host of banalities. Mozart lay bare his heart. Writing to his wife on July 7, 1791, he said, “I can’t explain to you my impression. It’s a certain emptiness–and it hurts–a certain desire that is never satisfied, and thus never interrupted–it lasts forever, or rather, it grows day by day. If I recall how happy and childish we were together in Baden–and instead what sad and boring hours I pass here… Not even my work consoles me. Enough!” That Wolfgang should affirm that not even his music was enough is something absolutely revolutionary. Here emerges a Mozart whose experience coincides fully with that of Fr. Giussani, in that the more he thought he seized life, the more his thirst increased. The more he conquered, the more he felt the solitude that brushed against him. Mozart knew that he had received a gift, music, a gift that filled the emptiness of a normal, lackluster, absolutely banal life. Here is how he described one of his days: “The 27th, to 7:30 Mass or something of the kind, then to Lodron or something of the kind, then not to the Mayr’s who stayed home instead. Afternoon, right away off to Countess Wicka, played tressette or something of the kind. The morning after, rained. In the afternoon the weather became beautiful. Oh weather! Oh became! Oh beautiful! Oh afternoon! Oh rain! Oh morning.”

God-given talent
The biographers who knew him personally described him as an insignificant, solitary, taciturn little man. He was aware of their opinion, but wasn’t concerned. For him, it was enough to yield fruit from the talent God had granted him. It was enough to describe the pain and exultation, the certainty, the toil of living, the heart’s leaps, the soul’s wonders, as no one before had ever done. Mozart happened, stormed in, plunged down to places technique cannot reach–Being, death, man in the face of the Infinite. Mozart observed and described the human with the greatest fidelity. He felt that in the real there is something that attracts, and he sought this everywhere. His music kindles our desire for life and beauty. Mozart always affirmed something other than himself. He described only what he had seen. He created nothing. He cared for what exists: the faithfulness of a servant (Leporello), the sweetness of the gaze of a woman in love (the Agnus Dei of the Coronation Mass or the countess in Nozze–it’s one and the same), the Mystery of the Incarnation (in K 427). Beauty never frightened or embarrassed him. It never made him feel uncomfortable because of his unworthiness or immorality, because he could never deserve it (Giussani wrote in this regard: “Mozart was a figure full of incoherence and human limitations”). Instead, he always sought beauty. And when he found it and recognized it, he never abandoned it: the face (and the voice!) of the women who populate his theater, the tremendous majesty of the Omnipotent, the fever of life and consciousness in The Magic Flute… Mozart looked at and followed the attraction of reality.
As we listen to his music, Mozart makes us love Christ and Our Lady as no one had done for centuries. The music he wrote was the entreaty of the Good Thief, the affirmation of the centurion, the loving gaze of the Samaritan woman, and the tears of Mary Magdalene–not defined by their failings, but completely entrusted to the extraordinary they had encountered.