thumbnail of Music and other four letter words; 6; Mozart's Death Wish
Hide -
If this transcript has significant errors that should be corrected, let us know, so we can add it to FIX IT+
University of Utah radio presents music and other four letter words. Here is your host associate professor of music at the University of Utah Paul bad. Yes. I think I cannot fit too strongly with someone who has lived on the age of 17 or maybe at the outside 18 and not read Groucho's little novelette the sorrows of young or were there as you please. I must have been dull indeed and of little consequence and I think as we have noted before the little book never failed to affect him even in later years when he went back to it as serene and sane and classic and somewhat over well-balanced. Elderly. Man. Bird strikes this generation I think with particular significance. The young tortured man who has artistic
sensibility who is a painter but not a great painter whose talent is not a man whose feeling of belonging is not very great Any place that he is who is confronted with the stablish moment who needs to make his way who can somehow relate. And I guess that's the big word nowadays too. The kind of society to which he has been born and with which he is constantly thrown and who is loyal to his friends but sees that his friends speak in the same sort of established jargon that he has been accustomed to speak since childhood who has a hankering after the folk the naive the people from body who must be out there someplace in the country or in the hills or away anyway from the Critical Condition of the big cities where where history and civilization have sort of taken charge of the terrible spiritual rigor mortis was in. Who leads them to the nearest village she can find who goes to the
nearest tavern in that village who begins impetuously to try to speak to the people and then discovers that he cannot be understood and is not really acceptable to those people simply because that first word he utters they recognise that he was a person the breeding. Person of education. It's impossible for him to change his syntax and indeed his accent. Both results in the kind of frustration which I suppose many of us can sympathize with. Nowadays the only difference is that the folk who are harder to find may still be possible in some places and in Europe or Asia to run to a village and see people who have the look and the character of both lovely paintings of a century or two ago where the folk are represented at their earnest and and honorable toil. But maybe that too will pass.
Vera if that were not enough to fall in with the epitome of for him her ideal beauty and the domestic girl. Who is good at household chores who knows all about little children who are the best possible kind of mother. Who has all of those Teutonic ideals and extending them to girth which he has low with. Sort of in his mind's eye wanted. And whom he first encounters in an ideal pastoral setting as though everything were conspiring for her as it turns out ultimately against him. The temperature is just right when he sees her the light is just out in the sky. Those essential things which are difficult to communicate. And which were I suppose almost always overlooked in matters of personal relationships
are present. Take the temperature take the color take the time of day take the time of life take the particular feelings in at that moment take the precise look on the face of law when he sees it. Take the fact of the children. Whatever is. The Fourth some of the breeds. Put them together. But most of mother to be. And then the terrible disillusion of finding that this too is unattainable and that our beau she will speak to him and although he can probably communicate with her better than with any other person that he has spoken to short of his friend to whom he writes letters that she was betrothed already that she has promised that there is no way to cut through the social niceties of this out-of-the-way village.
And that ultimately there is to be no relationship and there is finally to be no communication that he is after all the type of wanderer a pilgrim of this person on the earth who has no chance of any call and this results of course in suicide. Nowadays I suppose looking back on this little book the suicide seems excessive sentimental to I don't know what words are used about the sorrows or the sufferings of that half. In that generation the late 18th century. Apparently it was not received so loudly or so trivially. For a long time there had been some kind of dissatisfaction about the tendency of that generation to label people to categorize them to put them into types. We hear complaints often nowadays about numbering people. I suppose it's something like that sensibility too. At any rate it has often been exaggerated it is
true that after it was translated that a number of young persons throughout Europe took it seriously enough as to emulate the example of its hero. And to commit mutual suicide. I don't know whether pistol makers were in business simply because Ritter had used a brace on them and that is two. But certainly persons took whatever was the convenient way. Or they shot themselves or they did whatever it was they can do sometimes to attract attention to their plight and sometimes because they felt that there was no way out of their time or their situation and that the great enemy of course was society. It was the birth of Mozart was growing up. 1756 was the year in which entered the
