On this day in 1756, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born. Look: I know. I did him last year. And it is also Lewis Carroll’s birthday. But I’m crazy for Mozart. As I noted last year, “Mozart is the sweet spot between the intellectual excesses of the Baroque period and the emotional excesses of the Romantic period.” But that isn’t to say that I think Mozart is some kind of singularity. Mozart was undoubtedly the greatest of the Classical period composers. But Haydn and Gluck are great too. So are a number of other composers that I don’t want to take the time to list.
I am not, however, a Mozart idolator. One thing I hate is this idea people have that Mozart was born a great composer. “This man had written his first concerto at the age of four — his first symphony at seven — a full-scale opera at twelve!” Yeah, but they sucked. I mean, not for a four, seven, or twelve year old. They show great potential. But Mozart learned a great deal over the years. In particular, it was his formal study of counterpoint that really moved his music from charming to great. And the music that I love the most was written during the last couple of years of his life. That’s the great tragedy of his short life.
Anyway, let’s listen to some music. I can’t help but present to you this performance of his D major flute concerto. It is not one of his great works. It is a total hack job, yet it is still wonderful. But the flutist is Emmanuel Pahud, who is 45 today:
Since we listened to the G minor symphony last year, let’s do some opera today. I wanted to provide something from his first unquestionably great opera, Idomeneo, King of Crete. But there really isn’t anything good online. The same is true of The Abduction from the Seraglio. So let’s just cut to the chase and present Bergman’s filmed version of The Magic Flute:
Happy birthday Mozart!