Composer Johann Adolph Hasse (1699–1783) was a close friend of the writer and political economist Abate Giammaria Ortes (Giovanni Maria, 1713–1790), and the two maintained a regular correspondence between 1760 and 1777. Four references to the Mozarts in that correspondence have been known since the early 20th century. In 1902, Hermann Kretschmar published passages referring to the Mozarts from Hasse’s letters to Ortes of 30 Sep 1769 and 23 Mar 1771 (Kretschmar 1902, 263–65). Four years later, Carl Mennicke, in his book Hasse und die Brüder Graun als Symphoniker, published these same two passages, along with Hasse’s letter of recommendation for the Mozarts, dated 4 Oct 1769, and a portion of Ortes’s letter to Hasse dated 2 Mar 1771, reporting his encounters with the Mozarts (Mennicke 1906, 431–32). These four passages were taken over into Deutsch, and those from Hasse’s letters were apparently retranscribed from photographs with the help of Luigi Tagliavini (Dokumente 84–85, 119, 120–21).
The complete correspondence between Hasse and Ortes was published in 1998 in a splendid scholarly edition by Livia Pancino. This edition contains the complete texts of all four of these letters in new and corrected transcriptions based on the original sources in the Museo Civico Correr in Venice. Pancino’s edition also contains a letter referring to the Mozarts that was overlooked by Mennicke and Deutsch. The relevant passage, in a letter from Ortes to Hasse dated 28 Oct 1769, is transcribed at the top of this page. Pancino’s edition also shows that Mennicke (and hence Deutsch) omitted several sentences relevant to the Mozarts in Ortes’s letter of 2 Mar 1771; we give the full corrected passage with commentary in our entry for that letter.
The passage transcribed above comes from Ortes’s response to Hasse’s letter of 30 Sep 1769, in which the composer first mentions the Mozarts (Pancino 1998, 197–98; Dokumente, 84–85). At that point, Hasse, who had evidently received a letter from Leopold Mozart, writes that the Mozarts intend to embark for Italy on 24 Oct, and Hasse implies that the entire family will be traveling; that is why Ortes writes that he will be looking forward to meeting “suoi figli,” “his [Leopold’s] children.” Hasse’s letter was sent to Venice at a time when Ortes was actually in Bologna, and the letter consequently had to be forwarded to him there, accounting for the delay of nearly a month in Ortes’s reply. In the event, Leopold and Wolfgang (without mother and Nannerl) did not depart Salzburg until 13 Dec 1769, and (perhaps because of Wolfgang’s successes in Milan), they did not finally have the opportunity to visit Venice until the end of their first Italian journey, arriving there on 11 Feb 1771. With them they still had Hasse’s letter of recommendation to Ortes, dated 4 Oct 1769 (Pancino 1998, 198–99; Dokumente, 85). Ortes’s letter of 2 Mar 1771 is his report to Hasse on finally meeting the Mozarts.
Ortes is a fascinating figure in his own right, whose status as a leading Venetian intellectual of the time has been largely ignored by Mozart scholars (on Ortes, see Ponzo 2006 and Del Negro 2013). Born in Venice in 1713, Ortes entered a Camaldolese monastery in 1727, studying philosophy and, in Pisa, mathematics with Guido Grandi, about whom Ortes later wrote a biography. Returning to Venice in 1738, Ortes began to doubt his vocation, and in 1743, he became a secular priest (abate). He pursued additional studies in astronomy, experimental physics, and chemistry in Bologna, and in Venice he became part of an intellectual circle that included, among others, Francesco Algarotti, well known to music historians for his influential Saggio sopra L’opera in musica (1755). Ortes himself published his own Riflessioni sopra i drammi per musica (1757), and wrote several unpublished libretti. He is best known today, however, for his work on political economy, especially Dell’economia nazionale (1774), an early attempt to describe economies in terms of natural laws (and also an early argument for free trade), and his Riflessioni sulla popolazione delle nazione per rapporto all’economia nazionale (1790; 1804 edition), which prefigures Malthus.