Mozart lived in Paris three separate times over a fifteen-year period. While there, he wrote twenty-one of his most beloved works, knew in turn admiration, success, and profound disillusionment . . . and complained about the taste of the water. Using rigorous research, Natalia Smirnova retraces these formative stays, and helps us picture Mozart's place in the city, and the city's place in his music.
Mozart first saw Paris in 1763, when he was seven. At once he was taken up by society, praised almost unanimously as a genius, playing for Louis XV at Versailles and in the most important boudoirs and salons of the City of Light. The boy from Salzburg captivated them all. Smirnova's research into archives and the young boy's correspondence helps us understand his view of Paris. He had a horror of the Parisians' lavish use of makeup, disliked the terrible taste of the Seine's water, and could not bear the poor quality of the French choirs, which he thought sounded "empty, frozen, and miserable."
When Mozart returned to Paris for the second time, he was only ten years old yet at the height of his career. He was again welcomed everywhere and even more applauded since his music was better understood. He played for the Prince of Brunswick and the Prince of Conti. Even Voltaire asked to meet him. It was on this second trip to Paris, in 1766, that he composed religious music for the first time—the Kyrie, K.33. Mozart, accepted as the musical phenomenon of his time, was an important part of the cultural life of the city.
Mozart had become deeply attached to Paris, and in 1778 he returned for a third time. Still poor in spite of all his success, he tried to live by teaching, but earned too little and soon realized he had to leave this expensive city. Yet, even as everyone urged him to return to Germany, he still remained convinced that he would another time find in Paris "honor, glory, and money."
In Mozart and Paris we are present at the birth of musical masterpieces—the piano and violin sonatas K.304, 305, 306. But Smirnova also helps us see the eighteenth-century Paris in which they were written. Retracing the world of concerts and meetings Mozart attended in Paris, she offers an enchanting view of the city. Enriched with black-and-white and five-color illustrations, this book will delight Mozart fans and Paris lovers alike.