A Winter Wonderland

A Christmas morning dressed in the quietness of snow flakes… a little house adorned with snow… a snowfall from a fairy tale, gentle and pure… from the snowbound street, now and then, tinkling of bells and children’s merry laughter… inside the house scent of fir tree and vanilla, festive lights and Mozart’s music: of commencement and without end… 

Winter Wonderland

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Winter Wonderland - winter image 72 - Winter in Hallstatt, Austria

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Merry Christmas!

Peace and Joy… Love and Light… The Magic of Christmas! 

Vienna Rathausplatz in Christmas Lights

Vienna - Old Christmas Market Freyung

Christmas on Graben Street

Christmas Village at Belvedere Palace

Photos courtesy of Vienna Tourist Board 

If you’re looking for the perfect guide to Vienna, look no further than Vienna.info – the online travel guide to the wonderful city! 

10 December 1791: Humanity hears the Requiem for the first time

In the evening of 10 December 1791 the Requiem was heard for the first time! Gathered in St Michael’s Church to attend the memorial for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the audience, holding their breath, listened to the heavenly masterpiece that Mozart had only heard within himself. As the Requiem unfolded to the world, Mozart was offering humanity his last, most precious gift, and the proof that he will go on living forever, through his divine Music.  

Requiem - Introitus

High Altar of the Michaelerkirche in Vienna

Fall of the Angels - monumental alabaster Rococo sculpture 1782 by Lorenzo Mattieli - Michaelerkirche

Church Altar of St Michael Church, Vienna

20 November 1791 – Mozart takes to his bed with the illness that will eventually kill him. 

4 December 1791 – Around 2 p.m. some of the movements of the Requiem are sung through by Mozart, Süssmayr, Constanze, Schak, Hofer and Gerl. Among them the ‘Recordare‘, which Mozart loved dearly. 

5 December 1791 – Around 1 a.m. Mozart dies. He leaves an unfinished score of the Requiem, as well as some sketches and “scraps of paper”.  

6 December 1791 – Mozart is buried in St. Marx Cemetery.  

Before 10 December 1791 – Freystadtler enters strings and woodwinds in the “Kyrie” fugue of Mozart’s Requiem score (by and large merely doubling the vocal parts) in preparation for the upcoming performance.  

10 December 1791 – A requiem mass for Mozart is held in St. Michael’s Church in Vienna, at which a part or parts of the unfinished Requiem are sung. The staff of the Theather auf der Wieden participate in the memorial.  

Michaelerkirche - interior

Fresco with angels singing in St Michael's Church, Vienna

Mozart remained completely conscious during his illness right to the end and died calmly, although regretfully. This can be readily understood, when one considers that Mozart had beeen officially appointed to the post of Kapellmeister in the Church of St. Stephen, and had the happy prospect of living peacefully without financial worries. He had also received, almost simultaneously, commissions from Hungary and Amsterdam, as well as many orders and contracts for works to be delivered at regular intervals.  

This extraordinary accumulation of happy auguries for a better future, the sad state of his financial affairs as they actually existed, the sight of his unhappy wife, the thought of his two young children; all these did not make the bitterness of his death any sweeter, particularly as this much admired artist, in his thirty-fifth year, had never been a stoic: “Just now”, thus he often lamented in his illness, “when I could have gone on living so peacefully, I must depart. I must leave my art now that I am no longer a slave of fashion, am no longer tied to speculators; when I could follow the flights of my fantasy, the path along which my spirit leads me, free and independent to write only when I am inspired, whatever my heart dictates. I must leave my family, my poor children, just when I would have been in a better condition to care for them….”  

On the day of his death he had the score of the Requiem brought to his bed. “Did I not say before that I was writing this Requiem for myself?” After saying this, he looked yet again with tears in his eyes through the whole work. This was the last sad sight of his Music and the painful farewell to his beloved Art, which was destined to become immortal.  

Gravediggers deposited Mozart in a “normal simple grave” (allgemeines einfaches Grab), not a communal (gemeinschaftlich) pit. Excepting the mausoleums of the aristocratic and wealthy, all burial sites constituted not personal property, but leaseholds of ten years: every decade the authorities plowed them, sowing back into the soil whatever stray bones turned up and thus preparing for new occupants. Such a furrowing dispersed whatever remained of Mozart and demolished a memorial marking his grave. Within a month of his death, a notice in the Wiener Zeitung (31 December 1791) had alluded to this stone table, the contributor suggesting an epitaph in Latin for it:  

“As a child, he who lies here,

through his harmonies, added to the wonders of the world;

as a man, he surpassed Orpheus.

