Friday, January 27, 2006

Happy 250th Birthday, Amadeus!

God gave the world a special gift on January 27, 1756; he sent to the Mozart family in Salzburg, Austria a newborn boy whom the world would come to know as Wolfgang Amadeus. “Amadeus” translates as “beloved of God.”

Mozart is widely regarded as the greatest, or among the greatest, composer who ever lived. By the age of 6, the young prodigy was performing before the Austrian royal family. He was dead by the age of 35, but in those few fecund intervening years, he produced a prodigious and enduring catalogue of compositions - 626 pieces including 24 operas, 41 symphonies and over 40 concertos.

Haydn believed him to be the 'greatest composer' and Schubert opined that the 'magic of Mozart’s music lights the darkness of our lives'.

My exposure to Mozart’s music came at a young age, but my true appreciation of his genius did not ripen until later in life. Although our family was of modest financial means, my parents worked extra jobs to allow us to pursue music lessons. So, beginning in the third grade, I studied piano and violin. My teachers were both accomplished graduates of the New England Conservatory, and did well by me in that they exposed me early on to the world’s best music. With Florence Pearson, I learned to play Mozart on the violin; with Edith True Marshall, I played his pieces on the piano.

But, I must confess that it was not until many years later that I was truly smitten by Mozart’s charms. It took Peter Shaffer’s brilliant play, "Amadeus," to fully illuminate for me the genius of the man and his music. Shaffer’s brilliant weaving together of the music of Mozart with the narrative of his troubled life gave me the ability to see and hear Mozart’s compositions in a whole new way. As a result of seeing that play – and the film that was subsequently made based on the play – I discovered anew the wonders of Mozart’s Requiem. Since the curtain fell on the performance of "Amadeus" that I attended in 1979, I have listened to my recording of the Requiem more than any other work in the classical repertoire. It is beautiful and transcendent like few other compositions.

On the ride to work each morning, I typically spend a schizophrenic 40 minutes – toggling back and forth on my radio dial between WEEI, 850 AM – Boston’s premier sports talk station, and WCRB, 102.5 FM – “Classical Radio Boston.” Today, WCRB is devoting its entire day of broadcast to works composed by Mozart. And it is altogether fitting and proper that they should do so.

Requiem aeternam, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

And on behalf of many generations of music lovers, thank you for feeding our souls in perpetuam.


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