Mozart Visited a Carillon and He Wrote Nothing for it

Mozart as a lad
Mozart as a lad

In the carillon world we divide our music into categories, one of them being music by “real composers.” Demeaning to all the fine folks who compose carillon music, unfortunately. We’ve used this term to denote music written by those who primarily write music for other instruments and have significant recognition outside the carillon world: John Cage, George Crumb, and Libby Larsen are some American examples.

Alas, the carillon failed to snag the biggest of the “real composers” way back when—Mozart.* When he was doing his European tour like the rock star he was at age nine in 1765, he visited the carillon in the belfry of Ghent. We know this because his sister Nannerl and his father Leopold noted the visit. However, nothing else is written in father Leopold’s travel memoir except a cursory note—no “OMG! This is instrument is amazing!” or “We must learn to play this instrument and write music for it!” So, too bad. The carillon apparently failed to capture the imagination of the Mozarts. Young Wolfie never did write any carillon music as a youngster or an adult. The closest he came was when the opera character Papageno played a small collection of bells in The Magic Flute.

Can’t win them all.

* Luc Rombouts, Singing Bronze: A History of Carillon Music (Leuven, Belgium: Leuven University Press, 2014), 134-35.

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