“The passions, whether violent or not, should never be so expressed as to reach the point of causing disgust; and music, even in situations of the greatest horror, should never be painful to the ear but should flatter and charm it, and thereby always remain music.” ~ Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart from The Journal of Eugene Delacroix.
The name ‘Mozart’ conjures up an image of a divine genius, a demigod of music, unsurpassed child prodigy, composing savant with steam coming off his quill, operatic icon, inquisitive about the world and the mysteries of life, with an unquenchable thirst for knowledge and creative output. Not to mention an ardent admirer of women (especially ones who could sing), and who possessed a desire for fun and the simple pleasures of drinking and social discourse. An individual who was little in stature but large in intellect, who loved life and seemed to live it Allegro Con Brio.
At least, it does for me…
His fame has spanned centuries and his name is known by just about every human being on the planet. Whatever your impressions of this giant of classical music are, one thing’s for sure; his miraculous outweighed his mundane. By the time of his death in 1791 at the age of 35, he had written over a staggering six hundred compositions, in the form of sonatas, symphonies, concertos, chamber pieces, operas and choral music.
Revered by composers that followed, and most likely envied by his contemporaries (cue Salieri), Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart has probably touched more souls than any other composer in the history of music. And I think he was able to do that because of the mundane.
His mind was in another sphere, but his physical body was ordinary, and shared the same mundane functions as the rest of us mortals. He experienced the everyday emotions of life that we all do: happiness, sadness, love, hate, desire, jealousy, pride, excitement, ambition, despair, longing, and well, the list goes on.
Because the miraculous isn’t possible without the mundane…
Therein lay the very substance for transmutation into the sublime, his inspiration of what it means to be human in musical form: collections of notes and pitches, silence and resonance, arranged for different instruments in different styles, something for everyone, and that anyone can relate to today, 224 years after his death.
His star shone bright (I’m talking supernova), and burned rapidly, but luckily for us Mozart was a prodigious and prolific composer, and despite his often challenging circumstances he created a stunning legacy of music for the world to enjoy.
His father Leopold would have been proud. His early tuition for Wolferl and Nannerl on the violin, clavichord and in classical composition (Mozart wrote his first sonata at the age of 5), along with their childhood travels across Europe, their family performances in front of royalty and the aristocracy, would eventually pay dividends far beyond his fatherly comprehension! Now his music is in space, courtesy of NASA.
He even has his own scientific phenomena: The Mozart Effect. Play Mozart to your children, and even better, if they can learn to play him.
A list of Mozart’s musical compositions; which were numbered and classified in chronological order by Ludwig von Köchel as either ‘K’ or ‘KV’ in the Köchel catalogue.
A Few Mozart Facts:
- His favourite string instrument was the viola, and he wrote the Sinfonia Concertante as a beautiful conversation between the violin and the viola. The andante from that music is one of the most moving pieces of music I’ve ever heard.
- In the spring of 1770 whilst in Italy with his father, the Pope conferred on Mozart the Order of the Golden Spur. It was in Italy that he met and became friends with the violinist and British prodigy Thomas Linley (who also died tragically young).
- Baron Gottfried van Swieten, who was head of the Imperial Library of some 300,000 volumes in Vienna, granted Mozart access to works by JS and CPE Bach and Handel. Thus Mozart learnt to graft ‘counterpoint’ onto sonata form and find his own unique style which wasn’t popular at the time.
- Wolferl and Constanze had six babies, but only two of them survived into adulthood: Karl Thomas, born in 1784, and Franz Xaver Wolfgang in 1791, just before Mozart died.
- Beethoven thought that Mozart had an affair with one of his (Mozart’s) pupils and had also borrowed money from her husband. Even more bizarrely they were neighbours to the Mozarts, and the day after Mozart’s death the husband committed suicide after attacking his wife, who was five months pregnant, slashing her across the face, neck, shoulders and arms with a knife. It is thought the woman and baby survived the attack.
- Mozart became a Freemason in 1783, at the time there were around thirteen ‘lodges’ in Vienna with 700 members, around half of which were nobles.
- His opera Don Giovanni was popular in Prague, but the performance in Vienna was a flop.
- In the year of his death it’s estimated that Mozart’s income was between 5,000 and 6,000 florins.
- At the time of Mozart’s death only one fifth of his compositions were in print, whereas by the 1820’s nearly two thirds were.
- Constanze claimed that Mozart thought he had been poisoned with Acqua Toffana, and that he was writing the Requiem for himself.
There’s a lot of information and myth about Mozart, and I could go on all day, but instead, I recommend watching the fascinating and fabulous BBC documentary: The Genius of Mozart.
Part 1 – Miracle of Nature:
Part 2 – A Passion for the Stage:
Part 3 – The First Romantic:
If you are on Twitter and you enjoy Mozart’s music why not join the celebration of his birth in the 6th annual #MozartChat on Tuesday 27th January, conceived and run by pianist and writer @waynemcevilly. Check out his website and piano masterworks for children.
You’ll be most welcome!