Stroll through the streets of Bratislava’s historical centre and you will come across a white marble plaque, attached to the wall of the Pálffy palace on Ventúrska Street, declaring that the six-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart gave a concert here in 1762. Although the inscription presents the event as an unambiguous fact, the circumstances surrounding the musical prodigy’s purported appearance in Bratislava – or Pressburg, as it was then known – are rather less certain. There are some strong hints that Mozart (who was born on January 27, 1756, and died aged just 35 on December 5, 1791) did visit the present-day capital of Slovakia more than 260 years ago – but direct evidence of either his stay or his concert remains to be found.
“The primary source for Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s only visit to Pressburg, and at the same time his only visit to the Hungarian Kingdom, are the letters of his father Leopold Mozart to his friend Lorenz Hagenauer in Salzburg and to the publisher Johann Jakob Lotter in Augsburg. Another letter was later written by 17-year-old Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself to his sister Maria Anna Mozart, where he mentions a certain Mr. Greibich, whom the learned to know in Pressburg,” said Zuzana Godárová, a tourist guide in Bratislava and Vienna who specialises in music and is co-author of the very first musical guide to Bratislava.
She added that the one newspaper that might have written about the event, the Pressburger Zeitung, only began publishing two years later, in 1764.
“But both Wolfgang, and Maria Anna remembered to be in Pressburg, and I can see no reason why they would invent it later,” said Godárová.
But while, for some, mentions in correspondence are adequate evidence (i. e. Otto Biba, Austrian musicologist and Archive Director of the Gesellschaft der Musikfreunde in Vienna, Pavol Polák, leading Slovak musicologist and others), for others they are not enough. Historian Štefan Holčík considers the hints in these letters to be insufficient proof that the child prodigy even visited Pressburg, much less that he ever gave a concert in the city.
“Above all, there is no historical document or mention in the archives of noble families that a concert was held here in which the little Mozart played,” said Holčík, as quoted by the Sme daily, adding that such families recorded all kinds of everyday events and they would hardly have missed such an extraordinary event as the appearance of a prodigy.
First tour by the child prodigy