A last hurrah!
Mozart's birthplace in Salzburg
And so it’s over. The 'Laudate' Dominum from the Solemn Vespers the final complete work broadcast just before one am this morning. And then Sara Mohr-Pietsch promised a pause for thought, taking us to the place where Mozart is buried, St Marx Cemetery in Vienna. We recorded the ambient sounds by the spot where he is thought to have been buried last week. It wasn’t serene calm - no birdsong - instead, a gentle hum of traffic from the major road that runs nearby, a gusty breeze blowing over the monument that marks the spot. It’s a far cry from the musicians' colony in the Zentralfriedhof where Beethoven, Brahms, Schubert, Schoenberg, Zemlinsky and a trio of Strauss’s rest. Mozart lies alone, his legacy worshipped in the concert hall, in museums and archives, and on the radio, rather than in a windy graveyard.
In Studio 80A, our Mozart studio at Broadcasting House, the lights had been going down all evening. Full beam for Sean Rafferty, a little dimmed with the uplighters on for Suzy Klein and myself, single bulb for Sara. Finally extinguished as Through the Night's Susan Sharpe welcomed listeners to a Covent Garden performance of Rossini’s Matilde Shabran, and Mozart’s exclusive ownership of the Radio 3 frequencies came to an end.
The phone lines were literally overwhelmed at the start of ‘Call Cliff Eisen’ last night. I’m sorry if the engaged tone was all you got to hear. Marginally better than an electronic version of Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, I guess. On to the airwaves came calls about cadenzas, bassoon concertos, the languages Mozart spoke; his children. For the record, two survived - Franz Xaver Wolfgang and Karl Thomas. Neither had issue. FXW was a child performer, who first performed in public at a Prague memorial service for his father in November 1797. Half a century later he played a key role in the celebrations around the unveiling of the Mozart statue in Salzburg. He died in 1844. KT was seven years older, and thus had many memories of his father, who used to take him to the theatre in Vienna when his mother Constanze was ill. He preferred to perform in private, and worked as a civil servant for the Viceroy of Naples in Milan. He died in 1858. If you missed the broadcast and would like to here it, this link will connect you to the iPlayer for the programme.
After we finished the phone-in, Cliff asked me if I was on-line. Did he want to check a vital K number ? No. He wanted to see if his beloved Arsenal had beaten Ipswich. The news was not well received. His passion for Arsenal seems almost as great as his love of Mozart. But does this faith extend to any other composers? ‘There are two music makers whose inventiveness I never tire of,’ he said on his way out. ‘One is Mozart and the other is The Beatles’.
The Mozart memorial in the St Marx Cemetery, Vienna
An entry in the Cambridge Encylopedia of Mozart, of which Cliff is co-editor, tackles the subject of Mozart kitsch. It recalls a 1980s poster promoting Austrian tourism, which featured a photo of the wunderkind roaring through the ether on a motorbike, woollen shawl flapping behind. Perfumes, cheeses and tobacco products can be added to the long list of commercial Mozart tie-ins. The irony is that while you can buy a hundred different pieces of Mozart porcelain, only a handful of works get properly marketed. The article quotes a 1990 Salzburg University Symposium which listed the top five Mozart works in terms of popularity. In reverse order :-
- 5 – excerpts from Don Giovanni and Magic Flute
- 4 – 1st movement of the Serenade in G, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik
- 3 – Rondo alla Turca from the Piano Sonata K331
- 2 – 2nd movement of the Piano Concerto No 21 K467
and topping the charts …
- 1 – 1st Movement of Symphony No 40, K550
There are of course dozens of Mozart works that people hum, enjoy, and get to hear performed over and over again. But let’s hope the past 12 days have expanded all our Mozartian horizons a little, leaving us hungry to seek out again the unexpected pleasures that lurk between K1a and K626. I’ve found myself stuck with one in particular this morning. I woke up with what the neurologist Oliver Sacks calls an earworm, a tune that gets stuck in the brain and won’t go away. It’s not exactly the most significant work in the Mozart canon - K33b in F, a short piano piece, the tune Sara’s been using every night on Play Mozart for Me. I think I may have to use Cosi to drown it out. Or perhaps I’ll leave Mozart to one side for just a day or two.