The Triumph of Genius
In 1892, the year following the centenary of Mozart's death, George Bernard Shaw, critic as well as playwright, felt it necessary to scold his readers for hardly yet having gotten out of the habit of regarding Mozart's compositions as "tuneful little trifles fit only for persons of simple tastes." In this the 250th anniversary year of Mozart's birth, what with all those cd compilations of tunes meant to work the "Mozart Effect" on unsuspecting children and of melting adagios meant to accompany their parents in wine-drinking and more, the situation may not be much improved. On the other hand, a public imbued with Peter Shaffer's intriguing, albeit distorted, Amadeus may have a different picture of the man. Who can forget that moment when the aged Salieri—broken and consumed by envy—recalls first hearing the adagio from Mozart's "Gran Partita" for winds and double bass (K361),1 the oboe entering from on high as if from another world, its line then picked up with heartrending seamlessness by the clarinet? It was as though, exclaims Salieri, he was hearing the voice of God.
Such moments of pure enthrallment occur in Mozart as perhaps in no other composer—not all of them his most profound musical utterances, but moments of such surpassing loveliness as indeed to evoke another world. "As from afar," rhapsodized the young Franz Schubert, himself no stranger to loveliness, "the magic notes of Mozart's music still greatly haunt me… . They show us in the darkness of this life a bright, clear, lovely distance, for which we hope with confidence." One may think of the slow movements of the Third Violin Concerto, composed relatively early, or of the great Clarinet Concerto, composed only two months before Mozart's death. Or, to take his more explicitly religious music, the familiar "Laudate dominum" from his Solemn Vespers (K339) or the rapturous Ave rerum corpus (K618). No composer on earth has inspired more talk about heaven than Mozart. One of his celebrated 20th-century biographers, Alfred Einstein, managed to call him a mere "visitor on earth," and even Shaw, not a reverent man, opined that the two priestly arias of Sarastro in The Magic Flute were the only music yet written that would not sound out of place in the mouth of God.
Whatever the divinizing excesses of such language, Mozart has probably received more attention from theologians than any other composer save Bach. Most famously, there is Karl Barth, who began each day by listening to Mozart and found in him as he found in no other a transporting freedom and play within order, an affirmation "of a world which in sunlight and storm, by day and by night, is a good and ordered world." Barth is quite sure that in heaven, the angels, when left to their own devices, play Mozart, the good Lord listening in with special pleasure.
There is also Barth's pupil Hans Küng, whose little book on Mozart argues affectionately against his old Protestant teacher on behalf of a more Catholic view of the composer.2 Mozart himself once remarked that "enlightened Protestants" could probably never really understand what the Agnus Dei meant to him, and what Küng finds in Mozart's music are what he calls "traces of transcendence"—traces that in religious music can lend intrinsic liturgical significance to the music itself, without benefit of words, and indeed can make music, whether explicitly religious or not and whether vocal or purely instrumental, a source of revelation alongside the Word:
I think that music which speaks the truth is not just limited, say, to vocal music or explicitly religious music; it also includes purely instrumental music—and especially the intimacy of many second movements. An abstract masterpiece can speak the truth in the pure language of sound… . And though music cannot become a religion of art, the art of music is the most spiritual of all symbols for that "mystical sanctuary of our religion," the divine itself. In other words, for me Mozart's music has relevance for religion not only where religious and church themes or forms emerge, but precisely through the compositional technique of the non-vocal, purely instrumental music, through the way in which this music interprets the world, a way which transcends extra-musical conceptuality… . With keen ears [one] may perceive in the pure, utterly internalized sound, for example, of the adagio of the Clarinet Concerto, which embraces us without using any words, something wholly other… . So here are ciphers, traces of transcendence.
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born January 27, 1756, in Salzburg, the seventh and last child of Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl, and was baptized the following day as Johannes Chrysostomus (after the saint) Wolfgangus Theophilus (Mozart himself preferred the French Amadè). He was not the greatest musical prodigy who ever lived. Felix Mendelssohn was, achieving already at ages sixteen and seventeen respectively the full apotheosis of his talent in his magnificent octet for strings and his entrancing overture to A Midsummer's Night Dream, works he never bettered—and perhaps rarely equaled—for the rest of his life.
