Mozart: The Child Prodigy
Mozart began showing his talents when he was just three years old. Thanks to the annotations made by his father in his sister's keyboard lessons book, we learned when and how long it took Mozart to learn the same music his sister was playing. It became clear that Mozart rapidly advanced through his sister's lesson book. Mozart's father began touring Mozart and his sister not just locally, but also internationally! During their trip to London, Mozart's abilities were tested "scientifically." In a famous report written by Daines Barrington, we learn about Mozart's extraordinary talents. Barrington brought a manuscript, never before seen by Mozart, which was composed with 5 parts with one part written in an Italian style Contralto clef, and set it in front of the young Mozart, just 8 years old, sitting at the keyboard. Barrington writes:
The score was no sooner put upon his desk, than he began to play the symphony in a most masterly manner, as well as in the time and stile which corresponded with the intention of the composer...*
Impressed by Mozart's performance, Barrington requested to Mozart to improvise and perform a Love Song in operatic style that Barrington's famous opera singer friend, Manzoli, would choose to perform. Barrington again writes:
[Mozart] began five or six lines of a jargon recitative proper to introduce a love song. He then played a symphony... It had a first and second part, which together with the symphonies, was of the length that opera songs generally last: if this extemporary composition was not amazingly capital, yet it was really above mediocrity, and shewed most extraordinary readiness of invention.*
Again, an impressed Barrington made a similar request to Mozart, only this time to perform a Song of Rage. Mozart, again, presented a similar performance, except he "beat his harpsichord like a person possessed, rising sometimes in his chair." Afterward, Barrington had Mozart complete a series of difficult keyboard lessons. Barrington once again writes of Mozart:
His astonishing readiness, however, did not arise merely from great practice; he had a thorough knowledge of the fundamental principles of composition, as, upon producing a treble, he immediately wrote a base under it, which, when tried, had very good effect. He was also a great master of modulation, and his transitions from one key to another were excessively natural and judicious...*
Barrington also noted that Mozart spent a great amount of time practicing the harpsichord with the keys covered by a handkerchief.