Why We Need Mozart Now More than Ever

 

“Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination nor both together go to the making of genius. Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”
— Mozart

“In art there is Leonardo da Vinci, in literature there is Shakespeare, in music there is Mozart.”
— Itzhak Perlman

In this age of political unrest and divisiveness, one question stands out: Why is Mozart great?

Louis Armstrong was once asked, “What is jazz?”

He answered, “Man, if you have to ask what it is, you’ll never know.” Perhaps he would have said something similar about Mozart. But I think we can attempt a partial answer.

Violinist Itzhak Perlman puts Mozart in the company of Shakespeare and Leonardo da Vinci. And with good reason. Let’s look at Shakespeare and da Vinci.

Shakespeare seems to have surveyed the entire human experience, emotional and intellectual, in his drama and poetry. Later writers see Shakespeare as the banquet of writing in the English language, and they are left taking mere crumbs from his table. In other words, Shakespeare makes later writers feel like there is little left to write about.

One academic, Harold Bloom in his book Shakespeare: The Invention of the Human, goes so far as to claim that, in Western culture, Shakespeare has created humans as we know them today.

Da Vinci is the polymath who makes other polymaths appear normal. He transcends as a painter, sculptor, architect, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist, and writer. He climbed several artistic peaks.

Mozart climbed a musical peak during the Classical era (1730-1820). Unlike many artists today, he was not much interested in charting out his own territory. Like Shakespeare before him, he took what already existed and refined it into greatness. And those who follow feel like there is little left for them.

That’s why beginning in the Romantic era (1780-1910) we begin seeing composers shift into approaching art as self-expression, trying to chart out new territory that has not been conquered.

The end-result in the twentieth century includes works like John Cage’s classical work 4:33 in which four members of a quartet come on stage and sit, playing nothing, for four minutes and thirty-three seconds. Or extremely dissonant atonal music that requires educated listeners for full appreciation.

All three—Mozart, Shakespeare, and Da Vinci—are singular in their respective arts. To others, they appear more than human.

As American biographer Robert Gutman says of Mozart,

“Like all geniuses of his rank, he stands as a law to himself: incommensurable, incalculable, sublime.”

But why Mozart?

Some may wonder why I’ve chosen Mozart rather than Bach, Haydn, or Beethoven.

First a little background and some dates.

There were four great musical periods in Western classical music before modern and contemporary music. I’ve included a few of the great composers of each period:

  1. Baroque era, 1600-1760
    Claudio Monteverdi (1567-1643)
    Antonio Vivaldi (1678-1741)
    George Frederic Handel (1685-1759)
    Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
  2. Classical era, 1730-1820
    Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
    Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
    Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827, also part of the early Romantic era)
    Franz Schubert (1797-1828, also part of the early Romantic era)
  3. Romantic era, 1780-1910
    Hector Berlioz (1803-1869)
    Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847)
    Frederic Chopin (1810-1849)
    Franz Liszt (1811-1886)
    Richard Wagner (1813-1883)
    Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901)
    Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)
    Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (1840-1893)
  4. Impressionist era, 1875-1925
    Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
    Maurice Ravel (1875-1937)
    Frederick Delius (1862-1934)
    Ottorino Respighi (1879-1936)

Among all of these great composers who composed Great Art, Mozart stands unique.

How?

Perhaps the only way to get at the answer in words is to see how various musicians, composers, conductors, biographers, and philosophers have attempted to explain Mozart. No other composer generates the kinds of responses that Mozart did.

Two words keep coming up when people speak of Mozart. The first word is some form of the word perfect.

“There is nothing perfect in this world except Mozart’s music.” 
Thomas Love Peacock, English novelist and poet

“Mozart tapped the source from which all music flows, expressing himself with a spontaneity and refinement and breathtaking rightness. What we expect to find in Mozart is perfection in whatever medium he chose to work.”
Aaron Copland, American composer and conductor

“Mozart’s music is on the one hand so accessible, so beautiful and so apparently simple that it can be grasped. But at the same time and enjoyed on its first hearing, it is so deep, so profound, so perfect that one can spend a lifetime in it and continue to be fascinated with it, even if it’s the hundredth time you’ve performed it.”
James Conlon, American conductor

“He is up to the present the most perfect manifestation of musical talent…His sense of form is almost superhuman. Like a masterpiece of sculpture or art, his art,viewed from any side, is a perfect picture.”
Ferruccio Busoni, Italian composer

