Too much Mozart makes you sick: A (partial) defense of Lebrecht

25 December, 2005 11:20 am
While I find most (well, all) of the particulars of Norman Lebrecht’s December 14 article “Too much Mozart makes you sick” ( completely unsupportable, I am sympathetic to the general argument.

Mozart has been over-commercialized. He is used to sell everything from soap to jeans, provides easy listening wallpaper for our ignoring pleasure and serves as the focal point of that insidious scam, the Mozart Effect. None of this is Mozart’s fault, and while he did advance the forms (just about all of them); our misuse of Mozart is what undermines the understanding and appreciation of good serious music, including Mozart himself. As we head into the 250th anniversary of his birth we can anticipate a yearlong orgy of commercial stupidity surrounding the composer.

Focusing on the 100th anniversary of Shostakovich, on the other hand, might move our attention away from the expected Mozart silliness and toward issues that are more relevant to creating and sustain a living musical tradition. Shostakovich managed to create a delicate balance between the avant-garde and popular music; between the high art of the opera, symphony and string quartet and the low art of film scores, musical theater and popular dance music; between the socialist East and the capitalist West; public and private; and not the least, the many moods of Joseph Stalin. Many of these issues are very current and frequently debated by those who still care about music, including on these message boards and by Lebrecht himself.

This is music that is relevant to our situation today, and we can learn a lot from it. Far better than the saccharine commercialism we can expect from pending Mozart celebrations.


~ by severalfourmany on December 25, 2005.

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