‘Mozart’s London Odyssey’

Taking part in BBC Four and Lucy Worsley’s Mozart’s London Odyssey as both the researcher and a contributor has been an entirely new and enjoyable experience for me. It was very satisfying to see the finished product when it aired last night.

I am now nearing the end of four years in which I have worked exclusively on the Mozart family’s fifteen months in London: I am due to submit my PhD dissertation next month. Inevitably, I watched last night’s documentary with minute attention to detail, reflecting on the narratives that were brought to the fore, and how these compare to accounts of the family’s stay that already dominate Mozart scholarship.   Continue reading

Mozart and the Slave Trade

I have just finished reading Marlon James’s The Book of Night Women (2009). Beginning in 1785, the novel tells the story of Lilith, born into a Jamaican sugar plantation to a slave and a plantation overseer. Told entirely from Lilith’s point of view, this book is devastating.

The book made me look more closely at some of the people the Mozart family met during their fifteen-month stay in London in 1764-5. I’m currently fine tuning my annotated edition of Leopold Mozart’s London travel notes, for the first chapter of my PhD thesis. The travel notes are a detailed list of contacts and patrons who the Mozarts met. Among the musicians, noblemen, merchants and diplomats, are several people with very clear links to West Indian plantations. Continue reading

Leopold Mozart and Eighteenth-Century Science

Unexpectedly but happily, I’m a joint winner of the 2016 BSECS President’s Prize for the paper I gave at their annual conference last January. Based on a chapter of my forthcoming PhD dissertation, I used objects Leopold purchased in London and his network of contacts as starting points for exploring his interests in contemporaneous science and technology. I believe that studying some of the Mozarts’ broader, non-musical interests has implications both for understandings of Leopold’s character the significance the London tour had for the adult Wolfgang Mozart. Continue reading

Mozart at the V&A

Over the last couple of weeks I have felt extremely privileged to be involved in Classical Opera’s educational outreach project, part of Mozart 250. In a scheme successfully piloted last year, two classes of 9-10 year olds are being introduced to Wolfgang Mozart’s European travels, undertaken with his family when he was their age. The classes will participate in a series of musical workshops lead by music educator Lucia Vernon-Long with Classical Opera musicians, writing their own opera inspired by music Mozart composed on the tour. They will perform their opera in March. Continue reading

Nothing new to say?

Talking about Mozart at the Foundling Museum

Having attended the Foundling Museum’s ‘Music in Eighteenth-Century Britain Annual Study Days’ in the past as a delegate, I was delighted to present a paper myself at yesterday’s study day. I was introduced with ‘I didn’t think there was anything new to say about Mozart’. On the contrary, there is always something new to say about Mozart! Especially about Wolfgang and Nannerl’s appearances at the Swan and Hoop Tavern of July 1765, towards the end of the family’s fifteen months in London (the subject of my paper). Continue reading

Filming Mozart at Hampton Court Palace

This superb sunrise justified a 6am start from home for an early session filming at Hampton Court Palace.

The filming was an interview with Lucy Worsley, who is presenting the BBC Four film on Mozart in London (forthcoming in June 2016). The subject was the family’s appearances for King George III and Queen Charlotte that took place soon after their arrival in London in April 1764. It’s going to be followed by another interview on Saturday at Christ Church in Spitalfields, where we’ll be discussing what is likely to have been the first performance of what we think is Wolfgang’s first symphony. Continue reading

Giovanni Battista Cirri in London

I have just arrived home from a long weekend in Italy, where I was giving an invited paper at a conference on the cellist and composer Giovanni Battista Cirri (1724-1808) at his hometown of Forlí, a short distance outside of Bologna. The afternoon took place in the refectory of Forlì’s Musei di San Domenico, the walls of which bore the remains of 16th-century frescoes. It’s not every day you get to present paper in such wonderful surroundings – definitely one of the perks of academic life!

(N.B. I also found time to put together a Bologna-based Mozart sightseeing tour: Wolfgang was there with his father Leopold exactly 245 years previously.) Continue reading