“When it comes to Mozart, you’re speaking of the most extraordinary perfection that exists. There isn’t anything that is more perfect in music. And then on top of it the music is so complete; there is never a piece of music by Mozart, it doesn’t make any difference if he is 4, 5, 6, or 26, it’s perfect, totally perfect.”
Pinchas Zukerman, Israeli violinist and conductor

“It is hard to think of another composer who so perfectly marries form and passion.”
Leonard Bernstein, American composer and conductor

“As an artist, as a musician, Mozart was not a man of this world. To a certain part of the 19th century his work seemed to possess so pure, so formally rounded, so ‘godlike’ a perfection that Richard Wagner, the most violent spokesman of the Romantic Period, could call him ‘music’s genius of light and love.’”
Alfred Einstein, German-American biographer

The second word that keeps coming up when people speak of Mozart is some form of the word beauty. Not just that the music he writes is beautiful, but also that the music itself somehow embodies the ideal of beauty, the thing itself.

“Mozart’s music is so beautiful as to entice angels down to earth.”
Franz Alexander von Kleist, German poet

“Mozart is the greatest composer of all. Beethoven created his music, but the music of Mozart is of such purity and beauty that one feels he merely found it—that it has always existed as part of the inner beauty of the universe waiting to be revealed.”
Albert Einstein, German-born physicist and violinist

“Mozart does not give the listener time to catch his breath, for no sooner is one inclined to reflect upon a beautiful inspiration then another appears, even more splendid, which drives away the first, and this continues on and on, so that in the end one is unable to retain any of these beauties in the memory.”
Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf, Austrian composer and violinist

“He is the most generous composer who ever lived. He showered upon us melody after melody, character upon character, beauty, upon beauty.”
Robert Harris, English music critic

“What was evident was that Mozart was simply transcribing music completely finished in his head. And finished as most music is never finished. Displace one note and there would be diminishment. Displace one phrase and structure would fall. I was staring through the cage of those meticulous ink strokes at Absolute Beauty.”
Peter Shaffer,
English playwright (Amadeus)

“In Mozart’s music, all intensity are crystallized in the clearest, the most beautifully balanced and proportioned, and altogether flawless musical forms. For one moment in the history of music all opposites were reconciled; all tensions resolved; that luminous moment was Mozart.”
Phil Goulding, American classical music journalist

“Mozart’s mature instrumental music represents our civilization’s sign for the beautiful. We cannot think of him without thinking of beauty; we cannot refer to beauty without recalling his music. I believe this is so, not necessarily because his works are more beautiful than those of other composers, though this may well be true, but because he created—or, at least, brought into the forefront of aesthetic consciousness—a special kind of beauty, one that thenceforth came to exemplify the idea of superlative beauty itself.”
Maynard Solomon, American musicologist and biographer

“If we cannot write with the beauty of Mozart, let us at least try to write with his purity.”
Johannes Brahms, German composer

But there’s more. When speaking of Mozart, more than any other composer, people are likely to invoke heaven, the divine, God, miracles, or some other reference to, or experience of, the ultimate.

“Mozart has reached the boundary gate of music and leaped over it, leaving behind the old masters and moderns, and posterity itself.”
Alexander Hyatt King, English Mozart scholar

“The Mozartian legacy, in brief, is as good an excuse for mankind’s existence as we shall ever encounter and is perhaps, after all, a still small hope for our ultimate survival.”
H. C. Robbins Landon, American musicologist

“Mozart’s music is the mysterious language of a distant spiritual kingdom, whose marvelous accents echo in our inner being and arouse a higher, intensive life.”
E.T.A. Hoffmann, German author, composer, music critic

“The most tremendous genius raised Mozart above all masters, in all centuries and in all arts.”
Richard Wagner, German composer

“Mozart is an utterly unique phenomenon, indisputably and forever on the credit side of life’s ledger, so sovereign and omnipresent that he reconciles us somewhat to the debit side. Indeed, Mozart seems to be reconciliation itself, a kind of redeeming miracle.”
Wolfgang Hildesheimer, German biographer

“Mozart resolved his emotions on a level that transformed them into moods uncontaminated by mortal anguish, enabling him to express the angelic anguish that is so peculiarly his own.”
Yehudi Menuhin, American-born violinist and conductor

“In Bach, Beethoven and Wagner we admire principally the depth and energy of the human mind; in Mozart, the divine instinct.”
Edvard Grieg, Norwegian composer

“Mozart exists, and will exist, eternally; divine Mozart—less a name, more a soul descending to us from the heavens.”
Charles Gounod, French composer

“Mozart’s joy is made of serenity, and a phrase of his music is like a calm thought; his simplicity is merely purity. It is a crystalline thing in which all the emotions play a role, but as if already celestially transposed.”
André Gide, Nobel Prize-winning French author

