„Harlekin seeks Colombine“

A musical conversation between Baroness Waldstätten and the absent Leopold Mozart about the women in the life of his son Wolfgang Amadeus.

 

Piano and Concept : Sebastian Knauer

Compilation of Text: Wolfgang Knauer

 

Baroness Martha Elisabeth von Waldstätten, separated from her husband and well-known among the Viennese aristocracy, reminisces about her experiences with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with whom she had a close and intimate relationship some years previously. Experienced and still attractive, notorious for her free and easy way of life, the noblewoman was not only Mozart’s piano pupil but also his generous sponsor, who had often helped him in difficult situations of a private nature at a time when the composer tried to establish himself in Vienna as a free-lance musician.

 

Mozart observed with suspicion a close contact developing between his father and the baroness. They began to correspond with one another and in his letters the widowed Salzburg deputy director of music expressed in words of longing his wish for a personal encounter. As far as is known, however, only one such meeting took place.

 

At her country estate in Klosterneuburg where, long after the deaths of father Mozart and son, the baroness lives in total seclusion, she begins to imagine that Leopold has once more returned to her for a concluding and clarifying talk about his son. She delivers a monologue that is mainly about the women in his son’s life.

The content of this monologue is predominantly based on letters by the two Mozarts as well as on authentic documents from Mozart's days.

 

The baroness’ reminiscences are interlinked with compositions by Mozart which are closely related to some of his female piano pupils, in other words, young women whose talent he not only appreciated but with whom, according to fellow contemporaries, he was also in love, albeit for brief periods. Among these works is the Sonata K309 in whose andante he portrayed Rosa Cannabich from Mannheim, the C minor Fantasia K475 and the Sonata K457, also in C minor, both of which he dedicated to the married Therese von Trattner.

 

“He was a husband, fathered four children and was an enthusiastic lover to his wife, but there was also many an extramarital ‘gallantry’ to which his good wife turned a blind eye.” This is taken from a biography published in Leipzig in 1828, which was written a few years after Mozart’s death by Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, second husband of Mozart’s widow Constanze.

 

It has never been a secret that women played an important part in Mozart’s life. He had “female acquaintances” that went beyond mere social or professional contacts, turning into more or less fleeting love affairs before and after he married Constanze Weber. The line extends from his childhood love, his Augsburg cousin Marianne Thekla, known to posterity through the infamous “Bäsle-Briefe” (cousin letters) to Mozart’s “English girl”, the soprano Nancy Storace, the first Susanna in “Figaro”, for whom he composed the famous “Rose” aria.

 

Mozart’s greatest heartache was caused by Constanze’s sister Aloisia, a celebrated singer of the time, whom he had met in Mannheim and whom he never quite forgot, even after she had rejected him. Shortly after his marriage, he danced Harlequin to Aloisia’s Colombine in a commedia dell’ arte mime he had composed for the Viennese carnival. This scene provided the title for this programme.

 

Mozart would often hide behind the mask of the harlequin or buffoon (a popular character in contemporary Viennese folk theatre). His rude and coarse jokes, whose often animalistic character was diametrically opposed to his music, seemed to serve him as a kind of protective shield behind which he tried to hide his vulnerability and fear of not being loved.