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Thursday, January 05, 2006
The world is set to celebrate the composer's birth 250 years ago this month, but he is nothing but "the superstore wallpaper of classical music'.

They are steam cleaning the streets of Vienna ahead of this month's birthday weekend when pilgrim walks are planned around the composer's shrines. Salzburg is rolling out brochures for its 2006 summer festival, which will stage every opera in the Kochel canon from infantile fragments to "THe Magic Flute", 22 in all. Pierre Boulez, the pope of musical modernism, will break 80 years of principal abstinence to conduct a mostly Mozart concert, a celebrity virgin on the altar of musical commerce.

Wherever you go in the coming year, you won't escape Mozart. The 250th anniversary of the birth on January 27,1756, is being celebrated with joyless efficiency as a tourist magnet to the land of his birth and a universal sales pitch for his overworked output. The complete 626 works are bneing marketed on record in two special offer super coffers. All the world's orchestras will be playing Mozart, wall to wall, starting with the Vienna Philarmonic on tour this weekend.

Mozart is the superstore wall paper of classical music, the composer who pleases most and offends least. Lively, melodic, dissonance free; what's not to like? The music is not just charming, it's full of good vibes. The Mozart effect, an American resource center which ascribes "transformational powers" to Austria's little wonderland, collects empirical evidence to show that Mozart, but to other music, improve learning, memory, wringrowing and toilet raining and should be drummed into classes of pregnant mothers like breathing exercises.

A "molecualr basis" identified in Mozart's sonata for two pianos is supposed to have stimulated exceptional brain activity in laboratory rats. How can one argue with such "proof"? Science, after all, confirms what we want to believe -- that art is good for us and that Mozart, in his short lived naivete, represents an ideal of organic beauty, unpolluted by industrial filth and loss of faith. Nice, if only it were true.

Rhe chocolate boxes image of Mozart as a little miracle can be promplty banged on the head. This hard knocks son of a cynical court musician, Mozart was taught from first principles to ingratiate himself musically with people of wealth and power. The boy, on tour from age 5, hopped into the laps of queens and palyed limped consolations to ruthless monarchs. Recognzing that his music was bette than most, he took pleasure in humiliating court rivals and crudely abused them in letters back home.

An obsession with bodily functions, accurately evidenced in Peter Shaffer's play and Milos Forman's movie "Amadeus", was a clear sign of arrested emotional development. His marriage proved unstable and his inability to control the large amounts he earned from wealthy Viennese patrons was a symptoms of the infantile behaviour that hastened his early death and pauper burial. Musical genius he may have been, but Mozart was no Einstein. For secrets of the universe, seek elsewhere.

The key test of any composer's importance is the extent to which he reshaped the art. Mozart, it is safe to say, failed to take music one step forward. Unlike Bach and Handel, who inherited a dying legacy and vitalized it beyond recognition, inlike Haydn, who invented the sonata form without which music would never have acquired its classical dimension. Mozart merely filled the space between staves with chords that he knew would gratify a pampered audience. He was a provider of easy listening, a progenitor of Muzak.

Some scholars have claimed revolutionary propensities for Mazart, but that is whc=shful nonsense. His operas of knowing servants and stupid masters were conceived by Da Ponte, a renegade priest, from plays by Beaumachais and Ariostor; and, while Mozaet once indulged in backchat to the all high Emperor Joseph II, j=he knew all too well were his breakfast brioche was buttered. He lcaked the rage of justice that pushed Beethoven into isolation, or any urge to change the world. He was not so much reactionary as regressive a composer content to keep music in a state of servility as long as it kept him well supplied with frilled cuffs and fancy quills.

Little in such a mediocre lie gives cause for celebration and little indeed was done to mark the centenary of his brith, in 1856, or death in 1891. The band wagon of Mozart commemortions was invented by the Nazis in 1941 and fueled by post war rivalries in 1956 when Deutsche Grammophone rose form ruins to beat the busy British labels. EMI and Decca, to a first recorded cycle of the Da Ponte operas.

The 1891 bicentennial of Mzart's death turned Salzburg into a swamp of bad tast and cupidity. The wrold premiere of a kitsch opera, "Mozart in New York" had me checking my watch every five unending minutes. A new phenomenon. Calssic FM, laucned in 1992 on the Mozart tide, ensured that we would never be more than a fingerstretch away from the neares marzipan chord.

What odd all thsi Mozart does is disputable. For all the pseudoscience of the Mozart Effect I have yet to see as life elevated by Cosi fan tutte or a criminal reformed by the plinks of a flute and harp concerto. Where 10 days of Bach and England's BBC rado 3 will flush out the world's ears and open minds to limitless vistas, the coming year of Mazart feels like a term at Gauntanamo Bay without the sunshine. There will be no refuge from nearly resovled chirds, not excaping that ingratiating musical grin.

Don't look to mass media for context or quality control. Both the BBC and independent channels have rejected any critical perspective that regurgitate familiar cliches. In this orgy of simple mindedness, the concurrent centenary of Dmitri Shostakovich -- a composer of trure courage and historical significance -- is being shunted to the sidelines, celberated by the few.

Mozart is a menace to musical progress, a relic of rituals that were losing relevance in hos own time and are meaningless to ours. Beyond a superficial beauty and structural certainty, Mozart has nothing to give to mind or spirit in the 21st century. Let him rest. Ignore the commercial onslaught. Play the Leningrad Symphony. Listen to music that matters.

(Source:CHICSUNTIMES/ by: Norman Lebrecht/LaScenaMusicale)
posted by infraternam meam @ 11:29 PM  
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Name: infraternam meam
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About Me: I am now at the prime of my life and have been married for the past 25 years. Sickly at times, but wants to see the elixir vita, so that I will be able to see my grandchildren from my two boys.
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