The European Tour
A short walk from Victoria Railway Station is the smart, cosmopolitan Orange Square in Pimlico. This is the former neighbourhood of the eight year old Mozart in London. In the square there is a small statue of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart commemorating this. In 1764, this was an open area with sheep and donkeys grazing and market gardens providing local vegetables. It still is (minus the sheep and donkeys) if you time your visit for the farmers market on Saturday mornings – we recommend it.
Why was Mozart in London? It all started with his father’s scheme to make some money.
Leopold Mozart was a violinist at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg. He had a number of children – and two of them were particularly gifted musicians; Wolfgang and Maria Anna. Leopold realised he could make a tidy buck from them as child prodigies. After a very successful ‘proof of concept’ in Vienna, Leopold planned a three year tour of the European Courts (1762 – 1765). The tour took in seventeen cities, including: Salzburg, Vienna, Munich, Brussels, Paris and London.
London was the last leg of the tour. Originally the family stayed in Cecil Court (near Leicester Square). However, the London smog didn’t suit Leopold, so they moved to, what was then, the countryside of Pimlico.
Leopold was a marketer. He advertised Mozart in London with posters appealing to the gentry (come and see the sensations that have wowed the Courts of Europe) and the workers (by associating the children with freaks of nature).
King George III
King George III invited the Mozarts for a private performance. Apparently, the King presented young Wolfgang with music that he played at first sight – and the King was suitably impressed. Leopold revelled in all the attention – and hard cash. Ever the marketer, Leopold dedicated three piano sonatas to Queen Charlotte. Leopold said later, ‘At every court, it’s true, we’ve been received astonishingly graciously but what we’ve experienced in England outshines the rest.’
Symphony No. 1
The house where the Mozarts lived is near Orange Square at 180 Ebury Street and is marked with a plaque. It is also where Wolfgang in London wrote his first symphony, at the age of eight. JC Bach also lived in London at the time, was Master of Music to Queen Charlotte and a prodigious composer of symphonies (ninety in his lifetime). It’s very likely that JC Bach encouraged Wolfgang to ‘jump in’ and write a symphony. We all need a mentor!
You can visit the square any time. After the Saturday morning market, you should also have a pint and a meal at the Orange Pub (37-39 Pimlico Road) – it’s across the road from the statue. You’ll get a real sense of London life away from the centre.