"It was imprudent of us, in the first place, to become authors. We could have become something regular, but we managed not to.
We were lucky, but we were also determined." Roy Blount Jr

"I don’t change the facts to enhance the drama. I think of it the other way round, the drama has got to fit the facts,
and it’s your job as a writer to find the shape in real life."
Hilary Mantel

Friday, January 27, 2006

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Two hundred and fifty years ago today, a musical genius was born in this Salzburg townhouse.

My relationship with Mozart dates to my early piano studies, when (vastly simplified) Mozart tunes were my favourites. My teacher gave me a small bust of a composer at the end of each year, and my head of Mozart was the most beloved of them all.

I grew up in a home where classical music was the background and soundtrack to nearly every day. The extended family are music lovers. Music-related gifts abounded--instruments, sheet music, recordings.

I think I was about 10 years old when my Christmas present from my uncle/godfather was a double-disc recording of Mozart's opera The Abduction from the Seraglio. I was too young too understand that a sergalio was a harem, or to know what a harem was, but I adored the voices and the music.

Though the film Amadeus is a fictional account of the practically nonexistent Mozart/Salieri rivalry, and while I had some issues with the casting, it ranks hight on my list of films worthy of viewing over and over.

Eventually Mozart found his way into my fiction. When I wrote a novel about a Regency-era opera dancer, I spent much time listening to and watching Così fan tutte, in which the heroine and her colleagues appear. It was an indulgence, researching a specific historic London performance of that opera.

Mozart the person--the child prodigy touring Europe's royal courts, the young man nursing his mother and grieving her loss as he struggled to build his reputation in Paris, the lover and admirer of the vocally talented Weber sisters, the naughty letter writer, the frustrated and ambitious court composer--is endlessly fascinating to me.

The relatively recent book Mozart's Women is at the pinnacle of my nonfiction to-be-read list. I'm particularly interested in its depiction of his widow Constanze, who single-handedly cemented his reputation and instigated the memorialising of Mozart. Or, as one music historian put it, "created the 'Mozart' industry in Salzburg." And elsewhere.

All around the world, and most especially in Austria, there are celebrations of this anniversary. Later this year, when I'm in Vienna (where he died and was buried in a pauper's grave), London, and elsewhere, I look forward to attending any events or concerts scheduled at the time of our visit.

Even as I enthusiasically join in the remembrances of this amazing man, I also puzzle over the way we slavishly acknowledge centenaries and other "big" anniversaries: 150, 200, 250, etc.

In my opinion Mozart's birthday should be celebrated with this sort of fanfare every year!

While I'm writing today, I'll be listening to the splendid sounds he created. Tonight, when I attend a party (in honour of a living person, not Mozart), privately I'll be partying on his behalf as well.

No comments: