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Why is Mozart such a big deal?


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Initial post: Jan 9, 2013 3:11:06 PM PST
Ataraxia says:
Mozart has some very pretty music. He was a consummate craftsman. There is even a handful of very profound and almost spiritual works. But mostly, it seems to me like just pretty fluff. Alot of it just humorous, lighthearted, and even just funny. I am not sure how it's considered "serious" music. It seems like the equivalent of pop music of the day, especially when you compare him to the complexity and sophistication of a Bach, or the profound soul-searching of a Beethoven or Brahms.

Why is he considered a "serious" composer?

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 3:17:54 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 3:19:03 PM PST
Mahlerian says:
Mozart was a consummate craftsman. He wrote music of excellent quality that frequently pushed the boundaries of what was considered acceptable, with sudden bursts of chromatic harmony and unpredictable modulations. Above all, he wrote with such a high level of polish that he managed to outshine his peers (save, perhaps, for Haydn).

He did write some very light fluffy music, with little depth.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3bMjF1xfWB4

He also wrote music of depth and refinement, and the surface sheen or outwardly sunny disposition of much of it should not hide this fact.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jTjcYIec9Tg

It is serious music because it is seriously conceived and written, just as the great works of Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms are. It may be pretty, but it is certainly not merely pretty.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 3:43:18 PM PST
[Deleted by Amazon on Nov 26, 2013 10:12:10 AM PST]

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 4:26:37 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 4:27:51 PM PST
Rustic says:
one way to discover how brilliant mozart was would be to check out composers of his day. check out their output. after a while you may find yourself drifting a little. a few symphonies, a few pieces of chamber music, then you're done. you might feel that after a few of their pieces you get the idea of what they're all about, you get the message , and you've had enough.

then you discover mozart wrote a cycle of sonatas for piano, symphonies, string quartets, sacred music, piano concertos, operas, violin concertos, string quintets, piano trios and quartets, violin sonatas, and tons of various chamber music, all by the age of 35. then you might think, ok, that's a lot of music but is it anything worth while? well, go back to comparing mozart to composers of his day. you might discover that mozart had his own voice, his own style, and his output was just plain higher quality than others.

in a nutshell, mozart has earned his place in musical history. discover his symphonies, concerti, piano music, operas, chamber music, and try to fathom how he managed to accumulate such an amazing output in his short life. spend the time on his music that he deserves.

i don't blame you for questioning this. i too questioned his contributions to music. but that was before i put the time in to discover his genius (years probably). now i am enlightened.

unfortunately, classical music requires you to put the time in to discover and appreciate. we don't get it slammed in our faces like pop music. but i guess that's part of the journey. i hope you discover the genius of mozart. there's a lot of music to explore.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 6:46:38 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 6:47:35 PM PST
Tero says:
I don't really buy into the concept of serious music. But on the other hand I see music as essential personally.

For people for whom music is the major part of life, they would make it whether they got paid or not. Some music composed for pay these days is really awful, yet made by music professionals.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 7:00:34 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 7:18:43 PM PST
Larkinfield says:
My favorite of all, virtually everything I have of his - the numerous symphonies, concertos, piano sonatas, operas, string quartets - sublime with supreme taste, skill and musicality - the only composer I can bear listening to when everyone else begins to sound exaggerated or stale - the golden mean, the Occam's Razor of music, with every note essential, radiating the irrepressible energy of eternal youth. Mozart was also a member of the metaphysical spiritual society of the Masons and wrote compositions on their behalf. So there were private, serious depths to his nature as a person and musician, and some of these works may require that one search them out. Mozart: The Complete Masonic Music

There are superb Mozart performances by Neville Marriner, starting with his enormously accessible efforts on the movie 'Amadeus', plus by Bruno Walter, Giulini, Horowitz, Uchida, Arrau, Brendel, and many others, on and on...

I consider Mozart's gifts heavenly divine, heavenly bestowed, great to the point of ever being adequately described or appreciated, and yet I didn't care for him at all or understand the extent of his genius for many years. Then there was an epiphany. But I do not consider him a "craftsman" in the same sense of working and shaping his ideas like Haydn or Beethoven labored over. His inspiration seemed more immediately formed, though enough sketch leaves of various sorts survive to enable us to see that, although Mozart never sketched to the extent that, for instance, Beethoven did, he used sketches in various ways throughout his career.

I consider him supreme among composers, because (for me) he had a wider emotional range, more humor, than Bach. Beethoven was influenced by Mozart's genius even late in life. As preparation for his Missa Solemnis, he immersed himself in an intensive study of the religious music of the past, from monastic chants to Handel's Messiah and the Mozart Requiem, portions of which he copied out; Chopin held Bach and Mozart in supreme regard, and while no composer is universally loved or without criticism, his genius has been a frequent source of wonder over the last 200 years.

