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.
As A Child, He Constantly Sought Affection And Frequently Cried From LonelinessPhoto: Attributed to Jean-Baptiste Greuze / Public Domain
As Peter Gay points out in Mozart: A Life, Wolfgang was a needy child who constantly sought affection. When he was six, Mozart "jumped into the Hapsburg empresses's lap, put his arms around her neck, and earnestly kissed her, apparently hoping for a like response."
While on tour with his father, Mozart would sometimes wake up crying, and list all of the people he missed from home. He also had a habbit of asking adults whether or not they loved him. Because Wolfgang was prone to pranks, adults more often than not assumed this to be a joke, and replied no in jest, causing the boy to "break down and cry."
He Begged for Money from People Who Knew He Was Rich
Mozart spent most of his adult life attempting to borrow money from friends, patrons, and publishers. He is frequently portrayed in popular culture as having been dirt poor. Ah. the life of a starving artist, dependent upon the morsels of the humble and charitable. As it turns out, this wasn't quite the truth.
Mozart's frequent requests for money were made while he raked in a 10,000 Florins a year, an amount that put him in the top five percent of wage earners. The upper class survived on just 450 Florins a year, approximately one twentieth what Mozart earned. He lived lavishly, dressed extravagantly, traveled extensively, drank heavily, and gambled unprecedented sums. Despite his staggering income, Mozart frequently wrote to acquaintances pleading for cash, because he couldn't stop spending.
His Financial Irresponsibility Was Extreme, But He Was Also Victim to History
Mozart was obscenely irresponsible with money, yet that wouldn't have been a problem were it not for musical trends and historical circumstances beyond his control. He was an in-demand, very famous composer, but unable to find a royal court appointment after losing his post with the Archbishop. While his attitude certainly didn't help in this regard, the real bane of Mozart's existence was the preference for Italian composers like Antonio Salieri, who were all the rage at the time.
To make matters worse, the mid-1780s brought economic challenges for both Austria and Mozart. A war with the Ottoman Empire meant less support for the arts, and Mozart saw his income shrink. Though unable to find a court appointment, Mozart lived like had one. He resided at a fashionable address, dressed extravagantly, sent children to boarding schools, kept servants, and even stabled a horse in the Vienna Woods.
As debts mounted, Mozart moved his family to the suburbs; while in Vienna, he moved nine times in 11 years. Eventually, he borrowed against future earnings, many of which never came, because he died young. After his death in 1791, Mozart's wife, Constanze, spent years selling his manuscripts and hosting memorial concerts to pay off his debts. She was aided by a survivor's pension provided by the Austrian government for her to return to relative prosperity.
He Had Basically No Distinguishing Features, Other Than Being Really Short
Mozart didn't have the distinguishing features of other geniuses, such as Beethoven's intense brow, philosopher Spinoza's wide dark eyes, or Einstein's shock of untamed hair. Rather, he was very plain. One associate described him as "a remarkably small man, very thin and pale, with a profusion of fine, fair hair of which he was rather vain."
An early biographer added, "there was nothing special about [his] physique. He was small and his countenance, except for his eyes, gave no signs of his genius." His facial complexion was pitted, a reminder of his childhood case of smallpox.
Mozart compensated for his average appearance with his fashion choices, often wearing a bright crimson coat and golden cocked hat for his performances. Think of him as the Prince of the Classical era.