Saturday, August 11, 2012

Rock Me, Amadeus

Again today I'm just feeling like having a good time. So I figured I'd relay a few interesting stories I've read about Mozart.

I've always loved Mozart. He may be the most genius musician who ever lived but his personality was apparently equally remarkable.

There are a million Mozart impressive stories and who knows if they are all true. But I like to think they are. We all know he was a musical genius. That fact is well documented and his songs are still with us today. Listening to them will convince you that he had a special mind for music. But these stories paint a picture of this larger than life personality that seems Will Ferrell-esque at times and mechanically sharp at others . They crack me up and impress me.

Here's a few of my favorites:

The most celebrated of Mozart's Italian operas is
Don Juan. Well, Don Juan was composed
under very uniquely Mozart circumstances. Mozart liked to goof off, and he was accustomed to
indulging himself in that musician past time, procrastination. The fact that Mozart's musical abilities seemed to be magnified seems to have also magnified his other attributes (including his procrastination). The general rehearsal
of Don Juan had taken place, and the evening before
the first performance had arrived. Only problem was not a note of
the overture had been written yet.

At about eleven at night,
Mozart came home and asked his wife to make him
some punch. He also asked her to stay with him to keep him awake.

He began to write. As he did his wife began to tell
him fairy tales and odd stories, which made him laugh. He desperately needed this to keep himself awake.
The punch, however, made him very drowsy (must have been adult punch...he is a musician remember).

He got so sleepy that he could only
write while his wife was talking. As soon as she would pause he would nod off. He was at last so fatigued by these unnatural efforts, that he begged his wife to let him sleep for an hour.

He slept. but he accidentally slept for two hours instead of one. At five o'clock in the morning she woke
him up. He had appointed his music-copiers to come at
seven, and when they arrived, the overture was finished.

Mozart pulled the old "all nighter" like a college kid and got it done.

It was played without a rehearsal, and was applauded
as a brilliant and grand composition. If you've heard it you know that it IS a brilliant and grand composition.

The note that makes this story even better to me is: after centuries of studying this piece of work, musical critics have no doubt this story is true because they say by studying the composition they can tell which passages where written while
Mozart dozing off, and those while he was suddenly

Mozart's wife should've gotten co-write credit on that one.

And Mozart should get the gold medal for procrastination.


In order to be able to procrastinate at such an unbelievably high level (and still be successful) Mozart had to possess almost super powers. Luckily for him , he did. His powers of observation and understanding were probably the most adept of any musician's ever.

Here's an example:

Part of the musical service used in the Pope's chapel at Rome
is sacredly guarded and kept with great care in the
archives of the chapel. Any singer found tampering
with this "Miserere" of Allegri, or giving a note of it to an
outsider, would be excommunicated. Wow. Think about that. Excommunication (which was probably close to a death sentence in those days) for distributing in anyway this music.

And people are complaining about the penalties for free downloads. Hahaha What if the penalty was exile? I think we have gotten slightly more lenient in recent times, But I digress.

Only three copies of this musical service had ever been sent out.
One was for the Emperor Leopold.
Another was for the King
of Portugal.
The third was for the celebrated musician,
Padre Martini.
That was it. There were 3 copies. The existence of any other copies was not allowed.

But there was one copy that was made without the Pope's orders.

When Mozart was 14 he was taken to Rome by his father. They went to St. Peter's and heard the service in all its impressiveness. Mozart's dad could hardly snap the kid out of his fascination with the
music. Afterward, Mozart's dad had a difficult time getting his son to leave the cathedral.

That night after they had gotten home and gone to bed, Mozart stealthily arose and by the light of the moon, wrote out the sacredly guarded "Miserere" in its entirety.

This is so absurdly impressive that it boggles my mind.

The Pope's locks, bars, and threats of excommunication gave no safety against a memory like Mozart's.

(I guess he was allowed his extreme procrastination as mentioned in the story above, because he had a mind like a steel trap)

There's one more quick Mozart story that has always cracked me up. This one makes him sound kind of arrogant and pompous, but it actual makes him more endearing to me.

As we have seen, Mozart was exceptional. His mind was sharp to a level that I consider legendary. Well his wit seems to have been equally sharp.

Mozart was once approached by a young man who was interested in Mozart's advice on how to compose a symphony. Since he was still very young, Mozart recommended that he start by composing ballads. Surprised, the young man responded, "But you wrote symphonies when you were only ten years old."

Mozart countered "Yes.....But I didn't have to ask how".


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