262 years ago in Salzburg…

Wolfgang Mozart was born on this day in 1756.  He died just 35 years later, leaving behind a peerless resumé that included, among other things:

  • Orchestral music, including some 40 symphonies;
  • Concertos, including 27 for piano, 5 for violin, and concertos for clarinet, oboe, French horn, bassoon, flute, and flute and harp;
  • Operas, including Idomeneo (1781), The Abduction from the Seraglio (1782), The Marriage of Figaro (1786), Don Giovanni (1787), Cosí fan tutte (1790) and The Magic Flute (1791);
  • Choral music, including 18 Masses, the Requiem (incomplete, 1791), and other liturgical music;
  • Chamber music, including 23 string quartets, string quintets, clarinet quintet, oboe quartet, flute quartet, piano trios and quartets, sonatas for violin and piano, and divertimentos and serenades (Eine kleine Nachtmusik, 1787);
  • Keyboard music, including 17 piano sonatas.
Mozart-by-Daniel-Morgenstern
Art by Daniel Morgenstern

What else might he have done had he lived to, say, even 50?

When I consider Mozart, I tend to pivot back and forth between that sentiment, i.e., “That he died so young is a tragedy!  We could have had so much more!”, and another one, beautifully expressed by Peter Shaffer (1926-2016), the British playwright who wrote Amadeus: 

“Trained superbly by his expert and relentless father, Wolfgang Amadeus was fitted from the age of 16 for one supreme mode of existence: to be the magic flute at the lips of God. His death at the age of 35 does not seem to me to be tragic in the least. He died after gigantic labors of sublime transcription, because the Player had finished playing with him: That is all. How lucky to be used up like that, rather than, as most of us are, by the trillion trivialities which whittle us away into dust.”

These days, as I grow ever older and wonder what, if anything, of lasting value I’ve brought to the table, Shaffer’s words dominate all of my Mozartian ruminations.

wolfgang_amadeus_mozart-600_lucian tidorescu
Art by Lucian Tidorescu

To close, I of course have to include a piece of music. I’ll go with the Rex tremendae from my favorite recording of my favorite of Mozart’s works, the Requiem.  If I were a composer, and managed to commit only these two minutes of music to paper, I would consider myself a smashing success.

Rex tremendae majestatis,
qui salvandos savas gratis,
salve me, fons pietatis.

King of tremendous majesty,
who freely saves those worthy ones,
save me, source of mercy.

Mozart-1002x1024-denyse lette
Art by Denyse Lette

Trivia tidbit: As can be seen in the record below, Mozart was baptized Joannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus.  Theophilus, from the Greek, can be translated as “lover of God” or “loved by God.”  Its Latin form?  Amadeus.

Mozart_Taufeintrag_LI


For Frank:

IMG_5829

 

 

 

12 comments

  • Thank you so much for this. It made my day, not only listening to Mozart, but the quote by Peter Shaffer regarding his incredible life, short as it was.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks for stopping by, Frank! A bit of Mozart makes any day better. If you don’t already own a recording of the Requiem, I highly recommend the one excerpted in the YouTube video.

      Like

  • Not a bad CV, eh? And that Shaffer quote is stunning: penetrating and confronting and inspiring (even for a radical atheist!).

    Really struck by the images you chose, JDB. They could be aptly described as psychedelic, couldn’t they? I love the energy and refreshment they invite; no dusty wigs and monochrome expressions here. The ripples of Mozart’s creativity spread out through time and space, as do our own tiny offerings.

    I’m reading Irvin Yalom (again). Sitting on the back verandah as the morning temperature begins an inexorable and sweaty climb towards the century (F) mark, I was thinking about mortality and influence and art. I think art (in the broadest sense) might just be the very best defence against the meaninglessness of existence. Well, it’s my favourite anyway.

    Thanks for the ripples you send out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Very glad you noted the art, Bruce. That was a very specific choice on my part: to choose colorful, contemporary renderings over images of a periwig-sporting, monochromatic Wolfgang. Plus, the small handful of traditional paintings of Mozart that are out there are, by now, so familiar to all as to be a complete snooze…to borrow an expression from the post, they don’t bring anything new to the table. And I fully embrace art as the best defense against the meaningless of existence. Here’s to us both continuing to send out our ripples.

      Liked by 1 person

  • Jeanne, you have once again injected beauty into a quiet Sunday night! The man “couldn’t write a boring measure of music” (quoting someone, not sure who), but my favorite is the Dixit Dominus at the beginning of Vesperae solennes de confessore kv 339 … at least I think it’s part of kv 339. I have a recording whose tempo is just a little faster than the recordings I’ve found on youtube, and I like mine – Mozart should never sound like it’s plodding along, without a good reason…

    Thanks! – Vince

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vince, the tempo marking for the Dixit is allegro vivace, so you’re absolutely right that it shouldn’t plod along! Thanks so much for stopping by.

      Like

  • Thanks for inspiring me to finally watch the Met’s Great Performances broadcast of Don Giovanni, which I recorded a couple months ago. I’m a fickle, moving target when it comes to determining my “favorite” Mozart piece, but this one is certainly up there.

    Liked by 1 person

    • John, when I was writing the post and got to the point at which I commented on my favorite work by Mozart, I asked myself, “OK, is it the Requiem or is it Don Giovanni?” It is, indeed, the Requiem but DG is a very, very close second. The scene with the Commendatore in Act 2 never fails to raise gooseflesh. Thank you so much for dropping in!

      Like

  • Jeanne,
    I have forwarded this to many people I know and they are blown away, as I was, by the quote about Mozart. It really strikes a chord in people to be used by the gods for a special purpose in life. Thank you for sending this. It has produced some very interesting conversations between me and my colleagues.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Frank, this is what I’ve always hoped would happen with the blog: that my posts might prompt reflection and conversation on a topic. So, thank YOU for engaging with this particular offering as you have. The quote made a deep impression on me (obviously!). It was the concluding paragraph of a piece written, as noted, by Peter Shaffer, that appeared in a September 1984 issue of the The New York Times Magazine. (It was timed to the release of the film, Amadeus). I was in my first year of medical school at the time. I was so struck by that paragraph, and the one preceding it, that I cut them out of the magazine and pasted them in my journal, where they remain to this day, yellowed with age (picture inserted above just for you!). While preparing the post, I scoured the Internet for the full piece, but couldn’t track it down, though I did come across many letters to the editor commenting on it. I’m glad I could consult that ancient med school era journal…

      Like

  • Jeanne, what an inspirational quote. I found the trivia about his original name fascinating. I also thought the artwork was spectacular. Thanks again for bringing beauty into my daily grind.

    Liked by 1 person

Submit a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s