Go your way

and pray earnestly for his soul.”  

Four days after the burial, so the Auszug aller europäischen Zeitungen (European Press Digest) of 13 December reported, the Viennese “celebrated solemn obsequies for the great composer Mozart” in St. Michael’s. (Accross from the Hofburg and the Burgtheater, it functioned as both parish church to the court and chapel to its musicians’ special society, the Congregation of St. Cecilia, to which Mozart had belonged.) On the sixteenth, the Viennese journal Der heimliche Botschafter (The Secret Messenger), which circulated in scribes’ copies, identified the music at this service as “the requiem he composed during his final illness…” With remarkable speed, disciples had extracted from the score those parts that had reached performable state as, with no less urgency, singers and instrumentalists learned them. In view of the manuscript’s unfinished condition, only the first movement, and perhaps the second with some instrumental touches added, could have been performed with orchestra; the other sections very likely took the form of Mozart’s choruses sung by a quartet and supported by organ continuo; plainchant might have filled the missing sections. 

This is how Mozart’s Requiem must have sounded like on that day of

10 December 1791… 

Michaelerkirche, Alt Wien

Mozart Memorial in Michaelerkirche

Marble statue of The Deposition of Christ - Michaelerkirche Wien

Prague marked Mozart’s death four days later with a requiem (a setting by Franz Anton Rossler, also known as Antonio Rosetti) in St. Nicholas’s, packed by a throng of more than four thousand overflowing into the surrounding streets.  

It has taken perhaps two hundred years for the world to realize fully and in all its aspects what this loss has meant to music – and to humanity. Haydn said: “Posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years!” Posterity has not seen it in two hundred.  

The 1714 Sieber organ at St Michael's Church, Vienna

(Excerpts from: Niemetschek: Leben des Kappellmeisters Mozart (Life of Mozart), published 1798; Christoph Wolff: Mozart’s Requiem (Historical and Analytical Studies, Documents, Score); Robert W. Gutman: Mozart, a Cultural Biography; Anton Herzog: True and Detailed History of the Requiem by W.A. Mozart. From its inception in the year 1791 to the present period of 1839 – incorporating information found in Stadler: Vertheidigung der Echtheit des Mozartischen Requiem)

Angel on the ceiling of Michaelerkirche, Vienna

Finally Süssmayr was persuaded to complete the unfinished great work, and he admits in letters to the music publishers (Breitkopf & Härtel) in Leipzig that during Mozart’s lifetime he played and sang through with him the pieces that had already been composed, namely “Requiem”, “Kyrie”, “Dies irae”, “Domine” and so forth, and that he (Mozart) very often discussed the completion of this work and communicated (to Süssmayr) the way and the reasons of his orchestration.  

Requiem - Introitus

Requiem - Dies Irae

Requiem - Lacrimosa

From this point, and up to the dispatch of the score to Herr Count, I am obliged to turn to Herr Abbe Stadler’s account, which I will quote here, because his two pamphlets may well not be in everyone’s possession. He says:” The first movement, ‘Requiem’ with the fugue, and the second, ‘Dies irae’, up to ‘Lacrimosa’, were for the most part orchestrated by Mozart himself, and there was not much more for Süssmayr to do than what most composers leave for their amanuenses to do. Süssmayr’s work really began with the ‘Lacrimosa’. But here too Mozart had written out the violins himself; and Sussmayr only finished it from after ‘judicandus homo reus’ to the end. Similarly, in the third movement, ‘Domine’, Mozart had written the violins’ music in this score, where the voices are silent; where the voices enter he had indicated the motives for the instruments here and there, but quite clearly. He gave the violins two and a half bars to perform alone before the ‘Quam olim’ fugue. He wrote two bars for the violins before the entry of the voices at ‘Hostias’, and eleven bars at ‘Memoriam facimus’, in his own hand. 

“We see nothing more from his pen after the end of ‘Hostias’ except the words ‘Quam olim da Capo’. This is the end of Mozart’s original autograph score.

