Upon the small square in front of Mozart’s house, surrounded by tourists, Maestro performs his number. He is dressed in a tight,
cosmonaut-like costume, as if encased in a grey plastic wrap. Even the pedestal, upon which he is standing, like on a conductor’s
podium, is covered in grey, as if it too has a place in the stage design for a total effect. His face is covered by the Mozart’s mask. A live
creature is inside, in this “armor”, reminding of a puppet, each movement calculated, smooth like in a magician. He bows to the gathered
crowd, conducts the invisible orchestra, simulates playing the piano, a violin, and marking something down in his imaginary music sheet.
No words, just an exaggerated pantomime. The scene is absolutely in harmony with the grotesque of Mozart’s life. The actor is humbly
dedicated to the crowd encircling him, all in motion, his hands constantly “working”, gracefully waving his top hat, bowing and thanking
with a head nod. Especially, when he receives a higher tip. But there is something else in his eyes. German poet Wieland has left a sharp
observation about Mozart’s face and a permanently scornful expression. Such expression I recognize in the eyes of this fair-Mozart. On
the pavement, in front of him, there is a tin box in which a hefty amount of money is already collected. When someone, from the group of
tourists surrounding the masked man about two to three meters away, gets out to drop money into the box, Mozart quickly assesses the
amount, while the donor is still approaching, and chooses the adequate level of respect to show. For a smaller donation he bows, bends
his left arm at the elbow and uses the right to write down the amount in the imaginary note book or a parchment. Slowly and ceremonially,
with great respect for the contributor’s gesture and donation. For the one who leaves more, he plays something, curtsies, takes a posture
of a violinist, bending his left arm as if to hold the instrument and leaning his head to it. He closes his eyes (we can see that, although he
is covered by a mask) and moves the bow across the instrument in gratitude. To the most generous supporter he ducks his head,
positions himself as a conductor and impressively leads the orchestra shaking his head.
Music follows each scene of the ritual. A bit away, outside of the viewers’ vision, hidden by the corner of the building, with a heap of
cassettes and a multi-channeled stereo, his assistant is following closely the performance to accompany the show with the music
matching the actor’s movements. The same music piece is repeated when the givers are children, a special one goes to women, to an
elderly couple, approaching together, he plays appropriate music to which they almost dance. To an elegant female tourist, some Tekla,
Aloisia, Konstanza or Besel, an unknown lady who with her left hand drops a hefty sum of money, charmingly curtsies holding, in her right
hand, her dress to cover the whiteness of her flesh, he plays the piano. “Die Grosse Klavierkoncerte.” Another piece. Piano! In his piano
concertos Mozart has achieved the ideal of the male and female principle. Only the imperial instrument, piano, has enough superiority to
sustain Mozart, only it is strong and powerful like a full orchestra to hold Mozart’s soul.
It is Sunday (in Salzburg every day is Sunday), and the sightseers are flooding the square. They approach the podium, one by one, each
wanting a personal number, each expecting gratitude as a gift in return. They enjoy it, this ceremonial Symphonia barbarica. Poor Mozart.
Always struggling with money, constant moving from place to place and poverty! Always in low tides of orders, students, patrons. Gift
watches instead of the bags of gold ducats. He always sold his music cheaply for he always needed cash.
And now this sad clown at the Mozart Square is still paying off the Maestro’s debts.
The city Mozart ridiculed is revenging.
We are in awe with its baroque, pretentious architecture and ambiance, magnificent cathedral, Residence, the river descending from the
mountains into the Bavarian uplands between the Kapuzinerberg and the Hohnesalzburg fortress, we admire the mountains, cliffs and
snow, the blue skies above, forests and meadows, landscapes that experts recognize in his music. But Mozart despised Salzburg, its
provincialism, envy, coarseness, and muck he saw in his native city.
He said that Salzburg was not a place for his talent and yet he is still here, playing, composing, conducting, and stooping for petty cash.
Until his death he had to work hard to earn for a bare survival and, in the end, on December 5, 1791, he left behind his “wealth” of 200
guldens, musical instruments and a small library appraised at 23 guldens and 41 kreutzers.
The royal librarian Gotfried von Svitten had no other choice but to bury the body in a joint mass grave. In that cosmos of the poor Volfgang
Around Maestro gleeful travelers gather from all parts of the world. They give him magnificent gifts of small change, enjoying the stand-in
of an actor enticing them for a tip. Konstanzas and Blondies, Susans and Counteses, Donne Annas, Donne Elviras and Cerlinas,
Fiordilidas and Dorabelles, Pamines and Papagenes, all Mozart’s women from music, now are coming, transformed into young tourists.
