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Happy 255th Birthday , Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

 The life of that singular Austrian musical genius has become the stuff of legend over the years. A child prodigy who showed astonishing musical gifts as a toddler and little boy who was exhibited as a child almost like a freak show before the crowned heads of Europe by his ambitious and manipulative father,himself a respected musician ,teacher and composer.  Mozart died at the tragically early age of only 35.  He produced his earliest works,with the help of his father, when he was only about six or seven,which is astonishing.

  In his short life he produced a catalogue of nearly 600 works ,many of which are among the greatest masterpieces of music history in every form; symphonies,concertos, operas, piano works, chamber music etc.  Not all are great ,particularly his early works, but he left an astonishing legacy of great music .

  Mozart was born in the picturesque Austrian town of Salzburg in 1756, but did not like the place, becuase it was too provincial and limited for him .He spent years as court composer to the Archbishop of Salzburg after his early travelling years as a child prodigy, and had nothing but contempt for the pompous and officious cleric, who did not allow him the freedom and opportunities he craved .  But he moved to Vienna , the capital of the European music world in 1781, and spent the rest of his life there as a freelance composer and pianist,putting on his own concerts of his music and hiring the musicians. 

  It was not as secure a life as in Salzburg,with its regular salary , but he could breathe free for once.  Contrary to popular belief,Mozart was not at all poor or unsuccessful,or unappreciated.  He earned good money as a musician and composer, but liked to live well and ran up considerable debts from gambling .   He was on the verge of achieving who-knows-what when he died in December of 1791 of an illness which has not been definitively diagnosed. 

  He had been given a commission to write a Requiem mass from a mysterious nobleman, but died before completing it,and the work was completed by his pupil Franz Xaver Sussmayr from his sketches.  We will never know what masterpieces he might have produced if he had lived longer.

  No musical season would be imaginable without performances of his great operas Le Nozze Di Figaro, (The Marriage of Figaro),Don Giovanni, The Magic Flute and Cosi Fan Tutte(So Do They All), or his many piano concertos, his symphonies, of which are not played often, and other beloved works he wrote.  The world's greatest conductors, pianists,violinists, and opera singers have made his music a major part of their repertoire from the beginning. 

  There are countless recordings of his music by countless different muscicians ,including huge boxed sets of his complete works on CD.  Great conductors such as Herbert von Karajan,Karl Boehm, Bruno Walter, James Levine, Leonard Bernstein , Daniel Barenboim, Nikolaus Harnoncourt, Otto Klemperer, and others have recorded his symphonies and operas, and so many great opera singers have recorded his operas, such as the late Joan Sutherland, Elisabeth Schwarzkopf,Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Fritz Wunderlich, Cesare Siepi, Hermann Prey, to name only a handful, and so many of the world's greatest violinists and pianists have recorded his many concertos.  His four horn concertos are studied by every aspiring horn player and have been recorded by such great horn players as Barry Tuckwell,Dennis Brain, Dale Clevenger,Hermann Baumann and others.

  What kind of man was Mozart?  The film Amadeus,entertaining as it is, does not really give you an accurate picture of the man or his life.  The story about his supposed fatal poisoning by the supposedly mad with envy Italian composer Antonio Salieri(who was not a bad composer at all) is an urban legend with no more truth than the moon being made of green cheese. 

  Mozart was apparently an amiable and fun-loving fellow with a great sense of humor who aparently behaved in a rather childlike and eccentric manner according to reports.  There has even been speculation that he may have had Tourette's syndrome, a strange neurological condition which makes its victims shout out obscenities and behave in a weird and uncontrollable manner. We know that he had a rather ribald and scatological  sense of humor. 

  So happy birthday Wolfgang,wherever you are. You've brightened the lives of countless people for over 200 years .


Posted: Jan 27 2011, 06:29 PM by the horn | with no comments
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