Friday, January 27, 2006

Feel the Mozart Love!

Well, it's Mozart's 250th birthday, which apparently is more significant than his 249th birthday for some reason. This round of "Mozart fever" seems a bit more restrained than the last big Mozart year, 1991 (200th anniversary of his death, as if we're supposed to celebrate the fact that he died young). That year may actually have had the little-noted effect of killing off the classical recording industry: in the middle of the boom in sales caused by the coming of CD, the record companies issued a bazillion new Mozart recordings, most of them instantly-forgettable, and created a glut of classical recordings on the market, none of which could make back their costs. It was all downhill from there for major-label classical recordings. So thank you, Wolfgang, for helping to wreck the recording business.

On a serious note, one thing I think people don't always appreciate about Mozart is that he wasn't some kind of amazing boy genius. Among child-prodigy composers, he was not one of the most impressive by any means; the music he wrote as a boy isn't nearly as good as the work of the youthful Felix Mendelssohn or Erich Wolfgang Korngold. These were true prodigies; Mozart's early music is the work of a talented young musician who knew all the formulas, but it's not music that suggests a great composer in the making. Mozart worked hard, studied, perfected his craft as a composer, and became great.

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