The man's been dead for 217 years. He only lived for 35 years! Yet, there have been very few people who have had the kind of continuing impact on civilization like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
Tonight, my friend Alvin Mundo took me (again) to one of Robert Kapilow's "What Makes It Great" concerts at the Cerritos Performing Arts Center. This unique concert series is as much about education as it is about fine performances. (When you tell people about them, their eyes glaze over and their breathing gets coma-like. Frankly, hearing "about" these concerts makes them sound as dull as death, but really, they're fantastic: entertaining and inspirational at the same time.)
Anyway, tonight's program featured Mozart's Concerto for Clarinet and Orchestra. Performing it was the Riverside Philharmonic Orchestra with a beautiful young clarinetist, Deborah Avery, as soloist. (The link is here just to let you hear the music of the 1st movement, if you're interested. The soloist and orchestra on the video were not in tonight's concert. The video soloist is actually pretty darn annoying with all her moving around--but the music's great.)
As the performance was unfolding, I was once again reminded of how much I LOVE hearing a fine orchestra. This sounds so "music nerd-ish" to say, but I genuinely believe that there is probably no more skilled assembly of people in any kind of human organization. Certainly not in the arts. (Since I've never played in an orchestra in my life, I think I'm being objective in saying this.)
Orchestral players are amazing. They spend years of their lives in solitude practicing, practicing, practicing. They develop their brilliant musicianship on an individual level; then they transfer those skills to the ensemble--either a full orchestra or a small chamber group. The goal of the orchestra player is not "winning." It's not getting the limelight. It's not "standing out from the rest." The goal of the orchestra is to bring to life, in real time, the creative spirit of the composer.
So, as this young orchestra played so beautifully tonight, Herr Mozart enjoyed immortality.
The concerto was written just three months before his untimely death. (To hear it, you'd think he was at the peak of a long and brilliant career--not the sunset of one that was woefully short.) Tonight his brilliance and compositional genius were on public display because of the 25 young men and women whose dedicated and focused talents were able to roll back two centuries.