Jan Swafford and Robert Levin on Mozart’s Infectious Genius
This Week on the Radio Open Source Podcast
Open Source is the world’s longest-running podcast. Christopher Lydon circles the big ideas in culture, the arts and politics with the smartest people in the world. It’s the kind of curious, critical, high-energy conversation we’re all missing nowadays.
Who else could be said to make you smarter, just listening to the sound of his music? Only Mozart, that we know. For 300-and-some years now, he has set the standard for whatever lies beyond perfection. “Too beautiful for our ears,” said the Emperor of the Enlightenment, Joseph the Second, “and far too many notes, my dear Mozart.” Too many melodic ideas, some cerebral, but mostly straight-to-the-heart. He could be more German than Handel and Bach, more singable than Italian opera. The catch with Mozart in a big new life story is that the Mozart Myths are mostly wrong: he didn’t live poor, and he wasn’t buried in a pauper’s grave. He loved gambling at billiards and told his wife his supreme gift was dancing! This was no suffering genius, but a happy man, all in all.
From the episode:
Robert Levin: When you are improvising, you can play with anarchy if you like, because different things can happen, unexpected things or rational things. When you compose, of course, you have time to reflect on these things. You can be sitting there with your quill dipped into the inkwell while you think about how things are going to go, and you allow them to unfold in your mind. And then when you have a pretty good idea, like a chess player thinking 5, 10, 15 moves ahead, you are then in a position to start writing it down because you now know where it’s going to go and what’s going to happen and to whom it’s going to happen.
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