Cinema Signal:

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart:
A Biography
by Piero Melograni and Lydia G. Cochrane (Highest rated at Amazon)


. "In Search of Mozart"

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 bills.

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 wildly unmodulated.

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.

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                                      ~~  Jules Brenner  




The film's official website.


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Modern Salzburg, Mozart's birthplace
A fitting place for anything classical.
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