The Spirit of Mozart

Today I performed at a church where the music minister regularly hires a full orchestra to feature the mystical and healing power of music in the service. The entire service featured the music of Mozart, a glorious collection of Wolfie's best and most sublime, including the Andante from the flute concerto K315, Kyrie from the Coronation Mass K317, two movements from Vesperae solennes di confessore K339, and the famous Adagio from the Clarinet Concerto K622.

Written near the end of his life, Mozart achieved a perfect balance between profound meaning and simple expression in his clarinet concerto. The adagio begins with a simple, arching melody which rises higher with each two bar statement. A second arching line overlaps between solo and orchestra, with tension and resolution soaring over a satisfying peak. Then the "B" section changes moods, allowing the solo clarinet a free and wandering fantasy, a conversation with itself, which builds slowly to a fervent musical climax. Here the orchestra drops out and the clarinet is left alone to float down from the rich tension, back to the simple "A" part from the beginning. The movement ends with a long coda of new, rambling material, which settles, like a feather, gently down to a relaxed repose.

Before I played, this poem The Song and Prayer of Birds by Thomas H. Troeger (b 1945) was read by the minister:

The song and prayer of birds
is melody alone,
Their hymns employ no words.
Their praise is purely tone.
Their song is prayer enough.
Love hears what sound conveys,
and love does not rebuff
a creature's wordless praise.
And so we trust that prayer
does not depend on words
to reach the source of care
who understands the birds.

After hearing this poem, I was inspired to play the pure meaning of the music, without thinking or second-guessing or analyzing. I just felt the phrases as they came and went, abstract shaped of sound and song. I was able to sing through my instrument as if it wasn't there.

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5 comments for “The Spirit of Mozart

  1. December 1, 2006 at

    Thanks for making the experience of creating music so real and accessible. This is a great blog.

  2. November 1, 2006 at

    L.D. – I’m surprised to hear you speak of THE clarinet concerto like that! Dear, dear!! I don’t blame you, though. We are forced to play it so often under such stressful situations, that it’s hard to love it. If you ever get to play it with an orchestra, you will fall in love. (I hope)

  3. Lord Doomhammer
    October 31, 2006 at

    Wow Dave, your exquisite words make playing Mozart seem almost bearable. I’d better keep them in mind in the next audition cycle. Among other things, we have to play the exposition from the Concerto…bleh.

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