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Glazunov's Writings, Blog 6: Mozart in All of Us

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A big thanks to a German-speaking friend who volunteered to translate this for me. This speech was likely made originally in German for a symposium because it dates 1931, after Glazunov left the USSR for good. Mozart fans would especially be interested in this, enjoy!

Mozart in all of us

In the second half of the 18th century, a miracle happened on this planet: in the heavens of art a new star emerged, whose glistening overshadowed all other earthly lights, and which disappeared as fast as it came. This phenomenon left his peers in astonishment. But even today mankind experiences as much excitement from Mozart, the biggest artistic genius of all music.

Even in his infancy he possessed rich natural gifts. Thus was his life goal predetermined. In his early childhood he already gluttonously consumed everything that was created before him musically. Thanks to his father, the esteemed musician Leopold Mozart, who guided his first steps, he was a fully educated musician at the age of three when his first creative impulses showed. As easy as child's play he learned playing violin and cembalo. He possessed everything a musician needs: a fantastic ear, extraordinary memory and a curious spirit.

Blessed with talent, knowledge and an unusual mastery of the musical technique, he was able to influence all areas of instrumental and vocal music. He was equally good in all of it, and from the beginning he avoided commitment to any specific area. Despite his early maturity the height of his accomplishments started by the end of the seventies, so in the last 12 to 15 years of his short life, with masterpieces such as Idomeneo, the string quintet in C minor, the symphony in D major and others.

When Mozart started, the age of polyphony with Bach as its main representative was succeeded by homophony, whose champion was seen to be Haydn.

Mozart thus stood in the intersection of both directions. Both styles are recognizable in his works. He allegedly said that all that was created before him belonged to him.

With intention he used the themes of his predecessors, creating an independent arrangement of Handel's Messias which brought him plenty reproach.

Although in his characteristic works he reflected the 18th century, he did so with a unique, clearly outlined profile. His polyphony is more intimate and lyrical than the previous, the complexity of his music never loaded with artificiality or dryness. The freshness and genuine beauty of his musical thoughts pair with the purity of style and exemplary processing. With all the courage in his writing no part hurts the ear. He avoids every "break" of the traditions developed through centuries.

His influence on future generations is terrific. The first to recognize him was Haydn, so much that influenced by these new impressions he changed his own writing style. Despite the large difference in age by 20 years, their relationship soon changed into friendship. In Vienna I was shown the house close to the Stephansplatz [Stephan's square] where Mozart worked on The Marriage of Figaro and where Haydn frequently visited him.

Beethoven, the reformator and titan, whose paradigm was the word "forwards", didn't escape Mozart's influences in his works. His first two symphonies breathed the spirit of Mozart. But even the principal theme of such a matured work like the Eroica faithfully replicates the beginning of a Mozartian early work, the opera Bastien and Bastienne, almost note by note.

The ingenious Schubert is regarded as the creator of the "Lied", but even in this area one can find examples by Mozart with astonishing novelty.

Mozart's influence is also noticeable in Russia. Michael Glinka, the creator of the Russian national opera, was from his early adolescence on familiar with Mozart's works which he learned to know from performances of a private orchestra on the estate of his uncle. In his autobiography he called the Don Juan a "masterpiece". In Glinka's operas A Life for the Tsar and Ruslan and Lyudmila the ensemble parts resemble Mozart's operas by a structure in which the diversity of the entrance of the voices (in context with the text and scenery) by itself brings life into the process, so that every accented gesticulation of the participants becomes superfluous. Even though Glinka's music is considerably original, it shares a lot of similarities with Mozart. Tchaikovsky was infatuated with Mozart which he himself expressed in the introduction of his Mozartiana. He followed Mozart's example when he chose contemporary subjects for his operas. In Pique Dame he even succeeded in imitating Mozart's style. In his symphonies the influence of Mozart is clearly palpable in the way of theme procession, yes, one can find entire measures that are identical with individual parts of Mozart's Eb major symphony.

Rimski-Korsakov wrote the small opera Mozart and Salieri with the text from Pushkin. Here he intentionally and successfully copies the style of Mozart, also inserting individual measures from Mozart's Requiem. And the piece in no way appears old-fashioned, but when scenically enacted leaves a strong impression. By the way, despite not being a musician Pushkin gave a characterization of Mozart's light appearance from which all of the purity of his soul beams. I would also like to highlight that it was a Russian Mozart admirer and patron who wrote one of the earliest Mozart biographies: Ulibishev; it already got published in the thirties of the previous centuries in Russia.

Today all genres that exist in music are in agreement about the homage of this name: Mozart.
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  1. Kieran's Avatar
    I really enjoyed reading that - thanks! especially because it shows great appreciation for the maestro before his great renaissance, as it were, after WW2. George Bernard Shaw used to be fairly unique among 19th and early-20th century critics for hearing in Mozart's music much more than the romantic era cliches that still hamper him, to an extent. But this article suggests that Mozart was appreciated and understood also, in Russia!
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