Friday, January 27, 2006

250 Momentous Years

Today, 250 years ago, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. What a tribute it already is that most of the time we celebrate death anniversarys, but we'll make an exception here, because we're eager enough to not wait another 30-something years to make a big bash about it. The biographies are easy enough to find, so here I include some tidbits not normally known about the great musician.

His full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Gottlieb Mozart. I don't know where the Amadeus came from, but it's interesting that Penang still has a Gottlieb Road. I suppose I souldn't mention that when I first heard the name Gottlieb Road I thought it was named after some obscure part of the digestive tract. Like a second liver. But then considering Mozart didn't go with his whole name, I suppose he might have had similar thoughts.

He wrote nothing featuring the cello as a solo instrument. No sonatas, no concertos, no short works. That's why the Sinfonia Concertante recording conducted by famed cellist Pablo Casals has a certain charm to it, and certainly a uniqueness. Nevertheless, Mozart did have the cello in mind - he was composing a new Sinfonia Concertante for three soloists - violin, viola, and cello, but it was left incomplete.

Mozart as a performer was most famous as a pianist - and all his cadenzas were meant to be, and were performed as, pure improvisation. Which is why there are no Mozart-composed cadenzas. And why its ironic that we have well-known (i.e. much scripted) cadenzas today. As for the violin - all his violin concertos, which are now the make-or-break of professional auditions, were written when he was in his teens. And of the bowed strings he preferred the viola. SO THERE!

A work curiously omitted in most "Complete Mozart" violin compilations is the Concertone for Two Violins, equivilent to a double concerto-cum-concerto grosso. Another work, the double concerto for violin, piano and orchestra is much extrapolated. And the Sinfonia Concertante for Winds, as well as the "Violin Concerto No. 7", are quite likely not Mozart at all.

Two essential works in the viola repertoire are the violin-viola duos, which are arguably more representative of the viola than the Concertante - which wouldn't even have been composed if not for his friend who had fallen ill, and who needed to complete two commissioned violin-viola duos. Mozart did it for him, which is why some say that friendship is what made those two works possible.

Well, considering that in the last 50 years only the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, and Elvis have survived (though I still think music from the '80s had a certain something), more than 200 years of Mozart all around the world is something to say, both for the composer, and for classical music.

Mozart performed at
Bielefeld University.

Oddly enough, I really do have a craving for liver now.

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