“Mozart makes you believe in God because it cannot be by chance that such a phenomenon arrives into this world and leaves such an unbounded number of unparalleled masterpieces.”
Georg Solti, Hungarian conductor

“It is thanks to Mozart that I have devoted my life to music… Mozart is the highest, the culminating point that beauty has attained in the sphere of music. Mozart is the musical Christ.”
Piotr Tchaikovsky, Russian composer

“This is the music that they are going to play for me when I enter heaven, or wherever Mozart may be.”
Marcel Maurice, French clarinetist on Mozart’s Quintet for Clarinet in A

“The angels, left to themselves, play Mozart, and the dear Lord likes especially to listen to them then.”
Karl Barth, Swiss philosopher

“Others may reach heaven with their works. But Mozart, he comes from there.”
Joseph Krips, Austrian conductor and violinist

“Once, when filling out an application for a summer job, on that line next to ‘other’ under the heading of Religion, I wrote Mozart. The personnel officer was not amused, but then, I hadn’t intended it as a joke. For there was a time when I was convinced that Mozart was at least as divinely inspired as Moses, Christ, the Buddha, Lao-tzu, or Mohammed, and I suppose I still am. For in no other works of the human imagination can the divine spirit be heard more distinctly than in the miraculous music this often vulgar, unpleasant, and difficult man produced during his pathetically brief thirty-five years. Were this book to do him justice, the section devoted to Mozart’s music would take up more than half the total pages.”
Jim Svejda, American music critic, in the 3rd edition of The Record Shelf Guide to the Classical Repertoire

Are these writers over the top in their praise? Perhaps.

But there is something about Mozart’s music, given enough time and exposure, that elicits such intense reactions.

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, there is a scene where an innocent man convicted of his wife’s murder goes into the warden’s office and locks everyone out.

Why?

To play a Mozart duettino (a song with two singers) for himself, and eventually, to play it for the entire prison population.

Watch what happens:

Video 1: “Duettino – Sull’aria” from Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), from The Shawshank Redemption

Mozart, when conveyed through inspired performances, is capable of a kind of transport, a sublime movement, into a heavenly experience that transcends physical, emotional, and mental limitations.

Where others are loved for the mental and emotional craft of their music, with occasional passages and moments that arrive in heaven, Mozart appears to naturally dwell there.

Here’s one of the best examples of how a great composer takes listeners on a journey into a heavenly world of emotional and noble passions. In Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5 in C minor, the transition at the end of the 3rd movement into the 4th movement marks one of the finest transitions ever composed into one of the most heavenly final movements ever.

Video 2: Beethoven: Symphony No. 5 in D minor, 4th Movement Allegro

Mozart does not take one on a journey to heaven as much as he is already resident there at the start, unlike so many of his fellow musical composers.

And thus Mozart is unique among musical artists. He is the Shakespeare, the Michelangelo, the Da Vinci of music.

Perhaps there is no way to explain Mozart. Perhaps all we can do is accept the inevitable, as expressed by one Japanese classical pianist and conductor:

“Mozart is inexplicable.”
Mitsuko Uchida

One thing to keep in mind is that musicians and conductors can look at a musical score and hear the music as they read the notes. Just as you can read a novel and hear people talk or see what they are doing.

Musical notation is a real language with as much variety and communication as the words, sentences, and subtle meanings written on this page.

Let’s watch Salieri’s reaction to Mozart’s manuscripts in the movie Amadeus as he reads the scores and hears the music:

Video 3: Salieri’s reaction to Mozart’s manuscripts, from Amadeus

What is Salieri hearing? What moves him so profoundly? He knows that what he is hearing is the Divine Voice, and sadly, that he will never get as close to it.

Salieri, at least the movie version of that man, cut himself off from the Divine Source out of envy. But we need not.

Mozart is available to us now. That Divine Voice is available to us now. Despite the turmoil in this world, we are a click away from heaven.

ONE CLICK TO MOZART

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  1. Addiction Is A Choice Member
    Addiction Is A Choice
    @AddictionIsAChoice

    Bravo, Mark, bravo!

    • #1
  2. Barfly Member
    Barfly
    @Barfly

    Mark Alexander: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination
    nor both together go to the making of genius.
    Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

    That remark could only have been made by one who is completely possessed by genius. My estimate of the intelligence of W.A. Mozart surpasses that of Einstein. His imagination was more fantastic than Zelazny’s and as disciplined as that of the author of Genesis.