"Your countenance...was so grave that many intelligent persons, seeing your talent developed so early and your face always thoughtful and serious, were concerned for the length of your life." -Leopold Mozart, in a letter to his son. ♬

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 7:17:28 PM PST
barbW says:
It's difficult to develop an convincing answer for you. Listen to just the piano concerti over and over for a year or so and get a sense of what he was communicating about human experiences and natural reality.
His language was appropriate for his audience AND it was satisfactory for his higher purposes. Bach had failed in this. Beethoven didn't seem to care.
Haydn is even more of an acquired taste (a difficult nut to crack, he was guarded and in the shadow of his young friend), and so, he's not appreciated as well for his achievements for the masses (popular pieces).

It's advisable to ask a musician who's studied and interpreted Mozart for 50 years or more, what it is they personally would share with you about his body of work.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 7:45:13 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 10:12:38 PM PST
John Ruggeri says:
I have mixed feelings for Wolfy - his piano - violin , chamber- symphonic music in general sends me to the higher reaches of aesthetic pleasures.
His operas I find mostly boring despite some interesting pieces in them.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 7:52:04 PM PST
J. Nelson says:
I find Mozart's Symphonies the least repetitive and his concertos the most repetitive. At least his early piano concertos and Violin Concertos are quite dull imo. But by PC 20, he added a lot more variety to it. So yeah mixed feelings for me as well.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 8:27:21 PM PST
HB says:
I suggest that the OP writer listen to Mozart's justly famous K. 165, the Exsultate Jubilate. Written when Mozart was only 17, it has both serious and lighter moments. It is a brilliant work. I have been listening to it for better than 40 years and I never tire of it. Mozart wrote 17 masses plus the unfinished Requiem. True, his music is not as consistenly serious as that of Beethoven and Brahms but he composed in a different era and he wrote one great masterpiece after another. A true genius.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 8:38:37 PM PST
Ataraxia says:
Thanks everyone for your insights. I want to make it clear that I certainly appreciate some of his works as quite sublime. But much of the rest of it just seems like pretty dinner time background music, not "serious" concert hall music.

Someone here asked earlier what I mean by "serious". Let me see if I can give an example. Brahms, for example, had huge popular success with his Hungarian Dances. They were pretty, they had catchy tunes, they were expertly crafted and orchestrated. The public couldn't get enough of them and kept clamoring for more. He was making good money off of them.

But after a while, despite their enormous sucess, he deliberately stopped them. Why? He explained that he was a "serious" composer, and had more "important" things to say than just to write catchy tunes and ditties.

It is in that sense that I use the word "serious". It seems with Mozart, alot of the music (certainly not all) never gets past that stage.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 8:44:16 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 9, 2013 8:44:50 PM PST
Mahlerian says:
Don't forget that Beethoven composed a number of light and inconsequential occasional works as well, not limited to his infamous Wellington's Victory.

Mozart, too, composed a number of divertimenti, such as the one linked to above, for various functions, that were dashed off quickly and aren't of much consequence. I would say that he wrote a lot of high-minded music, especially later in life. The string quartets, the later symphonies, the piano concertos, the Da Ponte operas, and so forth form an excellent body of work, which rises far above the level of "catchy tunes and ditties".

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 9, 2013 11:38:22 PM PST
DavidRFoss says:
Ataraxia says:
Thanks everyone for your insights. I want to make it clear that I certainly appreciate some of his works as quite sublime. But much of the rest of it just seems like pretty dinner time background music, not "serious" concert hall music.
------------------
Classical radio stations do often overplay the juvenilia. There are dozens of early symphonies, serenades and divertimenti which fit your description. As a Mozart fan, it can be quite fascinating to hear a galante composer who was a student of JCBach and CFAbel slowly morph into one of the all-time greats, but I can see why someone could get frustrated when his 12th symphony pops up on the radio when there is so much other stuff they could be playing.

You're focusing too much on the negatives, though. Look at the later works first. His rate of masterpieces from 1784 on his quite high. And that's not an insignificant number of works either, basically K-numbers from 440-620. Then there's still quite a few masterpieces between 360-440. Before that, the great works become a bit less common but there's still a few standouts (e.g K271).

So it seems to me that out of 620 Kochel numbers, you are fixating too much on the worst of the first 200 and not enough on the best of the last 200-300. Of course, maybe he's just not your cup of tea but to label his mature compositions as catchy tunes and ditties isn't accurate.