Requiem - Quam Olim da capo

Mozart - portrait by Lange

The Michaelerkirche, dedicated to the Archangel Michael, is one of the oldest churches in Vienna, a late Romanesque, early Gothic building, dating from about 1220-1240. Its present day aspect is unchanged since 1792. This church, close to the Michaeler wing of the Hofburg, used to be the parish church of the Imperial Court (it was then called ‘Zum heiligen Michael’).  

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Angel on St Michael's Church, Vienna

Michaelerkirche - Alt Wien 2

The Michaelerkirche close to the Hofburg Imperial Palace in Vienna

Michaelerkirche - Old Vienna

Vienna, St Michael's Church

Michaelerkirche Wien 1

Michaelerplatz und Michaelerkirche

Melancholia

Gentle, deep state of reverie, brief repose of an unquiet sensibility, suave nostalgia, serene dreams, unending love, peaceful moments of his troubled spirit, quiet, innermost song of his soul threatened by endless presentiments, moving sadness, overwhelming storm of emotions, frightening depths, imperial majesty, essence of being, haunting tenderness, breathtaking beauty of his music inspired by God…

Mozart’s melancholia…

Adagio in F-sharp minor from Piano Concerto in A major, no 23

Andante in C minor from Piano Concerto in E flat major, no 22 

Piano Concerto in D minor, no 20 

Piano Concerto in C minor, no 24 

Great Symphony in G minor, no 40 

Symphony in G minor, no 25 

Andante in C minor from Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major 

Fantasia no 3 in D minor 

Fantasia no 2 in C minor 

Piano Sonata no 14 in C minor 

Adagio in B minor 

Adagio and Fugue in C minor 

Great Mass in C minor 

Requiem in D minor 

Mozart - portrait by Lange

Sorrow

Mozart died desperate. Not happy, not content. He wrote his last work in despair. Not in happiness. He died on 5 December 1791 and was buried on 6 December 1791. Two days of grief. Two days of mourning. For those who love him, those are days of sorrow. What would there be to celebrate? His desperation for dying so young, knowing he’ll have to leave his children and wife alone in the world, knowing he would have had so much to say through Music in the years to come, yet that day of December was the end of the road? His last look on the pages of the Requiem, the tragic masterpiece that would remain unfinished, while he was hearing inside him the breathtaking sound of his Divine music? What would there be to celebrate? 

Mozart died desperate, not happy. He left the happiness inside his Music, as an eternal gift for us who love him. We celebrate his music, his spirit, his life, in each and every day of our life. We have 364 days in a year to celebrate him in joy, to thank him for the uneven beauty of his music. On 5 and 6 December we have nothing to celebrate. We have only the sadness, the grieving: for his own desperation and sorrow, for his life so short and full of burdens, for the miraculous music he would have composed had he lived more, for the unjust ending of his life, for knowing he left forever, and never again will he walk on this earth… 

Each year I notice a festive atmosphere reigning in the virtual world in those two days. “My Mozart is not sad!” “Instead of mourning his death I’d rather celebrate his life!”… a burst of joy on the social networks in the day of death of a beloved soul. And, of course, many connoisseurs solemnly claiming: “Mozart would have wanted us to be happy, not sad!” How easy it is to commit impiety, in a world who is afraid to feel!

Not long ago I read a wonderful book: Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, by Professor Eric G. Wilson. Wonderful because I felt each word as coming out of my own soul, out of my own spirit. And I realized there is nothing wrong when I feel sadness and melancholy – what is wrong is that the ones who feel like this have become a minority, one which is almost afraid to express their feelings, for fear that such acknowledging would bring isolation in a world of a majority who lives “on the thin ice of modern life”. The author shows a terrible picture of what the culture of “positive thinking” is doing to the spirit of humanity. He is not against happiness, he is not against anything, he’s just pulling the curtain which covers the eyes of those who worship the new god of mankind: “don’t worry, be happy”. He reveres the honesty and beauty of gloom, and recalls the names of great spirits of humanity who found their creativity in melancholy. As one reviewer says, “this book is in one sense a diatribe against the Happiness Industry, the whole Positive Psychology, the mentality which says you have a right to happiness, and you should be happy, and if you are not happy but allow yourself the right to be melancholic and sad, then something is wrong with you, and you have to fight that, and do everything possible to make yourself happy, and show the world that you are happy, because happiness is success. The book is against the Culture of Superficiality which would make us all plastic robots pleasure-hooked forever. On the other hand and more seriously the book is a study of Melancholy and its uses in literature and artistic creation. This positive side of the work seems a much more persuasive than the attack on the Happiness Industry”. 

