Leopold and Wolfgang Mozart spent Christmas 1769 in Rovereto, arriving there on Christmas Eve. On 27 Dec they continued on to Verona, making the entire trip, around 75 km (45 mi) by road, that same day. Before leaving Rovereto, the Mozarts had acquired a letter of recommendation from Count Domenico Lodron to Count Gian Luca Pallavicini in Bologna (see our entry for 27 Dec 1769), and at least one other letter addressed to prominent members of the Veronese nobility. Leopold Mozart names the nobles in a letter to his wife dated 7 Jan 1770:
Die Cavagliers an die wir recommendirt waren, sind il Marquese Carlotti, il Conte Carlo Emilij. Il Marquese Spolverini. Il Marquese Dionisio St: Fermo. Il Sgr. Conte Justi del Giardino. Il: Sgr: Conte Allegri. [Briefe, i:299]
The gentlemen to whom we were recommended are the Marchese Carlotti, the Count Emilei, the Marchese Spolverini, the Marchese Dionisio St: Fermo, the Signor Count Giusti di Giardino, the Signor Count Allegri.
“Il Marchese Dionisio” was Marchese Gabriele Melchiore Zeno Dionisi, whose son Ottaviano is the author of the letter given in extract above. The letter, dated 8 Jan 1770, is written to Ottaviano’s brother Giovanni Francesco in Padua. The letter reports recent news, including a concert given in Verona on 5 Jan at which an unnamed “portento di natura” (prodigy of nature) astonished the aristocratic audience with his musical skill. The prodigy was Wolfgang Mozart, who would turn fourteen just a little over three weeks later. The reference to Mozart in Ottaviano’s letter was discovered by Paolo Rigoli, librarian of the conservatory in Verona, and the extract referring to Mozart was first published by Carlo Bologna the following year (Bologna 1991, 19); Bologna’s transcription is reproduced in Basso’s I Mozart in Italia (2006, 59). Dionisi’s letter is not in Dokumente or Neue Folge, and remains little known to Mozart scholars. However, it adds new details to what was already known about Wolfgang’s Verona concert.
At the time of the Mozarts’ visit, Verona was part of the Republic of Venice. The composers Giuseppe Torelli (1658–1709), Evaristo Felice Dall’Abaco (1675–1742), and soon-to-be famous opera composer Giuseppe Gazzaniga (1743–1818) were all born in Verona; Antonio Salieri (1750–1825) was born in nearby Legnago. The city’s Accademia filarmonica, established in 1543, was the oldest such musical academy in Europe.
Leopold and Wolfgang stayed in Verona from 27 Dec 1769 to 10 Jan 1770. Wolfgang’s concert took place nine days after their arrival; according to Leopold (in his letter of 7 Jan 1770), it was not possible to hold the concert sooner “because there is opera every day” (“weil täglich opera ist”; Briefe, i:299). Leopold does not mention who had recommended them to the Veronese nobility, but Ottaviano Dionisi clarifies that the recommendation came from Baron Pizzini in Rovereto, whose wife was related to the Dionisis (Bologna 1991, 14). The concert at the Accademia filarmonica in Verona on 5 Jan took place in the Sala della Conversazione (now the Sala Maffeiana).
This concert has long been known to Mozart scholars from Leopold’s letter of 7 Jan and from a report published in the Gazzetta di Mantova on 12 Jan (Dokumente, 95–96):
VERONA 9. Gennajo.
Questa Città non può non annunziare il valor porten-
toso, che in età di non ancor 13. anni, ha nella musica
il giovanetto Tedesco Sig. Amadeo Wolfango Motz-
zart, nativo di Salisburgo, e figlio dell’attuale Mae-
stro di Cappella di Sua Altezza Rma Monsig. Ar-
civescovo Principe di Salisburgo suddetto. Esso gio-
vane nello scorso Venerdì, 5. dell’andante, in una
sala della Nobile Accademia Filarmonica, in faccia
alla pubblica Rappresentanza, ed a copiosissimo con-
corso di Nobilità dell’uno, e l’ altro sesso, ha date
tali prove di sua perizia nell’ arte predetta, che ha
fatto stordire. Egli, fra una scelta adunanza di va-
lenti Professori, ha saputo, prima d’ogn’altra cosa,
esporre una bellissima sinfonia d’ introduzione di
composizion sua, che ha meritato tutto l’ applauso.
