The man and his short life

Who doesn’t know some music of Mozart? And most people know something about his life. The movie Amadeus ensured that, amid controversy. Here’s a brisk illustrated review of the film and its dubious accuracy. View the famous scene where Mozart meets the emperor and Salieri. Or for more facts and a lot more music go to the superb BBC 3-part documentary ‘The Genius of Mozart’: Miracle of Nature, A Passion for the Stage, The First Romantic.

The Music

The ‘magic’ or more often ‘God-given talent’ of Mozart is a common theme. Violinist Shan Kothari writes: Composers looked back to Mozart as a model because his music seems absolutely effortless without being insubstantial. He evoked a huge range of emotions, but his music floats ... He made the arduous, often frustrating task of composing look easy. Each note of his music seems like it could not be any different than it is. And since his untimely death, his myth has only grown. Full article. in “Mozart and Enlightenment Thought”, James Donelan writes: What Mozart is doing is making more with less: he takes a relatively simple theme and does more complex, less predictable, and more reflective variations on the theme than his predecessors, or even his contemporaries would have done. In this, he is setting a precedent for Beethoven, for whom this became a central compositional principle. …Music, for Mozart, is about constructing your own world through melody and harmony, not reflecting the empirical reality of the world outside, and if that’s illusory, then we will love the illusion all the more for how temporary it is and how sweet it was to believe it.

The Operas

Mozart revolutionised opera in many ways.  He determined to put his music at the centre of the action…  ‘the notes and the music must propel the action at all times’.  His music and characters were realistic, funny, human.  … before Mozart’s time, [operas] moved with a certain restricted grandeur. Their characters were remote. Mozart’s subjects were more modern, even contemporary… In the evolution of opera, Mozart was the first to impart to it a strong human interest with humour playing about it like sunlight. (MusicWithEase) And the messages were more subversive. He confronted the dominance of (aristocratic) Italian opera in Vienna. The Marriage of Figaro  was in Italian, but our hero, a servant, mocked his master to the tune of a minuet. Don Giovanni, written two years before the French Revolution, declared (still in Italian) that the aristocracy performed no particularly useful function. The Magic Flute was in German, performed in a simple, suburban theatre with a small orchestra. In his selection of stories, his musical sounds and his practice Mozart challenged the operatic conventions and class assumptions of his day.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Nevertheless, 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. Find more quotations from Mozart.
Silence is very important. The silence between the notes is as important as the notes themselves. - Mozart