Portfolio of 27 archival pigment prints exhibited in 2016 at the Klementinum in Prague. Includes folio with the titles and descriptions of all the images. Prints housed in an archival clamshell case gold stamped on the cover “Mozart and Prague” and the artist’s name. Edition limited to 50 numbered sets signed by the artist and five sets hors commerce A to E signed by the artist.
Although history and legend merge regarding Mozart’s five visits to Prague, both make clear that Prague adored Mozart. And Mozart, in turn, loved Prague. Mozart is claimed to have said, "Meine Prager verstehen mich." ("My Praguers understand me"), and he wrote of Prague’s theater orchestra, “My orchestra is in Prague.” Arthur Schurig, one of Mozart’s biographers, noted, “If any town has the right to be called his city, then it is not Salzburg, which W.A. Mozart hated, it is not Vienna, which left him to starve and forgot him in a mass grave, but only his golden Prague.”
Prince Archbishop Colloredo condescendingly regarded musicians as mere servants to be employed at their master’s whim. Mozart objected to being so disdained and sought greater freedom both as a performer and as a composer. After the archbishop accepted Mozart's second letter of resignation, the archbishop’s chief steward, Count Arco, literally dismissed the composer "with a kick in the arse."
Bertramka is a villa in Prague where Mozart is said to have spent happy days as a frequent guest. Built at the turn of the 17th century, Bertramka was the summerhouse of the Czech soprano Josepha Duschek and her husband, piano teacher and composer Franz Xaver Duschek. The Duscheks are credited with having been the first to invite Mozart to Prague.
Emperor Joseph II commissioned the opera The Abduction from the Seraglio, which premiered in Vienna in 1782. It is said that after the opera’s premiere the emperor complained to Mozart, “That is too fine for my ears. There are too many notes.” Mozart reportedly replied, “There are exactly as many notes as there should be.” But according to the French writer Stendhal, Mozart later felt that perhaps the emperor had not been wrong.
The Abduction from the Seraglio was inspired by a fascination with the exotic culture of the Ottoman Empire, which was no longer a military threat to the Hapsburgs. Mozart’s biographer, Franz Xaver Niemetschek, attended the opera’s Prague premiere in 1783 and later wrote that the audience was overwhelmed.
No opera had ever been more popular in Prague than The Marriage of Figaro. Mozart reported to a friend, “… they do not talk about anything else here than—Figaro. Nothing else is being played, blown, sung or whistled than—Figaro, no opera attended than—Figaro. And forever Figaro! Certainly a great honor for me!” The opera orchestra’s conductor, Josef Strobach, was fond of saying that at each Figaro performance the members of the orchestra were so spellbound by the music that they would have enjoyed playing the music all over again.
On January 13, 1787, Mozart visited the Klementinum’s magnificent library and is said to have played the organ in its Mirror Chapel. Describing his impressions in a letter to a friend in Vienna, Mozart wrote, “…viewing everything with utmost interest…our eyes had almost fallen out of their sockets for all the sightseeing…” A Mozart Memorial collection was established at the Klementinum’s University Library in1837, four years prior to the founding of the Salzburg Mozarteum. The Klementinum’s was the first Mozarteum in the world and the first-ever bust of Mozart can be found in the foyer of the Mirror Chapel.
The difficult woodwind passages in Mozart’s Symphony #38 in D Major, popularly known at the “Prague” Symphony, highlighted the talents for which the wind musicians of Bohemia were famous. Praguers must have been delighted that the symphony’s last movement quoted an aria from Figaro since Figaro was such an enormous success in Prague. Yet the symphony may not have been initially composed for Prague and its premiere there simply fortuitous.
Mozart’s only composition during his first visit to Prague was a set of German dances. According to Mozart’s biographer Georg Nikolaus von Nissen, Count Pachta invited Mozart to arrive for a dinner party an hour before the other guests. The count led him into a room already equipped with paper, pen and ink, and instructed Mozart to compose some long-promised dances to be performed that evening. Within the hour, Mozart handed the count the full score of a set of six dances.