“It is inauthentic and shallow, charges Eric Wilson, to relentlessly seek happiness in a world full of tragedy. While he doesn’t want to romanticize clinical depression, Eric Wilson argues forcefully that melancholia is a necessary ingredient of any culture that wishes to be innovative or inventive. In particular, we need melancholy if we want to make true, beautiful art. Wilson calls on human beings to recognize and embrace melancholia, and he praises as bold radicals those who already live with the truth of melancholy.” And melancholia doesn’t exclude happiness from one’s life. 

If one day I would meet Professor Eric Wilson, I would thank him for his profound sensibility, for his courage of writing this book, in a world that is drifting away from profound sensibility, from the courage of expressing oneself, drifting away from the heights of spirit and the resonances of heart. A world which is afraid to feel. Because it takes courage to feel melancholy and express it, in a world that doesn’t want to hear about sadness because they are too busy consuming “happiness”. The happiness generously provided by gurus who write books in the “How To” trend: how to change your life through changing your own self, how to attract love and success in your life, how to get to know yourself, how to become happy, how to become rich, how to, how to… Or the happiness provided by other types of gurus, the “spiritual leaders”, who teach their followers to never be sad, but always happy, to never mourn, but always celebrate, because this life of ours isn’t the essence, only the form, and so the small or big sorrows of this life are of no importance… 

In such a world, in such a majority, I am grateful, and happy, whenever I discover someone who is part of the “minority”, part of those who recognize melancholy as part of their being, as a way to express sensibility and creativity. In such a world, the existence of Professor Eric Wilson is reason for happiness!

I feel privileged and honored to be part of the Melancholia Minority, in a company as great as the Great poets, writers, composers, sculptors, painters. Most of them, if not all, were melancholic beings. In such extraordinary company, I am freely expressing my right to mourn Mozart’s death and burial, on 5 and 6 December. In those two days I can’t help being sad and melancholic, simply because this is how I feel, simply because I don’t see what’s there to celebrate about Mozart’s broken life, his death, his burial. I’ll leave the celebration for the other 364 days of the year.

And I won’t end with his moving Requiem, or with his two piano concertos in minor key (the d minor and the c minor), or with his two symphonies in minor key (the g minor and the Great g minor), but with the beautiful Adagio in f-sharp minor from his A major Piano Concerto (No 23) – a melancholic, haunting, breathtaking music written in a time when he supposedly was happy. 

Eric Wilson’s book can be found on Amazon, where one can take a look inside, and read reviews which emphasize the power of this book. Here’s a quote from the description. He addresses the Americans because he lives in America, there where the “positive thinking” trend originated, but this trend has spread to the rest of the world, too: 

“Americans are addicted to happiness. When we’re not popping pills, we leaf through scientific studies that take for granted our quest for happiness, or read self-help books by everyone from armchair philosophers and clinical psychologists to the Dalai Lama on how to achieve a trouble-free life: Stumbling on Happiness; Authentic Happiness: Using the New Positive Psychology to Realize Your Potential for Lasting Fulfillment; The Art of Happiness: A Handbook for Living. The titles themselves draw a stark portrait of the war on melancholy.  

More than any other generation, Americans of today believe in the transformative power of positive thinking. But who says we’re supposed to be happy? Where does it say that in the Bible, or in the Constitution? In Against Happiness, the scholar Eric G. Wilson argues that melancholia is necessary to any thriving culture, that it is the muse of great literature, painting, music, and innovation—and that it is the force underlying original insights. Francisco Goya, Emily Dickinson, Marcel Proust, and Abraham Lincoln were all confirmed melancholics. So enough Prozac-ing of our brains. Let’s embrace our depressive sides as the wellspring of creativity. What most people take for contentment, Wilson argues, is living death, and what the majority takes for depression is a vital force. In Against Happiness: In Praise of Melancholy, Wilson suggests it would be better to relish the blues that make humans people.” 

Here is Mozart’s portrait that I love the most. The melancholy in his eyes… 

Mozart painted by Lange in 1783

6 December 1791. The night has come, Mozart…

The papers of divorce 

between the world and the genius

were deposited

in the common grave of the Vienna cemetery

on 6 December

1791,

there where,

to its glory,

the World

threw Mozart

under the  septic lime

of final oblivion.

And since then

the scene

has kept repeating. 

