This passage on Mozart appears in the book Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci, published in 1778 by Giovenale Sacchi (1726–1789). It is partially derived from Sacchi’s earlier discussion of Mozart in his Della divisione del tempo nella musica nel ballo e nella poesia (1770; see our separate entry under that date), but he mentions here a number of additional prodigies.
Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci, as its full title suggests, is a defense of music as an appropriate subject for the education of youth. According to Sacchi, music increases attention span, accelerates cognition, and enhances a love of rules, among other powers (Luppi 1996:117–18). In this passage Sacchi cites a number of musical prodigies as evidence for his claim that in no other art have so many children reached the peak of perfection.
Apart from Mozart, the prodigies Sacchi refers to are:
“Francesco della Motte”: Franz Lamotte (c. 1751–1780), violin prodigy and composer; see our entry on Sacchi’s earlier book.
“Gioanni Perotti Vercellese”: Giovanni Domenico Perotti (1761–1825), later maestro di capella at Vercelli Cathedral.
Silvio Antoniano (1540–1603): Roman musician, priest and cardinal.
“Andrea Fiore Milanese”: Andrea Stefano Fiorè (1686–1732), whose op. 1 was a set of 12 sinfonie da chiesa (Modena, 1699). He was later maestro di capella to Vittorio Amedeo II, Duke of Savoy.
While Sacchi’s earlier mention of Mozart in 1770 was based on the composer’s first and perhaps second visit to Milan, by 1778 Mozart had visited the city twice more: from Aug to Dec 1771 for Ascanio in Alba, and Oct 1772 to Mar 1773 for Lucio Silla. Although Sacchi probably heard Mozart perform in 1770, his wording in the earlier book was ambiguous on this point. But here he appears to confirm that he had heard Mozart personally (“udimmo”).
Sacchi’s Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci is dedicated to Mozart’s patron Count Carlo di Firmian, minister plenipotentiary of Austrian Lombardy. The preface begins:
Come le altri arti hanno trovato in Voi,
ECCELLENTISSIMO SIGNORE, un giusto giu-
dice, che ne conosce i pregi, e un valido proteggitore,
che ne promove efficacemente la cultura: così invitata
dalla speranza di simile fortuna, a Voi ora si volge
la Musica, della cui dolcezza avete dimostrato di
compiacervi ne’ brevi intervalli di riposo, che le pub-
bliche cure vi concedono. [...]
[Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci, n.p]
Just as the other arts have found in You,
MOST EXCELLENT LORD, a just judge, who
understands their worth, and an authentic protector,
who efficaciously promotes culture: this invites
hope of a similar fortune when you turn to music,
whose sweetness you have shown pleases you
in the brief intervals of repose that public duties grant
We are grateful to John Rice for providing the translation of the passage on Mozart from Della natura e perfezione della antica musica de’ Greci and his assistance with its interpretation.