A story is told that at The New Pub, site of the current hotel The House at the Golden Angel, the harpist Josef Häussler so greatly impressed Mozart with his playing of variations from The Marriage of Figaro that Mozart immediately composed a melody for him. Häussler, whose nickname was “Pigtails,” proudly kept the piece of paper with Mozart’s handwritten melody in his breast pocket until his death.
The ninety-nine-room Clam-Gallas Palace, one of the most beautiful Baroque palaces in Prague, was built for the aristocratic Gallas family in the 18th century. Mozart supposedly performed a piano concert there during his first visit to Prague. The family was well known for its arts patronage and the palace became an important center of cultural life in the city. To this day, pairs of giants flank both entrances to the palace.
Eduard Friedrich Mörike’s Mozart on the Journey to Prague was written as a tribute for the centennial of the composer’s birth. The novella tells of how, on his way to Prague with Constanze for the premiere of Don Giovanni, Mozart thoughtlessly plucks an orange from a Bohemian family's garden. Just as he slices the fruit, he is caught by an angry gardener. Anxious to get away, Mozart scribbles an apologetic note to the tree’s owners. Shortly afterward, he is not only forgiven but also welcomed by this aristocratic family that adores his music. The story ends with the count presenting the Mozarts with a beautiful coach in which to continue their journey.
In October 1787, when Mozart returned to Prague for the premiere of Don Giovanni, accounts say he stayed near the Estates Theater at the House of the Three Golden Lions. Lorenzo Da Ponte, the new opera’s librettist, supposedly was living just across the street in the Platýz House. It is said that the two collaborated by shouting at each other through their open windows.
In the autumn of 1787, after visiting the spectacular library of the Strahov Monastery, Mozart improvised wonderful harmonizations on the Abbey’s organ. The soprano Josepha Duschek and Norbert Lehman, a priest and musician, were with him at the time and Lehman transcribed whatever he could. The “Strahov Improvisation,” completed by the 20th-century Czech composer Jiří Ropek, can be heard today.
Following a lifetime of philandering, Casanova spent his final years as a librarian at Duchcov in northern Bohemia. A friend of librettist Lorenzo Da Ponte, Casanova reportedly attended the world premiere of Don Giovanni and claimed to have helped with the libretto. Some even say he was the prototype for the Don. In the opera, among the delicacies with which Don Giovanni intends to seduce his guests is chocolate, perhaps the inspiration for the marzipan-and-nougat-filled sweets called Mozartkugeln with their distinctive wrapper featuring a portrait of the composer.
After attacking Donna Anna, Don Giovanni murders her aged father, the Commendatore. Later, while hiding from the authorities, Giovanni mocks the statue that stands over the Commendatore's grave. When Leporello apologizes to the Commendatore, Giovanni insists there is nothing to fear from a dead man and, to prove it, orders Leporello to invite the stone statue to dinner. Enraged, the dead man’s soul possesses the statue and the “Stone Guest" accepts the invitation.
There is another story about Mozart being compelled by his host to produce a promised piece of work. According to Mozart’s son, Karl Thomas, Josepha Duschek gave Mozart ink, pen and paper and locked him in a room in Bertramka until he composed an aria to the words of the poem Bella mia fiamma addio (“Farewell, my beautiful flame”), which he had promised her. Mozart, so the story goes, wrote various difficult passages into the aria in order to get even with her and demanded that Josepha perform it perfectly or he would immediately destroy the piece. Duschek must have succeeded for she later sang the aria at concerts in Dresden and Leipzig during Mozart’s 1789 German tour.
In music, ornaments are embellishments that enhance the character of the melody. In Mozart’s time, string instruments themselves were occasionally ornamented with carvings to enhance their character. Here, the Prague coat of arms is ornamented with a violin bow in place of a sword to symbolize the forceful power of music.
