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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: Mozart in the City of Darkness

In the three previous Mozart Minute episodes, Mozart complained bitterly in letters to his father about the people, the musical politics and even the muddy streets of Paris, where, accompanied by his mother, Anna Maria Mozart, he was trying to launch his career. The young man's frustrations were understandable enough, even if his constant kvetching was unproductive and thus a bit silly. But on July 3, 1778, Anna Maria died, and Mozart was charged with the dual task of grieving his mother and notifying his father. He had notified Leopold of Anna Maria's dire health in a letter composed in the wee hours of July 3. Then on July 9, referring to his earlier letter, he made the news of Anna Maria's death official, writing to his father, "On that very same day, the 3rd, at twenty-one minutes past ten at night my mother fell asleep in the Lord; indeed, when I wrote to you, she was already enjoying the blessings of Heaven - for all was then over." Mozart's father, Leopold, wrote him on July 20 having received word of his wife's death. Mozart responded on July 31, noting morbidly, "You know that I had never seen anyone die, although I had often wished to. How cruel that my first experience should be the death of my mother!" He also detailed his mother's symptoms in the days leading up to her death and the treatments she agreed to receive for them. But if Mozart's relationship with his father was already emotionally complicated, Leopold's letter of August 3, in which he all but blamed Mozart for Anna Maria's death, deepened the drama. "I am sure that my dear departed wife neglected herself and on that account was neglected by others. [...] I told you in May that she ought not to postpone being bled, as the climate of Paris was warmer than that of Salzburg. Yet she put it off until June 11th ... The day before this treatment she took far too violent exercise, and got home exhausted and overheated ... and finally the doctor was called in far too late. [...] You had your engagements, you were away all day and as she didn't make a fuss, you took her condition lightly. All this time her illness became more serious, in fact mortal - and only then was a doctor called in, when of course it was too late." Then Leopold unleashed a master stroke of guilt and manipulation, reminding his son that he had wanted Anna Maria to return to Salzburg, but that she insisted on staying with Wolfgang in Paris. "Well, it is all over. God willed it. The unbreakable chain of Divine Providence preserved your mother's life when you were born, though indeed she was in very great danger and though we almost thought that she was gone. But she was fated to sacrifice herself for her son in a different way."

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.