Fantasia on a theme by Thomas Tallis Ralph Vaughan Williams
Mozart: The boyhood genius who took Classicism to unparalleled heights of mastery and perfection.
Mozart is reputed to be the greatest composer of all – so how come he doesn’t make the top slot in Classic FM's Top 30 Composers?
Mozart composed with an ease and jaw-dropping facility that has never been equaled. Yet compared with the groundbreaking innovations of Beethoven and Bach’s central polarity within the musical universe, Mozart’s Classical perfection was arguably more of an end in itself – a jewelled example to be held up and admired, so exquisitely balanced and poised that no-one could hope to replicate it. For many his melodic genius and seamless purity are unbeatable.
So how did Mozart fit so much into a lifetime spanning just 35 years?
That’s the billion-dollar question. Someone once calculated that for a skilled copyist to make a fair copy of everything Mozart wrote on a nine-to-five, five-days-a-week basis, it would take him longer than Mozart took to dream up the stuff as well!
Was Mozart really the greatest prodigy of all time?
As a very young child, quite possibly, but when you take into account extra-musical genius and advanced levels of teenage artistic maturity, then Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns and Korngold are among the front-runners.
But was he anything like the way he’s portrayed in Amadeus?
Well, yes and no. In order to cope with his colossal genius, Mozart often let off steam by indulging in prankish behaviour and toilet humour – he once memorably remarked that: “I compose as a sow piddles.”
And did the insanely jealous Salieri really poison Mozart?
Categorically no! One recent diagnosis suggests “streptococcal infection – Schönlein-Henoch Syndrome – renal failure – venesections – cerebral haemorrhage – terminal broncho-pneumonia” – but no poison!
Are the rumours that Mozart ended up in a pauper’s grave true?
Mozart left very little money, so according to a custom of the time he was duly declared a “pauper” and buried along with five others in an unmarked grave in St. Marx’s Cemetery, Vienna. There were no witnesses.