For Mozart, the ascent to the top took longer. Many of his early compositions were dazzling and accomplished for his age, but not for more. Critics tend to view his Symphony No. 29 (K201), written when Mozart was eighteen, as his first symphony of real stature, though a lesser case could be made for the uneven No. 25 (K183), written a year earlier, whose hectic first movement is used to dramatic effect in the opening scene of Amadeus. This is the so-called "Little G Minor," to distinguish it from the towering Symphony No. 40, also in G Minor, which was written fourteen years later and would not in quality be confused for a second with the earlier work.
Nor was Mozart's ascent altogether uniform. To proceed in less than a year—April 1776 to January 1777—from the Piano Concerto No. 8 (K246) to the Concerto No. 9 (the "Jeunehomme" [K271], named after the first pianist to perform it) was to make a quantum leap from a charming and accomplished work to a concerto of stunning power and originality, signaled at the outset by the declamatory opening flourish of the orchestra, answered immediately by the entrance of the piano. It was a level Mozart did not sustain in the immediately succeeding concertos. Pianist Alfred Brendel calls it Mozart's first genuine masterpiece, and thinks, moreover, that Mozart never surpassed it in his later great concertos—an early meteor across the heavens. But the great glory of Mozart's achievement is that it was overall a marvelous trajectory of ascent, and in the last decade of his life, he turned out work upon work of imposing genius, with no musical burnout in sight. "The life of Mozart," says Peter Gay in his sprightly Penguin biography, "is the triumph of genius over precociousness." And of all the great composers, remarks Brendel, Mozart is the one he most regrets dying young.
It might also be noted at this point that, contrary to the myth of the childlike idiot savant who simply transcribes whole what is visited upon him by the Muse—a view not discouraged by Amadeus—Mozart worked very hard at his craft. Not only was he well-grounded by his musician father, but he spent many formative hours poring over and even copying out the music of others, which made him, already as a child, an astonishingly adept imitator. "People make a great mistake," he once complained in a letter to his father, "who think that my art has come easily to me. Nobody has devoted so much time and thought to compositions as I. There is not a famous master whose music I have not studied over and over." True, he often composed at blazing speed. And true, he may not have sketched his compositions with all the agonized deliberation of a Beethoven. But sketch he did, often in bits and pieces awaiting just the right commission or needed piece for one of his own performances. One of the major moves of his career, inspired by his rediscovering Bach, was to begin appropriating his early study of counterpoint, as demonstrated, for example, in the tremendous fugal tour de force that is the final movement of the "Jupiter" symphony (K551).
But hard work notwithstanding, little "Wolfgangerl" was spectacularly precocious, spending hours at the keyboard at three and composing at four or five. Reported a contemporary English observer of the boy's ability simply to sight-read:
Suppose, then, a capital speech in Shakespeare never seen before, and yet read by a child of eight years old, with all the pathetic energy of Garrick. Let it be conceived likewise, that the same child is reading, with a glance of his eye, three different comments on this speech tending to its illustration; and that one comment is written in Greek, the second in Hebrew, and the third in Etruscan characters… . When all this is conceived, it will convey some idea of what this boy was capable of.
No one needed less convincing than Mozart's father Leopold, who pronounced his son "a miracle which God has allowed to see the light of day in Salzburg," and in 1762 took his six-year-old prodigy, along with his also greatly gifted older sister Maria Anna ("Nannerl"), on a veritable vaudeville tour of Munich and later of Vienna. There they performed and did musical stunts to the wonderment of the wealthy and the aristocratic, including the Austrian empress Maria Theresa (who nonetheless found the boy's presumption annoying). This was followed a year later by a grand three-year tour that took in Paris, London (where Mozart met Johann Christian Bach, the youngest son of Johann Sebastian), various German cities, Brussels, and Holland (where father and son, always aiming to please, collaborated on a piece that ended with the Dutch national anthem!). Later, from December 1769 to March 1773, father and son embarked on three separate trips to Italy, where Mozart studied counterpoint with the Italian composer Martini and at age fourteen was received and knighted by Pope Clement XIV.
Such extravagant exposure is, of course, hard on emotionally vulnerable children, and, especially in this current time of theologizing about children, Mozart might be seen as kind of poster child of adult exploitation, from which—for better or worse musically—he never really recovered. There seems no doubt that his relationship with his father was the pivotal relationship of his life, and scholars have expended much ink parsing and differing over it. Maynard Solomon's magisterial Mozart: A Life is especially attuned to its psychological dynamics, beginning with an absorbing chapter on the "Myth of the Eternal Child." The truth seems to be that Leopold was a deeply ambiguous figure in Mozart's life, whose approval Mozart desperately needed and from whose authority he also struggled all his life to work free. Solomon suggests that this tension, for all its anxiety, may in fact have been profoundly generative in Mozart's music.
