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Friday, January 27, 2006

God's joy and laughter

Bach gave us God's Word, Mozart gave us God's laughter, Beethoven gave us God's fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words. — quote from outside a German opera house

Today we celebrate the 250th birthday of Austrian composer, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. So much has been written about him, but I found this in today’s LA Times particularly interesting.

Barney Zwartz, religion editor at the Age, an Australian newspaper, wrote that much of what has been written about Mozart over time is “appalling balderdash.”

Wasn’t sure where he was going at first, but then he ended his article with a solid illustration of the sublime and the divine in Mozart. His music makes my body tingle, my heart sore with joy and pain and brings unstoppable tears to my eyes. (The bold is mine.)

Today, many people find his music easy to listen to. But to conclude that Mozart's music is either facile or simple is itself unforgivably facile. As pianist Artur Schnabel observed, Mozart is too easy for children and too difficult for artists. In Mozart, the sublime is often as linked to pain as beauty. In other words, his music is sometimes agonizingly beautiful; it makes the heart ache.

"It may be that when the angels go about their task of praising God, they play only Bach," said the theologian Karl Barth. "I am sure, however, that when they are together en famille, they play Mozart and that then, too, our dear Lord listens with special pleasure."

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