To be brutally honest, Mozart and I aren't on a first name basis. I respect his work and find him personally interesting, but his music leaves me colder than an Indiana January. Of course, there are many who do like his music, though perhaps a little too much. Much like DeadHeads, true Mozart fans are a breed apart, willing to undergo entire concerts of the man's music (such as Saturday's philharmonic performance), happily sputtering through Mozart weekends, buying complete collections of his music on 130+ disc CD collections. When the Oxford Dangerous Sports Club of Britain decided to ski down the slopes of Switzerland in bathtubs, on stepladders, and on a grand piano, it was Mozart they played as the piano sped down the mountain. This is the kind of person we are dealing with. When most classical music fans hear that I am not particularly fond of Mozart, they look at me as if I had just expressed an undying devotion to pimento loaf. That's okay. We fans of Prokofiev and Bartok are used to such treatment. Mozart's music is easy on the ears, pleasing, smooth, and tasty like good pop (popular) music should be. I just personally prefer my dissonances.

Not that there isn't much to be said about Mozart and his music, for if there weren't, I would have no article. Mozart's full name was Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amedeus Mozart (for some reason I am reminded of the childhood tale of "Riki Tiki Tembo"...) and like all child prodigies, was born. Mozart happened to be born in 1756, a good year for cheese, or so I hear. An especially precocious child, Mozart began composing at age three but he didn't compose his first symphony for until he had reached the ripe old age of eight. Nearly every description of the man hails him as a genius, so who am I to argue? At the tender age of fourteen, Mozart heard a piece of sacred music that he liked so much he went home and wrote out the entire piece by memory, much to the chagrin of the current Pope who had rules against people writing down sacred music. That zany Mozart was always getting into trouble of one kind or another. Unlike Beethoven years later, Mozart considered himself a regular guy and heartily enjoyed his wine, women, and gambling, each to excess. He intentionally wrote his music for the “average Joe”, which is perhaps why his music is so well loved even today. Mozart was also fond of writing drinking songs, including one titled "Lick my Backside, Quickly, Quickly". As you might guess, many of these songs had lyrics that would make Bob & Tom proud.

Though short in stature (a mere five feet four inches tall), Mozart was able to crank out a lot of music. It was common for him to be working on two or three pieces at the same time while playing croquet! He would take his shot and run off to write down a few notes and come back in time for his next turn. Such activities allowed him to compose 21 piano concertos, 6 operas, 24 string quartets, 17 masses, and 41 symphonies in his short life of 35 years. If you want to find out more on the personal life of this Backside Lickee, the movie "Amedeus" is an entertaining and mostly accurate account of his life.

The first piece the Fort Wayne Philharmonic will be playing this weekend is the Overture to "The Magic Flute", Köchel listing 620, which brings up another personal annoyance about Mozart. Just about everyone else has their works listed by Opus number (no relation to a certain penguin), but Mozart has his pieces listed by Köchel number, not that he had anything to do with this. I blame Köchel. During Mozart's day (and night), an evening of classical music was as much a social event as it was a musical event. People would get all gussied up and stand around and talk... loudly, often well past the starting time of the music. In order to politely tell people to shut their yaps and to sit down, composers began writing overtures, which started off being just a few very loud chords meant to garner the attention of the attendees. These overtures eventually grew into a complete piece where melodies from the music to follow were foreshadowed, whetting the appetities for what was to come. The Overture to "The Magic Flute" is such a piece.

The Philharmonic will also be playing Mozart's "Symphony Number 9 in C Major". Sure, the piece is only thirteen minutes long but cut the kid some slack! Wolfie was only fourteen at the time and was probably still a bit upset over being reprimanded by the Pope. Not that thirteen minutes was anything to slouch at. In the 1700's, most symphonies were between twelve and twenty minutes long. It wasn't until Beethoven that they ballooned to their current size. But back to the Ninth Symphony. This piece was composed as Chrysostomus was just reaching puberty, and you can tell. Full of energy and chugging along merrily, Mozart's ninth symphony (in C Major, no less) has, like most of his music, an inviting, almost "pop music" flavor with many enjoyable melodies. And rumor has it, if you listen real close, you can hear a cellist saying "Number Nine... Number Nine... Number Nine...".

The final piece on the bill is Mozart's Requiem, the last piece Mozart ever wrote... or didn't write, as we will soon see. The first time I heard this piece was about seven years ago on a first date. The Requiem was the first half of the evening and Lutoslawski's Concerto for Orchestra was the second. She liked the Mozart piece, I liked the Lutoslawski. I was blind to not have read the writing on the wall. Few pieces are as surrounded by mystery and legend as this piece. From what I can decifer, the truth is that Count Walsegg anonymously commissioned this piece from Mozart with the intentions of passing it off as his own work written in memory of his wife (did someone say "rat fink"?). Mozart died before he completed the piece, not that it would have taken more then ten minutes for this genius to compose a half-hour piece if he had just applied himself! A semi-student of Mozart, Franz Xaver Sussmayr, completed the Requiem using music Mozart had sketched out before he died. Sussmayr was not above making up his own music if he couldn't find enough of Mozart's. Over the years, many a masters thesis has been written about what parts Mozart wrote and what parts Sussmayr wrote, breaking it down to the anal-retentive level of indiviual measures and notes. The way I figure it, if you like the piece, enjoy it for what it is worth, regardless if it is a name brand or some cheap knock-off. Read more on Mozart

Copyright 1998 Jason Hoffman

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