Residents Demand Answers at Council Meeting on Police Killing of Sayed Faisal


Bob Odenkirk Named Hasty Pudding Man of the Year


Harvard Kennedy School Dean Reverses Course, Will Name Ken Roth Fellow


Ex-Provost, Harvard Corporation Member Will Investigate Stanford President’s Scientific Misconduct Allegations


Harvard Medical School Drops Out of U.S. News Rankings


By J. A. B.

I ran across a remark the other day in the "Pro Musica" column of the Radcliffe News which seemed to me typical of a fairly widespread misconception about Mozart. The writer of "Pro Musica" discussed at some length the E-flat Symphony, and then went on to say: ". . . where a Mozart rises above his environment and ignores, a Berlioz would have sought to picture it in its most sordid details. It is a never-ending tribute, we feel, to the greatness of Mozart that he could continue composition of 'happy' music even when he himself was most 'unhappy.'" Such a statement as this is dangerous not only because it contains a basic misunderstanding of the true greatness of Mozart and Mozart's music, but because it evidences a rather ill-defined approach to art in general. Great art, need it be said, is an outpouring of the most purified emotional and intellectual experiences of the artist. Anyone who would try to justify a work of art solely on its structural perfection would be like the eighteenth-century deist who tried to found religion on the mathematical, well-oiled precision of the universe. Depth and breadth of emotion are the stuff from which any art and any religion are made. In the highest art, intellectual discipline and logic must support this emotion, must cast it into permanent mold, but in any event, the emotion must be there; intellect by itself is barren.

If with this rather obvious point in mind we examine the excerpt quoted above from the "Pro Musica," we are forced to the conclusion that Mozart's music is thoroughly superficial, that it resembles notlring so much as cheap confectionery. If, while he was really "unhappy," Mozart should have continued to compose "happy" music, he was being false to himself both as man and artist; false to his most penetrating, and, in sooth, his most sacred feelings. But Mozart does not ignore his environment; the environment is absorbed, digested, into the totality of his artistic experience. In Berlioz, as in any romantic composer, it is the mood of the moment, the specific, particular emotion which goes into the notes. In Mozart, any individual emotion has the effect of a deepened tingle to the entire content of the music. His music fulfills an old ideal of classicism, one which might be stated as the ideal of expressing all emotions while seeming to express no particular one.

Nor is it true that Mozart's music is characteristically "happy"; it is only true that there is something in his refined melodic line, in the "abstract" or "pure" form of his composition, which misleads one in that direction. Listen to the A-major piano concerto; to the first movement with its spacious calm and serenity; to the second, with its almost unberable poignancy, probably the nearest Mozart ever got to out-and-out lyricism; and then finally to the third movement, in the true sense of the word "happy," sparkling with fun and humor. Listen to any Mozart, and you will find even less clue than in the A-major to what he is specifically thinking, but you will find in it a nameless depth which cannot be put into words.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.