In a time of many prodigies, Leopold Mozart, prince-archbishop’s court violinist and court composer from Salzburg, was also blessed with two hopeful children.
Ten-year-old Maria Anna and six-year-old Wolfgang were to audition at the imperial court in Vienna to make them famous as “child prodigies.”
The first concert tour took him to Munich in January 1762 to the Bavarian court, another one from September to December 1762 via Passau and Linz to Vienna.
On October 13, 1762, in the Hall of Mirrors at Schönbrunn Palace, the imperial couple Maria Theresa and Franz I Stephan and twelve archdukes and archduchesses listened to her perform on piano and violin. The self-confident 6-year-old Wolfgang charmed everyone with his playing. Court composer Christoph Wagenseil recognized, “You’re a real musician!”
Anecdotes say that after the concert the Mozart children played with the archdukes and archduchesses and romped through the Hall of Mirrors. “Wolfie jumped onto the empress’s lap, got her around the neck and kissed her righteously. In short, we were with her from three o’clock to six o’clock,…” writes Leopold Mozart to his landlord and patron Lorenz Hagenauer in Salzburg.
Nannerl and Wolfgang received not only 100 gold ducats (450 florins, a horse cost about ten, a simple traveling carriage about 60 florins) as a fee for their performance, but also two discarded dresses of archdukes. From then on, these sumptuously embroidered gala dresses served as stage clothes for the Mozart children.
Nine years later, Maria Theresa knew little about the “Compositeur”. She advised her son Ferdinand Karl not to take this Salzburg family of musicians into service: “. . . I don’t see why and I don’t think you need a composer or such useless people . . .” On October 15, 1771, the young 17-year-old Archduke Ferdinand married Maria Beatrice d’Este in Milan. For this festive occasion, the 15-year-old Mozart wrote the opera Ascanio in Alba at the request of the bride, which was premiered in Milan. The young wedding couple was thrilled. Ferdinand Karl promised Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart a position as court composer. But Maria Theresa had the last word.