Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Eine Mangel an Kreativität

Too much Mozart? Is that possible? For me, Mozart was an entry into classical. He was and is a safe bet. Die Zauberflöte still holds a special place in my heart as my favorite opera. Peter Schreier's "Zu Hilfe!" from Davis' 1984 recording reminds me over and over why I like Schreier, and - more to the point - why I like Mozart. However, I am all for a critical look at his legacy.

Norman Lebrecht writes, "Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in his own time and are meaningless to ours. Beyond a superficial beauty and structural certainty, Mozart has nothing to give to mind or spirit in the 21st century. Let him rest. Ignore the commercial onslaught. Play the Leningrad Symphony. Listen to music that matters."

What vitriol. What bile. However, compare that with the syrupy, saccharine tripe spewed forth in Milos Forman's adaptation of Amadeus. I withhold that judgment from the play, which has more to do with Salieri's relationship to an unknown and (to him) uncaring God than Mozart. We are in extremist country, kids, and there has to be a middle course.

In truth, Mozart was neither the voice of God nor an unoriginal music factory, spewing forth pleasing music for his aristocratic overlords. In the volumes of his compositions, most are nice but not triumphant. Of all his operas, only a handful are remembered or played with frequency. This anniversary should show us how little we care for Mozart. He is more of an ideal, an exemplar than a real figure. Now, he also produced some really brilliant music. He also set some brilliant libretti to music.

Mozart deserves his legacy, but we need to be sure what his legacy is.


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