The event at the Mozart’s Square is lovely, joyous, a little bit like a circus, just right for me, for I have always loved circus. I am admiring
the clown in front of me performing so perfectly and elegantly, highly professionally, that for a moment I have forgotten bad news from the
fatherland in which military marches have been the best hits.
I am taking out of pocket a small coin with intention to give it to the performer from my small change. I have a habit to give money to the
street musicians and performers wherever I find myself. From my modest daily wages I set aside a small part to give to the same type of
people I unfortunately belong myself.
All jesters, all Hamlet’s actors, all troupes, clowns, all the vagabonds and hungry , God-sent people, – fill in under my costume. My way of
conquering the cities.. I do not spend time in museums and galleries, but sit at the squares and the street cafes. I absorb the street
noises and remember faces. A square, park, a monument, café, something that I can carry over the border in my mind, all that which I
wish to have in the city I am building for myself from the stolen cherished places during my travels. The city gates, fountains, its
arches…Like a gold digger, I move and search around. I stay the longest time with the street performers. I could write a book on their
repertoire only. Each new number I watch with great interest. The street entertainers, jugglers, itinerant actors, fire swallowers.
Saxophone players, trumpeters, violinists, guitarists…The musicians from all centuries.
I remember them on the sly, later frame the memorized scenes, building my city, in which at arm’s length I may have all I love, all places I
did not care for enough “at the time I visited them.” I will never go back to them when the voice of the musicians disappears at the time of
the oncoming flood.
Once in the Central Park in New York, I sat quietly, unnoticed, a long time with a guitarist playing Spanish classical music, as if Lorca
personally sent him down to meet me. Quite close, in the grass, lies a dog. Just a common yellow pup. He watches me, then the guitarist,
then me again. It seems he does not belong to the musician, but it is hard to believe that a wandering dog can so carelessly spend time
in the Central Park, Manhattan.
I sit quietly on the other end of the bench, curled like dog, careful not to inconvenience the musician. In front of his feet, next to the path lies
his guitar case and in it only two quarter pieces, next to each other, like two brothers. It is a rarely used path. In abandonment, musician
does not pay attention to his poor earning. Apparently, he is not aware of my presence either.
I bask in the spring sun and the guitar accords. Chasing the sunray in the tree tops, or eyes closed and my head lowered upon my chest,
filtering through my thoughts entangled sounds, rays and Lorka’s verses remembered from my college days. I find complete peace in this
cross-play of sounds and lights of the day, in gratitude getting ready to drop into the guitar case a whole dollar. But just as I am about to
do it, the guitarist suddenly stops playing in the middle of the composition, takes the two American quarters and starts packing the guitar.
I look at him sideways. It is too late to offer him money. Therefore I stay quiet, my eyes closed. I hear him go away down the path. When I
open my eyes, I notice a quarter on the bench, next to me. He has shared his whole earning, like a brother, although my contribution to his
“performance” has been soundless and unnoticeable. On the sly, I have been stealing his music and have been even rewarded for that.
After a small delay, as if staying to check if the reward will find its way into my hands, the dog joins the musician. He runs askance with his
head turned to me, until I finally loose sight of him.
Since then I have had a sense of debt. I decide to resolve it at least partially at the square in Salzburg, by dropping the coin into the tin
box below Mozart’s feet.
I wait until the tourist giving him a paper money receive the earned gratitude, and Maestro plays a part on his violin. One more giving
foreigner has been highly appreciated, with conducting, and to the third Mozart played, with a special temperament, two or three minutes,
and conducted. I notice that one has left 500-shilling note. Positioning myself to show I am the next, I seize the moment to come close to
the tin box, and quickly (because my vigor is not matching the amount I have prepared), I drop Mozart’s wage. But, Maestro, even while I
am approaching, starts playing enthusiastically. That surprises both me and his assistant, so that two-or three seconds his violin “plays”
blankly, with no sound.
There is a confusion, not my fault. I open my hand to show that on my palm I have only small coin and do not deserve the attention that the
better donors deserve.
I have no intention to change my mind and succumb to his provocation, in case he has something like that in mind.
Having no choice, he finishes his playing and I carefully place money among the rest; with a slight uneasiness because of the involuntary
cheating, I return to my previous place.
The circle is narrower, then wider, but at all times holds around fifty people watching, whom Maestro encourages, verbally and in
gestures, to come closer and get two minutes of free concert. I decide to pay off my debt. Touching my pocket again, I get in between
two children holding their coins for which they get a reward of only being written down. When my turn comes, I place the coin into the box,
look at Mozart, who bows deeply to me and, instead of writing me down, starts to play again. I back up one step watching him closely.
