There are elements to the tragedy of Mozart’s life that touch us even if we are in that taxing minority who remain unmoved by his music. Here was a man of prodigious talent, dead at thirty-five, worn out by the effort of constantly performing -and constantly exercising his genius. He had the strain of supporting a family, including his parents, from childhood; of being morally blackmailed by a father who reminded him, whenever necessary, of the sacrifices that had been made for him. Mozart’s marriage was a happy one, but he was separated from his wife by the demands of work for much of their nine years together. All but two of their six children died in infancy. It might be the story of any aspiring mid-European of the late eighteenth century; except that in most other cases, the waste would not have mattered nearly so much.
As Robert Spaethling points out, when we encounter Mozart in epistolary mode we have him at his most private. Unlike so many of the artistic poseurs of our own times, Mozart wrote for the joy of it, or out of necessity, not with an eye to posterity. He travelled extensively