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Norman Lebrecht has devoted his career to being indignant and wrong about many things in classical music, but I think he's right to make periodic attempts to swat Mozart down from the pedestal upon which he has been placed, as some sort of god whose music can create baby geniuses in the womb, elevate the character of the darkest fiend, and raise the dead from their graves (well, maybe that last claim hasn't been made--yet). Surely Lebrecht is a bit extreme in his support of "the Pierre Boulez slogan that Mozart was a regressive force who added nothing to the development of music. The inventors and energisers in music history were Bach, Haydn, Beethoven, Wagner, Mahler and Schoenberg; all else was entertainment." Still, it's good to be admonished from time to time that we should not be genuflecting before Mozart, as has become especially common among people who tend not to be deeply familiar with much other classical music that's out there. Read Lebrecht's latest screed, and if you're incensed, I think Lebrecth will consider it a good day's work.

1 Comment

Tom Mitchell @ Jan 2, 2013

I am so glad that somebody has finally had the courage to write this. While I do not agree with Lebrecht completely (especially in linking Nazism to the long-dead Mozart; and Mozart dementia is a global, not Austrian, phenomenon), I have always felt secretly that what he posits is correct. Mozart can be over-marketed the way he is because he rarely challenges a listener to look inside the self at a full range of human feelings. He is pink-cloud "safe", like Muzak.

After my lifetime of listening, the quality I have come to value most in a composer is honesty, and I think Mozart is quite lacking there -- compared, e.g., to Schubert. When the initial euphoria of Mozart's cleverness wore off, I spent a lot of time searching for more "beef", but the catches were small. Perhaps composing for royal patrons has that effect -- the music must feel like all is well in the realm and elsewhere; for it to be otherwise would "court" trouble!

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About Cue Sheet

James Reel's cranky consideration of the fine arts and public radio in Tucson and beyond.

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