    These faculties must have been so natural to Mozart that he discounted them, and could only see the end to which he put them. All life from the microscopic to Mozart is subject to love and fear, the tropisms that drive joining and removal. Among all of man’s intellectual efforts, Mozart’s music is the most loving. Mozart’s music redeems our race.

    • #2
  3. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Mark Alexander: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination
    nor both together go to the making of genius.
    Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

    That remark could only have been made by one who is completely possessed by genius. My estimate of the intelligence of W.A. Mozart surpasses that of Einstein. His imagination was more fantastic than Zelazny’s and as disciplined as that of the author of Genesis.

    These faculties must have been so natural to Mozart that he discounted them, and could only see the end to which he put them. All life from the microscopic to Mozart is subject to love and fear, the tropisms that drive joining and removal. Among all of man’s intellectual efforts, Mozart’s music is the most loving. Mozart’s music redeems our race.

    Love what you said about Mozart, and this whole post.

    But once you mentioned Zelazny, I had to like.

    Almost named my children Corwin and Random.

    But enough of that, back to Mozart!

    Fantastic post! I am now going to re-listen to my vast catalog of Robert Greenberg lectures.

     

    • #3
  4. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    The Scarecrow (View Comment):

    Barfly (View Comment):

    Mark Alexander: “Neither a lofty degree of intelligence nor imagination
    nor both together go to the making of genius.
    Love, love, love, that is the soul of genius.”

    That remark could only have been made by one who is completely possessed by genius. My estimate of the intelligence of W.A. Mozart surpasses that of Einstein. His imagination was more fantastic than Zelazny’s and as disciplined as that of the author of Genesis.

    These faculties must have been so natural to Mozart that he discounted them, and could only see the end to which he put them. All life from the microscopic to Mozart is subject to love and fear, the tropisms that drive joining and removal. Among all of man’s intellectual efforts, Mozart’s music is the most loving. Mozart’s music redeems our race.

    Love what you said about Mozart, and this whole post.

    But once you mentioned Zelazny, I had to like.

    Almost named my children Corwin and Random.

    But enough of that, back to Mozart!

    Fantastic post! I am now going to re-listen to my vast catalog of Robert Greenberg lectures.

     

    “Nine Princes of Amber” books are forever in my heart, and nobody beats Greenberg on Classical Music!

    • #4
  5. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    I do believe Mozart was Divinely inspired, and also had the tremendous gift of a body and mind that gave him few obstacles in his creative pursuits.

    He did live a difficult life, with quite a bit of dissipation, rebellion, and sorrow. He studied the masters before him, then took what he knew and made new. 

    Imagine, if he had lived longer…to contribute 626 more works?

    I love him, and he is one of the five people I want to meet in heaven. 

    • #5
  6. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    Excellent post, thanks.  I do love the Clarinet Quintet.  As did Charles Emerson Winchester.

    • #6
  7. SParker Member
    SParker
    @SParker

    I fell in love with Mozart through an Elizabeth Schwarzkopf recording of Exsultate, Jubilate, but there are criticisms:

    Glenn Gould thought he was phoning it in on the late piano sonatas.  No. 16 (Sonata Facile) is an obvious example, especially since some people play it every day to practice scales and arpeggios.  I guess that you can do this without grinding your teeth, hating life, and working on a Sonatine Bureaucratique (Satie) for it shows there’s something there that’s not cut and dried.  Who knows, maybe it’s a Mondrian of a piano piece.  Gould liked earlier pieces, his rough-sex album not withstanding.  There’s a fine rendering of no. 13.

    Then there’s Victor Borge’s bit on Mozart opera.   And speaking of Scandinavian humor, there’s an off-chance that the Grieg 2-piano arrangement of no. 16 is a weirdly humorous criticism.

    Fact is, Mozart’s wasn’t wildly popular in Vienna after his death.  Edwin Fischer (IIRC) in the 1930s said that he played Mozart pieces that hadn’t been played in public in a hundred years.  Tough audience.

    Finally, long ago I had a friend who said:  “every time I hear something I think is bad Haydn, it turns out to be Mozart.”  Radical opinion, but I can sometimes see it.

    • #7
  8. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    SParker (View Comment):

    I fell in love with Mozart through an Elizabeth Schwarzkopf recording of Exsultate, Jubilate, but there are criticisms:

    Glenn Gould thought he was phoning it in on the late piano sonatas. No. 16 (Sonata Facile) is an obvious example, especially since some people play it every day to practice scales and arpeggios. I guess that you can do this without grinding your teeth, hating life, and working on a Sonatine Bureaucratique (Satie) for it shows there’s something there that’s not cut and dried. Who knows, maybe it’s a Mondrian of a piano piece. Gould liked earlier pieces, his rough-sex album not withstanding. There’s a fine rendering of no. 13.

