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Medallion bust of Mozart
Medallion bust of Mozart at the House of the Three Golden Lions (By Ondřej Kořínek (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)
April 24, 2018

A Little Known Plaque to Mozart in Czechia

A plaque exists to Mozart in Czechia, which is little known and whose location is unusual. It is not to be found in Prague, but en route to the city instead, again underlining the importance of Mozart’s peripatetic lifestyle as a freelance composer; the plaque is to be found in the small town of Caslav in central Bohemia. It is near Kutna Hora, some 70 kilometers east of Prague in the current distance – the eighteenth-century German mile, which Mozart quoted in his letters, equating to between roughly 7 and 9 kilometers today. Nor was Mozart alone on the road – he had decided to make the trip accompanied by an important musical patron in Vienna, Prince Karl Lichnowsky. (1761-1814).

Mozart plaque in Caslav
The Mozart plaque in Caslav (By Ben Skála, Benfoto [GFDL or CC BY-SA 3.0], from Wikimedia Commons)
The reason that the memorial plaque is in Caslav is that Mozart was embarking on a concert tour to Dresden, Leipzig, and Berlin, by way of Prague. His route is easy to trace on the modern map today; he set out from his Judenplatz address in Vienna on 8 April 1789, together with the Prince. Perhaps it was as much significant as well as practical that he chose to make this journey via Prague, where he had been received with such rapturous welcome as the composer of Le nozzi di Figaro and conducted his great symphony K504 ‘Prague,’ back in January 1787. Of course, he also conducted the world premiere of his monumental opera, Don Giovanni, on 29 October of the same year. Mozart was clearly on the road but retracing a route of astounding success, less than two years earlier. He asked his wife, Constanze, to write to him in Leipzig and Berlin poste restante and planned to return via Prague in June, when the tour was complete. In a tone not unlike the exacting letters of his father Leopold Mozart, which sometimes became apparent in letters to Constanze, Mozart made a list of every letter he had written to Constanze, in another letter from Berlin. Constanze had written to him on the day of his departure, from Vienna, but Mozart only received it a week later, in Dresden.

The date of Mozart’s one letter from Prague during this concert tour is important – 10 April (Good Friday) 1789. We know, for example, thanks to this letter – which contains a busy account of renewed acquaintances and visits on this one night en route to Dresden – that Mozart and the Prince stopped in Czechia at a post station, in Budwitz (Ceske Budejovice) where he wrote Constanze a note. This means that he stopped here before reaching Caslav on 9 April, where he spent the night. The plaque confirms this, recording that he put up in the ‘Black Eagle’ Inn (U Cerneho Orla); in fact, the same name as the inn in Olomouc, where he had come down with smallpox as an eleven-year-old child in 1767. It is necessary to remember, however, that the name itself is not unusual; there is a historic inn in Prague’s Lesser Town, the ‘Black Eagle,’ in Mostecka Street.

The ‘Black Eagle’ Inn no longer exists, but the plaque is on the site of its former location. It is significant because it enables us to put another pin onto the musical map of Mozart’s comings-and-goings, enabling us to have another insight into the practical side of his genius. He left Caslav the following morning for Prague, arriving the next day, where he wrote to Constanze, from Prague’s ‘Unicorn Inn’: “We arrived here safely at half past 1 today…” Mozart did not mention where he had stopped, but this is in itself not unusual for a composer’s frantic schedule on the move; Mozart’s letters lack the visual precision of his father, Leopold Mozart.

The plaque in Caslav is perhaps little known, but no less important for that. Its inscription was written by Milos Foreman, director of the 1984 period epic Amadeus.

©Elizabeth Jane Timms, 2018

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