Jun 19, 2014

Haydn and Mozart in the Memoirs of Ludwig-Wilhelm Tepper de Ferguson

In the summer of 1789, on his way home to Warsaw from Strasbourg, where he had spent six years studying at the university, the Polish musician and composer Ludwig-Wilhelm Tepper de Ferguson (1768-1838) visited Vienna. During that stay he visited Joseph Haydn in Eszterháza. In his memoirs he describes the events as follows:
Enfin nous entrâmes dans cet heureux pays d'Autriche. Tout y avait un autre aspect. L'abondance et le bien-être se manifestaient partout; et l'esprit éclairé de Joseph Second, commençait à se répandre sur les campagnes. Nous restâmes trois semaines à Vienne dont le séjour me plut tant, qu'il fallait tout le désir que j'avais de revoir les miens, pour me résoudre à m'en séparer. Je fis un voyage à Esterhazy en Hongrie; pour voir Joseph Haydn, qui y était établi auprès du prince de ce nom, grandpère de celui d'à présent. Ce prince vivait en grand seigneur, ayant une petite cour, un très bon spectacle, et réunissant autour de lui tout ce qu'une grande fortune peut procurer d'agréments et de plaisirs. Lorsqu’un étranger arrivait, on lui envoyait aussitôt un équipage pour voir les jardins et des billets pour le théâtre. Je m'y rendis le soir même, et j'y trouvai Haydn, que je reconnus à l'instant sur les nombreux portraits que j'avais vu de lui. Je l'abordai en lui disant qu’un amateur passionné de la musique et admirateur de ses compositions avait fait ce voyage pour faire sa connaissance personnelle. Il vint souper avec moi: le lendemain matin une voiture du prince nous attendait pour la promenade: je fus prendre Haydn qui me montra les détails du jardin; ensuite il vint diner avec moi et l'après diner je retournai à Vienne. Il me conta en abrégé son histoire, qui était accompagnée de détails tres curieux. Lorsque je lui fis connaitre tout ce que je pensais de ses compositions, et que je lui retraçai le juste enthousiasme qu'elles causaient partout, il me répondit: "Ah! Monsieur: nous avons à Vienne quelqu’un qui nous écrasera tous; c'est un génie universel, auprès duquel je ne suis qu’un enfant." Il parlait de Mozart. Celui-ci vivait encore à cette époque, mais je n'eus pas la satisfaction de le voir, car il était absent. Il rendait, à ce qu'on dit, le même respect à Haydn, qu'il regardait comme son maitre en composition. 
Finally we entered this happy country of Austria. Everything there looked different [from Salzburg]. Abundance and prosperity were manifest everywhere; and the enlightened spirit of Joseph II was beginning to spread across the country. We stayed in Vienna for three weeks, a stay that pleased me so much that I had no desire to see my family and bring myself to depart. I made a trip to Esterhazy in Hungary to see Joseph Haydn who had settled there with the prince of that name, the grandfather of the present one. This prince lived like a great lord, with a small court, a very good theater, surrounding himself with all attractions and pleasures that a great fortune can provide. When a foreigner arrived, he immediately sent a carriage to see the gardens and theater tickets. I went there the same evening and I found Haydn, whom I recognized instantly from the many portraits I had seen of him. I approached him and told him that a passionate lover of music and admirer of his compositions had traveled to make his personal acquaintance. He came to have dinner with me. The next morning a carriage of the prince was awaiting us for the excursion. I took Haydn who showed me the details of the garden; Then he came to dine with me and after dinner I returned to Vienna. He gave me a brief outline of his story which was accompanied by very curious details. When I told him what I thought of his compositions and described to him the real enthusiasm they caused everywhere, he replied: "Ah! Sir: we have someone in Vienna who will crush us all; he is a universal genius, compared to whom I am a child." He spoke of Mozart, who at that time was still alive, but I had not the satisfaction of seeing him, because he was absent. They say that he showed the same respect for Haydn whom he regarded as his teacher in composition.

Eszterháza Palace seen from the garden (painting from 1780 by Bartolomeo Gaetano Pesci, Magyar Építészeti Múzeum, Budapest)

In July 1793 Tepper de Ferguson was in Vienna for the second time. At first he had no intention to stay for more than ten days, but then he changed his schedule:
Je ne comptais m'arrêter à Vienne que huit ou dix jours, et j'étais sur le point d'en partir, quand je vis annoncé dans les affiches du théâtre, la reprise de l’opéra, "La Flute Magique". Le vif désir que j’avais d'entendu ce chef d'œuvre de Mozart, dont retentissait toute l’Europe; me retint une semaine de plus. Il fut, à ma grande satisfaction donné trois jours de suite. La disposition d'esprit où j'étais me fit doublement gouter les beautés de cet ouvrage. Il me mit dans un tel ravissement, que je souhaitais mourir au sortir du théâtre, afin de ne pas perdre une seule des impressions que j'éprouvais. Je me disais comme les napolitains lorsqu'ils parlent de leur capitale: "Vedi il flauto magico e poi mori". 
I had planned to stay in Vienna eight or ten days and I was about to leave, when I saw the restaging of the opera "The Magic Flute" announced on theater posters. The strong desire to hear this masterpiece of Mozart, which resounded throughout Europe, held me back for another week. To my great satisfaction it was given on three consecutive days. The state of mind I was in, made me doubly enjoy the beauties of this work. It put me into such delight that when I left the theater I wanted to die, so as not to lose a single one of the impressions I felt. I said to myself like the Neapolitans do when they say about their city: "See The Magic Flute and then die".

One of four surviving original Zettel of the premiere of Die Zauberflöte which was discovered in 2012 in the parish archive of St. Stephen's in Vienna



The passages from Tepper de Ferguson's memoirs were first published in July 2011 by Olga Baird in her paper "Ludwig Wilhelm Tepper de Ferguson (1768-1838): Viennese years" at the 13th International Congress for Eighteenth Century Studies in Graz.

© Dr. Michael Lorenz 2014. All rights reserved.

4 comments:

  1. Passionnant ! Merci beaucoup.
    Emmanuelle Pesqué

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  2. " Il rendait, à ce qu'on dit, le même respect à Haydn, qu'il regardait comme son maitre en composition."
    You quite rightly translated "maître" by "teacher", but at the times, the word also had a meaning of "moral authority"... It still does. That's an interesting choice of words.
    Emmanuelle Pesqué

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  3. Thanks. What document are you quoting? All I've found through a quick search is this, http://www.researchgate.net/publication/228333332_Ludwig_Wilhelm_Tepper_de_Ferguson_(1768-1838)_Viennese_years, which has no French. Thanks very much.

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  4. Love reading your musical thoughts, research and nuggets ~ but could you please explain something, related with Die Zauberflöte flyer above? I've read on Apropos Mozart (D. Link) that Wolfgang Mozart was never a Kapellmeister. But according to Documentary Biography (O. E. Deutsch) ~ he used this title since 1784. So what exactly was he a Kapellmeister of? And if the title was honorary as some suggest ~ how come other non-kapellmeistery composers did not use it? Or have they? What was going on with this title? Just ... Don't know what to think of it (hope it's a good question, if you answer, I'll read your reply here (and thanks!))

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