    Then there’s Victor Borge’s bit on Mozart opera. And speaking of Scandinavian humor, there’s an off-chance that the Grieg 2-piano arrangement of no. 16 is a weirdly humorous criticism.

    Fact is, Mozart’s wasn’t wildly popular in Vienna after his death. Edwin Fischer (IIRC) in the 1930s said that he played Mozart pieces that hadn’t been played in public in a hundred years. Tough audience.

    Finally, long ago I had a friend who said: “every time I hear something I think is bad Haydn, it turns out to be Mozart.” Radical opinion, but I can sometimes see it.

    He pumped out so much music. To put food on the table, clothes on his wife, and coins on the gambling games.

    Do we think every last one of his works was crafted? His ability was so high, that even his drafts outshone his peers.

    And Mozart revered Haydn. They were not rivals, but members of a musical relay that spanned centuries. 

    May someone someday pick up that race again. 

    • #8
  9. Douglas Pratt Coolidge
    Douglas Pratt
    @DouglasPratt

    The first movement of the Prague Symphony does it for me. I can’t help but have the impression that Mozart was owned by the music inside him and spent all his effort trying to get it out while still being human.

    Thanks for dragging Zelazny into this thread. I’m listening to him reading the first nine books of Nine Princes from tapes that were rediscovered and remastered (one of them badly, but hey, it’s Roger).

    Since the original post also mentioned Peter Shaffer (author of Amadeus), I encourage everyone to listen to “A Little Nightmare Music” by P.D.Q. Bach.

    • #9
  10. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    We are blessed to have his music at our fingertips, played on modern instruments, on modern recording systems or live. It is even more beautiful for us than for his contemporaries.

    • #10
  11. OmegaPaladin Moderator
    OmegaPaladin
    @OmegaPaladin

    I have listened to Mozart.  It is good music, but I don’t feel the kind of rapture all of these writers claim.  Similarly, I can enjoy paintings by masters, but I don’t go head over heels spending hours taking in paintings.

    I get that makes me an uncultured barbarian etc.

    • #11
  12. James Lileks Contributor
    James Lileks
    @jameslileks

    Great post! But . . . Brahms in the Romantic period, over Mahler? I know these things are subjective, but Brahms was talented. Mahler was genius.

    Big thumbs up for putting Respighi on the list, though. Pines and Fountains and Feste are like the last glorious exultation of Western Civ before the guttering flame was handed off to movie soundtrack composers.

    • #12
  13. Stad Coolidge
    Stad
    @Stad

    Super post!  Personally, I put Beethoven at the top in music.  Being able to compose the singular best piece of music on the planet, his Ninth Symphony – while deaf – requires unparalleled genius . . .

    • #13
  14. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I have listened to Mozart. It is good music, but I don’t feel the kind of rapture all of these writers claim. Similarly, I can enjoy paintings by masters, but I don’t go head over heels spending hours taking in paintings.

    I get that makes me an uncultured barbarian etc.

    Try this heavenly playlist. Set aside a couple of hours, lie back, relax, close your eyes, and let the music work it’s way, gradually, into you. It’s not something to be figured out and analyzed. Assume it’s speaking to you in a new language, one that you already know, innately.

    Or skip straight to Kiri Te Kanawa:

    • #14
  15. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Great post! But . . . Brahms in the Romantic period, over Mahler? I know these things are subjective, but Brahms was talented. Mahler was genius.

    Big thumbs up for putting Respighi on the list, though. Pines and Fountains and Feste are like the last glorious exultation of Western Civ before the guttering flame was handed off to movie soundtrack composers.

    Well, it already was a long list. The final movement of Mahler’s 9th by Bernstein with the Royal Concertgebeaw Orchestra remains one of the most inspired recordings of all time. That rise in strings leading to those horns playing in sweeping harmony (the crossing over during death) and the wringing out of the French horns followed by the tympani driving up to the Phoenix-like crescendo… well, it has to be heard to be believed. And it requires maximum volume on a great sound system.

    • #15
  16. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Stad (View Comment):

    Super post! Personally, I put Beethoven at the top in music. Being able to compose the singular best piece of music on the planet, his Ninth Symphony – while deaf – requires unparalleled genius . . .

