tabatha yeatts: of cheese and concerti

#11 in the Poetry Potluck Series, celebrating National Poetry Month 2011.

Why, yes. That would be Herr Mozart himself, escorting the lovely Tabatha Yeatts, who’s bringing a tasty bit of music history to the party today.

Please help yourself to a cup of rich, steamy Viennese coffee and make yourself comfortable. Nothing like the combination of coffee, chocolate, cinnamon and cream to alert you to the beauty in the world.

via Jeremy Choo

You may know that besides being a brilliant composer, dear Wolfie was somewhat of a prankster. He took great pleasure in razzing those he loved best. He was great friends with Austrian horn player Joseph Leutgeb, whom he met while Leutgeb played in the Archbishop of Salzburg’s private orchestra. Mozart composed concerti especially for Leutgeb, and some of the scores are “embellished” with coarse jokes, crude asides and blatant name-calling — all in the spirit of fun.

Consider this bizarre narrative, parts of which were strategically placed in Mozart’s autograph score for his Horn Concerto No.1 in D major, written in 1791:

For you, Mr. Donkey—Come on—quick—get on with it—like a good fellow—be brave—Are you finished yet?—for you—beast—oh what a dissonance—Oh!—Woe is me!!—Well done, poor chap—oh, pain in the balls!—Oh God, how fast!—you make me laugh—help—take a breather—go on, go on—that’s a little better—still not finished?—you awful swine!—how charming you are!—dear one!—little donkey!—ha, ha, ha—take a breath!—But do play at least one note, you prick!—Aha! Bravo, bravo, hurrah!—You’re going to torture me for the fourth time, and thank God it’s the last—Oh finish now, I beg of you!—Confound it—also bravura?—Bravo!—oh, a sheep bleating—you’re finished?—Thank heavens!—Enough, enough!

Tsk, tsk. Boys will be boys. Good thing Herr Leutgeb had a good sense of humor, fully realizing how much Mozart respected his extraordinary musicianship (further evidenced by the difficulty of the composition). There’s a little more to this story, but first let’s hear from Tabatha:

I enjoy writing about history and spotlighting a particular moment. My daughter plays French horn and I have heard her practice Mozart’s horn concertos many times. I offer my sincere respect to horn players.


by Tabatha Yeatts

Leutgeb accepted these gifts
as the challenges they were —
tributes wrapped in golden paper,
fastened with knots that would take
months to untangle.

He laughed as he read them.
The audacity!
He imagined his friend
sharpening the nib of his pen,
finishing the rondo with a flourish:
“Play that,
if you can!

When you have conquered these notes,
wrestled them to the ground,
beaten them with only your
hands and heart, and
your fierce and delicate mouth
to sustain you,
I will come discover myself
in your bell-smooth,
heart-ringing voice.”

© 2011 Tabatha Yeatts. All rights reserved.

Leutgeb must have indeed had a fierce mouth, for the French horn he played back then was valveless. He would have had to produce different pitches by varying lip pressure and/or changing the position of his hand in the bell of the instrument. The four horn concerti and quintet Mozart wrote for Leutgeb remain among the finest ever composed for the instrument. Nice to know that close friendships can inspire utmost brilliance for all parties concerned.

*sips a little more coffee and rubs hands together*

Much as I love hearing about Mozart’s little nasties, the part of the story I like best is about when Leutgeb moved from Salzburg to Vienna. In order to supplement his meager income as a musician, he opened a cheese shop! Wolfgang’s father Leopold lent Leutgeb some money to help him get started, describing the shop as “the size of a snail’s house.” No doubt there were traces of Kugelkase, Schloss, or Mondseer on Leutgeb’s breath as he raised his horn to his lips. ☺

Naturally, Tabatha has brought us something cheesy to top things off. Possibly the best ingredient in these little savories is the “hot air” that fills them, so make sure you don’t use up all of yours when practicing your next horn concerto. Puff away and enjoy!



1/2 c. butter

2 c. water

2 c. flour

1 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

6 large eggs

2-1/2 c. shredded cheese (you choose what kind – I have used various combinations of sharp and regular cheddar, Monterey Jack, mozzarella, and Mexican blend, all with success)

1 t. baking powder

crushed garlic or garlic powder (optional)  

Combine water and butter in a saucepan; add salt and pepper. Bring to a rapid boil. Add flour all at once, beating vigorously with a wooden spoon until mixture forms a ball and comes away from sides of pan. Remove from heat; cool 5 minutes. Add eggs one at a time, beating vigorously by hand or in a food processor for ten seconds after each addition. Continue beating 1-2 minutes or process 20 seconds until smooth. Blend in shredded cheese, baking powder, and garlic to taste. Drop 2″ balls of dough onto lightly greased cookie sheets. Bake in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes or until puffed and lightly browned. (Optional: Just before serving brush tops with a little butter and sprinkle with grated cheddar cheese and garlic. Heat at 400 degrees for about five minutes or until cheese is melted.)

Tabatha Yeatts, a native of Blacksburg, Virginia, has published three biographies for young adults (Joan of Arc, Thomas Edison, Mae West), and two other nonfiction titles: Forensics: Solving the Crime (Oliver Press, 2001), and The Holocaust Survivors (Enslow, 1998). She’s also written dozens of articles and stories for such publications as The Christian Science Monitor, Cricket, and Logic Puzzles (I especially like her piece on Pippi Longstocking). She blogs regularly at The Opposite of Indifference, where she participates in Poetry Friday and Art Thursday. I love the rich combination of music, art, poetry, tidbits and observations she shares with her readers — always something fascinating to learn there. Tabatha currently lives with her family in Maryland, where the air is filled with the aroma of warm cheese puffs and the sonorous notes of the French horn. Find out more at her official website.



Copyright © 2011 Jama Rattigan of jama rattigan’s alphabet soup. All rights reserved.

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