Mozart Minute: Mozart's 'Little Surprise'

Feb 25, 2016

As a freelance musician with a growing family, Mozart couldn’t afford to hide his light under a bushel, and in any event he was never one to be bashful in the first place. With musical gifts as phenomenal as Mozart knew his to be, he didn’t hesitate to put his flashiest skills on display, as he did even before the Holy Roman Emperor in one particular performance that he spiced up in a special way.

In a letter of April 12, 1783, Mozart wrote his father, Leopold Mozart, of the success of a performance he gave on a benefit concert for Therese Teiber, the soprano who created the role of Blonde in Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seraglio.  At that concert Mozart played his Piano Concerto No. 13 (K. 415) in a performance in which, as he was only too happy to report to his father, he unleashed even more prowess than originally planned.

“The Emperor was there too,” Mozart wrote. “I played my first concerto which I played at my (subscription) concert. I was asked to repeat the rondo. So I sat down again; but instead of repeating it I had the conductor’s rostrum removed and played alone. You should have heard how delighted the public were with this little surprise. They not only clapped but shouted ‘bravo’ and ‘bravissimo’. The Emperor too stayed to hear me to the end and as soon as I left the piano he left his box; evidently he had only remained to listen to me.” (Letters of Mozart and His Family, trans. Emily Anderson)