I read the other day that back in 1979 Mrs Thatcher, the late British Prime Minister, attended the premiere of the play “Amadeus” which shows Mozart as both potty-mouthed and immature, and was not amused. Afterwards she roundly upbraided the director of the National Theatre, Sir Peter Hall, for portraying the composer of such beautiful and profound music in this way. But Prime Minister, he replied, Mozart really did behave like that—he used obscenities. His own letters confirm it. But Mrs Thatcher was unmoved: “Mr Hall, I don’t think you heard what I said. It could not be!”
Now, given that Mozart’s catalogue includes the piece, “Leck mir den Arsch fein recht schön sauber” (K.231—look it up), I think Mrs Thatcher was talking out her—that is to say, I think she was mistaken. But the interesting thing is the way we can get an impression of an artist from their work that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole story.
When I listen to Wagner’s music, for instance, the long, ponderous operas about gods and legends, I can’t help remembering they were written by a man who used to slide down the banisters when he was happy, and do handstands, and climb the trees in his friends’ gardens for fun. Dvorak was a keen trainspotter. Beethoven used to count out exactly 60 beans every time he had a cup of coffee. Brahms was a notoriously shabby dresser and allegedly once had to use his tie to stop his trousers falling down. I’m not sure where I’m going with this, except that it seems to make their music more human, somehow.
Meanwhile in gansey news, while I’m still off work I’m continuing to make rapid progress. So I’ve finished the body, joined the shoulders with a standard rig ‘n’ fur shoulder strap, completed the collar and am a long way down the first sleeve. I may even get it finished by next time, but there’s a lot of knitting in a sleeve, so we’ll see. (As I’m knitting at approximately 8 stitches to the inch I picked up 144 stitches round the armhole, and am decreasing at 4 stitches every 11 rows.)
In parish news, Mariah has sent me pictures of a splendid gansey knit for (and stylishly modelled by) her father, a striking combination of ladders, double moss stitch and cables; the colour really brings out the pattern very effectively. Many congratulations to Mariah, and apologies to her too for having to wait for Margaret’s return before we could post them.
And now I think I’ll go and listen to some Mozart. And imagine that, somewhere up in composer heaven, Margaret Thatcher is paying Mozart a visit and hasn’t yet realised that he’s put a whoopee cushion on her chair as he politely holds it out for her…