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Mozart: What the Letters Show

If you’ve seen the movie Amadeus, or the play it was based on, you may have gotten the impression that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was some sort of giggling idiot who just happened to be really good at writing music. Nothing, in fact, could be further from the truth. Read a collection of Mozart’s letters and you discover a person who is serious, articulate, witty, and perceptive; someone who writes beautifully and can make jokes—sometimes very dirty jokes, it’s true—in at least three different languages. Mozart’s native language was German, but he spoke Italian and French quite well, and his Latin was apparently excellent. The letters also show that Mozart was a keen and skilled observer of human nature, which should come as no surprise if we think about the wonderful and complex characters in his operas… And he was also an expert, and a very funny one, when it came to puncturing pretensions, even when the pretensions he was puncturing belonged to a person of exalted social status.

A Minute with Miles is a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.

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Miles Hoffman is the founder and violist of the American Chamber Players, with whom he regularly tours the United States, and the Virginia I. Norman Distinguished Visiting Professor of Chamber Music at the Schwob School of Music, in Columbus, Georgia. He has appeared as viola soloist with orchestras across the country, and his solo performances on YouTube have received well over 700,000 views.