The language of the day

2nd July 2012 | Concerts, Musings | 0 comments

Went to the Royal College of Music to see their end-of-year student production of Mozart’s ‘The Marriage of Figaro’. Whenever I go to see Mozart operas, I’m struck by how one gets to see a side of Mozart not so much in evidence in his purely instrumental music. How to describe it? It happens mostly when he’s setting comic moments to music. A sort of earthy, irrepressible cheekiness. Of course there is plenty of wit and ebullience in his instrumental music, but nothing quite the equivalent of the naughty comedy of some of his opera scenes.

I was also struck by how naturally Mozart just uses the musical language of his time without any striving after ‘originality’. It made me feel sad, actually. These days one can almost always sense composers thinking ‘What style shall I write in?’ Mozart never does this, and his contemporaries didn’t either. He just uses the language of the day, and all his originality is expressed within it. These days, this option is not even open to composers, because (more’s the pity) there is no recognised language of the day which all musicians share, and which we all know how to ‘read’.

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