Friday, April 28, 2006

Saint Katharina Gilowska

It is Katharina’s belief that the spa should be a cure for EVERYTHING. We have just returned from Gastein – as always, the going, not the departure on her insistence. What she cannot understand is that SHE is my waters, my spa, my sanity, my municipal ball, my delight in companionship, my rival in target practice, my grateful audience when I perform an adagio, allegretto – my very own, noisy canary. What can I give HER? Not enough I fear. An elegant flower pot? A bowl of roasted apples or a small brown cat? I really wish that she had married Wolfie. N.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

A Mistress of Sorts

This morning the miraculous milkmaid was nursing Jeanette Babette behind the bamboo screen in our salon. It has the painted figure of a mandarin and a woman holding a parasol, a butterfly in her hair. They are crouching next to a stream that runs underneath a small arched bridge, at the point where the paint has started to peel. I saw Johannes pause for a moment before he passed, looking solemn and sad, as if he wished to be on the other side of the screen.
Our daughter grows apace while he and I are like two old hats lying side by side on a shelf in the cupboard. Now that is intimacy.

Sunday, April 23, 2006

A Daughter

Johanna Maria Anna Elisabeth, born 22nd March 1789, is lodged with the wet nurse and taking suck - I write, lying on my bed, facing the wall. ‘Milk fever,’ a voice whispers from behind closed door. ‘Unhinged by birth’ – like a rusty gate. No, no, they are mistaken. I am a failed milch cow, playing someone else’s figured bass. Do NOT feel pity for me. I am, you see, Freyfrau Anna Maria Walburga Ignatia Berchtold zu Sonnenburg - née Mozart. Ay, there’s the rub, who WAS Mozart but who IS no more. N.

Saturday, April 22, 2006


Jakob Hofmann travelled from Frankfurt to attend the last soiree before my confinement. He remained in Saint Gilgen as our guest for two more days, playing with the children, discussing town affairs with Johannes, examining my recent compositions, enjoying Salzburg gossip and regaling us with stories of Wolfie’s triumphs in Vienna.
On his last evening, I suggested we take a moonlit walk by the duck pond.
A wild boar bellowed out of the darkness of the mountains when we reached the end of the path. We laughed, waiting for the mournful howl to come again, talking freely and without shame as old friends – of how I reminded him of Papa when I performed an especially long trill with my tongue between my teeth. He told me this and so much more, before we collided trying to avoid the branches of a tree.
I confessed that he, my dear Jakob, used to visit me in dreams dressed in a scarlet coat with gold buttons and white silk stockings and with buckles on his shoes. He laughed again and called me his little Schätzl and assured me, as if I did not know already, that it was indeed a dream.
I stumbled when my shoe slipped in wet, fallen leaves but he steadied me with his arm and I felt the child within me turn. We saw each other fully by moonlight and I could hear the wind that came from the rise and fall of our breathing as we stepped apart. The moon shivered on the surface of the lake and we returned to the house, reluctant to let go of the past. N.

Friday, April 21, 2006

A Promise

I made a promise to Katharina Gilowska, who is now thirty-seven years of age and unmarried. Sometimes when I look into her face, I see my own reflection - one or two faint lines around the eyes - the weariness of wear and tear, a thinning of the lips and hair. Well then. I have offered her my second child when it is born and she has accepted, but of course it was a jest on both our parts. N.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

My Condition

I am again with child. I dreamt last night that I was twisting and tossing in my bed, scratching my head as I waited for the nitpicker to arrive. A pair of ducks was nesting inside a periwig that had been snagged among the reeds of a lake. The lake was at the bottom of my bed and a harpsichord without any strings was floating towards a small island in the centre. At my feet, a solitary egg rested on a giant lily pad. I wept until my throat was raw, my pillow drenched. N.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Another World

I have been neither amused nor amusing of late but am resolved to banish this gloom. I have composed a laugh with a fresh quill and when I read it aloud, my spirits will be transformed.
Mm-m. That’s a fair composition. N.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

In Permanent Motion

Church, charity and soirees are a piffling distraction from the profoundest grief. No visits from my brother, although we have exchanged cold letters about Papa’s estate. Herr D’Yppold brokered an agreement in monies and I am to keep Mama’s rings and what remains of the Royal snuffboxes. No jeweled toothpicks left and no Papa but one husband, six noisy children and fresh galanteries between the hours of two and four o'clock – my life on the edge of a lake. N.

