What Makes Mozart Unique?

By January 14, 2011Music

A recent article in Minneapolis’ Star Tribune explores what makes Mozart unique as the city’s orchestra prepares to devote two entire weeks to his symphonies, sonatas and operas, including “The Magic Flute”.

The article’s author, Graydon Royce, opens the discussion with the following: “Ask the average chap on the street to name a composer. Research shows that you’d be wise to bet on two guys: Beethoven and Mozart. Take nothing away from the Bachs, Handels, Haydns and Tchaikovskys. Somehow, though, Ludwig and Wolfgang Amadeus have worked their way into the highest levels of Western consciousness.”

To help answer the question of why this is, he interviewed music expert Phil Gainsley, who said, “I love Beethoven, I love Rachmaninoff; my desert-island composer is probably Tchaikovsky, and yet with Mozart, it’s the dessert…There’s something on a different level with Mozart.”

Royce also spoke to pianist Lydia Artymiw, who believes that it is Mozart’s melodies that stand above everything else.  “Mozart is always about melody…Beethoven is rhythm, and if you don’t have good rhythm, you don’t have Beethoven. But Mozart always has beautiful melodies.”  She cites his lyricism, his ear for voice and his knack for switching the mood of a melody in a split second as his unique composing traits.

While Mozart’s fellow composers, such as Hadyn, paved the way for classical compositions, it was Mozart who advanced them.

The article contends that Mozart’s expertise was in opera and that “The Magic Flute makes” it difficult to classify his writing in just one way, according to Gainsley.  “It was almost a burlesque when he wrote it, not on the level of ‘Figaro’ or ‘Don Giovanni’ or ‘Cosi Fan Tutte,’” he says. “But if you delve into it, it is very symbolic about right vs. wrong and dark vs. light.”

Gainsley says that part of Mozart’s genius was making such complicated passages appear to be so simple and says there is a satisfaction he derives from Mozart that he can’t replicate anywhere else.

What do you think it is about Mozart’s music that sets him apart from other classical composers?  Even now, more than 200 years after his death, why do you think his music still resonates so strongly with us?


Source: Star Tribune

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