Back in the day when I was still attending Northwestern University’s School of Music, I found myself, curiously enough, more attuned to the music of Haydn than that of Mozart. (Keep in mind this was before the play by Peter Shaffer turned “Amadeus” into a household name.) I’m not entirely sure why Haydn seemed more accessible to me back then, but I wasn’t alone, and the best explanation of what I felt was wonderfully summarized by a comment made by another NU Music School student during a pre-exam period of cramming for our “drop the needle” listening exams. She was a bit apologetic about it, and I still remember her words: “I can’t help but feel that there’s some secret about Mozart’s music, and that if I only knew what it was, I’d enjoy his music much more.”
Well, time has certainly rolled on, and as the years went by, my appreciation for Mozart has increased as well. And what I discovered was a simple truth: There is no secret. There’s nothing you have to learn about Mozart to enjoy his music. As with virtually any composer, you just have to relax and open your mind and ears to the miracles Mozart created in sound. Without any analysis or program notes, sheer exposure to Mozart’s music will lead you to appreciate the perfection of his proportions, the balance of emotions, the depth of feeling and height of whimsy of which he was capable. I still love Haydn—and still consider him one of music’s most seriously under-appreciated composers these days—but Mozart today seems firmly ensconced at the very peak of Mount Parnassus, a position he only attained in the last 100 years or so.
The Chicago Symphony Orchestra concert on Sunday, July 28, is about as good a sampling of Mozartian marvels as one could hope for. Two of his most popular symphonies (the “Paris” and “Haffner” symphonies) share a program with two concertos for multiple pianos, one for two pianos (Mozart frequently performed with his beloved sister Nannerl), the other for three. Pianists Leon Fleisher, Katherine Jacobson Fleisher (his wife) and RSMI alum Alon Goldstein will do the keyboard honors, and Maestro James Conlon will demonstrate his impeccable musical leadership. And you don’t need to learn any secret to enjoy it!
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