Persona Classical Persona Digital

Classical Music

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

From Music Notes by Stephen Gislason

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart hardly needs introduction. He has become the best known and most often played composer of the classical era. The movie, Amadeus, created more fame. He has been the subject of several books and many scholars have studied his music. Every symphony orchestra includes Mozart in its repertoire. Mozart was born in 1756. His musical talent was cultivated by his musician father and he was famous in Europe as a child prodigy performing on the harpsichord and violin. Mozartís musical genius developed through exposure to the best composers and musicians in Europe. His travels began early as a child performer and continued through his short life. For example, he became friends with Johann Christian Bach, the son of the great master, JS Bach, in London in 1764. He made three trips to Italy meeting the great composers there; he became a member of the famous Italian Accademia Filarmonica. Mozart became friends with Joseph Haydn in Vienna. Haydn told Mozartís father: "Before God and as an honest man I tell you that your son is the greatest composer known to me either in person or by name.Ē

The movie, Amadeus, was based on Peter Shaffer's stage play. Shaffer and Forman revised the play as a script for the movie with the caveat that the film was a fictional interpretations and not an accurate biography. The role of imperial court composer Antonio Salieri was, for example, exaggerated and distortedÖ he was given the role of the commentator who was in awe of Mozart's genius, but who deplored Mozart's character and envied his successes. The idea that Salieri poisoned Mozart is wrong. The diagnosis of Mozart's fatal illness will never be certain, but symptoms and signs suggest he developed rheumatic fever after a strep throat infection and died of kidney and/or heart failure. For those of us seeking an impression of Mozartís eighteenth-century life, the movie was entertaining, informative and moving.

More Mozart publicity was generated by claims that babies become more intelligent by listening to Mozart's music, even in utero. Tomatis suggested that Mozart's music could cure a variety of disorders. Campbell suggested that that listening to Mozart temporarily boosted students' IQ by 8 to 9 points. None of these claims have been substantiated. There is no doubt that music of all kinds has a strong influence on the mind which in turn is an expression of body physiology. There is no doubt that noise can be harmful and good music can be helpful.

While I would never argue against listening to Mozart's music, the main value is enjoyment and enjoyment is enhanced by learning more about musical compositional and Mozart's musical ideas. There is a musical intelligence in us that responds to well crafted and well played music. Mozart was a progressive composer who incorporated new musical ideas from others. His genius lay in his receptivity to the best ideas of others and his ability to incorporate new ideas into his compositions. His musical styles changed progressively.

As a child, I played Mozart piano pieces. Mozart, like JS Bach, wrote many short keyboard pieces that were accessible to children. For several years, he relied on teaching to earn part of his income. Some of his simpler pieces feature attractive melodies and simple harmonies that everyone can enjoy.

The first Mozart recoding done at Persona Studio was a piano sonata arranged for a music box created on the Proteus 2500 synthesizer. I have adapted the Kyrie sections from two Masses. The Mass in C is easily recognized because of Mozart's playful approach. The Mass in D is more in the style of JS Bach.

Listen to Mozart's Mass in C Kyrie


Listen to Mozart's Mass in D Kyrie