Posted on Jan 9, 2013 11:55:53 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2013 12:00:34 AM PST
J. Nelson says:
I like his early Symphonies. Very catchy and exciting galante which as mentioned influenced by JC Bach. But i guess in this thread it's a bad thing. :rolleyes: It was his early Concertos at his first chances of being more serious that kind of bore me. It took awhile for him to master the Piano Concertos imo. But he eventually did.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 6:00:27 AM PST
R. Schroeder says:
Mozart had the gift/curse of being a child prodigy. This gave him enormous exposure at a young age, and probably gave the musical publishers more control than the composer in the early days, they probably pushed to publish things that would not have been published by other composers because they knew it could sell based on his early fame. Composers you mentioned like Beethoven and especially Brahms did not have this to deal with in the same way and were able to be much more self editorial and self critical than Mozart who had been told that everything he touched turned to gold, more or less. Very likely that Beethoven and Brahms wrote such "fluff" music at some point in time, but never let it get out.

In any case, there is nothing "wrong" with fluff music, it has its purpose, and if Mozart could pay the bills by writing some of it, more power to him. Nobody is forcing you to listen to it now.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 6:43:41 AM PST
HB says:
Even in Mozart's so-called lighter works, he could come up with a sublime movement. For example, the 6th movement of the "Haffner" Serenade is one of Mozart's most passionate slow movements and IMO, one of his greatest. And, BTW, the Kochel number is 250. The "Posthorn" Serenade also has an incredibly beautiful slow movement. There are also two very great divertimenti, K. 334 (aka No. 17) and the Divertomento for String Trio, K. 563.

Here are some recordings of these great works:

Mozart: Eine kleine Nachtmusik; Serenata notturna; Posthorn Serenade; Haffner Serenade

Mozart: Divertimento K334 & Oboe Quartet K370

Mozart: Divertimento, K.563

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2013 6:45:56 AM PST
Ataraxia says:
Yes, at times like that it seems he is almost anticipating the romantic movement. And they tell us Beethoven singlehandedly started that!

But still, these are rare in Mozart.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2013 6:52:29 AM PST
HB says:
"Yes, at times like that it seems he is almost anticipating the romantic movement. And they tell us Beethoven singlehandedly started that!
But still, these are rare in Mozart."

Mozart wrote 23 piano concertos (Nos. 1-4 are arrangements). The first great one is No. 9 and it has a very sublime and beautiful slow movement. The romantic anticipation is not rare at all.

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2013 7:03:55 AM PST
Mahlerian says:
Before the term was used in its modern meaning, Mozart and Haydn were called "the Romantics". Romanticism was then an ongoing phase in literature and the other arts.

And moments that anticipate later developments, in Beethoven and the like, are not quite as rare in Mozart's work as you might think.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 8:04:02 AM PST
Some Mozart sounds like "fluff" only because the performers choose to play him that way.

Bill

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 8:17:12 AM PST
Dichterliebe says:
Or because the listener chooses to hear the music that way. Or because the listener hasn't yet gained an appreciation for Mozart's style.

Personally, I'll take Mozart's lighter works over the serious works of some other composers any day. His 'fluff' is better than just about anything else that was being written at the time. JC Bach's music pales in comparison, although his music and Mozart's earlier works share many similarities.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 8:17:26 AM PST
Rustic: "after a while you may find yourself drifting a little. a few symphonies, a few pieces of chamber music, then you're done."

How true, of so many of Mozart's contemporaries.....

.....but not true of his one contemporary equal, Haydn!

In reply to an earlier post on Jan 10, 2013 8:22:27 AM PST
Last edited by the author on Jan 10, 2013 8:24:09 AM PST
barbW says:
"It is in that sense that I use the word "serious". It seems with Mozart, alot of the music (certainly not all) never gets past that stage."

Can you give an example of some of the music he wrote at even the tender age of thirty that you say "never gets past that stage"? ..because, I wonder what you're 'hearing'.
I know many folks who can't distinguish between the works of Mozart and JC Bach. They would just be guessing..

Are you able to read scores? The music of Vivaldi and Telemann and JC Bach would better fit the dismissive "well-crafted" categorization, but Mozart was a deep inspiration and the great example of how to be weighty and tastefully serious and highly dramatic to LvB, Chopin, Mendelssohn etc. and many minor composers, - and Brahms and Tchaikovsky. The technical details of what they specifically derived (and the general classical elements and tools of expression) would of course require the info gained from some classes in musical analysis. It becomes a study in theory, but since it can be objectively studied we know that it's not just opinion or favoritism or 'snootiness'.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 8:26:09 AM PST
Skaynan says:
"He was a consummate craftsman"

Very true, and so was Bach. The notion that an "artist" shouldn't be "a consummate craftsman", but a "hero", is a later, romantic ideal, for which Beethoven indeed paved the way (and Wagner epitomized). We should always keep in mind that "a consummate craftsmen" doesn't necessarily contradicts great art, and I believe that is actually what Mozart (and Bach) are all about.

Posted on Jan 10, 2013 8:33:43 AM PST
The Romantics loved Mozart for being romantic and more or less tossed Haydn and the others.
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Discussion in:  Classical Music forum
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Initial post:  Jan 9, 2013
Latest post:  Mar 6, 2013

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