Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time

Young Mozart in London
horizontal rule
The question of the original genius has led to many studies and debates among the scientists of all ages. Daines Barrington presented a particularly vivid picture of the childhood genius to his colleagues at the Royal Society in London (first read 15 Nov. 1770). He described Mozart’s ability to improvise operative music, singing and accompanying himself at the keyboard, to imaginary Italian texts on the subjects of love and betrayal. He also placed before the boy an unfamiliar duet: without the slightest hesitation the lad assigns the alto part to his father, sings the soprano himself, realizes the figured bass and throws in the violin parts as necessary. This feat involves reading several different clefs simultaneously, the difficulty of which Barrington attempted to explain to his musically untrained colleagues by comparing it to the simultaneous reading of several poems, each possessing its own character, expression, and declamatory rules, and each written in a different alphabet. Barrington's report illustrates the fascination that the young boy engendered not only in concert audiences, but also in the scientific world.

horizontal rule
Daines Barrington. "Account of a Very Remarkable Young Musician" in Miscellanies. London 1781.
horizontal rule

view image 1
view image 2

continue tour

From Sketch to Completed Work
From Print to CD
How did Mozart Compose?
The Mozart Myth: Tales of a Forgery
Mozart's Images
Mozart's Images Imagined
What the Score Doesn't Tell Us
The Piano Lesson
The Cult of Mozart
Commodification & Kitsch
Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library

Copyright 2002 Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections
2B Carl A. Kroch Library, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, 14853
Phone Number: (607) 255-3530. Fax Number: (607) 255-9524

For reference questions, send mail to:
If you have questions or comments about the site, send mail to: webmaster.