Thursday, January 27, 2011
Can you imagine...
But... to return to my original question: Can you imagine life without Mozart? To some, the question might be a non sequitur because it's obvious that we can "live" without the Austrian's music. However, can we truly Live? There are two senses of which we can speak of when we say "live". The first can be taken as living in a merely biological or instinctual way: by eating and sleeping and fulfilling the other functions that we as rational animals (to quote Aristotle) share with the lower animals. Conversely, the second sense of living means an experience and an abstraction apart from the basic necessities of life... it means to think and contemplate: to express the "divine spark" inherent within us. When we think and contemplate, we live in a way that fulfills our rational nature and as the ancients said, ignites the God within us.
All of this is to say (or rather ask): Can we live a full and rational life without Mozart?
Plainly and simply, my answer is no.
The richness of Wolfgang's music has left the world a better place-- despite this cliché it remains a verity. So many people recognize the beauty that emanates from Mozart's compositions, from his sonatas, Masses, operas (who can forget the arias of Le Nozze di Figaro and Die Zauberflöte?), to magnificent symphonies and concertos. Recently, my fiancée and I attended a concert at which there was a performance of Mozart's symphony No. 23, followed by a Dvořák concerto. After the orchestra finished playing Mozart's symphony, the audience gave a rousing standing ovation, which was quite loud and powerful. Following the bravos and cheers, nearly half of those in attendance got up and left.
It was simply astounding to see how people would disregard another magnificent artist-- for Dvořák's music is indeed beautiful and moving-- just to listen to a sublime performance of a Mozart symphony. It proved to me right then and there that Mozart's music has something more in it, something more than simply entertainment value, but an expression of pure divine beauty. The melodies and themes, the allegros and the largos... everything about Mozart's music that makes it Mozart's is what sets him apart not merely in our hearing, but in our feeling... in our very souls.
Whether melancholic like the clarinet concerto, moving and giddy like Le Nozze di Figaro, solemn like the Jupiter symphony, reverent and glorious like the Exultate Jubilate, tragically joyful like the Requiem Mass, or chipper and singing like the piano concerto No. 22... nothing seems to touch the heart and mind like Mozart's music. Ever since youth, it left an indelible mark on my intellectual life as a source of solace and beauty-- it has in many ways been an impetus to the wonderful friendships I have (and of course it helped me to fall more deeply in love with my musical fiancée.) Music like his inspires and influences thinking. His dramatic musical poetry flows with a graced liquidity that the spirit drinks up with such fervor that often times there seems to be a slippage from reality. A type of immersion in the world of Mozart's music that both elevates yet enables us to be more aware of the beauty in every aspect of the world around us.
His music is like wine, poured out into the spirit that inebriates us with a sweetness that surpasses all years and tastes. The melodies of his work remain enchanting and mysterious for their ability to set us on fire.
Perhaps it's fitting then that I write such praise, for today is Mozart's birthday. On this day, January 27th, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in the Archbishopric of Salzburg in the year 1756.
So... have a glass of wine, or scotch, put on some Mozart and relish in the music and the man that "gave us God's eternal laughter."