Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Marketing Mozart

Before setting out on our road trip, Barry and I visited our local public library and checked out several "Books on Tape" (actually CDs) to listen to along the way.  We spent most of today with Mozart, read by Alexander Adams.  The book, by Peter Gay, is 163 pages long; the CD version runs to 4 disks and the reading took several hours, but the author's lively prose and Mr. Adams' cultured voice kept the time from dragging.

Mr. Gay spent a good part of the book debunking myths about Mozart and his family.  Mozart's funeral, for instance, was typical of its time and not nearly as bleak as usually depicted.  Mr. Gay also had positive things to say about Mozart's father, but I'm still not convinced that the man who constantly blamed Wolfgang for his mother's death had only his best interests at heart.

We learned several things about Mozart that we had not previously known: that he was a Freemason, that he and his older sister were estranged in their later years, and that he was almost as adept at learning new languages as he was at music.  I also hadn't realized how much Mozart's reputation had dimmed during the 19th and early 20th centuries; while deploring the commercialism surrounding its resurrection, the author commented dryly that Leopold Mozart would have joined right in with the Amadeus-related marketing frenzy.  Unfortunately, that's probably the mental image that will stay with me the longest: a stern Leopold lurking in a souvenir kiosk, surrounded by Mozart T-shirts, plaster busts of the composer in a variety of sizes, and bootleg Amadeus DVDs.

"Because of Mozart, it's all over after seven." ~Wendy Wasserstein 

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