Observations on Mozart

As we know, a musical composition does not by nature have the presence of a picture, a sculpture, a novel, or a movie. It lays dormant in the score and needs to be made audible. It is the performer’s obligation to kiss it awake. “Bring the works to life without violating them,” was Edwin Fischer’s advice.   First, I’d like to explain what Mozart means to me. He is certainly not the charmingly restricted Rococo boy wonder that he may have appeared to be some hundred years ago. I consider him one of the very greatest musicians in the comprehensive humanity of his da Ponte operas, in the universe of his piano concertos, in his string quintets (which are matched only by those of Schubert), in his concert arias and his last symphonies. For the pianist, his piano concertos are one of the peaks of the repertoire; they reach from tenderness and affection to the border of the demonic, from wit to tragedy.    How may we characterize Mozart’s music? Considering the character of a composer, we are prone to assuming that the person and the composer are an equation. Yet the music of a great composer transcends the personal. There is a mysterious contradiction: while the person is clearly limited, the mastery and the expressive force of the great musician is well-nigh unlimited. In his work, Mozart, according to Busoni, presents the solution with the riddle. Among Busoni’s Mozart aphorisms, we find the following: “He is able to say a great many things, but he never says too much.” And: “His means are uncommonly copious, but he never overspends.” To find such a measure of perfection within a great composer is particularly rare as it is usually the followers, the minor masters, who smooth out whatever the great ones

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