An Airmail Letter From Mozart (1993)

For Fortepiano, Two Hand Horns, String Quartet and Bass   12 minutes

If Mozart were alive today, he might enjoy the speed of modern travel, and the accessibility of remote parts of the globe.  But however fast and far he went, he would probably still be thinking of Constanze, and writing to her, “You cannot imagine how slowly time goes when you are not with me!”  Doubtless he would still cherish her picture (“If I were to tell you all the things I do with your portrait, you would laugh heartily”) and say goodnight to it (“Goodnight, little mouse, sleep well”).

If he were to write to her from this imaginary journey, he would try to cheer her up (“Primo: I beg of you not to be sad”) and perhaps want to share some musical thoughts.  There is a delightful account of Mozart driving through the countryside with Constanze, humming all the musical ideas that came into his head, and saying “it is too silly that we [composers] have got to hatch out our work in a room.”

If she were far away, he might jot down a theme and variations as a musical letter.  One or two variations might catch some of the musical inflections of places he visited; others would be thoughts of Constanze, intimate, tender and playful.  As the basis for this imaginary letter, I have used the Theme and Variations, and one or two other ideas, from Mozart’s Divertimento K287.

Commissioned by the New Mozart Ensemble

First performance: 17th April 1993, Melvyn Tan (piano) and the New Mozart Ensemble, State University of New York, Purchase.