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On Mozart: A Paean for Wolfgang : Being a…

On Mozart: A Paean for Wolfgang : Being a Celestial Colloquy, an Opera… (edition 1991)

by Anthony Burgess

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1181153,263 (3.27)2
Title:On Mozart: A Paean for Wolfgang : Being a Celestial Colloquy, an Opera Libretto, a Film Script, a Schizophrenic Dialogue
Authors:Anthony Burgess
Info:Ticknor & Fields (1991), Hardcover
Collections:Your library
Tags:Music, Essays

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Mozart and the Wolf Gang by Anthony Burgess



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This very clever homage to Mozart begins with a celestial conversation between some of the great composers: Wagner; Beethoven; Prokofiev; Bliss; and others, and continues with a libretto on Mozart's life. This is one of the most creative books I've read recently; funny, clever, sparkling with wit and venom in equal amounts. It also had me checking the internet and the dictionary, for in places it was not an easy read. But very entertaining if you know anything of the subjects. It's a short read, mostly dialogue and had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Afterwards I wondered what the composers might would say if they knew their music is sold on iTunes, or that a few bars might be used as a ringtone on a phone? ( )
  VivienneR | Dec 10, 2014 |
ON MOZART A Paean for Wolfgang. Being a Celestial Colloquy, an Opera Libretto, a Film Script, a Schizophrenic Dialogue, a Bewildered Rumination, a Stendhalian Transcription, and a Heartfelt Homage Upon the Bicentenary of the Death of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. By Anthony Burgess. 160 pp. New York: Ticknor & Fields. $19.95.

ANOTHER book on Mozart? Is there anything left to write about him? During last year's commemoration of the 200th anniversary of his death, Amadeophiles delved into practically every area of his existence. So I am grateful to report that Anthony Burgess's new book, a "heartfelt homage" in a form combining opera, film, novel and essay, stakes out uncharted territory. "On Mozart" provides answers to such burning questions as:

* What happened to Mozart after he died and went to heaven?

* How would you go about novelizing his Symphony No. 40?

* What did Ludwig van Beethoven really think of Saddam Hussein?

Mr. Burgess sets his book in heaven. The time, measured by earthly events, is the 1991 Persian Gulf war. The premise is that a motley crew of departed composers, including most of the biggies like Brahms, Wagner, Mendelssohn, Gershwin and Stravinsky, is preparing to watch an opera written by anonymous spirits for a celestial bicentennial. The subject of the libretto is Mozart's scheme to prevent the tyrannical Prince Archbishop Hieronymus Colloredo from schlepping him from lively Vienna to boring old Salzburg.

Since he is a composer of some accomplishment himself and, in "A Clockwork Orange," the creator of Alex, the vicious punk and ultimate Beethoven fan, this is hardly Anthony Burgess's first essay at portraying the world of music. In his "Napoleon Symphony" of 1974, he novelized Beethoven's "Eroica" Symphony, using a technique similar to that of his transfer into prose of Mozart's 40th in the present book. I'm afraid I'll have to give it the same critique that Anthony gives it in "On Mozart": gibberish.

If you are looking for a biographically revealing work on the life of a great composer, this book most likely will not please you. This is a spiritual biography, similar in purpose to, but radically different in style from, J. W. N. Sullivan's classic "Beethoven: His Spiritual Development" (1927).

As much as I liked most of this brilliant rumination, I have to confess a profound dis-ease with it. We seem to be living in a silver age, content to worship the past, a time of safe art as well as safe sex. I can't help wondering what risk is there in wallowing in yesterday's masterpieces rather than in discovering today's. Good, we have a fine book to cap Mozart's bicentennial, but isn't it time to get on with it?
added by VivienneR | editNew York Times, William M. Hoffman (Apr 26, 1992)
Burgess, a composer before he turned to writing, worships Mozart with a tinge of envy, to which he himself alludes in a closing essay. While recognizing Mozart as the supreme musical genius, he also finds it necessary to observe that Mozart ``may not have the complex humanity of Shakespeare.'' This witty, freewheeling homage, more divertimento than symphony, opens with the shades of Beethoven, Mendelssohn and Wagner squabbling up in heaven. Burgess includes an opera libretto starring Wolfgang himself, fragments of a film script, an ill-conceived prose-poem based on Mozart's Fortieth Symphony, a schizoid dialogue between the author's divided self ("Anthony'" vs. "Burgess'") and additional celestial dithering by Henry James, Gershwin, Salieri and Schoenberg. The mystery of the composer's genius is neither illuminated nor enhanced by this dazzling confection.
added by VivienneR | editPublisher's Weekly
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Nineteen ninety-one, the year of the bicentenary of Mozart’s death, has already been celebrated with due devotion and even mindless awe.
Vulgarity in music denies the human complexity which supreme art must somehow portray. It makes use of stock devices for suggesting the lower appetites. Trombones can fart and slide. In Don Giovanni , as Bernard Shaw says, they conjure a fearful joy. Melodies are compounds of stock progressions and stock cadences.
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