Indi ha egregiamente sonato a prima vista un con-
certo di cembalo, e successivamente altre sonate a
lui novissime. Poi sopra quattro versi esibitigli ha
composta sul fatto un’ aria d’ ottimo gusto nell’ atto
stesso di cantarla. Un Soggetto, ed un Finale pro-
gettatogli, egli mirabilmente concertò sulle miglio-
ri leggi dell’arte. Suonò all’ improvviso assai bene
un Trio del Bocherini. Compose benissimo in par-
titura un Sentimento datogli sul violino da un Pro-
fessore. In somma sì in questa, che in altre oc-
casioni, esposto a’ più ardui cimenti, gli ha tutti
superati con indicibil valore, e quindi con univer-
sale ammirazione specialmente de’ Dilettanti; tra’
quali i Signori Lugiati, che, dopo aver goduti, e
fatti ad altri godere più saggi maravigliosi dell’abi-
lità di tal giovine, hanno infino voluto farlo ri-
trarre in tela al naturale, per serbarne eterna me-
moria. Nè è già nuovo questo pensiero; imper-
ciocchè, da che egli va girando per entro l’Europa
col Padre suo, per dare pruova di se, ha tanta me-
raviglia eccitata in ogni parte, fino dalla tenera
età di 7. anni, che se ne serba tuttavia il ritratto
in Vienna, in Parigi, dove sono anche i ritratti di
tutta la sua Famiglia, in Olanda, ed in Londra,
in cui si collocò esto ritratto suo nell’ insigne Mu-
seo Britannico con una iscrizione, che celebrava la
stupenda sua bravura nella musica nella verde età
d’ anni 8. che soli allora contava. Noi per tanto
non dubitiamo, che nel proseguimento del suo viag-
gio, che ora fa per l’Italia, non sia per apporta-
re eguale stupore dovunque si recherà, massima-
mente agli Esperti, ed Intelligenti.
[Gazzetta di Mantova, no. 2, 12 Jan 1770, ]
VERONA, 9 January.
This city cannot fail to report the prodigious
musical merits of the young German boy, Sig.
Amadeo Wolfango Mozart, not yet 13 years of age,
a native of Salzburg, and son of the current Maestro
di Cappella of His Most Reverend Highness Monsignor
the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. Last Friday, the
5th of this month, this boy, in a hall of the aristocratic
Accademia Filarmonica at a public performance
copiously attended by the nobility of both sexes, gave
such proof of his skill in the previously mentioned art,
that the audience was stunned. Before a select
assembly of learned professors, he was able
to present a most beautiful introductory symphony
of his own composition that merited every applause.
He then played excellently at sight a cembalo concerto,
followed by other sonatas that were new to him. Then
he composed on the spot, on four verses that had
been shown to him, an aria in excellent taste, while
singing himself. A subject and finale were contrived for
him, which he combined wonderfully according to the
best rules of art. He played quite well an unrehearsed
trio of Boccherini. He composed extremely well in score
a motive given to him on the violin by a professor. In short,
subjected to the most arduous trials, he overcame them
all with indescribable merit, and thereby with universal
admiration, especially from the music lovers, among
whom the Signori Lugiati, who after having enjoyed and
having let others enjoy yet more marvelous proofs of
the abilities of this youth, went so far as to have him
portrayed on canvas from life, to preserve for eternal
memory. Nor was this a new idea, because when
he was traveling through all of Europe with his father
to prove himself, even by the tender age of 7 years,
he was always preserved in portrayals in Vienna, in
Paris—where his entire family was depicted—in
Holland, and in London, where this depiction was
deposited in the famous British Museum with an
inscription that celebrated his astonishing bravura
in music at the youthful age of 8 years, which is how
old he was then. We therefore have no doubt that
during the continuation of the journey that he is now
making through Italy, he will arouse equal astonishment
everywhere he goes, especially among the experts
and the knowledgeable. [Translation by DE]
No program of Wolfgang’s concert in Verona is known to survive, but judging by the report in the Gazzetta di Mantova, it seems to have been quite similar to his concert in Mantua eleven days later, for which a program does survive. Both concerts began with an introductory symphony composed by Wolfgang, after which he performed at sight a keyboard concerto previously unknown to him. After playing other works on the keyboard, he then composed on the spot an aria on a submitted text, singing the aria himself. At both concerts he seems to have improvised a fugue on a submitted subject, and at both he composed on the spot a multi-part instrumental work on a motive played to him on the violin. The report of the Verona concert mentions that he also performed in a trio by Boccherini; the implication seems to be that Wolfgang played violin in the trio; he apparently also performed on violin (as well as keyboard) in Mantua. From Ottaviano Dionisi’s letter, we learn that a “Sig. Cerea” also played a concerto at the concert in Verona; Bologna writes that this was probably Luigi Cerea (b. 1747) or perhaps his brother Alessandro (Bologna 1991, 19).
