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10 Things I Learned from Listening to All 27 Mozart Piano Concertos.

May 27, 2012

Preface

Yoga & Mozart

I’ve decided to dispense with Yoga
And just listen to Mozart all the time.

It gives me the same sense of wonder.
It fills me with the same infinite cosmic joy.

It collapses my entire being into the present moment
Where the music is divine
I am divine
You are divine
The whole world is one and divine.

I’ve decided to dispense with Yoga
And just listen to Mozart all the time.

But then again
Why not have both?
For are they not one and the same?

~

10 Things I Learned from Listening to
All 27 Mozart Piano Concertos.

1. The early ones are wonderful, too.

Mozart’s last 10 piano concertos are considered among the greatest human achievements.  I fell in love with them in junior high school.  When I had a couple of bucks, instead of buying the latest rock & roll album, I would go out and buy a Mozart piano concerto.

But I had never heard the first 17 concertos very much.  I assumed they must be of a much lower quality, perhaps just learning exercises, or like sketches compared to a painting.

I was quite astounded to  learn that every single one of them is wonderful, starting with his first arrangements as a young boy prodigy.  I was never anything less than entranced.

2. Amadeus is my favorite movie of all time.

Ok, already knew that, but makes me want to see another five times.  The movie is a fictional account, of course.  But reliving Mozart’s short life through his lifetime of piano concertos reminded me just how good the movie is, and how wildly inventive and creative Mozart was, just as portrayed in Amadeus.

3. Mozart was just trying to make a living.

It’s easy to think of Mozart in God-like terms today, and forget that at the time he wrote these concertos he was just trying to figure out a way to make a living, just like being a musician today.  Mozart was under constant threat of running out of money.

Many of these sublime concertos were written for his own subscription concerts, under extreme deadlines, like “the concert is tomorrow, I better figure out what I’m going to play…”.  Plus, he had to enchant the audience every time, or there would be no more subscribers.

4. …and keep himself musically entertained at the same time.

How do you write 27 major pieces in the same basic three movement form, fast-slow-fast, for piano and orchestra, and make every one unique and fresh?

You can just hear Mozart saying to himself throughout, hmmm, what about this, and wow, I never tried that yet, etc.  A lot of creativity comes out of a person’s mundane desire to avoid getting bored by their day-to-day work.

5. It reminded me of when my kids were little.

When my kids were growing up I was as likely to take them to a Mozart opera as a kid’s movie.    It was either that or a Marx Bros. film.  (But their favorite was “Night at the Opera”.)  They seemed to have survived.  In fact they always seemed thrilled to go.  All three are music lovers today.

6. I still like falling asleep to Mozart, just like I did as a kid.

7. I would go broke without Rhapsody.

I would go broke if I had to pay a dollar for each track of music I listen to.  The Rhapsody $14 monthly subscription is like have a juke box in your home, only this particular juke box can play almost any piece of music known to man.

8. Listening to music with relaxed concentration is a high form of meditation.

Yoga meditation has made me a better listener.  It’s the same process.  Your mind wanders and you gently bring it back.  The more you just pay attention non-judgmentally, the more you hear and the more wondrous it becomes, just like the world itself.

9. I failed as a father.

When I was about half way through the 27 concertos, I got so excited about how moving and inventive and varied they were, I just had to play a couple  for one of my sons, a very talented and discriminating musician in his own right.  He listened attentively and said, “That music is good, but it all sounds alike.”  Oh no!  Where did I go wrong as a father?

…what I really learned is:

10. Not even Mozart is a God to everyone like he most certainly is to me.

 ~

(Postscript: Now that I’m done, am I moving on to the next project, all the Beethoven sonatas, for example?  No, I can’t let it go yet.  I’m starting over again on Concerto #1.)

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16 Comments
  1. Great post Bob!

    When you hear story's like this, you never think about all the hard work, sacrifice, and things these people had to do. Our brains only store the "gist" of an experience so we never take in all the details about the hard work. Like you explain here.

    3. Mozart was just trying to make a living.
    Same thing with Michelangelo, the entire time he was painting the Sistine Chapel he didn’t really know if he was going to get paid. Michelangelo, was also just trying to make a living.

  2. Tanya Lee Markul permalink

    Just to get the vibe, I put on Concerto No. 21 while reading this. Ahhhhhh. An instant smile appears!

    I love how you have written this, Bob. I love your timeline and your interjections. Oh, I need to see Amadeus!

    Please do Beethoven next. 🙂 Have you seen the movie Immortal Beloved?

  3. You failed as a father. That's a riot. I also loved Amadeus though Gone With the Wind has no equal for me. And you are a musician and me a not so Southern, not quite a belle!

    It's nice to think of poor Mozart pulling out his genius to pay the bills, beautiful, poetic,crazy and sad and more everyman than a privileged pet of philanthropy. There's such nobility in the daily dharma of survival anyway made more magical by creating impossible beauty to do just that.

    This post was a pleasure. Thank you.

  4. Love this Bob!

    My parents also failed. 🙂 They only let me listen to classical music until age 10 or so, so Mozart was one of my best (invisible) friends during childhood. Beethoven was another. Oh and Schubert & Vivaldi too. You were the best father ever. More, please!

  5. I absolutely hear you about music-listening and attention; it used to drive me bonkers, when I was still writing in the classical tradition, how people seemed incapable of *just listening.* Of course, at Mozart's subscription concerts, there would have been card tables in the back, a picture gallery, and a small knot of dedicated listeners down near the front. And people selling blood-oranges during the operas (to hold to the nose to ward off the smell of the people in the cheap seats.)

    Having said that, I have to agree with your son; Mozart is not my favorite, precisely because so much of his music seems to have descended from some crystal firmament of some kind. I prefer the folky earthiness of Haydn, myself. I do enjoy sitting down at the piano and playing (badly) through a Mozart sonata now and again, though–his clarity and tunefulness are always a pleasure.

  6. Deb Sierra permalink

    Reading your post reminded me of a day I was late, late, late for class and I rushed to no avail. Rain followed me thirty-five miles of weaving but the roads were slick and it was a gloomy spring morning in Oregon.
    I arrived and as I collected and composed my thoughts and belongings
    Chopin stopped me in my tracks – Étude Op. 10, No. 3, in E major
    The grey sky changed from grey to gun-metal or was it dove grey? And the air went from cold and damp to “fragrant and alive,” my mood from melancholy to “pensive”, and most of all my ears became eager for where the notes were taking me. It was truly one of those moments that I will never forget and I was totally in the moment wanting it to ever move forward. I swear the announcer said it was Leslie Howard playing, but after years of searching I have not been able to find a recording of him playing the piece. Now when my headphones repeat and repeat this melody and I remove them from my ears, my eardrums hold on to the feeling, much like a gentle kiss. So, there are times when all I want to do is listen to particular pieces of music over and over and let everything else fall by the wayside, but now I realize it’s just the artist’s expression of the moment and the way a note is played.
    I’ve been trying to catch up on my yoga after about a year hiatus due to job changes, divorce and moving. This time I am approaching it as a meditation and it is so much more profound and there are moments when I am so involved that I forget the time but my aging body brings me back to the moment.

Trackbacks & Pingbacks

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