Radio 3 are at present in the midst of a Mozart marathon. To me this is a shame. To me his music does not merit such an honour. Glenn Gould said Mozart was a mediocre composer who died too old. Something of a Gouldism. Glenn Gould liked to be controversial & such a statement certainly is that. Earlier on in my life I was a Mozart fanatic. I couldn’t understand why anyone should not share my opinion. But at some point I am not sure when I felt that my opinion of Mozart was wrong. There is still much that I like about Mozart, much that is unquestionably great. There is much that I love about Mozart, specifically the piano trios, the string quartets if I am in the right mood, the operas or at least Cosi Fan Tutti & Don Giovanni. Possibly the Magic Flute though the plot is so laughable that well, in the end who cares about the music.
I happened upon the marathon on Sunday evening. Someone was giving a talk about Mozart & his music & it was undoubtedly very interesting. Specifically that he, Mozart that is, had the composition in his head before he even started writing a single note. And then he wrote down the whole thing in one frantic rush of creativity. Apparently creative people who can do this have bits in their brain joined up in a way that non-creative people don’t. It sounds a bit like phrenology to me but you never know. Neuroscience is or at least claims to be much advanced these days. Mozart certainly lived a busy life what with his teaching, performing & composing; often he did all 3 in 1 day. The person doing the talk chose extracts from Mozart. They were some of the most beautiful pieces of Mozart’s music from the operas, the piano concertos, the symphonies etc. These days it is generally considered that Mozart’s early works are not that good. That there is not that much merit in them. And it was only when he had been composing for several years that his work showed true depth. But the speaker gave as an example Mozart’s requiem which in fact he didn’t write. In fact my opinion is that the early piano music is far greater than the mature work which is very formulaic.
Bach is a far greater composer. The music of Bach is more beautiful & more complex. It is immortal. Bach too was extremely prolific but somehow his music is less formulaic, more beautiful than anything any other composer including Mozart ever wrote. The Bach marathon on Radio3 of a few years ago was a great enterprise. It was more than perfect. I left the radio on at night & tried to stay awake at night to listen to it. It just went on & on getting better & better. When it was over, the World & life itself seemed flat.
When I have dipped into the Mozart marathon I cannot but help agree with Glenn Gould’s assessment that Mozart was a mediocre composer who died too old. It seems a sort of radio2 of classical music; endlessly tedious & boring.