On the one hand, Leopold surely loved his son, a love devotedly reciprocated. And without his father, Mozart's prodigious talent might not have flourished as it did. No mean musician himself, as deputy kapellmeister to the Salzburg court and the author of a well-regarded treatise on the art of violin playing, Leopold early recognized his son's gift and nurtured it with all that he had, copying out and dating all the boy's fledgling little scores and providing the proper musical grounding and discipline. A close family friend, himself a musician, tells the touching story of Mozart's first attempt (he was four years old) at what he called a "concerto":
His father took [the piece of paper] from him and showed me a smudge of notes, most of which were written over inkblots that he had rubbed out. At first we laughed at what seemed pure gibberish, but his father then began to observe the most important matter, the notes and music, and then tears, tears of joy and wonder, fell from his eyes. Look, Herr Schachtner, [he] said, see how correctly and properly it is all written, only it can't be used, for it is so very difficult that no one could play it. Wolfgangerl said: That's why it's a concerto, you must practice it till you can get it right, look, that's how it goes. He played, and managed to bring out just enough to give us a notion of what he intended.
But if Leopold was nurturing, he was also possessive and controlling. The story of Mozart's enduring childlike devotion to his father ("After God comes Papa") and his struggle for maturity and independence is one of the poignant narratives of music history. And if Mozart had a nemesis, it was not Salieri, about whom there is no compelling evidence at all of malice, but Leopold, whom Amadeus does dramatically conflate with the terrifying statue of the dead Commendatore in Don Giovanni, Mozart's accusing father brought back to life on stage.
On the surface, the issue was Leopold's ambition for the money and status he depended on his son to provide (and he was clearly obsessed with both). It was also, let it be said, about Mozart's own tendencies toward impracticality and fecklessness. The infantile scatological brat of Amadeus is a caricature, but probably by not as much as we would like. In any case, as Solomon brilliantly explores, the father's need to control and to keep the son dependent probably went deep and was a source of abiding anxiety and pain in Mozart's life. "Mozart," suggests Solomon, "had the impossible task of trying somehow to rid himself of a malignant intruder without simultaneously annihilating himself." As for Leopold, there is no doubt that, whatever the growing alienation at one level, his son remained, as Solomon further says, the supreme and defining passion of his life.
The decisive break with his father came in 1781, when, to Leopold's consternation, Mozart, by then twenty-five, managed to get himself dismissed for the second time by their mutual employer in Salzburg, the Archbishop Colleredo—this time with a literal kick in the rear from the archbishop's chamberlain. Though the compositions of the time do not reflect it—including some of his best-known religious works like the Exultate, jubilate (K165) and the "Coronation" Mass (K137), as well as the splendid Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola, and orchestra (K364)—Mozart detested (and not altogether fairly) the archbishop and the city of Salzburg for, in his view, failing to appreciate him as much as he was feted elsewhere in Europe. It is a nice irony of history that the Salzburg that will so festively have celebrated its most famous son in 2006 was disdained by Mozart himself, a compliment at first returned by the city: Solomon notes that a two-volume guidebook to Salzburg published in 1792 and 1793, within two years of Mozart's death, contains not a single reference to the composer.
At the time he was so ignominiously booted out by the archbishop, Mozart was already living in Vienna, where he remained for the rest of his life. And as if leaving home and a secure position in Salzburg was not enough of a blow to Leopold, Mozart quickly confirmed his father's worst fears about losing parental control by marrying, against Leopold's adamant objections, Constanze Weber, with whose family he had sometimes stayed. Mozart had earlier—to his father's alarm and disgust—carried on an exceedingly robust affair with a cousin, documented in some of the most startlingly silly and off-color love letters on record, and later with Constanze's older sister Aloysia, a cooler beauty and a talented singer (she later sang lead roles in several of Mozart's operas), who eventually rejected him. Constanze, the fall-back choice, was no great beauty, Mozart wrote ungallantly to his father, but their marriage seems to have been a happy one, whatever the strains of trying to make ends meet through uncertain commissions.