Ottaviano Dionisi names the six Veronese nobles who had underwritten Wolfgang’s concert at the Accademia filarmonica:
Marchese Alessandro Carlotti (1740–1828)
Count Giovanni Battista Allegri (1740–1815)
Count [Ercole] Francesco Giusti di Giardino
Count Giovanni Carlo Emilei (1705–after 1772)
Count Baldassare Spolverini
Marchese Gabriele Dionisi (1719–1808), Ottaviano’s father
Leopold mentions these same six in a letter to his wife on 7 Jan 1770 (Briefe, i:299). On 26 Jan, in a letter to his wife sent from Milan, Leopold points out that neither the concert in Verona nor the one in Mantua had paid admission:
du must aber wissen, daß weder diese accademia in Mantua, noch die
in Verona fürs Geld gemacht wird; sondern alles gehet frey hinein. in
Verona nur die Nobleße, weil es von ihnen nur allein unterhalten wird:
in Mantua aber, Nobleße, Militaire und ansehnliche Bürgerschaft; weil
es von Sr: Mayst. der Kayserin eine Stiftung hat. [Briefe, i:307]
But you must know that neither the academy in Mantua nor the one in
Verona were given for money; rather everyone had free entry. In Verona
only the nobility, because it is supported by them alone; in Mantua, however,
nobility, military, and respectable citizens, because it has an endowment
from Her Majesty the Empress.
However, Ottaviano Dionisi writes that the six nobles who underwrote the Verona concert gave the Mozarts “18 Zecchini”, equivalent to 400 Venetian lire; Leopold does not mention this gift, which was previously unknown. (A zecchino was a gold coin equivalent in weight and value to a Kremnitz ducat.) Leopold writes that the audience at the concert in Verona was limited to the nobility, whereas the one in Mantua had a socially more diverse audience. Ottaviano mentions in his letter that the concert in Verona was attended by the podestà and his wife; the podestà of Verona during the time of the Mozarts’ visit was Cristoforo Minelli, whose last name also appears in Leopold’s travel notes for Verona (Briefe, i:302). Also in attendance, according to Ottaviano, was “Monsignor Vescovo” (“Monsignor Bishop”): this likely refers to Nicolò Antonio Giustiniani, Bishop of Verona, who is also mentioned in Leopold’s travel notes and in his letter of 7 Jan 1770, although not specifically as having attended Wolfgang’s concert. Ottaviano writes that “around fifty” (“circa cinquanta”) ladies were in attendance, and a large number (“quantità”) of gentlemen. No other known source mentions any specific numbers for the audience.