    Some believe that Mozart’s pieces were in his head and he just transcribed what was in his head onto paper. Beethoven’s Ninth is one of the five CDs in my player now and never rotates out for long. Handel’s Messiah takes two slots in December, rotates out briefly and returns for Easter. The remains slots rotate, one for marches, one for pop, and one for other classical greats. Currently, I have Fennell’s Stars and Stripes. It is a fantastic CD, opening with Arnaud’s Trumpet Fanfare, known by most as the Olympic theme from ABC. The pop is The Best of Abba, and why not. What better to cheer me up than those fun pieces. For classical, I have Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto ( Ormandy and Perlman) and Fantasia 2000.

    To help my grands appreciate classical music, I have been showing them scenes from Fantasia and Looney Tunes cartoons (have a DVD that consists of the cartoons that use classical pieces). They loved Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Firebird (“hey, hot lava”). I also play Carnival of the Animals and Peter and the Wolf for them. For classical to survive, we must expose the young to it.

    While Beethoven and Mozart are always in the queue, Carmina Burana, The Planets, The New World Symphony, and L’Arlesienne make frequent appearances. I must admit to ignoring Mahler and now must correct that.

    • #16
  17. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    One of the YouTube links had some interesting videos in the sidebar. I followed one about the making of Amadeus and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t realized that they filmed the Don Giovani scene in the same opera house where it was originally conducted by Mozart. Much of it was filmed in Prague, before the “Iron Curtain” came down.

    I love watching Amadeus and Hopscotch, both entertaining and full of Mozart, the latter thanks to Matthau.

    • #17
  18. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    One of the reasons I got an iPhone was so I could make my own ringtone. I use a clip of the first movement of Mozart’s G-minor piano quartet. It’s nickname is “answer the telephone”.

    • #18
  19. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    One of the reasons I got an iPhone was so I could make my own ringtone. I use a clip of the first movement of Mozart’s G-minor piano quartet. It’s nickname is “answer the telephone”.

    My ringtone is non pui andrai from Marriage of Figaro. I just went on Amazon and ordered Mark’s book about Mozart. Hidden gems exist all over ricochet.

    • #19
  20. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    OmegaPaladin (View Comment):

    I have listened to Mozart. It is good music, but I don’t feel the kind of rapture all of these writers claim. Similarly, I can enjoy paintings by masters, but I don’t go head over heels spending hours taking in paintings.

    I get that makes me an uncultured barbarian etc.

    Just like trying new things. Give it a try. Give it time. On your own terms. 

    Honestly, as a performing musician, I get more joy playing, than listening. 

    And if the world ever gets back to normal, try to catch a live performance. Nothing compares to being in person hearing the actual sound waves. Feeling them. Seeing people make them. 

    Live vs recorded is the difference between real food, and a military MRE. 😄

    • #20
  21. RushBabe49 Thatcher
    RushBabe49
    @RushBabe49

    I loved playing the viola quintets when I went to adult music camp in the 1990s. 

    • #21
  22. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    James Lileks (View Comment):

    Great post! But . . . Brahms in the Romantic period, over Mahler? I know these things are subjective, but Brahms was talented. Mahler was genius.

    Big thumbs up for putting Respighi on the list, though. Pines and Fountains and Feste are like the last glorious exultation of Western Civ before the guttering flame was handed off to movie soundtrack composers.

    Pines and Fountains are soundtracks where your imagination creates the cinema. 

    One of the most thrilling things is to sit amidst a symphony, playing, and experiencing the transition from the Pines of the Catacombes to Pines of the Appian Way. 

    I absolutely love the sound of the English Horn, with the pulsing of the timpani. Respighi knew how to mix those instrument timbres like Leonardo da Vinci mixed paint. 

    Sometimes I wonder if Bolero was a knock off of Appian Pines? Have to look up the dates. 

    • #22
  23. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    Stad (View Comment):
    while deaf

    The sounds were in his head. Maybe not hearing gave him liberty to push the limits. Even though it was anguish for him not to hear it. 

    Tea with Beethoven and Mozart, Papa Haydn, Bach, with G-d at the head of the table. I’d love that. 

     

    • #23
  24. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    EHerring (View Comment):

    Stad (View Comment):

    Super post! Personally, I put Beethoven at the top in music. Being able to compose the singular best piece of music on the planet, his Ninth Symphony – while deaf – requires unparalleled genius . . .

