Genius and insanity often go hand-in-hand, so it should come as no surprise Mozart, the paramount musical genius of the western world, was kinda off his rocker. An eccentric man known in modern times for lunacy (thanks in part to the film Amadeus, in which he's portrayed as a complete nutcase bestowed with inimitable gifts by the god's of music), Mozart did his fare share of bizarre things.
Weird things Mozart did run the gamut from telling jokes befitting a 7-year-old while writing some of the most sophisticated symphonies of all time to asking his wife not to bathe because the dangers of it made him anxious. As told anecdotes or letters written by his own hand, evidence of Mozart eccentricities may have you wondering exactly what was going on his head as he guffawed over fart jokes while writing The Magic Flute.
Whether you've just come off three overwhelming hours of watching the director's cut of Amadeus on Netflix or are a classical music fan looking to get a kick out of some funny things Mozart did, you're in the right place. Read on for a list of weird Mozart stories, and to discover some of the most outlandish aspects of this world-renown composer's life.
He Loved Vulgarity and Wrote His Cousin a Letter That Reads Like Juvenille Marquis de Sade
Mozart's love of vulgarity appears frequently in writing. Take, for example, a letter sent to his 19-year-old cousin, Maria Anna, who he purportedly had a crush on. The first sentence contains four child-like rhyming pairs: "writing biting," "aunt slant," uncle garfuncle," and "well mell." He repeats this pattern throughout the letter, sometimes to make a point ("God fraud"), sometimes nonsensically ("stroke choke").
Halfway through his missive, Mozart includes the phrase "Oh, my ass burns like fire!" He wonders whether he has to take a dump (which he can apparently taste in the air), then reports on "a long and melancholic sound" trumpeted by his ass. Two paragraphs later, he returns to this subject, writing:
I hear a noise in the street. I stop writing—get up, go to the window—and—the noise is gone—I sit down again, start writing once more—I have barely written ten words when I hear the noise again—I rise—but as I rise, I can still hear something but very faint—it smells like something burning—wherever I go it stinks, when I look out the window, the smell goes away, when I turn my head back to the room, the smell comes back—finally My Mama says to me: I bet you let one go?
But that's not all. While he signs off with a poem and offers his cousin 10,000 kisses, he also writes: "Oui, by the love of my skin, I shit on your nose, so it runs down your chin. apropós. do you also have the spuni cuni fait?—what?—whether you still love me?"
He Was Literally Kicked Out Of A Palace for Refusing to Act Like a Servant
Most musicians of Mozart's time were employed by royalty or nobles, and Mozart was no exception. He was the court organist for Prince-Archbishop of Salzburg Hieronymus von Colloredo when his opera Idomeneo premiered to great acclaim. However, musicians and artists of the era were typically treated like servants - they were trotted out to perform, then took their dinner in the kitchen with the rest of the serving class.
Mozart's refusal to behave like a servant was progressive for the era, but also indicative of the composer's ego and bizarre, almost overwhelmingly stubborn state of mind. He unilaterally decided some of the concerts Von Colloredo had him perform were not included in the terms of their arangement, and therefore demanded separate payment for them (which he didn't get). At one high society function, Mozart, who, like all servants, was not meant to mingle with noble guests, caused a scandal by brazenly striking up a conversation with a Russian ambassador he knew.
Mozart's refusal to apologize for his transgressions, even after his father went to great lengths to smooth everything over with the Prince-Archbishop, resulted in him literally being kicked out of Von Colloredo's house, along with all his possessions.
He Had Bizarre Obsessions Surrounding His Wife, Such As His Fear of Her Dying in the Bath
Anecdotal evidence indicates Mozart was a classic obsessive-compulsive who fixated on objects, thoughts, and the repetition of certain ideas. In letters to his wife, he expresses an irrational fear of her leaving the home, so much so you have to wonder whether he would've been better off marrying an agoraphobic. Messages like "Never go out walking alone, it terrifies me" and "Please do not go to the casino today" were sent frequently.
There's also cause to believe he was afraid of her drowning in the bath. One note said: “I entreat you to take the bath only every other day, and only for an hour. But if you want me to feel quite easy on my mind, do not take them at all, until I am with you again.” Either that or he was into dirtiness. Or filthiness. Filthy little Mozart.
His Strange Behavior May Have Been the Result of Severe Tourette's Syndrome
Mozart has been depicted in popular culture as a quirky-but-lovable a man who occasionally engaged in childlike or irresponsible behavior. In reality, Mozart's behavior suggests he had coprolalia, or the involuntary utterance of obscene words. His brother-in-law, Joseph Lange (the guy who knocked up Aloysia), stated: "Never was Mozart less recognisably a great man in his conversation and actions, than when he was busied with an important work...he took delight in throwing into sharp contrast the divine ideas of his music (with) these sudden outbursts of vulgar platitudes."
Other relatives describe his hyperactive behavior, frequent facial tics, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies: "he often used to touch his napkin to his lips, make grimaces, tap his hands or feet on objects, or play with hats, pockets, tables and chairs seemingly playing clavier." Mozart's inappropriate joking and rhyming and lack of foresight indicate issues with impulse control. All of these symptoms add up to a textbook case of Tourette's Syndrome.