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Exhibitions

I. Mozart’s three stays in France

Mozart at Court and in town (1763-1766)

Ollivier Michel Barthélemy (1712-1784). Versailles, châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. MV3824.
Ollivier Michel Barthélemy (1712-1784). Versailles, châteaux de Versailles et de Trianon. MV3824. © Gérard Blot / RMN-GP
Mozart père, son fils et sa fille, gravure d'après un dessin de Louis Carrogis dit Carmontelle, 1764. BnF, département de la Musique, Bibliothèque-musée de l'Opéra
Mozart père, son fils et sa fille, gravure d'après un dessin de Louis Carrogis dit Carmontelle, 1764. BnF, département de la Musique, Bibliothèque-musée de l'Opéra

Mozart was only seven years old when his father Leopold decided to take his family on travels that were to last three years, in order to present him to the aristocracy and courts of Europe. Arriving in Paris on 18 November 1763, the Mozarts were taken in hand by Friedrich Melchior Grimm, who opened the doors of aristocratic houses to them. The main goal of the journey was achieved at the end of December, when they were presented at Court at Versailles. The Mozart children gave a concert before Louis XV’s daughters, Princesses Adélaïde and Victoire, who were both excellent musicians, in their private sitting room. Leopold, however, was especially proud of the honour of being admitted to the Grand Couvert (the royal dining room) by Louis XV and Queen Marie Leszczyńska on New Year’s Eve 1764. Shortly afterwards, four sonatas dedicated to Madame Victoire were printed in Paris, the first time the young prodigy’s works were published.
After these eventful weeks, the Mozart family set off for England and then visited Holland before returning to Paris on 18 May 1766. During their short stay there, Wolfgang, who was now ten years old, gave a concert at Prince de Conti’s residence alongside other famous musicians.
In September 1766, on the road back to Salzburg, the Mozart children played at Geneva’s Town Hall. Voltaire, who lived not far from there, in his Château de Ferney, expressed his regret at having missed them.  


The last stay in Paris (1778)

Lettre de W. A. Mozart à sa sœur sur l'enveloppe d'une lettre à son père datée 20 juillet 1778. Ms. Autographe
Lettre de W. A. Mozart à sa sœur sur l'enveloppe d'une lettre à son père datée 20 juillet 1778. Ms. Autographe © BnF, Musique

In 1778, Leopold Mozart’s happy memories of their stays in Paris between 1763 and 1766 made him decide to pack his son off there to try his luck. After all, Paris was a cosmopolitan city to which many German musicians flocked. Accompanied by his mother, Wolfgang arrived in the French capital on 23 March, at a time when the concert season was in full swing. He soon met Joseph Legros, director of the Concert-Spirituel, who commissioned him to compose a sinfonia concertante to be played at Holy Week concerts, and also became friendly with Jean-Georges Noverre, the Paris Opera’s ballet master.
But it was not long before the carefreeness of those first days gave way to disillusionment. Visits to wealthy patrons in aristocratic houses came to nothing and Legros finally put his sinfonia concertante to one side. At the request of Noverre, however, Mozart composed a score for the ballet Les Petits Riens (Little Nothings). He finally participated at the Concert-Spirituel on Corpus Christi Day, on 18 June, with a much applauded work: his “Paris” Symphony. But misfortune dogged his heels, for his mother fell ill and died on 3 July. His final weeks in the city were dark days, although he was taken in by Baron Grimm and Madame d’ pinay. Urged by his father, whom Grimm had contacted, Mozart left Paris at the end of the summer. Despite several false starts, it was to be his last long stay abroad.

W.A. Mozart, « Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni » (Ouverture). Partition manuscrite, 1787. BnF, département de la Musique, Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra
W.A. Mozart, « Il dissoluto punito ossia il Don Giovanni » (Ouverture). Partition manuscrite, 1787. BnF, département de la Musique, Bibliothèque-musée de l’Opéra
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