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More Than Two Centuries Later, Mozart's Music Remains Full of Life


The Austrian composer wrote 600 works; he died on December 5, 1791, at the age of 35. Transcript of radio broadcast:

VOICE ONE:

I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein with EXPLORATIONS in VOA Special English. This year, the world marked the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of the birth of Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There have been celebrations of the composer's work all year long.

On December fifth, music houses around the world observed the anniversary of the composer's death.

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VOICE ONE:

That music is from Mozart's "Requiem," a work the composer did not complete before his death. A requiem is music written in honor of someone who has died. Many people consider the music and its subject matter to add to the mystery surrounding Mozart's death. Could it be that the composer sensed his approaching death from fever and wrote “Requiem” in his own honor? There is no doubt, however, that the music of Mozart has more to do with life and happiness than with sadness or mystery.

VOICE TWO:

Mozart wrote and performed music in the second half of the eighteenth century. During this period, European musicians performed for kings, queens and other royalty. Musicians often depended on wealthy people called patrons to support them.

Mozart, along with his friend Joseph Haydn, became the best example of the classical style -- the important performance music of his time. Today, people often use the word "classical" to describe other kinds of music written for and performed by an orchestra.

Some music critics consider Symphony Twenty-Five in G Minor to be the first work showing Mozart's full ability. He was seventeen when he wrote it. See what you think of this young man's skills.

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VOICE ONE:

The word "effortless" is often used to describe the musical compositions of Mozart. Music came so naturally to the child born in Salzburg, Austria, in seventeen fifty-six. He was given the name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart shortly after his birth. But he liked to be called Amadeus, or Amadé, meaning "beloved of God."

Wolfgang was the last of seven children born to Leopold Mozart and Anna Maria Pertl. Five of the children died while babies. Only Wolfgang and his older sister, Maria Anna, survived. Both were extremely gifted musicians from a very young age. The children traveled with their parents and performed across Europe.

Wolfgang's father was a well-known violin teacher. The year Wolfgang was born, Leopold published a popular book on violin playing. Soon Wolfgang started to show an unusual command of many instruments.

By the age of eight, he played the piano -- sometimes with his eyes covered. He also played the organ and violin very well. He showed an understanding of music of a much older person.

VOICE TWO:

Travel enriched the education of the young Mozart. His father worked in many of the great cities of eighteenth century Europe. The family visited London, Munich, Vienna, Prague and Paris.

Tragedy struck the family in seventeen seventy-eight while young Mozart was seeking work in Paris with his mother. His mother became sick and died. Far away in Salzburg, Leopold felt helpless. He blamed his son for his wife’s death.

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VOICE ONE:

Mozart’s family kept a home in Salzburg during his early years. He would later be appointed concertmaster to the archbishop of the city. Mozart's job was to write new pieces of music for religious ceremonies and other events. He also played several instruments, including the organ. But Mozart fought with his employer who, he felt, mistreated him. He was released from service to the archbishop in seventeen eighty-one.

Only after Mozart left Salzburg permanently and went to Vienna did his work reach its highest level. Vienna was the home of Holy Roman Emperor Joseph the Second. Musicians came from all over Europe to perform for him.

VOICE TWO:

Mozart married Constanze Weber in the Austrian capital in seventeen eighty-two. He described his wife as having “plenty of common sense and the kindest heart in the world.” Constanze had six children but only two survived. They were happy together, although their life was sometimes difficult.

In Vienna, Mozart wrote his greatest operas -- musical plays performed with an orchestra. His works were performed in other cities as well. His “Marriage of Figaro” was so popular in Prague that he was asked to write an opera especially for a music house there.

The opera he composed was “Don Giovanni,” considered by many to be his best. The opera is based on the story of the lover and fighter, Don Juan, by the Spanish writer Tirso de Molina. In this scene, the spirit of a man Don Giovanni had killed long ago returns to the world of the living to seize him and drag him down to hell.

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VOICE ONE:

Events have been held all over Europe and in the United States to celebrate the two hundred fiftieth anniversary of Mozart's birth. Salzburg alone held about five hundred events to celebrate the famous composer. Vienna spent about sixty million dollars in public and private money for its Mozart celebration.

In reality, there is an ongoing Mozart celebration all the time. Mozart’s music is performed around the world. And his music can be heard in more than three hundred films, from Jean Renoir’s “The Rules of the Game” to Stanley Kubrick’s “Eyes Wide Shut.”

Peter Shaffer’s nineteen eighty-four film, “Amadeus,” was generally based on the life of the composer. The film won eight Academy Awards. But historians point out that the film is not correct in showing Italian composer Antonio Salieri as an evil force behind Mozart’s death. Salieri was a friend who taught Mozart’s son.

VOICE TWO:

Mozart died on December fifth, seventeen ninety-one. He was only thirty-five. He had composed more than six hundred pieces of music. Some experts consider Mozart the greatest composer of all time.

Near the end of his life, Mozart composed the Forty-First Symphony. After his death, it came to be known as “Jupiter,” possibly in praise of its style and expression. Critics consider it one of Mozart’s truly great works and a beautiful expression of the classical style that he helped to define. Listen, and consider that what you have heard on our program represents just a few of Mozart’s best works.

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VOICE ONE:

This program was written and produced by Mario Ritter. I’m Steve Ember.

VOICE TWO:

And I’m Barbara Klein. You can read and listen to this program on our Web site, voaspecialenglish.com.Join us again next week for Explorations in VOA Special English.

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