This time there is no misunderstanding. He saw clearly how much I have left and it is known what usually follows. But – he plays. He has
upgraded my gift, enlarged it, by mistake or intentionally, I have no idea. When a man after me drops a coin to get only recording in the
book of honorary members,. I move away from the group, not knowing what to do. Two or three groups have changed and I still stand
waiting, resolved to find out what the confusion is about. I wait for the newcomers to deliver their gratitude to Mozart and receive their
reward according to the protocol. Slowly, quite slowly, to thoroughly check the matter, I take a shilling out of my pocket, place it on the
palm of my hand, play with it a little, throw into the air and skillfully catch it again. I move close to Mozart, and without any ceremony drop
the coin into the box. He bows extremely gracefully, assumes the posture of a conductor and the orchestra starts playing in my honor. The
Requiem. I know it. I have seen Forman’s movie Amadeus two times. The present crowd takes that as a special honor. On their faces I
can see expressions of respect, and after several of them applaud, I bow to them and to Maestro. I feel embarrassed because of my
I move a bit further outside of their vision, confused because of my role in the street show on the Mozart square in Salzburg. I take a place
in the sun, leaning against the building and listening to the musical fragments thinking about Maestro’s kindness. Close to me, behind a
post, a girl and a young man are perpetually kissing. The public is noisy enjoying the brilliant day.
The Sunday idyll is interrupted by the policemen whom Maestro notices first from his podium. The actor quickly descends, pours money
into his hat, puts the podium under his arm, whistles to the assistant and rushes to the other side of the square taking off the mask from
his face. He does that in a flash and with no elegance whatsoever he exhibited before. The policemen head toward the corner where the
musician stood before but he has disappeared.
After two or three minutes the crowd disperses and from the nearby store, as if only waiting for the entertainers to leave, the sounds of
Mozart’s Eine Kleine Nachtmusik is heard.
“Music for all times”, says an elderly shopkeeper, assessing my financial capability while recommending Mozart on a compact disk. A
less expensive variation: 50% discount with the book by Alfred Einstein about the Salzburg wonder. And all of that double priced in a fine
package with a platinum disks and for a deeper pocket.
The shopkeeper has a developed sense for tourists, knows what to offer to whom. He reads me through and through immediately. His
only superfluous addition is the novel based on Mozart’s biography. “A good book for traveling by train” I comment at the door, placing it
into my begs, all washed with music flooding the little square in front of the Mozart’s house in Salzburg.
The evening concert starts with Eine Kleine Nachtmuzik in Belgrade when the sirens announce the movement to the concrete shelters.
The piano, flutes, trumpets, oboes, clarinets, fagots, flutes, timpanes, violins…The whole area is flooded by Mozart. An invisible musician
airs Amadeus. He turns it so loud that it drowns the noise of the NATO- orchestra over Belgrade. From a building in the middle of the
settlement comes this powerful music rush. It follows us while we hurry, through the dark, armed by flashlights, candles, blankets,
cushions, books…to secure the best place in the uncomfortable bunkers. The entrance is not closed, because of the air and the
claustrophobia, so the music moves into the shelter as well. Many sit outside, in front of the heavy door, smoking, engaged in the war
prognoses, retelling the news from the foreign programs. They say, here and there, a nasty word about the invisible maestro. Two men
play chess by the flesh light. Faster and faster they hit the chess clock. Kibitzers surround them, the end is always exciting.
One of the observers gets into my face unnaturally and stares at me. “Journalist!” he says as if he caught me steeling, and slaps my
“We know each other?” I ask moving so I can see his face better.
“Yes we know. I am a military musician.”
“I don’t understand.”
“You taped a radio-show about the promenade concerts of the Military orchestra.”
“Ah…yes. I remember that.” Summer at Kalemegdan….I remember the lascivious song of yours When the military music rolls over
you…what happened to the Military orchestra, what kind of destiny ?”
“The same as the country itself – it fell apart. And if the orchestra of the Yugoslav National Army were saved, the country would have been
too. In the beginning of the war we played only at the funerals at the cemeteries of Belgrade; International and funeral marches. Then
disintegration, retirement…Musicians learn other skills: they paint walls, place wall paper, manage recycling centers, sell foreign goods
at flea markets, fish…Some immigrate to other countries, play in the restaurants, in the city or funeral music, at the tourist centers.
Maestro is employed by a troupe in Salzburg at the Mozart’s house in Salzburg. He conducts and entertains the tourists.”
“This classics lover is worse than a NATO-pawn; I cannot think because of him and I am having a winning position.” The white one says
and angrily hits the chess clocks watching if the black’s flag dropped from it:
“Dropped”, he shouts triumphantly and arranges the figures for the new game.
Translated from Serbian into English 2009: Mira N. Mataric
About the author and listing of other works
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