Proofs of Genius: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Construction of Musical Prodigies in Early Georgian London

Rachel Cowgill

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Abstract

Extraordinary musicianship in children and notions of genius are closely entwined, but these concepts need to be historicised if we are to understand how such connections came about. This chapter explores child performance in the increasingly competitive and commercial concert-life of eighteenth-century London, examining how juvenile musicians were presented and themes that characterised their reception. Mozart appeared before London audiences in 1764–65, as a cosmopolitan virtuoso from Salzburg, coached and promoted by his musician father as ‘a Prodigy of Nature’, a phrase then unfamiliar in English musical discourse. The chapter shows that while the Mozarts’ campaign in London did much to establish a new archetype of the ‘musical prodigy’, this developed in dialogue with local cultural, musical, and intellectual contexts, audience expectations, and the vagaries of the professional environment.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMusical Prodigies
Subtitle of host publicationInterpretations from Psychology, Education, Musicology, and Ethnomusicology
EditorsGary E McPherson
Place of PublicationOxford
PublisherOxford University Press
Chapter23
Pages511-549
Number of pages39
ISBN (Electronic)9780191509254
ISBN (Print)9780199685851
Publication statusPublished - 2016

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  • Cite this

    Cowgill, R. (2016). Proofs of Genius: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the Construction of Musical Prodigies in Early Georgian London. In G. E. McPherson (Ed.), Musical Prodigies: Interpretations from Psychology, Education, Musicology, and Ethnomusicology (pp. 511-549). Oxford: Oxford University Press.