Friday, June 4, 2010

Author Carrie Lofty on When Regina Met Mozart

Scandalous Women is pleased to welcome back Carrie Lofty, author of A Scoundrel's Kiss (Kensington) and her newest release Song of Seduction (Carina Press) to the blog.

Some women don't set out to make a scandal, but they do by the very nature of their daring. One such woman was Regina Strinasacchi.

On April 29, 1784, a young woman performed with Mozart for Joseph II, the Holy Roman Emperor. But that woman, Regina Strinassachi, did not play pianoforte as most ladies were wont to do. She played violin, with Mozart on piano. Together they debuted Mozart's newest composition, Sonata in B flat for Violin and Keyboard (K. 454), which he had written for her.

By all accounts, K. 454 is a very difficult piece, which speaks to Mozart's high opinion of Strinassachi as a performer. He often wrote "puff" pieces for influential patrons' children who had mediocre talent, but this was not one of them. In a letter to his father, Mozart wrote: "We now have here the famous Strinasacchi from Mantua, a very good violinist. She has a great deal of taste and feeling in her playing. I am this moment composing a sonata which we are going to play together on Thursday at her concert in the theater."

Because of prior arrangements, or perhaps because of laziness, Mozart did not get the sheet music to Strinassachi until the day of the performance, meaning she sight-read the entire sonata. He did not complete transcriptions for his half of the duet, playing instead with blank sheets of paper in front of him.
But perhaps Mozart had a deeper motive.

Strinassachi was reputed to be a lovely woman in face, form and temperament. The novelty of a female violinist drew music aficionados and curiosity seekers alike, because such performers were rare. In fact, in the German-speaking regions of Europe between 1760 and 1800, only three such female violinists maintained a regular touring schedule, a healthy fan base, and a respectable position within society.
So what was Mozart to do, his ego faced with the possibility of playing second to a woman who had the emperor's full attention? After the concert, someone--who is not clear--told the emperor that Mozart's pages were blank. Mozart merely shrugged, leaving the emperor to believe that he had improvised the entire duet, when musical historians now believe he had composed the piece mentally. But the wonder of Mozart's talent overshadowed Strinassachi's imperial debut.

Strinasacchi went on to tour Italy, France and Germany, performing on both violin and guitar. In 1785 she married Johann Conrad Schlick, a famous cellist and konzertmeister of the Gotha ducal band, and joined his orchestra. Their daughter Caroline, born in 1786, grew up to play piano as part of a family trio, and they split their time between Gotha and tours that reached as far as Russia. Their son Johann was born in 1801--when Regina would have been nearly 40--and became a cellist and instrument maker.

Upon her husband's death in 1818, Strinassachi moved with her son to Dresden. She died in 1839, having lived through 80 tumultuous years--from the old Georgian and Classical periods, through the Napoleonic era, and into mid-19th century Victorian Europe.

I'll always be thankful for her ground-breaking example, because she helped inspire the heroine of my latest historical romance, SONG OF SEDUCTION ( But if anyone else remembers Regina Strinassachi, it's because of that fateful day in 1784 when she found out what it meant to play second to Mozart.


Kelly McCrady said...

Good article, Carrie. You left out the obvious pun of "second fiddle" :-) What I enjoy is learning how Strinasacchi balanced music and family.

Charlene said...

Excellent post.

Well behaved women seldom make history!

俊達 said...

加油!充實內函最重要!Beauty is but skin- deep...................................................

Carrie Lofty said...

Cherlene, I think that might be the case with Regina. She was exceedingly conscientious about maintaining a good image, so that her music would be the focus--not her body and her gender. Maybe she just wasn't scandalous enough to make the history books, but had she been, she might not have had a career!

Kelly, my daughters make the puns, not me! I've never been good at them :)