La Clemenza di Tito, commissioned to celebrate the crowning of Emperor Leopold II as King of Bohemia, had its premiere at the Estates Theater in 1791. In Frankfurt during the previous year, the city was decorated with temporary triumphal arches for Leopold II’s coronation as Holy Roman Emperor.
The young German poet Franz Alexander von Kleist, traveling as a minor official, kept a diary of his journey to the coronation of Leopold II. His observations—“Impressions on a trip to Prague”—were published anonymously in Dresden the following year. Kleist wrote of the premiere of La Clemenza di Tito, “at that moment I wished to be Mozart rather than Leopold.” Yet, the imperial couple and their official guests, very few of whom were connoisseurs of music, were mostly bored. Only after the opera’s further performances did it receive the appreciation it merited.
Prague’s Freemasons welcomed Mozart, a member of the Grand Lodge of Austria, as one of their own. Mozart's opera The Magic Flute is noted for its prominent Masonic symbolism. In 1797, a concert in memory of Mozart was held in Prague. Among the Mozart arias performed was a Papageno aria from The Magic Flute sung by Mozart’s six-year-old son, Franz Xaver, who stood on a table to be better seen by the audience.
Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto in A Major was written in 1791 for his close friend, the clarinet virtuoso Anton Stadler. Stadler owned an unusual custom-made clarinet, a “basset clarinet,” with an extended lower range. Most likely the Clarinet Concerto in A Major is an adaptation of music initially composed for the basset clarinet. Though constantly short of funds, Mozart often loaned Stadler money, which was not repaid. Two months before Mozart died he gave the concerto and traveling money to Stadler in order for him to premiere the work in Prague. Stadler, a compulsive gambler, reputedly pawned the score.
Accounts say that Mozart wept when he departed Prague for the last time. Some have speculated that he may have sensed he would never return. Three months later, he died in Vienna. Four thousand mourners attended a Mass in Mozart’s honor at St. Nicholas Church in Prague, which featured a Requiem by Kapellmeister Rössler who conducted 120 musicians, all performing without pay. Josepha Duschek sang an aria from that Requiem. Church bells rang for half an hour throughout the city. And for the following six years, Mozart’s Prague friends took care of his two sons.
Although Mozart wrote in a letter to his family that his Italian opera, La Finta Giardiniera, had been a success when it premiered in Munich in 1775, in reality its run ended prematurely after only three performances. Throughout the rest of Mozart's lifetime, it was staged only as a Singspiel in a German translation. Five years after Mozart's death, the Italian version was revived at Prague’s “Patriotic Theater” (U Hybernů) with a reorchestrated score that sounded very much like Mozart’s later operas. Scholars have proposed that Mozart may have revised the score during his last years.
According to his widow, Constanze, Mozart loved the architecture of Prague with its Baroque churches. She wrote, "the Prague public admired and worshiped him wholeheartedly; this consoled Mozart for some of the slights he had received in Salzburg and Vienna." And Prague was the first European city in which a book about Mozart was published.
During his years in the United States (1892-1895), Antonín Dvořák was quoted in the New York Herald as saying, "Mozart! Ah, Mozart is the greatest of them all…Mozart touches my heart. His melodies are so lovable, are so inspired and so inspiring, that only to hear them is the greatest enjoyment that exists in the world for me." Dvořák acknowledged Mozart’s influence on his early chamber music and once proclaimed that Mozart was “sunshine.” The funeral Mass for Dvořák in Prague’s Týn Church included a performance of Mozart’s Requiem.
The city of Salzburg unveiled a monument to Mozart on September 4, 1842 with Mozart's two sons in attendance. His widow, Constanze, had died just a few months earlier. Franz Xaver Mozart conducted a cantata he had composed based on motifs from his father’s music. But Prague, where Mozart was revered during his lifetime, has—until now—no town square dominated by a statute of Mozart.