world from 1791. Or that he left. During all that time I suppose he wasn't really primarily affected by trends and by books and by anything else which was going on in the cultural society of his time. He said that he was primarily a musician and he didn't even like to give lessons on the clavier. Especially if you had to go to somebody's house to give a lesson. He felt that he was naturally superior by reason the talent that other people were to apply the word genius to him. There were artistic rats about him and he had to serve them faithfully. He had to serve them sometimes in a different costume or dress from that which they wore. And that piqued him. He felt that he was naturally superior to them and that somehow fate had been unkind. But I don't suppose he brooded on that. He seems to have gotten tired occasionally about it written some sassy letters to his father and even sent some sassy things
to people for whom he worked who managed successfully to infuriate a number of people. And it is even believed again this year that for one reason or another probably his irritable disposition and the prospect of his talent ultimately paying off and that he was secretly poisoned. He writes letters to his father in 1778 which is the year as I remember it of the famous Sinfonia contect in the flat for violin and viola which is among the more tempestuous of Mozart's pieces if you want to listen to the second movement in C Minor from Paris where he was not particularly happy he wrote to his father. If it were not for him. I would leave this house at once. I played on the miserable wretch at the piano forte but what vexed me most of all was that Matt and all her gentleman never interrupted their drawing
for a moment but went on intently so that I had to play to the chairs to the tables on the walls. Under these detestable conditions I lost my patience. I therefore began to play the fisher variations and after playing half of them I stood out. Where upon I received a shower of a load. Upon which I said the only thing I had to say which was that I could not do myself justice on BET club. But I should very much like to fix some other day to play on a better instrument would be available. But as the Duchess would not hear of my going. I had to wait for another half hour until her husband came in. He set down beside me and listened with the greatest attention than I. I forgot the cold. My head ache and in spite of the wretched cloud there I played as I play when I am in good spirits. Give me the best record there in Europe with an audience who understand nothing or don't want to understand and to not feel with me you know what I am playing and I shall cease to feel any pleasure at all.
You know the typical Mozart type passage. He's unhappy in Paris. If he's unhappy in Paris where his mother incidentally died. His wretched miserable in starts work. Nowadays people flock to Salzburg because this is Mozart's birthplace and pilgrimage place and it's sweet looking town and everything is made up to be attractive and appealing I suppose. To tourists. Mozart every time he looked at. Those acquainted towers they were abominations and provincialism them and that behind them there lurked enemies and incense people and he was largely right. The two archbishops that he had encounters with who. Were archbishops largely because of family preference and not by the spiritual calling.
Regarded him as another Salzberg someone who could sit in the livery of the household at the lower level and write music to entertain them. On Saturday nights they made this position extremely clear. To Mozart who I suppose never rightly understood it. Kim thought that he had been celebrated child taken by his family across Europe. The entertainer of kings and queens and princes the little boy who had been asked to write a piece of music for posterity at the British Museum which is now not very far from the Magna Carta who had slept the sensational state bedrooms who had been surrounded by go and Sterling. And people who were extremely well spoken and who had flattered him from his earliest years to come back to his birthplace and to fund lesser persons adopting an unusually high tone towards him was more than he could bear. He finally left and went to Vienna where he had
prospects of being happy. He married in which she had prospects of being happy. Although it was not a blissful union with Constance it was at least endurable. Vienna was a place that he came to dislike as well simply because of the audience which he had expected. And once again to recognise his talent and to give him money and to celebrate him as he had been celebrated as a child. Grew Tired of the sort of things that he had to offer them. It was a very faddish group when playing piano concertos was no longer and he turned to writing operas. It became clear that certain kinds of opera were not in and when he wrote to Don Giovanni in 1787 he seems to have hit on the wrong for society. There were complaints that he was a disturbed young man but he ought to sort of square himself in a way that it wasn't the business of music to sort of lay one's personal feelings bare. The Emperor complained that
he wrote music which was much too loud. That sort of got in the way of the conversations and. Whatever else was supposed to be going on at the same time that music was being played particularly in the opera. But Mozart's orchestra seemed to be drowning out the singing. Mozart was always complaining that he never had enough people to play his music. That's sort of a handle like an Wagner like he needed much more authority in order to make his point. Well anyway one looks at it I suppose. Johann resourced I'm going to do this Mozart was not a happy man. However consciously hold but this kind of. Unrest or this equivocation which he felt in his personal life was really the business of his music. I suppose it's simply that he sometimes couldn't help himself.
