Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Mozart's magic

What with today being Mozart's birthday I have to tell a Mozart story. Above is a sexy statue of Mozart that you can see in Vienna. I saw it there. I made the pilgrimage. But that is not what this story is about.

This story takes place here in Buffalo.

Once I was at the Twentieth Century Club giving a talk. That is a picture of the Twentieth Century Club up above. It is an august Buffalo women's club. And after my talk we all gathered for lunch in this beautiful dining room. We all started drinking white wine and as the saying goes, in vino veritas.

In wine, truth!

The conversation turned to Mozart and we began discussing his marriage. That is what happens when women get together. And this one woman went onto this tear about how she didn't think Constanze was right for Mozart, she did not think Constanze had a proper appreciation of his music, she did not think Constanze was good at running the household, etc.

That is a picture of Constanze. I started to defend her. But in the middle of it I realized I was doing that mostly out of duty. Then it hit me: Here it is 200 years after this guy lived, and look... we are all a little in love with him!

It is the truth! And there was something very touching about this woman carrying on about Constanze to me. This elegant, wise, worldly woman, and here she is emotionally involved with this musician who died over two centuries ago. As am I! I admit it!

When I view the situation rationally, though, I like Mozart for marrying Constanze. She was this ordinary girl from this middle-class German family, from the town of Mannheim. Her sister, the girl he was originally in love with, was a dazzling singer. But still. Look at their last name, Weber. It means "weaver" and it is a plain-Jane Buffalo name. Like Weber's mustard. We all know people named Weber.

Mozart chose this Weber girl and he settled down with her and he was happy. That beats Beethoven who, for all his carrying on about defying nobility, always fell in love with noblewomen he could not have. Again and again he broke his heart doing that. Deep down he was impressed by nobility far more than Mozart was.

Here is a Mozart piece I fell in love with when I was 14 that I do not think we hear nearly enough. It is hard to play which might explain that. There is this passionate part that begins at around 2:00 into the piece, and then again at ... let's see ... 5:38. Look at Isaac Stern's face as he plays it. He feels it too!

I am fussy about that passage because I love it so much. It is like looking right into the face of absolute beauty. Here is another recording I like because the violinist digs into it more. They do not credit the violinist but he or she reminds me of the performance I loved as a kid, by Josef Suk. I still think that performance by Suk was the best I ever heard. I only owned it on a scratchy terribly primitive homemade cassette I made when I was 14. But I kept coming back to it and now I can hear it in my head.

One of the greatest things about that piece is how it ends.

It leaves you wondering.

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