    Some believe that Mozart’s pieces were in his head and he just transcribed what was in his head onto paper. Beethoven’s Ninth is one of the five CDs in my player now and never rotates out for long. Handel’s Messiah takes two slots in December, rotates out briefly and returns for Easter. The remains slots rotate, one for marches, one for pop, and one for other classical greats. Currently, I have Fennell’s Stars and Stripes. It is a fantastic CD, opening with Arnaud’s Trumpet Fanfare, known by most as the Olympic theme from ABC. The pop is The Best of Abba, and why not. What better to cheer me up than those fun pieces. For classical, I have Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto ( Ormandy and Perlman) and Fantasia 2000.

    To help my grands appreciate classical music, I have been showing them scenes from Fantasia and Looney Tunes cartoons (have a DVD that consists of the cartoons that use classical pieces). They loved Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The Firebird (“hey, hot lava”). I also play Carnival of the Animals and Peter and the Wolf for them. For classical to survive, we must expose the young to it.

    While Beethoven and Mozart are always in the queue, Carmina Burana, The Planets, The New World Symphony, and L’Arlesienne make frequent appearances. I must admit to ignoring Mahler and now must correct that.

    Great list!

    • #24
  25. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    EHerring (View Comment):

    One of the YouTube links had some interesting videos in the sidebar. I followed one about the making of Amadeus and really enjoyed it. I hadn’t realized that they filmed the Don Giovani scene in the same opera house where it was originally conducted by Mozart. Much of it was filmed in Prague, before the “Iron Curtain” came down.

    I love watching Amadeus and Hopscotch, both entertaining and full of Mozart, the latter thanks to Matthau.

    I experienced Don Giovanni in Prague. Such a great opportunity. 

    • #25
  26. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    The Fennel CD I recommend.

    • #26
  27. Jules PA Inactive
    Jules PA
    @JulesPA

    EHerring (View Comment):

    The Fennel CD I recommend.

    I had the privilege to play in an ensemble directed by Frederic Fennel in HS.

    I should look up what we played. I can’t remember.

    It might have been The Pines of Rome!!!

    Ps, I might have that same marches CD.

    • #27
  28. EHerring Coolidge
    EHerring
    @EHerring

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    EHerring (View Comment):

    The Fennel CD I recommend.

    I had the privilege to play in an ensemble directed by Frederic Fennel in HS.

    I should look up what we played. I can’t remember.

    It might have been The Pines of Rome!!!

    Ps, I might have that same marches CD.

    Wow. What a great honor that was. Fred Hubble, who arranged many band pieces used by high schools years ago, snowbirded in Ft Walton Beach area and played in the community band. He even composed a piece for us.

    There are some great marches and concert band pieces on that CD. People only think of Sousa marches, but other countries have great marches that aren’t tied to 120 bpm. I also recommend Valdres, The Mad Major, Royal AF March Past, and even Sousa’s Nobles of the Mystic Shrine. Many are familiar with National Emblem and don’t realize it isn’t a Sousa march. I will introduce my grands to Radetzky this week.

    • #28
  29. Mark Alexander Coolidge
    Mark Alexander
    @MarkAlexander

    EHerring (View Comment):

    RushBabe49 (View Comment):

    One of the reasons I got an iPhone was so I could make my own ringtone. I use a clip of the first movement of Mozart’s G-minor piano quartet. It’s nickname is “answer the telephone”.

    My ringtone is non pui andrai from Marriage of Figaro. I just went on Amazon and ordered Mark’s book about Mozart. Hidden gems exist all over ricochet.

    Hey! Thanks! I expect ruthless feedback. 😃

    • #29
  30. The Scarecrow Thatcher
    The Scarecrow
    @TheScarecrow

    This is for the other classical-music-ignoramuses here at Ricochet. I chime in because so many of you huge fans always enthusiastically get going and go off into the clouds of appreciation and enthusiasm that leaves the rest of us behind at the first turn, gasping to keep up but lost in a bunch of references, usually in Italian or German or Kershel numbers.

    I probably prefer classical music (or what Robert Greenberg says should more accurately be called “concert music”, because “classical” is technically one of the sub-groups) more than popular music, in general. Don’t get me wrong, I am still a huge fan of Paul Simon/The Beatles/The Beach Boys/The Roches/The Flaming Lips/etc. But as I’ve gotten older, I find all of this music to be a huge smorgasbord that has always been there but I didn’t pay attention soon enough.

