In just about any book you pick up about Wolfgang Mozart you will find a few or a number of references to how conceited he was. In fact, to many, it seemed that his arrogance had no end. He was constantly correcting his colleagues in musical matters. He enjoyed humiliating them, in fact, when they were especially pompous. He was overbearing and, unfortunately for his victims, always right. Did any of his colleagues during his life actually acknowledge the superiority of Mozart’s gifts to theirs? Hardly. They didn’t seem to have the time to do that — they were too busy cutting him down behind his back to rework him into something they were more comfortable with. The result was the curious and infuriating ‘slander factory’ that accompanied Wolf wherever he went. His colleagues, in short, could do no wrong, while he could do no right. We even have a contemporary (if the 80’s of the last century can still be called that) abstraction of most of the slander and criticism directed at Wolf in the inglorious and unseemly play/movie Amadeus. Wolf didn’t deserve the gifts he was given, goes its thesis — and guess who did? The mediocrities.
But what everyone seemed to be overlooking in their rush to redesign Mozart’s character and gifts into something they could comprehend, his colleagues managed to avoid dealing with the obvious. Mozart was just ‘too’. He was too smart, too arrogant, too brilliant, too funny, too rude, too obnoxious. He did not set the proper limits and boundaries. He did not ‘fit’. He was too different.
And there lies the crux of the issue. For Mozart’s gifts were, in fact, different from theirs. His was a gift of perfection, and theirs were not. Mozart’s gift was perfect in the way a fifth or fourth is perfect; they cannot be compared to a major or minor interval. They are just different. No one would acknowledge that very obvious fact. Instead, they decided to get rid of him, one way or another. They treated him as though he were already dead, and then waited for something to happen. And when he died, their secret was safe. Now they could perform his music with impunity, and pretend to be him. Who was to object now? Could Mozart speak from the grave?
And thus, the myths about Mozart have grown and almost swallowed up the truth of his life and character. But not entirely…for indeed, as he said in the opera The Magic Flute, ‘thy magic tones will speak for me, my message carry…” 🙂