For his part, Leopold—convinced that Mozart had married beneath his station and threatened by this rival loyalty—never accepted her or the Mozart children (four of whom died very young), and neither did Mozart's beloved sister Nannerl,3 who had over the years come to side with her father. Father and son remained in touch through the occasional visit and through correspondence, and Leopold availed himself of other means as well to keep track of Mozart's life, professional and otherwise, but the relationship was irreparably broken. Leopold died in 1787 at age 67—only four years, it turned out, before the death of Mozart himself.
Notwithstanding mounting difficulties in his personal life, Mozart's years living in Vienna, including visits to Prague and elsewhere, were for the most part marked by stupendous creativity up to the very end. They yielded, among many other works, four of his operas, The Marriage of Figaro, Don Giovanni, La clemenza di Tito, and The Magic Flute; his mature symphonies, from the "Haffner" (No. 35) to the G-Minor (No. 40) and the "Jupiter" (No. 41); most of the marvelous piano concertos, most notable, perhaps, Nos. 20-27; the six string quartets dedicated to his revered Haydn,4 including the "Hunt" and the "Dissonant"; five of his six string quintets, including the incomparably melancholy K516 in G Minor, ending with two, back-to-back adagios; the two piano quartets; his Clarinet Quintet (K581) and Clarinet Concerto (K622); and his two greatest choral works, the C-Minor Mass (K427) and the Requiem (K626), both, sadly, left unfinished, the former for reasons unknown and the latter because at his death he had simply run out of time.
The romantic myth of Mozart, exploited to some degree by Amadeus, gives us a Mozart wan and wasted at the end, neglected by a Philistine public, struggling with undeserved debt, working desperately for money in his final days on an anonymously and mysteriously commissioned requiem that he came to believe would be for himself, dying destitute and therefore being buried in a pauper's grave, and borne there shamefully in an unescorted hearse, bereft even of his wife and friends.
Not quite. It is true that Mozart never, whatever his fame—and he truly was famous in his own lifetime—landed the prestigious and financially secure appointment as a musician that he hoped for and thought he deserved. This is partly why the prudent Leopold so vehemently resisted his leaving the paid position he had in Salzburg for what he saw as the occupational uncertainties of Vienna—a worry that proved quite justified in the end. Mozart never enjoyed the acceptance in the royal court that several of his more conventional but drastically less gifted competitors—including Salieri—did, and for the rest of his life, he had to rely on somewhat erratic commissions from wealthy patrons, on fees from publishers and concerts, and on giving lessons. But he did in fact receive a number of commissions and had public success with a number of his works, especially the operas. And if he struggled with persistent and humiliating debt, despondency, and (perhaps related) uncertain health, the problem, at least in part, was that he was a spendthrift and an atrocious manager of money who never got past the taste for finery he developed in his much-indulged youth, when he was the darling of the rich and famous and dressed the part. His means in Vienna were not ample, but neither, it seems, were they as hopelessly inadequate as his debts implied.
As to the Requiem and the circumstances of his death, Mozart did evidently come to suspect, as he became progressively ill, that he really was writing it for himself. He also worried that he was being poisoned. But there is no evidence of poisoning, and certainly there is no evidence, though rumors started early, of any foul play from Salieri, who seemed to remain a genuine admirer to the end. In fact, Mozart reports personally picking him up for a performance of The Magic Flute. The most plausible cause of death was acute rheumatic fever, of which there were many other fatal cases in Vienna at the time, this perhaps abetted by the ghastly practice of bloodletting. Mozart died, after fifteen days of worsening illness, on December 5, 1791. He was not quite thirty-six. That his funeral was small—probably only family and a few friends—and his burial in an unmarked communal grave (inexpensive but not a pauper's) may simply have been in keeping with the current practice of discouraging lavish ceremony and interment and may have reflected Mozart's own preference for simplicity. Nor was it unusual then for a hearse to proceed unescorted to the cemetery.
Constanze Mozart outlived her husband by fifty-one years, seeing to the disposition of his manuscripts and otherwise to his legacy. One of her first acts, desperate as she was for money, was to ask Mozart's pupil Franz Xaver Süssmayr to finish the Requiem for the anonymous commissioner, who, it came to be known, was a certain Count Walsegg, who hoped to pass off the work as his own. The "Süssmayr" version, however unsatisfactory in many respects, is still performed today, though other attempts have also been made to fill out and properly orchestrate the score, a recent notable one by Robert Levin of Harvard. Eventually, Constanze married a Dane, Georg Nikolaus Nissen, who wrote an early life of Mozart, to which, as the overly devoted—and financially adroit—widow, she contributed intimate but unreliable and romanticized information.