    So I will list the following small random comments from the outside, in hopes that some of you other philistines might get interested:

    1. Most of my interest and enthusiasm starting maybe 15 years ago came from discovering Robert Greenberg and his lectures. (Just Google it) His knowledge and enthusiasm and scholarship are hard to resist. 
    2. I heard that Mahler said of the fourth movement of his 2nd, that he couldn’t believe he had written it. He hears it, and it is so transcendant and glorious that it couldn’t have come from him, or from any man. He said this humbly.
    3. I was in Vienna for a bike trip several years ago. I had with me stuff to listen to loaded on several iPod shuffles to last the week, including Robert Greenberg’s lectures on Mahler, in which he details the 2nd, the so-called Resurrection Symphony. I had just listed to his analysis of it. That night the summer-long music festival held at the Rathaus, the city center, where they had a 100′ screen playing glorious music every night to 3,000 seat bleachers and lots of beer and food, was playing Mahler’s 2nd! I sat spellbound watching some cat called Mariss Jansons in apparent rapture conducting this stuff, 50 feet high. It was unforgettable. https://youtu.be/Dg6VtdR89RE
    4. Mahler was always one I noted only because his wife, Alma, was also married to Walter Gropius and Franz Werfel, as immortalized in Tom Lehrer’s great song: https://youtu.be/iHtWoTWmmiQ
    5. The only symphony I know well, other than Beethoven’s 5th and 9th, is Tchaikovsky’s 6th. After hearing Greenberg’s “Lives of the Great Composers – Tchaikovsky”, the sadness surrounding the 6th (and his final) made me listen over and over. Gut-wrenching.
    6. I met a conductor once and asked him how I should appoach getting to knoe more about concert music. He gave me two simple bits of advice: “Bach, Mozart, Beethoven. Then call me in ten years, I’ll give you some more” and “always try to hear live music, not recordings. Live music. This music is alive.”
    7. One of my favorite parts of Amadeus is when Salieri reads the scores and hears the music in his head, just from the notation.  This has always explained Beethoven and his ability to create after he lost his hearing.
    8. While all of Greenberg’s lectures are worth it (especially “How to Listen to and Understand Great Music” and “How to Listen to and Understand Opera”), you might start out with his ten-part series, “The Lives of the Great Composers”. Each a 4-hour long look at these cats, giving you some background and historical context. They were just guys, each with a story.  Listen and find out why we still care about them.
    9. While in Vienna, I got to go see a performance of Die Fledermaus at the theater where it premiered in 1874. It seemed like they had it down pretty well. (Boy was it hot sitting up there in the summer.)
    10. That trip I also got to see Mozart’s Requiem Mass performed, by an orchestra using period instruments, in the Karlskirche. I didn’t really know what I was listening to, but it was sublime to realize that Mozart had been in this church, and had seen the porceline sculptures behind the altar. And here was little old me sitting hearing something that probably sounded very similar to what someone from back then might have heard. (Not Mozart, obviously, because we know Salieri killed him before he finished it.) :-)
    11. There might be no human sound more beautiful than a competent soprano singing this stuff. Next is a competent Tenor. The more I listen to them, the more spoiled I become. I love Bonnie Raitt, and Ann Wilson. And the Roches, of course. But I hear Renee Fleming or Marie Callas and I stop in place, wanting everything to wait, pause while this thing happens. Same with Pavoratti. I’m not good enough to know enough of these dudes like I can tell if it’s John or Paul, but I can generally tell these three.
    12. I came across a recording of Russell Watson singing Nella Fantasia, and was transformed. It became a favorite of my young sons, I guess because daddy liked this song so much. It remains a favorite of theirs now 15 years later. And mine. https://youtu.be/t9vuuKAmXD4 I don’t know how to evaluate tenors, their relative comparative merits. But I close my eyes and listen to this, and think about Pavoratti. (There aren’t many tenors I have listened to 500 times, so I can’t compare them in here.) My philistine take is that Russel sounds like a young sapling, shooting up in green beauty, full of youthful exuberance and joy; I love it and want more. Pavoratti sounds like pure vanilla richness, effortless round encompassing perfection, but with a power to penetrate through the ear to heart, and stop you, capture you, make you listen while he casually rips your poor heart out of your chest. I want more, if I can survive it.
    13. Pavoratti was possibly the most amazing talent in any field we had during the time he was alive (I know Secretariat was amazing, but he could’t really sing that well). And Renee Fleming, sigh. I don’t know much about all those other singers some of you are thinking about right now (though I want to). Remember that I am a beginner. (Bach/Mozart/Beethoven. Pavoratti/Secretariat/Fleming. No, wait . . .)
    14. I heard Pictures at an Exhibition when I was in grade school. I have listened to it 1000 times since.  I wish I knew the rest of concert music as well as I know this, I would be as happy as Jay Nordlinger.

    Okay, enough. I encourage any of you other philistines to go check this stuff out, and I welcome any and all suggestions from you seasoned veterans. I envy you.

    • #30
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