Wolfgang’s concert in Verona is also included in the Venetian chronicle of Pietro Gradenigo (see our entry for 24 Feb 1771):
20. Gennaro, Sabbato [...]
Alli esordi di questo mese si è in Verona ammirato un gio / vane Tedesco
per nome Amadeo Wolfgango Mozart di Sa / lisburgo, il qualle dà qualche
anno viaggia per l’Euro / pa in compagnia del Padre suo attuale Maestro
di Cap / pella di S[ua] A[ltissimma] Rev[erendissima] l’Arci[vescovo] P[rinci]pe
di Salisburg. Non arri / va esso all’età di anni 13. e pure nella sua prof / essione
di Musica lascia di molto indietro li più pro / vetti, si è fatto nella Sud[ett]a Citta
ammirare solennem[en]te nella sera de’ 5 Corr[ente] Gennaro in una delle
Sale di quel / la Nobile Accademia filarmonica dove intervenne là / pubblica
Rappresentanza, cioè Sua E[minen]za Cristoforo Lorenzo / Minelli, et fu’
copiosissimo numero di Dame, e Cavalieri.
In essa suonò a prima vista un concerto di Cembalo // indi suonò il Violino
con alcune carte non più vedu / te, et anchora esibiti quattro versi, è sopra
essi Lui / compose un' atto di cantare un’aria di ottimo gusto, poi / li fu data
altra difficilissima cosa. Suonò bravemente / con altro Violino con un Trio del
Boulcerini [sic], e dat / togli dà un Professore un sentimento lò scrisse subi / to
è lo stese in 4 pezzi con altri stromenti di rinforzo / in somma si può dire, che
Amadeo sarà il più ab / ile à nostri tempi nella Musica. Quinci un Pittore '
vir / tuoso dipinse il suo gentilissimo Ritratto.
20 January, Saturday [...]
At the beginning of this month, Verona marveled at a young German by the
name of Amadeo Wolfgango Mozart of Salzburg, who some years ago traveled
through Europe in the company of his father, the current Maestro di Cappella
of His Most Reverend Highness the Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg. He has not
yet reached the age of 13 years, and yet in his profession of music he already
leaves far behind the greatest experts. The above-named city marveled greatly
over him on the evening of the 5th of this January in one of the rooms of the
aristocratic Accademia filarmonica where the public performance took place,
with His Eminence Cristoforo Lorenzo Minelli and a very copious number of
ladies and gentlemen.
At this he played a keyboard concerto at sight, then played on the violin music
that he had never seen before; next he was shown four verses, on which he
composed, while singing himself, an aria in excellent taste; he was then given
the most difficult other things. He skillfully played, with another violin, a trio of
Boccherini, and having been given a motive by a professor, he immediately wrote
on this a piece in four parts reinforced by other instruments; in short, it can be
said that Amadeo is the most skillful musician of our times. Afterwards a virtuoso
painter painted his most refined likeness.
Basso (2006, 60) speculates that Gradenigo’s entry, which is not in Dokumente or Neue Folge, may have been adapted from an otherwise unknown newspaper report, implying a report other than the one published in the Gazzetta di Mantova, which Basso reproduces in full. But nearly all of the content of Gradenigo’s entry could have come from the Gazzetta di Mantova. The only significant differences are Gradenigo’s reference to Minelli, the podestà of Verona, who is not mentioned in the Gazzetta; and Gradenigo’s more direct statement that Wolfgang also played violin at the concert. There is no evidence to suggest that Gradenigo attended the concert himself, so it is likely that his information is second hand, whether from the Gazzetta di Mantova or some other source.
The Gazzetta di Mantova reports that Wolfgang sat for a portrait in Verona. This portrait remains one of the most famous images of Mozart. It has been variousy attributed to Giambettino Cignaroli and Saverio Dalla Rosa (among others), but the attribution remains uncertain (see the entry for 8 Jan 1770 by Matteo Magarotto on our site). The sittings, on 6 and 7 Jan 1770, were arranged (and presumably paid for) by Pietro Lugiati. The portrait was long in the estate of pianist Alfred Cortot; it was sold by Christie’s in Paris on 27 Nov 2019 for € 4,031,500.
Leopold and Wolfgang departed from Verona on 10 Jan, and arrived in Mantua later that same day. (See our entry for 11 Dec 1769, Count Georg von Arco’s letter of recommendation for the Mozarts to his cousin Count Francesco Eugenio d’Arco in Mantua.)