Account of a Very Remarkable Young Musician (1769)

Account of a Very Remarkable Young Musician. In a Letter from the Honourable Daines Barrington, F. R. S. to Mathew Maty, M. D. Sec. R. S.; 1770; Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society, London

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, one of history’s most famous composers, began showing his talents when he was just 3 years old. By the age of 6 he was touring with his father and elder sister, also a talented musician. It was the young Mozart however who wowed the audiences. After a concert at the court of the Prince-elector Maximilian III of Bavaria in Munich, and at the Imperial Court in Vienna and Prague, the Mozart family embarked on a 3 and half year concert tour around the courts of Munich, Mannheim, Paris, London, The Hague, again to Paris, and back home via Zurich, Donaueschingen, and Munich. While in London, an 8 year old Mozart proved a huge sensation. But with his child prodigy status came questions from a skeptical few. Was he really so young? Was he really that talented? One person eager to test the truth of these doubts was Daines Barrington, a lawyer, antiquary, naturalist and Friend of the Royal Society. In a few visits to the Mozart family lodgings in London Barrington was committed to testing “scientifically” whether this young Mozart was the real deal or not. Barrington’s findings are laid out in the above report to the Royal Society. He brought a manuscript, never before seen by Mozart, which was composed with 5 parts with one part written in an Italian style Contralto clef. As soon as it was put before him on his desk the young Mozart played it perfectly, “in a most masterly manner” wrote Barrington, “as well as in the time and stile which corresponded with the intention of the composer”. Further tests included improvising a love song, a “song of rage”, and completing a series of difficult keyboard lessons. The young Mozart more than impressed and Barrington wrote that the boy’s musical gifts were “amazing and incredible almost as it may appear”. Barrington also gives us a touching insight into the still child-like nature of the boy, when he reveals that a favourite cat was often given preference over playing the harpsichord.

Housed at: Internet Archive | From: Royal Society
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  • Curious mind

    In 18th century, Why are they typing the letter ” f ” instead of letter ” s ” (compofer, mufician etc.,) ? I thought it was a limitation of the typesetting.. But if you see there is a type set for ‘ s ‘ (years, portraits etc.,).. May be just to screw with a 21st century simpleton?

  • Anne Holm

    If you look at page [55], third line from bottom (over footnotes) you can compare the “f” in “therefore” to the “s´es”. The “f” is steeper and the upper arch is more rounded and starts from a higher point, than that of th “s”. Furthermore the “f” has a marked bar across the stem. The “s” only has a rudimentary “knob” on the left side. I think, the “f” -shaped “s” may have to do with the shape of the traditional handwritten “s” of those days.