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A last hurrah!

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Petroc Trelawny Petroc Trelawny | 11:53 UK Time, Thursday, 13 January 2011


Photo of Mozart's birthplace

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’.


Photo of Mozart memorial in the St Marx Cemetery, Vienna

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. 

Find full details and links to the iPlayer via the shedule for The Genius of Mozart 





  • Comment number 1.

    Thanks Radio 3 for a wonderful experience.

    And to all those Miserable Moaners,
    Mozart’s music has, without doubt, touched the lives of more people than any other classical composer. Even if one hates it, surely the fact that it has changed other’s lives, helped people through difficult times, and has scientifically proven benefits, would make one stop to think before complaining at 12 days out of a whole lifetime? If you don’t like what you hear why not just stick with Classic FM or somesuch?
    Plus the fact that Radio 3 is said to be the best classical music station in the world so one would think they would know what they’re doing, in this case fulfilling their project with flying colours IMO!

    Getting soaked with so much Mozart has changed the way I hear other composers. I think I listen to others with more appreciation now.
    Life will never be the same again!

  • Comment number 2.

    I am afraid that JIFrancis does not understand the objections to Mozart saturation. The idea that the critcs are people who would like to wallow in easy music on Classic FM is absurd. I like to listen to whole works, not "best bits" (Radio 3 is guilty of this). I do not listen to Classic FM.

    To dismiss critical comments as "moaning" demonstates a failure to participate in a debate.

    Critics of the project are not questioning the quality of Mozart's music. I am enthusiast for Mozart's chamber music, some of his operas and many of his concerti.

    There are other ways of broadcasting Mozart's works in a concentrated way, which does not involve round the clock Mozart and nothing else.

    The idea that because Radio 3 is a great station means that they always get it right and therefore are above criticism is extraordinary.

    I am interested that JIFrancis finds that (s)he hears other composers differently surprised me. Saturation in Mozart has left only a couple of hours to make this judgement. Indeed, concentration, but not saturation might be more effective.

    There is so much music that has helped people through difficult times. Mozart is by no means unique in this respect.

    Mozart's music is not the only scientifically beneficial composer.Also I can't see why Radio 3 should be taking on this project. Would the children benefiting from listening to Mozart's music be listening to Radio 3?

  • Comment number 3.

    I am inclined to agree with many of the points made by James Young. I am a R3 devotee but I was very "underwhelmed" by the Mozart indundation. Overall I felt that it was too much of a hotch-potch, I really do not like single movements being played in isolation. I always thought that approach was best left to the likes of Classic FM. If I wanted that I would switch my attention away from R3. But I usually tune into R3 to get away from "bleeding chunks" and listen to informed comment. There were some good moments (for example the "Mozart Objects" but hardly original) as it aped the R4's The History of the World in 100 Objects") and the readings from Mozart's Letters. But to devote 12 whole days to Mozart required greater cohesion and insight. I am not alone in this view as I have talked to friends who are regular listeners and they were similarly disappointed. Even when concentrating on Mozart's last year there were deviations with playings of music from other years which seem to defeat the whole exercise. Also why was CD Review abandoned and not used as vehicle to compare recordings - historical/different playing and singing styles? I realise that whatever approach/format is taken there will be a cross-section of opinions. For instance one could have tackled the music in a chronological way and interspersed music from contemporary composers as by way of contrast. Or spread it over a longer time frame rather than a consolidated with an undiluted diet of Mozart.


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