Saturday, April 25, 2009

Music sans biography

The implication in my last post “Master Composers – Dysfunctional Men!” is that the music and the life of the composer could in effect be unrelated.

It is true that experiences shape a person’s thinking and circumstances can impact one's outlook on life. It is true that personal tragedy has inspired some composers to pen the most beautiful expressions of grief in music. It is true that a hopeless situation can see despair seep into the score of some composers. Or joy and humour might find its way into the notes of a composer on a career ‘high’. But the opposite is also equally (and fascinatingly) true.

In the last year of Mozart’s life, he could have been forgiven if despair found its way into his music. He was in desperate financial straits. His concerts were no longer as popular as they had been. He had difficulty finding music students to tutor. And his health was deteriorating. But one has to only listen to his serene last piano concerto (No. 27 in B-flat major K595) or his sunny Clarinet Concerto (in A major K 622) – both composed in that last year – to see how unsullied and exalted he could keep his music despite the cares of everyday living.

Thank God for such incongruence! And thank God for such a musical legacy!

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