Here’s a confession: I didn’t always love Mozart.
As a budding pianist back in grade school, I slogged my unimaginative way through the usual suspects in Mozart’s keyboard canon, including The Sonata Everyone Knows (the No. 16 in C Major
, K. 545, sometimes dubbed the “Sonata Facile”). But my heart was elsewhere, and my thoughts were the exact opposite of the often-reported remark of the Emperor Joseph II to Mozart upon the premiere of The Abduction from the Seraglio (“Too many notes”).
There were too few notes! I wanted more notes, more impressive keyboard thunder-power, more … well, more 19th century.
“You will learn,” promised my patient teacher, and indeed I did. It has been a long time since Mozart’s ascent to the top of my musical favorites – lording it above all the usual composer suspects, including several other Austrians and Germans, a handful of French and Brits, several Russians, a scattering of Eastern Europeans and Scandinavians, and the occasional American (plus, of course, P.D.Q. Bach).
It’s the music, of course – the great works across such a spectrum of genres from bawdy ditties to the most seriously sublime operas and symphonies. Possibly it’s also because he is the most human of geniuses, enduring a lifetime of scrambling after money, suffering tragedy (the early deaths of four of his six children), knowing he was an incomparable but never attaining the level of prosperity and status he truly deserved. Knowing, at age 35, that he was dying, and that his unwritten works in all their rich possibilities would die with him.
Nobody can pluck at the heartstrings quite as poignantly as Mozart does, most of all in his final, unfinished Requiem
. That work has a special link to Seattle, too: it was here that the idea arose for a worldwide 2002 “Rolling Requiem
” observance of the first anniversary of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. In the “Rolling Requiem,” organized by members of the Seattle Symphony Chorale, choruses on nearly every continent performed the Mozart masterpiece in individual concerts at 8:46 a.m. – the time of the first World Trade Center attack -- in their own time zone, beginning with the International Dateline and moving with the sun around the world. Thus the Requiem “rolled” from country to country, as 145 choirs in 20 time zones lifted up their voices in succession. In Seattle, the Requiem took place in what was then Safeco Field, with Gerard Schwarz on the podium for a performance featuring soloists Terri Richter, Sarah Mattox, Vinson Cole and Julian Patrick, with members of the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Youth Symphony Orchestras and the Seattle Symphony Chorale — the organization that started it all.
The Mozart Requiem speaks to us not only because of the pathos of its origins -- the last, great, unfinished work of a dying genius, whose life was ripped away at the height of his creative powers – but also because the music so powerfully invokes the terror we feel about death: the awe, the anguish and the hope for an afterlife. It also expresses faith in “lux aeterna” (eternal light), providing hope and consolation for those left behind.
So we come to Classical KING FM’s “Month of Mozart
” with gratefulness for what we do have, and for a refreshed start to a New Year after too much fruitcake and turkey -- and for a celebration of a genius whose birthday is January 27. (It’s his 260th, by the way.) We’re raising a glass in Mozart’s honor, and turning up the volume on our speakers.