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Classical 101

Mozart Minute: Mozart's Teeth

If some of Mozart's bawdiest letters were to his cousin, Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, some of his silliest were to his sister, Maria Anna Mozart, called "Nannerl." One of the silliest - and quite possibly the briefest - of all of Mozart's letters is to Nannerl and dated December 16, 1774. It reads in its entirety, "I have toothache." And ever the dramatist, for more comic punch, Mozart concludes his laconic letter with a ridiculously long-winded sign-off in Latin, translated here by Emily Anderson: "Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus Sigismundus Mozart sends many greetings to Maria Anna Mozart, to his mother and sister, and to all his friends, and especially to pretty girls and Fräuleins." And the toothache? Mozart's dental problems were nothing new by the time he penned this letter to his sister, and they had already taken root in Mozart's creative mind. Two years earlier he began composing (but did not finish) the aria "A tooth decayed and sensitive to the cold." Here's that aria fragment performed by the bass soloist of the Webern Chamber Choir with the Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Bertrand de Billy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NVW8lezSe0k And to a 1786 masquerade ball, Mozart brought a broadsheet of riddles which he entitled "Excerpts from the Fragments of Zoroaster." One of the riddles drew on his dental issues, and is translated in Maynard Solomon's biography of Mozart: "We are many sisters; it is painful for us to unite as well as to separate. We live in a place, yet we could rather call it a prison, for we live securely locked up and must work for the sustenance of men. The most remarkable thing is that the doors are opened for us quite often, both day and night, and still we do not come out, except when one pulls us out by force." The riddle's solution: Teeth.

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.