And what of the music? Scholarship on Mozart—musical as well as biographical—is complex and not without debate, sometimes acrimonious. But certain matters are simply factual and about others there is broad consensus. Hardly anyone would question that at his best—which was a great deal of the time, especially in his last decade—Mozart wrote brilliantly in virtually every genre he tried—from opera to choral music, from symphony to concerto, from chamber music to works for solo instruments. He brought opera to a height that has been equaled but never surmounted, and while he did not invent the classical symphony (Haydn and other predecessors did), he brought to it an organizational and expressive power that, again, has never been exceeded. The symphonies of a Beethoven or a Brahms or a Bruckner are not greater than Mozart's—only different, though sometimes in his debt. And while his five violin concertos came relatively early and are not among his very greatest compositions, the last three, especially, are splendid enough. Not to mention his glorious clarinet concerto (and quintet) and the four concertos for horn. His six string quartets dedicated to Haydn, who was essentially the father of this genre, match the standard of their dedicatee, however different they are, and stand as landmarks of their own on this lofty terrain. His string quintets—for which Mozart added a second viola to the string quartet—are among the greatest ever written. His two piano quartets broke new ground in treating keyboard and strings as equal, fully interacting partners. His music for solo piano includes a number of wonderful works, among them the driving and intense Sonata in A minor (K310), written around the time of his mother's death. This sonata is matched in power, intensity, and pathos by the C-minor Sonata (K457) and the C-Minor Fantasy (475), published and often performed together (though some pianists, such as Brendel and, before him, Artur Schnabel, think that this is a mistake, given the autonomous character of each). Also among his finest piano works are the haunting Rondo in A major (K511) and the B-minor Adagio (K540).
And, finally, the piano concertos. Mozart was preeminently a pianist, one of the most celebrated of his day, and if he did not originate the string quartet, he did invent the modern piano concerto. And whatever the earlier beauties of, say, Nos. 9, 15, 17, and 19, the later ones, from the dramatic No. 20 in D minor (K466) to the utterly serene No. 27 in B flat major (K595), remain, over 250 years later, at the pinnacle of this form.
As for the particular qualities of Mozart's music, such things are impossible to describe without a musician's knowledge, but certain features can perhaps be safely mentioned. For one thing, it is often said—though differences may arise here, too—that Mozart was not so much a musical revolutionary as he was a magnificent explorer of existing modes. He was not a Beethoven or a Wagner. This is certainly the view expressed by Julian Rushton, in his study of Mozart published this year: "He adopted conventions more than he adapted them, and was certainly no reformer. But as he developed in his middle years (from his late teens), each of his works becomes increasingly individualized rather than merely representative of a type."
Then, too, as we noted earlier, Mozart was a consummate craftsman, thoroughly schooled in the conventions of his art, which got him by in his less inspired moments, but was crucial as well in his greatest work. Says the eminent pianist and scholar Charles Rosen, in a recent article in The New York Review of Books:
Long phrases of absolutely conventional figuration and banal motifs articulate his works at the end of short sections, and give the structure its clarity…. Writing about Mozart, we are always tempted to dwell on the extraordinary purple passages without noticing that in every case they are followed or preceded by the most conventional devices. They complement and support each other.
Another feature to be noted about Mozart's music is that it is not confessional or otherwise easy to relate to his personal life and emotional states (or, for that matter, to anything in the outside world of his day). He was capable of producing radically different kinds of music at the same time. In fact, he seems in general to have composed quite oblivious to his surroundings, sometimes interrupting the billiards of which he was fond, and not against knocking off to go to a party. Nor is his music didactic, as Bach's, even at its most towering, so often was: Mozart composed no Well-Tempered Clavier. Nor, finally, is his music programmatic in the sense of imitating nature, as was quite fashionable in his day—no storms, no babbling brooks, no twittering birds. He would not have composed Haydn's Creation or Seasons or Beethoven's "Pastoral" symphony.
Alfred Brendel calls Mozart (as opposed to Haydn and Beethoven) a vocal composer, by which he means, at least in part, quintessentially melodic. This is hardly surprising, given Mozart's natural gifts for opera—and, indeed, Mozart, like Schubert, is superlatively melodic. That the sentimental Sixties film Elvira Madigan is known at all today has little to do with the film and everything to do with its use of the lilting theme of the second movement of the piano concerto No. 21 (K467), now ubiquitously called the "Elvira Madigan." The sheer surface beauty of Mozart's themes can, in fact, be a trap for both the undiscerning performer and the listener, diverting attention from other aspects of the music, some of them overt but others subtly underlying. Mozart was a master of dissonance and chromaticism and used them frequently. Performances of Mozart can easily become soft and prettified, lacking the necessary backbone, tension, and edge.
