Thursday, January 26, 2006

Happy Birthday, Wolfi!

Tomorrow is Mozart’s 250th birthday. I have a soft spot in my soul for Wolfi. I know some readers of this blog hear Mozart’s music as simplistic, child-like, as lacking the depth and fire of someone like, say, Beethoven, Brahms, Bruckner, or Bach.

For me, Mozart’s music is deceptively simple. When I was studying music, thinking I wanted to be a conductor and composer, the course on long-form analysis blew my mind wide open. Getting inside Mozart’s 40th symphony or A major piano concerto was an experience akin to prayer; I lost myself in the texture of his form, astounded by how he tweaked emerging classical forms, subtly, but powerfully. His recapitulations were never mere photocopies of the exposition, like with Haydn or Salieri. He always added development material, transforming familiar subjects into a more mature, deeper musical expressions that what with what he began.

If it wasn’t for Mozart, Beethoven wouldn’t have sounded like he did, or Brahms, or Schubert, or Bruckner, or Mahler. (Or Clapton, or Van Halen for that matter)

But personally, Mozart’s celebrated Requiem (I know, most of it was written by Sussmeyer, among others) had a profound spiritual impact on me when I first heard it. I was studying trombone in high school and I was learning orchestral excerpts. And the Tuba Mirum landed on my music stand. My trombone teacher assigned a listening assignment: listen to Ed Kleinhammer from the Chicago symphony’s recording. So I did.

Oh. My. God. We are not alone in the universe.

If I took the time, I could easily connect the dots from that listening experience to my present job as a Lutheran pastor. Luther believed that music was a vehicle for God’s Word. If God was talking to me, it was through music like (but certainly not limited to) Mozart’s Requiem.

So today, I say Happy Birthday, Wolfi! I drink a toast to you in celebration and gratitude for your gift to the world.

UPDATE: Revised for spelling, grammar, poor word choices, and all around bad writing. Look for future updates.

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