He wrote as he felt when he wrote quickly. He sometimes could not remember things that he had written although they were rather good pieces he said. This generation listens to the music of Mozart and finds it extremely equivocal. At one moment it's possible to listen to some music and say I was with you as Myra has gone. Or happy you must be happy she said or die. But it's. The last little appendage which makes the difference. Because at another time listening to the same music one finds it impossible to listen to it happening. But it feels that he takes on a certain behind subliminal melancholy. Let's listen to a couple of songs by Mozart for a minute now. What one would call a typical 18th century music. Final movement. A Rondo from the MOTU are not.
The kind of music but Mozart's music ought to be active. You really aren't charming. Yeah.
Yeah. There was all of that peripheral nervous excitement.
Some of the facade of this time of Mozart himself who was not a very profound person who was given to looking at things quickly caricaturing them largely in his drawings and passing on to the next thing something of the feeling of Rousseau coming down I suppose to breakfast in the morning and finding one of his. Mistresses hers and his and his partridge and gobbling it up with great erotic excitement because it had come from her or her himself in one of his more superficial moments bumping against a lot of me under the table and into hot flashes of the lights fusing him. Yes that that's an aspect of life too. But then we remember the bird killed himself. And we remember too that Mozart wrote this letter to his father. I need not tell you. What anxiety I await better news from yourself. I count upon
that with certainty in all things to anticipate the worst since death. Take my words literally since death is the true our lives. I have made myself so well acquainted during the last two years with this true and best friend of mankind that the idea of it no longer has any terrors for me but rather much that is tranquil and comforting. And I thank God that he has granted me the good fortune to obtain the opportunity of regarding death as the key to our true happiness. I never lie down in bed without considering that young is lying. Perhaps tomorrow I may be no more. You have not one of those who know me could say that I am more rose. Or melancholy.
And for this I thank my creator daily and wish heartily that the same happiness may be given to my fellow men. An inverse happiness. Maybe. I. Remained a believer as far as we can tell to the end though perhaps not quite as practicing and quite as orthodox a believer as he had been in his earlier days. Voter is the boy who says too. I never lie down in bed at night without considering that tomorrow. I may die. And who begins to see that maybe there are no answers for him and all of the light which is around him. And there are certainly no answers for him in all of the associations which he is forced to have and which he cannot be reconciled with. And if there is any answer maybe it is in the Great Darkness. A very terse aspirations towards. I suppose our fearsome and unknowing Mozart insists that he have a
tranquillity and that he has come to understand perfectly the true happiness why he didn't have fits of melancholy probably which people outside probably wouldn't know about he writes about them in his letters to his father. It would seem of the sort of book the sort of mode of being or apprehension for a composer is after all the true meaning of life. But some of that might occasionally happen in his music. I think for example a very famous piece in C Minor which on the surface of it could be an exercise in counterpoint but could also be an exercise in vegetarian sensibility. This has been music and other four letter words.
Featuring Paul Bana associate professor of music at the University of Utah. Music and other four letter words as a production of University of Utah radio executive director Rex combo series director Gene PAC. This series is made possible by a grant from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.
Please note: This content is only available at GBH and the Library of Congress, either due to copyright restrictions or because this content has not yet been reviewed for copyright or privacy issues. For information about on location research, click here.
Music and other four letter words
Episode Number
Mozart's Death Wish
Contributing Organization
University of Maryland (College Park, Maryland)
If you have more information about this item than what is given here, or if you have concerns about this record, we want to know! Contact us, indicating the AAPB ID (cpb-aacip/500-028pgx9w).
No description available
Media type
AAPB Contributor Holdings
University of Maryland
Identifier: 4927 (University of Maryland)
Format: 1/4 inch audio tape
Duration: 00:30:00?
If you have a copy of this asset and would like us to add it to our catalog, please contact us.
Chicago: “Music and other four letter words; 6; Mozart's Death Wish,” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC, accessed May 28, 2024,
MLA: “Music and other four letter words; 6; Mozart's Death Wish.” University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Web. May 28, 2024. <>.
APA: Music and other four letter words; 6; Mozart's Death Wish. Boston, MA: University of Maryland, American Archive of Public Broadcasting (GBH and the Library of Congress), Boston, MA and Washington, DC. Retrieved from