Mozart’s 250th Birthday

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was a delightful oxymoron. He was vulgar, drank excessively, partied like nobody’s business, and loved women (though he finally settled for Constanza, the sister of the girl who snubbed him). At the same time, he was sweet, sensitive, and troubled by his father’s ghost. His music accomplished the nearly impossible; it encompassed the entire range of humanity in fewer notes than perhaps any composer before or after. Mozart was also one of the first musicians to reject the patronage of an aristocrat and compose, without commissions, his own artistic agenda. His independence, however, came at a price. Plagued with poverty and illness, Mozart died around the age of thirty-six. Moreover, one of the most brilliant geniuses of art was buried in a pauper’s grave without a mark to identify where his body lay. As Billy Joel so eloquently said, “only the good die young.” On January 27, 2006, the world got its chance to pay amends and celebrate Mozart’s genius. Salzburg, Austria, his birthplace, hosted Mozart Week, with festivities including tours of his former residence, Getreidegasse no. 9, and a cycle of all twenty-one of his operas. Viva! Mozart, an exhibition at the newly renovated Residenz at Mozartplatz, gave tourists an opportunity to try their hand at historic dances and enjoy impersonations of Mozart’s eccentric family. Even after the celebrations are over, Salzburg will continue to rejoice in its heritage. The Mozarteum University of Music is one of the most prestigious and rigorous conservatories in the world; Jae Han ’06 recently attended its summer academy. The Phillips Academy Music Department, along with the rest of the world devoted last weekend to performances of Mozart’s compositions. And for the cynics, it was a profound testament to the fact that although our lives will come to an end, the art we create is immortal.