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Last Updated: Friday, 27 January 2006, 08:27 GMT
You the critic: Mozart
Mozart
The British Library is putting Mozart's music diary online
The 18th Century composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born 250 years ago on Friday in Salzburg, Austria.

He composed his first works aged four, was famous across Europe before he was 10 years old, and has been called the greatest composer of the classical age.

His life and works are being celebrated throughout 2006, but on Friday Vienna and Salzburg will begin a two-day party with concerts, exhibitions and street events, with a new Mozart museum opening in Vienna.

As part of our You the critic series, the BBC News website asked classical music fans to take part in our coverage of the event and assess whether Mozart was the greatest music genius this world has yet seen.

We had just over 100 entries and chose four to publish on the site - they are below. Thanks to our four correspondents and to all of you who sent your thoughts.




Kareem Ismail, Baltimore, USA

In my opinion, Mozart was one of the two greatest composers in the western tonal tradition - along with Bach.

While his fame as a child prodigy tends to dominate the public's view of him, I find most of his early work to be immature and quite insignificant when compared to his overall legacy.

Mendelssohn, for instance, was a far more spectacular child prodigy, composing mature work even as a teenager.

It is Mozart's adult lifework however that puts him head and shoulders above the rest.

His music is clear yet subtle, deep without pondering, beautiful without being ornamental and it speaks of humanity yet it is warmed by a touch of divinity all within a very logical and coherent structure.

His music, more than any other composer, is capable of touching the hearts of very different people, from the simple man to the intellect, with each seeing a different image of themselves in his music.

What is even more profound about his music is that after some listening you start sensing the sadness behind the joy and the joy behind the tragic with hope always being a central theme to his music.

He was the earliest romantic composer in many ways, decades ahead of his time in intensity of expression.

Remember such compositions as the piano concertos in D minor and C minor (20 and 24) and the Symphony in G minor (40) which inspired the likes of Beethoven and Schubert and cast Mozart's shadow on western music for centuries to come.

Steve McClue, Dundee, UK

To suggest that Mozart was the greatest musical genius the world has ever known is to indulge in some pretty narrow-minded hyperbole.

We in the West are conditioned to perceive music of Mozart's type as being the pinnacle of Western music - however, this ignores music made by many other human cultures over the millennia.

If Mozart were played to a South American native tribe, would they immediately recognise it as genius? Would they recognise it as music at all?

Let us not forget that Eastern musical forms (Chinese music, Indonesian Gamelan) are at least as advanced as Western classical music, and certainly have a pedigree that is older than ours.

Even within the narrow confines of Western musical history, many classical musicians and composers would rate Bach's use of counterpoint greater than Mozart's, and Wagner's use of colour and extension of musical boundaries higher than Mozart's.

There is in Mozart little sense of the musical struggle and ultimate release to be found in Beethoven's work, and not even very much of the stylistic musical development very evident in Beethoven.

Do Mozart's symphonies have the wit of Haydn's symphonies? Mozart was a very great musical genius - of that there can be no question.

But to suggest that he was, or indeed that there can ever be "the greatest" is nonsense.

Barbara Diana, London

First I would like to know how you define "genius" - I do find it a very ambiguous epithet.

But of this I am sure - when it comes to expressing the depths of the human soul in music, very few composers reached the level of understanding and compassion you find in Mozart.

His portrayals of the human spirit are coloured by acceptance, insight and an unshakeable faith in the positive nature of humanity.

And all this he was able to express in music whose beauty still amazes and overwhelms us, reaching often unchartered corners of our souls.

The world inhabited, created or projected by this music is optimistic without being naive, positive without being unaware, and does not seem to be tinted by egotism, self-absorption or self-indulgence.

Mozart seemed to have been able to see through, rather then beyond, everyday reality, and shows to the listener that what you find on the other side is a possible Eden.

I cannot think of many composers who had such vision, or where able to express it to such a degree.

And if this ability you call 'genius', then he probably was a musical genius.

Whether he was the greatest, I think has little relevance.

Chris Barlow, Tokyo, Japan

Well, in one-to-one comparisons:

Bach: With 20 kids he bred his own orchestra and still had time to compose. So I reckon JSB edges it overall.

Handel: Hallelujah brother! But WaM was better.

Haydn: Sorry Joseph, that indefinable spark is just missing.

Beethoven: Had a bit more oomph, really, didn't he. LvB for me.

Chopin: Had bigger hands and boy could he play the piano.

Schubert: Died even younger! Ugly too, so gets the sympathy vote.

Brahms: A bit stodgy. No comparison.

Tchaikovsky: Nice tunes; over the top at times.

Wagner: Salzburg swings, Bayreuth bores. WaM wins here.

Einstein: OK, not so much a musical genius as a genius who was musical (ask Patrick Moore)

Me: If only (sigh)

Verdict: All-time Innate Talent Musical Genius Award goes to....
Shared: Mozart & Schubert
Best Music Award: Beethoven
Honourable mention: JS Bach.



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