Live from Manchester on Grand Tour Day
I spent the journey, as we sped past hoar-frost covered fields and still frozen canals, reading about Mozart’s travels. There’s an excellent article on London by Simon McVeigh in the Cambridge Mozart Encyclopedia. Mozart, Nannerl and their father Leopold arrived on April 23rd, 1764, after a journey from Paris via Calais and Dover. Leopold soon discovered that even a moderately attended concert could raise over £100, ‘a sum that exceeded his annual salary in Salzburg’.
London in the 1760s was rich and confident, the ‘centre of a thriving trading area, flushed with military success around the globe’; enormous wealth sat side-by-side with grinding poverty. This paragraph is worth quoting in full, as it gives a good flavour of the city the Mozart’s arrived at:
London already numbered some 700,000 inhabitants, and Leopold Mozart’s letters revel in amazement at the size of the sprawling metropolis, the number of churches and squares, the learned societies and libraries, the shops and taverns, the victuals it consumed. He was clearly shocked by the contrast between the violence of a rioting mob, protesting against French silk imports, and the gentility and ease of cultured society, the broad avenues and fine squares of the West End, the brilliant lighting, the fine horses and carriages. Yet he was also intrigued by the mix of society milling together around the open-air bandstand at Vauxhall Gardens, whose magical setting he found so enchanting’.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart always wanted to return to London, and there’s a suggestion that English friends in Vienna (including the London-born soprano Nancy Storace) almost got him to return in the 1780s. ‘It’s been suggested that the last three symphonies and even Cosi fan Tutte may have been intended for London,' concludes McVeigh, ‘but we can only fantasize with Mozart about the wealth and acclaim he would surely have received there’.
BBC Philh Tonmeister Stephen Rinker balancing the orchestra this morning
Nicholas Kenyon in his Faber Pocket Guide to Mozart lists a few of the London addresses Mozart knew. Cecil Court, off St Martin's Lane (where the family first lodged), Brewer Street, Soho (where he performed at Hickfords Music Rooms), Buckingham Palace (where he played for George III), 180 Ebury Street in Chelsea (where he stayed with the Randall Family) and the British Museum, to whom he presented the manuscript of K20, the motet ‘God is our Refuge’.
Alas, Mozart never got much further north than Regent's Park; and certainly never crossed the Watford Gap. I’ve come to Manchester for a series of lunchtime concerts for The Genius of Mozart. Tomorrow, that fine Scottish pianist Steven Osborne plays the K415 piano concerto; then we record Shai Wosner playing K482 for broadcast on Friday. Today it’s Radio Three New Generation Artist Francesco Piemotesi with K453. All three concerts are conducted by the Turin-born Mozart specialist Antonello Manacorda. A rich lunchtime feast stretches out over the next few days.