Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) lived in London from 23 April 1764 until 24 July 1765. Whilst here he wrote his first two symphonies and regularly performed before admiring audiences.
His father, Leopold, a violinist at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg, realised that his two gifted children 'Wolfer' and 'Nanner' (Wolfgang and Maria Anna) could earn more than him as child prodigies. Therefore they embarked on a tour of European courts.
Wolfgang arrived in London as a charming eight-year old prodigy and drew admirers from every part of the city.
He left as a less cute nine-year old performing keyboard tricks in pubs to sceptical audiences.
This walking tour follows in the footsteps of Mozart in London.
We begin at Ranelagh Gardens, Chelsea. Situated between the Embankment and Chelsea Bridge Road. The Chelsea Flower Show is held annually on the site in late May.
In the 18th century the gardens were known as Ranelagh Pleasure Gardens. For an entrance fee of 12d anyone could stroll around the ornamental lake, admire the Chinese pavilion and listen to a variety of music. In the centre of the Gardens stood the Rotunda, a wooden structure larger than the Coliseum in Rome, with private sitting rooms and gaming tables. It was modelled on the great church of St Sophia in Constantinople.
Here on 29 June 1764 Mozart performed his compositions on the harpsichord and organ at a benefit concert in aid of a newly established maternity hospital. The entrance fee was five shillings.
Respected musicians and composers, such as Thomas Arne, gave annual concerts here. During Mozart’s concert there was also music by Handel from three of his oratorios and the Coronation theme.
Serious attention at a public concert was a rarity. People felt at liberty to talk through the music and if they became restless to stroll about.
walking east to junction of Ebury Bridge Road and Pimilico Road ...
Orange Square (Mozart Square), Belgravia
There is sculpture of the young Mozart with his violin in Orange Square. In 1764 this was an open area with sheep and donkeys grazing and market gardens providing local vegetables.
walking north up to Ebury Street ...
180 Ebury St, Belgravia
Leopold moved his family here on 5 August 1764 to recuperate from a chill and sore throat caught at an open-air concert at the Earl of Thanet’s home in Grosvenor Square. A blue plaque commemorates their stay.
In order to occupy himself Mozart composed his first two symphonies, K16 and K19. 'Nanner' transcribed the composition sitting at his side, and reminded him ‘to give the horn something worthwhile to do’.
walking north-east to ...
Queen’s House (now Buckingham Palace)
In 1764 this was a much smaller building, on what was then the edge of town. George III bought Buckingham House for £28,000 in 1761 as a family home within convenient distance to St James’s Palace, which at that time was the official and ceremonial royal residence.
George changed the name of Buckingham House to the Queen’s House. The Mozarts performed here, for King George III and Queen Charlotte, three times during their stay. Leopold wrote that ‘the graciousness with which their Majesties received us cannot be described… their easy manner and friendly ways made us forget that they were the King and Queen of England.’
Leopold published Mozart’s ‘Six Sonatas for Harpsichord and Violin’ at this time, dedicating them to Queen Caroline.
Buckingham Palace became the official royal residence on the accession of Queen Victoria in 1837, after substantial alterations to the building.
Stroll in ...
St James’s Park
Here the Mozarts strolled among the deer and saw the local strumpets plying their trade. They were passed by the royal carriage and greeted by the king, who opened the carriage window to nod and wave his hand at the family.
Feel like a break? Cross the Mall and pass St James's Palace on your way to ...the Golden Lion, 25 King St, St James's.
A Golden Lion tavern has stood on this site since 1762. This one was completed in 1900. Next door used to stand St. James's Theatre (demolished 1957) which explains the theatrical theme running through the pub, including the Theatre Bar upstairs. This contains some artefacts from the former theatre.
Then continue the walk north-east to Piccadilly Circus and ...
White Bear Inn (now Criterion Restaurant), 224 Piccadilly
On 23 April 1764 the Mozart family arrived at the White Bear, the well-known coaching inn that stood on this site. The family had been seasick on the crossing from France; Leopold, always with an eye on his finances, wrote to his friend Hagenauer: “Thank God we have safely crossed . . . yet not without making a heavy contribution in vomiting. But we saved money which would have been spent on emetics.”
Incidentally ... The Criterion was founded in 1870, and the original ornate period décor, with gold mosaic and Arabic murals, is still intact. The Criterion features in the first Sherlock Holmes story A Study in Scarlet. It is here that Dr Watson learns from an acquaintance that a Mr Sherlock Holmes is looking for someone to share a suite of rooms he has found in Baker Street.
The Criterion is now a Marco-Pierre White restaurant
then walk down Haymarket to ...
Her Majesty’s Theatre, Haymarket
During the 1764-65 season the Mozarts saw Johan Christian Bach’s opera Adriano in Siria at the King’s Theatre, which was rebuilt in 1791 and is now called Her Majesty’s. J.C. Bach (J.S. Bach's son) was the Queen’s music master and befriended the young composer.
Mozart also took singing lessons here from Giovanni Manzuoli, a resident singer and one of the most famous male sopranos of the time. In 1771 Manzuoli came out of retirement to create the title role in Mozart’s Ascanio in Alba, in Milan, which Mozart composed when he was only fifteen.
Back up Haymarket and along Shaftesbury Avenue to ...
21 Frith Street, Soho
The Mozarts lodged here, at what was '15 Thrift Street' with Thomas Williamson, a ‘staymaker' (maker of corsets). The original building was demolished and rebuilt in 1858.
In June 1765, with money at a low ebb, Leopold presented his prodigies almost as circus performers: The public were invited in to hear the children play and to test Mozart by ‘giving him anything to play at Sight, or any Music without Bass, which he will write upon the Spot’.
The writer and essayist William Hazlitt and the artist John Constable also lodged in Frith street. Hazlitt died at 6 Frith Street (now Hazlitt's Hotel) in 1830 and is buried at St Anne’s, where there is a memorial.
Also of interest
7 Princes Street, Marylebone
The Mozarts visited John Zumph’s music shop here, at the sign of the ‘Golden Guittar’, in 1764 and 1765. Zumph was a close friend of J.C. Bach. The first square piano was made on these premises in 1766.
Private Guided Sightseeing Tours
The Word Travels offers private and group guided sightseeing tours, within and beyond London, throughout the year.
For further details, please Contact Us re Mozart in London
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