Earlier, I wrote about Mozart’s Violin Concerto Number 3 in G. Mozart wrote Number 5 in A in December of 1775, three months after the third, when he was a mere 14 years old! It’s hard to imagine someone so young could turn out a work so mature and full of depth.
Peter Gay wrote a short biography of Mozart a while back. I heard him speaking about it on a local call in show at the time. He told some interesting stories about Mozart and his father. One caller asked whether Gay thought that any child, given an education like Mozart’s father had given him would achieve the level of genius that little Wolfie attained. Gay said he couldn’t speak to that, but he could speak to the upbringing that Leopold Mozart had given his son, which does not seem so enlightened. Leopold raised and instructed his son for the purpose that many people still do all over the world–to be a source of income. What’s more, had Mozart lived in modern times, he probably would have sued his father for mental abuse, as other stars have done.
Gay told of how Mozart’s father, then choir master at the court in Salzburg, made his wife take Wolfgang on a concert tour to Paris, when his duties at the court prohibited him from doing so. They stopped in Muenster, where Mozart fell in love with a young girl. His father wrote him terrible, angry letters saying that his job was to go to Paris to make money. When they got to the City of Lights, his mother contracted a fever and died. Leopold wrote to blame her death on his son’s wanton behavior.
So in a way, Mozart managed to become great despite his father’s upbringing. The perfect pitch, the near-photographic musical memory, the ability to convey deep feelings were probably traits that he had been born with, just as some are taller, faster, or better at math than others. Had he not received a musical education, perhaps he might have become a musician anyway, able to play by ear. But the exposure to music gave him the tools to let his genius come out. It still strikes me odd that people think one’s ability is solely the result of either nature or nurture.
The Violin Concerto Number 5 starts with a fast “allegro” tempo, in which the orchestra states the theme and then lopes along with an upbeat mood. Odd, however, is how Mozart introduces the solo violin–with a slow adagio that introduces a completely new theme instead of recapping the one the orchestra used. After this mysterious interlude, the violin then launches into a vigorous restatement of the orchestral theme.
The second movement is a long, slow and beautiful adagio. The last movement has garnered a lot of attention over the centuries. It starts with a lovely minuet that carries you away with its beauty, before coming to a quiet closing. Then comes a stately march, before he returns to the minuet theme. For the rest of the piece Mozart goes back and forth between these tempos and a Turkish-sounding “rondo,” which is where the subtitle comes from. Eventually he returns to the beautiful strains of the minuet and draws to a close in a triumphant vein before the last few measures when he slows it back down to the beautiful, controlled theme from the opening. Not bad for a teenager.
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