What happened in the musical world’s understanding of Mozart’s music during the last half century can be summed up in a phrase; in the wake of the expansion of the canon and the huge revival in the importance to us of 18th century music, Mozart suddenly became serious. W.H Auden put it nicely in a poem for the bicentenary in 1956:
We know the Mozart of our fathers’ time
Was gay, rococo, sweet, but not sublime
A Viennese Italian; that is changed
Since music-critics learned to feel estranged:
Now it’s the Germans he is classed amongst
A Geist whose music was composed from Angst
At International festivals enjoys
An equal status with the Twelve-Tone Boys…
And between 1956 and the next anniversary in 2006, one might add, acquired rather greater status than the twelve-note boys. Mozart’s stock now could hardly stand higher: his emotional ambiguity seems to chime perfectly with our times. Will it last?
From the 12th Leverhulme Memorial Lecture, delivered in March 2005 by Nicholas Kenyon.
Happy birthday Master!
W.H. Auden's poem quoted by Nicholas Kenyon is Metalogue to The Magic Flute.
And a minor scoop (and not of chocolate), did you know that Mozart has his own blog?
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