Monday, November 7, 2011

Finding Mozart wanting

It is fun once in a while to see something from a totally different perspective from yours.

I just had that experience with the church music of Mozart.

I love Mozart's church music. Just today I heard the famous Alleluia from "Exultate, Jubilate." I love that piece, the joyous faith that shines through it.

Once I wrote about how much I love the "Coronation" Mass.

And then of course, the Requiem.

Then I see this write-up in this Catholic encyclopedia site.

They generally praise Mozart, calling him one of the greatest geniuses of history. They sum up his childhood, his works, his operas. Then ...

Mozart's individuality was of an exquisitely delicate, tender, and noble character. His operas, "Don Juan", "The Magic Flute", "The Marriage of Figaro", "Cosi fan tutte", "La Clemenza di Tito", on account of their melodic beauty and truth of expression, have as strong a hold upon the affections of the musical public today as they did at the end of the eighteenth century. His instrumental works continue to delightmusicians the world over. As a composer for the Church, however, he does not, even artistically, reach the high level he maintained in other fields. In his day the music of the ChurchGregorian chant, was practically ignored in Germany, and sadly neglected in other countries. Mozart had but little knowledge of the masters of the sixteenth century, and consequently his style of writing for the Church could not have been influenced by them. The proper of the Mass, which brings singers and congregation in intimate touch with the liturgyof the particular day, was rarely sung. The fifteen masses, litanies, offertories, his great "Requiem", as well as many smaller settings, most of them written for soli, chorus, and orchestra, in the identical style of his secular works, do not reflect the spirit of the universal Church, but rather the subjective conception and mood of the composer and the Josephinist spirit of the age. What Mozart, with his Raphaelesque imagination and temperament, would have been for church music had he lived at a different time and in different surroundings, or risenabove his own, can easily be imagined.


(This is me again, though the type is still changed.)

It is funny, some talking head out there regretting that Mozart did not live up to his potential as a Catholic composer.

You have to respect someone coming from completely another viewpoint like that! Even though I do not quite agree with it. I have wondered about Gregorian chant, about how much Mozart and Beethoven knew of Gregorian chant. I have had my hunches but I have not had time to research it. Perhaps this answers that question!

But you know what, in light of the music I grew up with, it seems unfair to find Mozart's Church music wanting. To say it does not reflect the "Universal Church."

I suppose "Table of Plenty" reflects the Universal Church. Because we still hear that all the time, you know?

I grew up with "Blowin' in the Wind" played at Mass.

It is funny, no one criticizes this stuff, but oh, they throw the book at Mozart.

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