Finally, Mozart's music, whatever its emotional drive, is remarkable for its clarity and transparency and for its wonderful structure and poise. For this reason, it has often benefited from the contemporary move toward historically informed performance, using the authentic instruments of Mozart's time or scaled-back ensembles of modern instruments. The creamy, homogenized sound produced by a large modern orchestra can obscure the intricacies of Mozart's textures, and it is quite a different experience to hear Eine Kleine Nachtmusic (K525) played by, on the one hand, Christopher Hogwood and the Academy of Ancient Music5 or Charles Mackerras and the Prague Chamber Orchestra and, on the other hand, by Herbert Von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic. Brendel remarks on the sheer technical difficulty of playing Mozart well, given the pristine clarity and perfection of the writing. Whatever the pianist does is mercilessly exposed, there being no obscuring washes of sound behind which to hide. Artur Schnabel famously quipped that Mozart was too easy for children and too difficult for artists.
As to structure, balance, and poise, it is hardly possible to imagine music more finished than Mozart's. Everything seems fluently worked out and, even at its most impulsive, never strained and out of control. George Bernard Shaw once wrote a zestful piece on what he called Mozart's "gentleness," by which he meant equanimity and poise—a notion perhaps not too far afield from Barth's "good and ordered world."
We began this essay with Shaw. Let us give him the last word as well—which he usually took in any case:
In the ardent regions where all the rest are excited and vehement, Mozart alone is completely self-possessed: where they are clutching their bars with a grip of iron and forging them with Cyclopean blows, his gentleness of touch never deserts him: he is considerate, economical, practical under the same pressure of inspiration that throws your Titan into convulsions. This is the secret of his unpopularity with Titan fanciers. We all in our native barbarism have a relish for the strenuous: your tenor whose B flat is like the bursting of a boiler always brings down the house, even when the note brutally effaces the song: and the composer who can artistically express in music a transport of vigor and passion of a more muscular kind … is always a hero with the intemperate in music.
As for Shaw, he prefers a calmer, more "Parnassian air":
Give me the artist who breathes it like a native, and goes about his work in it as quietly as a common man goes about his ordinary business. Mozart did so; and that is why I like him.
"Even if I did not," he adds, "I should pretend to; for a taste in his music is a mark of caste among musicians, and should be worn, like a tall hat, by the amateur who wishes to pass for a true Brahmin."
Jon Pott is Vice-President and Editor-in-Chief of the Eerdmans Publishing Company. Late at night, he seeks relief from manuscripts by listening to music.
1. "K" stands for Köchel. In one of history's more useful retirement projects, Ludwig von Köchel (1800-1877) compiled a list of all of Mozart's then-known works, arranged as best as Köchel could chronologically. Though revised on later occasions, it remains the standard way of cataloguing and identifying Mozart's compositions.
2. Küng also engages Wolfgang Hildesheimer, whose deeply appreciative Mozart is at the same time a sustained, and often acerbic, debunking of the romanticized and, as he sees it, spiritualized Mozart. Here is Hildesheimer's disdainful comment on Barth's notion of what music the angels play in heaven: "I am a stranger to those spheres, but can visualize a pretty picture: I see God like Rembrandt's Saul enjoying the music of David's harp, lost in the thought that one ought perhaps to have done something for this divine musician during his earthly life."
3. An extended treatment of Nannerl, Constanze, and the wide circle of other women who played an important part in Mozart's life (some of them, no doubt, inspiring his most memorable operatic roles—and even singing them) can be found in Jane Glover's Mozart's Women. An interesting subject for speculation is the question of how the very gifted Nannerl might have flourished in a more egalitarian society.
4. The admiration was mutual. "Before God and as an honest man," Haydn is reported to have said to Leopold, in an extraordinarily generous compliment from an older great composer to a younger one, "I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or in name."
5. The Hogwood recording, with original instruments, uses only the so-called "serenade quartet"—two violins, viola, and double bass—plus a cello, yielding a wonderfully transparent sound.
Copyright © 2006 by the author or Christianity Today/Books & Culture magazine.
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