Anecdotally speaking, it would seem that the most listened-to composers on
the planet are Beethoven and Mozart. A classical music station in Los
Angeles even chose the call letters KMZT after the latter genius and hardly a
day goes by that it doesn't program several of his works. But, that
popularity is only within the relatively small demographic that listens to
classical music at all. That sad fact is reflected in the recent need for
the station to go from FM to AM to make way for Hip Hop pop so as to meet the
Neverthless, for classical music lovers, the Mozart legacy is one of the
great treasures of the world, and the prodigy who turned in melodic lines
whose originality went beyond 18th century norms -- at the age of eight! -- is
well presented in this definitive documentary.
Thanks, then, goes to director/producer Phil Grabsky for compiling as
complete a history of the music genius as has heretofore been presented in
one audio-visual place. It is comprised of contemporary portraiture; experts
analyzing the inventiveness and personal journey of the artist all along his
somewhat troubled life (he died at 35); contemporary scenes of Salzburg, his
hometown, and his adopted Paris, Prague and Vienna; a very revealing lifelong
collection of letters to and from the master's father and adored wife; and
many excerpts of musicians playing key compositions: chamber music,
concertos, syphonies and more.
The release details tell us, "This look at the life of Mozart follows a
25,000-mile trail along every route Mozart followed in the course of his
life," and it's evidient on screen.
While the first ten minutes or so seem a melange of material, sticking to the
chronology of the life and the music brings structure to the enterprise.
And, no matter what segue repetition (metronomic windshield wipers) might
creep into the narrative flow, the education one derives from this
documentary overrides any matters of moviemaking technique. The product
itself proves to be of inestimable value.
I suspect its detail about a period in history when records of any kind about
its creative geniuses aren't as complete or easily found as in more modern
time, is as elucidating to musicians as to Joe and Mary Commuter whose early
morning drives are enriched by the masterful tempi of Amadeus.
Grabsky's documentary takes us from the earliest examples of little Wolfgang's
keyboard ingenuity to his unfinished Requiem -- more than 70 works in all.
Performers include Leif Ove Andsnes, Rene Jacobs, Renee Fleming, Pierre
Laurent Aimard, Lang Lang, Frans Brueggen's Orchestra of 18th Century Music
and others who discuss their take on the genius and the emotional depth
in the works they play for us.
Musicologists such as Jonathan Miller, Cliff Eisen, Nicholas Till, Bayan
Northcott and Stanley Sadie add to our understanding of the man in a fuller,
more complete and, one suspects, more accurate way than in such stagy
"impressions" as Milos forman's "Amadeus," in which dramatic license goes
From Grabsky's comprehensive presentation one may be overpowered by the
awesome creativity of the composer which, especially considering his more
earthy personal proclivities, is as unfathomable for most mortals as the
scope of the galaxies. Genius like this is, after all, a mystery. And,
while one might be transfixed by the effect of it, as one is swept away by
the contemplation of the Grand Canyon, the timeless durability of Mozart's
music is explained by that effect on his players, singers, scholars and
listeners. Admiration for Mozart may be eclipsed (in fan following) by
what's being fed to the hip hop generation but its accessibility at all
levels of musical development makes it durable and universal.
No musician or music lover should fail to see this movie.
~~ Jules Brenner