The Etude magazine, Jan. 1893, p. 11
MUSICIANS HAVE GOOD MEMORIES
THE vivid impressions which musical sounds are known to have made on the minds and feelings of composers in some instances really almost exceed credibility. Mozart, whilst at Rome, accompanied his father to the Sistine Chapel to hear the celebrated Miserere, a composition which it had been prohibited either to give or take a copy of. Aware of this prohibition, the boy listened so attentively that, on his returning home, he noted down the whole piece. On Good Friday the same Miserere was again executed. Mozart was again present, and, during the performance, held his musical manuscript in his hat, by which means he was enabled to make the necessary corrections. The first soprano (Cristoferi) who had sung at the Chapel acknowledged with surprise that Mozart's copy was both complete and correct. The difficulty of this undertaking was much greater than may be imagined.
It has been stated also that the memory of Battishill was such that even the longest compositions of Handel, Corelli, or Arne were always sufficiently present to his recollection, during the time he was playing them, to render the assistance of the text unnecessary. He was one day dining with Dr. Arnold, when he played from memory several passages of the Doctor's Oratorio of the Prodigal Son, which he had not heard for thirty years, and which the Doctor himself had entirely forgotten. Charles Wesley could play the whole of Handel's numerous choruses from memory. Samuel Wesley, his brother, has given many remarkable instances of a similarly retentive memory; one of the most remarkable may be mentioned. In 1876 he composed an oratorio consisting of a score of upward of 300 closely written MS. pages. It was afterward performed at one of the Birmingham Festivals. Returning to London the composer was robbed of his portmanteau, which contained the MS., and he never heard any more of its contents. Nearly twenty five years afterward, at the solicitation of a friend, he commenced to write it out afresh, which he did with the greatest facility, stating that he saw the score in his mind's eye as accurately and distinctly as if it lay before him. It has been reported of the late Henry Smart, the blind organist of St. Pancras Church, and composer of much good music, that he has been known to get a friend to read over the notes of a chorus of Handel's, and afterward go to church and perform it correctly. When asked how he was able to recollect so much without having a single sound conveyed to his ear, he would reply: "I carry the notes in my mind, and do not think of the sounds." Exchange.