Wednesday, June 17, 2009
Peter Brown’s “Amadeus and Mozart: Setting the Record Straight” presents an analysis of the play Amadeus set against the known biography of the man being referred to in the play’s title. Thrown somewhere in the middle of the criticism is the question “Does the biography support the music or is there no relationship between the man and the art?”
Brown answered the second part of the question, positing the playwright’s argument that given the context in which Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived as a composer, the artist was detached from his art. He might be unusually rapid in producing compositions, but all others like him were. He, like the rest, must show “craftsmanship and the ability to provide new music appropriate to an occasion” in order to qualify as a composer. Besides, his genius was non-existent, basically because he lived ahead of his time. Such a quality, as well as the “assertion of an individual artistic personality” would be the standard for an artist not until the next century following his.
And so if Mozart were to be uprooted from his milieu and his works to be assessed by their universality in time and space, it is safe to say that yes, his biography supports the music and yes, there is a relationship between the man and his art. This is so because the way he lived his bohemian life—“free from the daily obligations of court appointments, but encumbered by the quest for financial stability”—showed that he did not get hindered by the need to work nor the need to survive organically, but went on to produce “one work after another that seemed divinely sponsored as they transcended his own personality.” An artist for art’s sake is like that: willing to die for his craft, not bothered if his social or physical death would get the better of him. What seemed important for him was to be able to live life the way he wanted to be: as a creator who put his craft on top of his priorities, an artist who lived his art because it was his life. In such a case, the assertiveness as well as the genius were embodied by Mozart. His posthumous reputation showed the universal appeal of his “godlike gifts as a composer.” Judging how positively his works are being received even among diverse quarters is an indication of “Mozart’s improvisational and performance skills were exceptional.” Brown’s parting words, “the phenomenon of Mozart transcends explanation,” cannot be denied: the artist that Mozart was/is continues to be high-brow and esoteric.