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From Prodigy to Maestro

Omar Chowdhury
1 April, 2005

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born on January 27, 1756 in Salzburg. This year commemorates the bicentenary of his death at the age of 35. Yes, he was carried a way young, like Keats and Chopin, among many others, after him.

If one were to use epithets to eulogize Mozart, it would be to say that he was a divine genius, who took music from its classical mould and carried it forward into the Romantic period of European music.

Having written his first symphony at the age of six, Wolfgang’s relentless father, Leopold Mozart, avaricious and greedy for fame, through his practically infant son, took the prodigy, at Keyboard and violin alike, across the length and breadth of Europe, making him to perform tirelessly before crowned heads, and in crowded halls and salons. Thus began an arduous life, as a performer of brilliance and captivating charm. But his heart and soul lay in composing music music which spanned the entire range of inventiveness and innovation. By the end of his inspired career as a composer, he had produced 41 symphonies, concertos for a number of solo instruments, notably the oboe, flute, violin, and his beloved clarinet. (One should listen carefully to the passages in the wind section of his symphonic compositions).

At the age of 18, Mozart was already a master. His output was prodigious : chamber music of all kinds, and, above all 15 operas. His devotees will mention, one after another, titles such as The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, and Cosi Fan Tutti. But what about the Abduction of the Serail, a witty parody of life in a harem, which was an audacious present for Emperor Franz Joseph!

It is his very last opera which deserves pride of place The Magic Flute. This is an enchanting musical tour de force. The libretto was written by one Schekenider (I hope the spelling is correct), and it was at once ridicules, and scorned, for being too fanciful and preposterous. The critics booed, but the audiences applauded! People forget that it is the libretto which inspires the music, and not the other way round. The Magic Flute is a very serious work, because it has deep and disturbing political and religious undertones. It depicts what have been called the forces of light combating the forces of darkness. The forces indeed were : Free Masonry versus the catholic Church, nothing less tan that! And during the reign of the most Catholic of monarchs! It is an opera like a diadem, studded with musical gems : the Queen of the Night’s famous aria, the duet between Papageno and Papagena, two half-bird, half-human creatures in love. And then Sarastro’s moving bass aria, O Isis and Osiris, which G.B Shaw described as the voice of God. Subsequent operatic composers have acknowledged their debt to the Magic Flute, particularly Richard Wagner.

To me, the piano concerto series is the most satisfying _expression of Mozart’s rich musical imagination, the development of his virtuoso technique, the loving relationship between piano and orchestra, the subtle transition of the sonata from Haydn’s simple classicism to the finality of Beethoven. Witness the concerto No 25 in C minor KV 530. the three major chords in the beginning of the First Movement surely herald the opening bars of the Fifth Symphony?

Mozart took music to glorious heights of artistic achievement. His spirit was the true fulfillment of the Renaissance, with its discovery and passion for beauty in physical and human reality. Mozart is the embodiment of European culture, and it is no wonder that during the consecration of the Temple at Somnath, a handful of earth from Mozart’s grave was scattered, symbolizing the contribution of Europe to World Civilisation!

26 July, 1991.

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