Monday, April 17, 2006

In Memoriam

I already scarcely remember what he said to me in all the years of his loving companionship. I cannot now recall what he said to me, even when a short while ago we had exchanged cards in a game of écarté, which he won. All those sensations that had recently been, seem lost, forgotten, at a distance or obsolete. If I remember him, I will be undone because then I will know that I cannot exist without him. N.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

My Beloved Father

28th May, 1787
He complained of indigestion that would not go away. He asked that Leopoldl should lie beside him in his bed. Now Papa is in heaven and I am inconsolable. N.

Saturday, April 15, 2006

An Observation

The art of the successful salon depends on the exchange of abundant praise and a smidgeon of criticism. I have never met a human being who was undone by this discrepancy, nor an event. It is the etiquette of the salonniere, the basis of a bel esprit and the very core of our little café of Saint Gilgen. 'Encore! Bravissima! Let there be more coffee and cake.' Madama Sonnenburg.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006


The Sisters of Abundant Mercy took charge of our first supper - thank the Lord. My cousin, Anna Maria Pertl, who studied the art of voice with Madame Weigl at Eisenstadt, agreed to sing for us the day before.
‘Neither the composer nor the performer is obliged to a strictness of time. What you are about to hear are extempore touches in place of any formal effects.’
I bowed solemnly to our audience of intimates and thought I heard a murmur of bees when I sat down to play, though it may have been an air of agreement at the simple lack of requirement.
After a FREE style Preludio, my cousin sang the aria,‘Porgi, amor,’ from Le Nozze di Figaro. She sang with such fluid and beseeching tones that the older women wept while their husbands closed their eyes and smiled at some memory.
At the end of our little concert, three marble cakes and several plates of Viennese pastries with glazed cherries were consumed at a lick. Conversation on the merits of vibrato was so lively between guests that Johannes pronounced the evening a success and Papa said to anyone who would listen, he wished Wolfie had been there. N.

Monday, April 10, 2006


The invitations are dispatched but I am low in spirits. The fortepiano gleams like a Venetian mirror and there is not a speck of dust in the house. For the concert, I am to wear a green silk dress with lace fissure at a cost of sixty ducats. My stepdaughter, Marianna is to turn the pages as I play – that is, IF I play. Our singing cook has been taken severely ill and there are less than ten days in which to find another Prima Donna in the kitchen, not to mention the salon. N.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

The Readiness is All

So much to DO before the concert - Johannes has insisted that the entire house be aired, which means the windows are left open to the icy winds by night and day, the salon curtains taken down and beaten to make sure the moths are NOT hiding in their folds and twenty more chairs with gold tassels and blue velvet cushions are to be borrowed from a rich aunt in Augsburg. Her brother-in-law is a bookbinder and he has agreed to print as many programmes as there are chairs! N.

Friday, April 07, 2006


The Widow Von Durst sends advice from Munich but the Abbe Eiberle, Papa and Katharina Gilowska are my committee for the first soiree. It is agreed we must have a balance of sonatas and songs between the cakes and ideas. Who then to sing at our salon - a soprano of my sex or a masculine presence with a feminine grace?
I have heard there is a certain castrato whose legato and messa di voce are celebrated in Upper Silesia, who executes a slow crescendo followed by a slow diminuendo without the least change in his tempo di vibrato. In short, he is a phenomenon. N.

A Change in Plans
I am worried that our primo soprano may hold his breath, sing a thousand notes a minute but neither pronounce the text clearly enough nor understand the emotions he is meant to express. What if there is all the flair of a trapeze artist and none of the poet? Not the castrato then…though I have a cook, who warbles well enough and who has a fullness of body and such heartfelt shrieks when she chops the head off a bird that I think I may have found my Lady Macbeth if not my Cherubino.
"Long live the knife!" is the cry in my kitchen and no longer in the opera house. N.

