Who Is Mozart?

2 Jan

My Mozart Project is based around the theatrical works of one man, but not everybody knows about Mozart. Who is Mozart?

Mozart is a composer who lived in the latter half of the 18th century (1756-1791), and who is most notable for writing an unprecedented amount of good music for every genre known to musical composition during his lifetime.  His work has been enduringly popular since its creation, enchanting, moving and inspiring centuries of music listeners.

Mozart led a short life, passing away at 35, but started working much earlier than most humans (age 5) and was producing works of merit by age ten. He is known for being spunky, hyper-confident and yet alarmingly introspective. He was very fond of his father, and they had a uniquely strong bond. As Mozart aged, he became more and more interested in God, Freemasonry, and leading a life that was of merit. (These things are all contradicted in the popular movie Amadeus, which is told from the rival composer Salieri’s point of view. The film is not a good source of biographical information, but it is very good drama.)

He was a quirky genius who admired musicians that always strove to improve their art, and was intolerant of the lazy and untalented.  Mozart composed things entirely in his head before writing them down, and could not be communicated with while in deep thought. However, it is a rare talent that once he started writing the work down, it came out at a disturbingly rapid rate, evidenced by his manuscripts, which are written with a quick hand. (I can’t even write writing that fast!) He could do numerous things at once while transcribing these notes from his brain, including chatting with friends and eating dinner. It came simple and clear, having been worked out in his mind beforehand.

Franz Niemetschek describes it in this manner: “Mozart wrote everything with such ease and speed as might at first be taken for carelessness or haste. His imagination held before him the whole work, clear and lively, once it was conceived. One seldom finds in his scores improved or erased passages.”

While nearly every author who writes on the subject will assure you of the quality of Mozart’s music, the extent of what they mean can only be grasped by discovering his music for yourself! Wolfgang Hildesheimer rhetorically asks, “How can such a disproportionately large number of people have a definite, and unusually positive relationship to Mozart?” It is alarmingly true to discover that there are very few people who can find the music of Mozart disagreeable.

Many fans of modern music find classical music “stodgy” or “alienating”, because they first experience it in a learning environment, or as a piece of antiquity, rather than as something alive, fun and inspiring. But something that’s lost in modern music is that different performers can perform the same piece of music differently. Due to the availability of widely different performances of the same piece of music, a lot of doors are opened for finding what you like about Mozart. Different “covers” used to be all the rage (Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald covering the same songs!), but in modern times, the guardianship of music is making this rarer and rarer.

My advice to new listeners, if you are musical, is to find a piece of Mozart’s music that you like, and listen to other songs that he wrote in that style. For example, if you are in choir or a glee club, you could listen to his solo vocal works, lieder, canons and choral works. If you are a instrumentalist, you could listen to works he composed for the instrument you play. Because Mozart’s output is so massive, it is actually more difficult to find a style he didn’t write in, than a style he did.

My advice to new listeners who would not describe themselves a musical, is to start either with a sampler (Best of Mozart) or something that they are familiar with, such as movie soundtracks that feature Mozart. (Recently: Hellboy II, The Eye, The Shawshank Redemption)

Mozart, himself, wrote in styles that are similar to what most modern listeners are used to, including his Incidental Music and Opera (Both share the basics of cinema scores) and divertimenti (which pretty much means background music), as well as just vocal songs with light accompaniment.

My favorite Mozart pieces are his operas. This might be obvious, since I’m taking the time to create miniature world’s based around them. Just remember, if you haven’t heard it before, it’s new to you, whether it was written today or 300 years ago! I find that Mozart brings out thoughts and emotions in me that have never been roused by any contemporary musicians, and he sometimes even seems to be like an “old-friend” (Very old, considering how dead he is), revealing just as much of himself to me as I discover about myself with each new piece of music! I think this is the sign of a truly great artist.


One Response to “Who Is Mozart?”

  1. Twila Vick Rempe January 5, 2011 at 9:41 am #

    Mozart has always been my favorite classical artist, as you well know. But about the person Mozart I knew nothing until you introduced me to him through your passion for him and his music. Thank you, dear son, for sharing that passion with me.

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