A Big "Wow" to the Hon. Alex Ross
First, I must say I was premature with my b-day wishes to Mozart, and today celebrated his 250th by lamenting my experience, as a young composer on his first soujourn to Europe in 1991 (the 200th anniversary of his death), where all I hoped to see was some Brahms, perhaps even something as wild as Beethoven. But no: Mozart, Mozart, Mozart. It was as if the entire continent was its own Mostly Mozart, sans the "mostly,"
But now, today, I sat here trying to formulate some thoughts on Mozart, I could not help but venture, in my head, into the whole specious "what would Mozart be if he were alive today?" inner fracas. How many people over the years--from Prince to Thomas Ades to some 10 year old who could develop a theme for orchestra to David Helfgott--have been labelled "the next?"
And then, taking a short break, I clicked on Alex Ross' thoughts on the matter, by sheer coincidence. He said it all.
As a kid I used to hate Mozart; as a semi-grownup I adore, respect, fear, and appreciate him; I find his music chillingly humane, utterly erotic and, at points, screamingly funny. But it is his sheer profligacy that I fear, the utter weight of his accomplishment that gives me a nasty shiver. After all, as a 36-year-old composer myself, I labor outside the compass of his years on earth. But then again, as we all have to tell ourselves (because we all have to reckon, sooner or later, with Mozart), that was indeed then and this is sadly now. Alex is right: Mozart's supply of music was shockingly prodigious, but it also met an enlarged demand. So kudos, Mr. Ross, for saying what many of us fear: we can love Mozart, even love him not wisely but too well (unless, of course, our last name happens to be Lebrecht, in which case we can dismiss him as a naughty boy too beholden to his patrons), but if we really do want to respect what it was he truly stood for, we can listen to what goes on amongst our contemporaries. After all, a year of all Mozart is not so strikingly different from the usual years of mostly Mozart (with no disrespect meant to Mostly Mozart). So take Alex's statement (and my subsequent assent) as a hortatory call to exit the museum, blink in the sunlight, and support the new. Imagine if, in his day, poor Mozart was confronted with the fact that his opera houses only wanted to play the works of Frescobaldi, Buxtehude, Rameau and Lassus. So get your ears bent by something written last year--Mozart would have wanted it that way.
Or, if you like, prepare yourself for the Shostakovich centenial which should begin this fall.