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Provocative thoughts from Patric Standford


This celebratory year continues to unfold before us, and mercantile interests can for the first time in fifteen years be provided with yet another exciting excuse to play again most of what has already been played too much, and bring to light more of what need not really be heard at all. For it must surely be admitted that whilst there is no denying a most remarkable and precocious talent, a little less than half the 626 works carefully catalogued by Dr Ludwig Ritter von Köchel early in 1862 could possibly have been the work of some of his very talented slightly older contemporaries, composers like Haydn, Albrechtsberger, Dittersdorf, Paisiello, Grétry, Wanhal, all of whom developed a more mature style of their own later. Or those closer his own age like Clementi, Cimarosa, Pleyel, Cherubini, Viotti -- even Salieri who, irritatingly, only six years his senior, seemed to command the sort of professional posts Mozart may have coveted.

Apart from Haydn, history has been unkind to most of the others. It was not their fault that Mozart was born just when he was, and his birth could not have had any influence on their technical ability or creative talent. Had Mozart been born later, then perhaps Dittersdorf would have been judged the 18th century master along with Haydn, and poor Weber (and dare it be suggested even Beethoven) may not have stood much chance against Mozart's late mature genius. Had he been born earlier then it is likely that most of those mentioned may have taken up farming or weaving instead -- such can be the effect of blatant genius on the ambitions of the very young.

But that apart, surely it is time now to let the fellow rest. After the birthday, now passed, perhaps a celebration of his first public concert in London 242 years ago on 5 June, or his 224th wedding anniversary on 4 August, and then of course his death on 5 December, I would suggest a long sabbatical. When the easy option of programming some more Mozart presents itself, as it will do almost daily in concert halls and recital rooms somewhere in the world, let us instead give some of those other fine composers of the late 1700s a chance to breath our modern, if now tainted, air -- including the much spoken of yet less heard Salieri -- and discover fresh older gems for those who still wish to live with the sounds of nostalgic familiarity so far in the past.

Copyright © 28 February 2006 Patric Standford, Wakefield, UK


From: Jim Hawkins

Give those lesser lights some well-deserved and overdue airing by all means, but there are concerts, recitals, TV and radio programmes enough to do it WITHOUT anything so misguided and heretical as a 'sabbatical' for the master himself!




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