The night has come, 

Mozart…   

Mozart - portrait by Lange

He drew his last breath on the day of 5 December, at one in the morning, watched by his wife’s sister. His body was washed by loyal friends. They accompanied him when he left his house for the last time. It was them again who brought him to the Saint Stephen Cathedral, in a chapel in which he would wait for the religious ceremony – a simple one, according to the low fee of the third class funeral paid for by Baron Van Swieten. His wife had left the house a few hours after his death, “out of too much pain”, and would stay with friends for the next days. She didn’t keep vigil over his dead body, she didn’t follow him on his last journey. It was winter in Vienna, it was cold, it was almost night… God, what a terrible night of mankind!… One by one, the living abandoned the funeral convoy, and so by the time the hearse had passed the Stubenthor and reached the graveyard of St Marx, Mozart‘s lifeless body was being attended only by the driver of the carriage. By that time, in St Marx there had already been two pauper funerals. Mozart was the third. His body was deposited in the common grave, uppermost, by the gravedigger’s assistant and the driver of the hearst. Then came the night. 

Mozart left alone. He remained alone. His wife, “dearest, most beloved little wife”, as he would address  her in his letters, didn’t look for his grave for eleven years. Although her state of health seemed to have quickly improved, since only a few weeks after his demise she was already corresponding with a few well-known editors with a view of selling his manuscripts. And never again, after his death, was she in need to go to Baden for cures; she capitalized his musical inheritance, she remarried, she rewrote his life together with her second husband, and she outlived her first husband fifty years. 

None of his close friends, none of those who knew and loved his music and being, no one looked for his grave, not after one day, not after one month, not after one year. The regulations of the time indicated the deposition in a “common” grave according to the amount of money paid by the Baron, but they did not forbid the placing of a funeral stone on the cemetery wall. Neither Constanze Mozart nor his friends, nor the nobles he had ennobled with his feeling and creation, neither the Viennese who would hum his melodies in cafes, no one searched for him… No one felt the need to prove their respect and affection by marking the place where, on top of other bodies, he found his rest – he, the angel God had sent to the earth of humans who never understood and loved him in truth… 

Ten years after, the common grave was opened, the bones taken out, to make space for other mortals. This was what the third class funeral meant: a grave which confined more bodies together for ten years, and that was all. After ten years, a pile of bones, taken out to be deposited where?… we will never know. A higher class funeral would have meant a grave in the family’s property in the St Marx Cemetery. But it would have cost more: for his wife, for his close friends, for his admirers, for Vienna! And none of those who knew him, who were close to him, no one of those whom he had honored with the divine touch of his being, no one felt that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart deserved a funeral of a higher class. 

The papers of divorce 

between the world and the genius

were deposited

in the common grave of the Vienna cemetery

on 6 December

1791,

there where,

to its glory,

the World

threw Mozart

under the  septic lime

of final oblivion.

And since then

the scene

has kept repeating. 

The night has come, 

Mozart…   

Rest in peace, beloved friend! 

Mozart-Grab

“The night has come, Mozart…” © Claudiu Iordache – published with the author’s permission. 

Rest in peace, beloved soul…

Mozart - 1782-1783 Vienna, portrait by Joseph Lange

It is 5 December. For so many years humanity has been waiting for you to come back. Your music has survived and will go on. But we miss your living heart, your soul enlightened by a divine feeling of harmony! For you have been His gift, which we have not loved enough when He took you back. 

You, Mozart, harrowing light of the darkness that surrounds us! In your park clad in mourning dress, the leaves of winter are whispering your name. It is 5 December. A serene calm overtaken by the night until the world abandoned itself to the despair of understanding it had lost you for ever! If only we could, through our love, resurrect your fragile being, so you could smile to us again, you, Mozart, majestically  sleeping in our soul! If only you could hear how it hurts to know you were summoned forever there where only angels shiver as they listen to you! Oh, Mozart, it is night, the total, endless night in a day of 5 December! A day in which both you and we died a little… 

Mozart, Mozart, Mozart, celestial echo of humanity’s child…  

20090127-Mozart-St.-Marx-Copyright-by-Merisi-002

Click on the image to be there. To leave a rose where he rests. To feel tears in your heart reading the emotional poetry of Merisi’s words and images. To say a prayer for the one loved by God: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, and thank him for the precious gift of his divine, uneven music. 

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 © Claudiu Iordache – published with the author’s permission