Wednesday, April 05, 2006


I have a plan, not a dream. I shall keep a salon in Saint Gilgen – a forum for ideas. I will practise the etiquette of the philosophe as I would a fantasia. My guests from the grandest villas of Germany or the drinking holes of Prague will explore such subtleties of conversation AFTER they have listened to my brother’s music. In short, I shall be a salonniere with an ivory fan and a black spot on my cheek. N.

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Rivals of Another Kind

Aha! And have I ever doubted my father’s sagacity or his ability to foresee events? So it has come to pass that Constanze and Wolfie are planning a tour of Germany followed by a trip to England. They have asked Papa if he will care for their two sons while they are traveling. (It would seem Herr Muller, the silhouette maker, has stirred something of a hornet’s nest by revealing Leopoldl’s whereabouts. And who is his most rapturous audience in all this mischievous blabbing from Salzburg to Vienna? Wolfgang and Constanze.)
‘Basta!’ cries Papa. ‘As if I am NOT already an overworked and exhausted kindergarten!’ (He has quite forgotten that it was HIS idea, HIS wish and HIS insistence that HE borrowed MY son for his entire infancy.)
What to do? I replied in a letter from Saint Gilgen.
‘Asso-luta-menta-niente,’ Papa wrote back and in my mind I could hear him toss his inkpot at the wall. ‘I shall simply say I cannot be a nursemaid to their increasing brood as they may well have such a fine time abroad, they will FORGET to return for another two years. Out of the question and OUT of order, my son!’
Poor Wolfie, named after a lake - but I have read the score of Le Nozze di Figaro and it is perfect – so, not so poor as Salieri. N.

The Marriage of Figaro, 28th April, 1786

Only those who have never practised a commitment to their ideas can suppose that the pursuit of composition does not require a seriousness of purpose, a resolve to finish what has been started or a particular energy that if lacking or in small supply will prevent that person from completing their work. Such a person could NOT be my brother - nor it seems Salieri, the Emperor’s court composer. They are both pursuers in their different ways.
‘Le Nozze di Figaro’ will have its first performance tonight and friends have informed Papa that Salieri and his friends ‘will move heaven and earth to down his opera.’ The cause of this sabotage? Jealousy. N.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Well At Last

Leopoldl is again sucking hard at the quaking puddings. The fever has passed and Papa praises the Lord and the gentian violet, which he has used to paint the rash inside his grandson’s mouth. Yellow, sulphurous powders, purple medicine, a pink and white spotted tongue - who would have thought there could be so much colour in one illness? This morning at mass I fell to my knees to thank God for his mercy in the middle of the Kyrie. I collapsed with such a passion that blood trickled onto my shoe. N.

Leopoldl is Unwell

Papa has written to say he fears the worst. My child's small tongue is smothered in white spots and his body is feverishly hot…It is all I can do to stop myself from taking the next coach to Salzburg and resenting the good health of my five noisy stepchildren. N.

Sunday, April 02, 2006


Papa insists that a babe is like a sapling and requires every bit of one's attention. You feed it, you water it, you watch it grow. He is certain that my son knows his A from his B and his C from his D. It would seem his small fingers curve on the coverlet with all the natural delicacy of a keyboard player and bear little resemblance to a tree. As his mother, I am told to rest assured.
It would seem his uncle - that well tended plant, has found success in Vienna with his subscription concerts and his string quartets. Papa paid a visit to Vienna in time for Lent and reports that Herr Joseph Haydn turned to him at the end of one of these concerts and said: ‘Before God and as an honest man, I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me in person or by name.’ N.

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Papa's Educational Theories

‘My Dear,’ he writes the following twice over in case I have not received it first time round, ‘I plucked the strings of a violin from behind a pillar and watched how quickly the boy turned his head to the sound. Quite soon I will teach him the alphabet and wait for him to read aloud to his aging grandfather. When the good Lord sees fit, I will take your son by the hand and we shall walk up the path together and on that day I will bring him safely back to you.’ N.