Having begun with Romantic music (Rachmaninoff, Tchaikovsky, and so on) I began branching out in both directions, moving forward and backward in time.
I don’t recall just when I began to listen to Mozart, though I do recall that for some time his music was just too timid and well ordered for me. Yet somehow his name kept popping up and I figured I’d better give him a better chance. With my romantic inclinations, I first was drawn to his 21st Piano Concerto. It’s filling in all the spaces between my books right now. Can you hear it?
The second movement, the andante, rivals in romantic beauty anything written by my beloved Rachmaninoff. It is perfect for a day like this: 70 degrees, very slight but aromatic spring breeze, and flowers blossoming all around the neighborhood. In fact I’ve been listening to Mozart all week as our delayed springtime is finally arriving in Minnesota.
For many people the many symphonies by Mozart are the cream of the crop but for me it is anything Mozart wrote for the piano. His piano sonatas are sheer delight and concertos 21, 22, and 23 are rich and ever-intriguing.
Years ago, before I had really paid much attention to Mozart, I learned that the great 20th century theologian Karl Barth began each day listening to the music of Mozart. At first I thought this must have been just some sort of odd quirk in the personality of the brilliant theologian. More and more, though, I can appreciate what Barth said, that listening to Mozart reminded him every day that ultimately the world is good, that God is sovereign, and that therefore our ultimate future is secure.
There is no way to explain the incredible genius of a Mozart. Was it just some bizarre twist in his brain that allowed him to create so much beautiful music so very quickly? (The Piano Concerto 21 took just four weeks; other pieces took even less.) I can imagine all the materialists — who claim that physical reality is all there is in the universe — trying to explain musical genius as nothing more than brain synapses which are especially efficient in some individuals.
Nope. For me, it is enough to say that Mozart was given a gift from God our Creator and that as he sat as a piano he was listening to God in a very unique way. We humans have created within ourselves a messy complication of ideas and feelings, intuitions and guesses, that usually keeps us from being in touch with our very centers, there where the Spirit of God dwells in those who do not reject him. Mozart could hear his own soul and his own Lord, however complex his personality may have been. He loved God with a quiet center, a creative center, a happy center.
Listen quietly to Mozart and, like Karl Barth, you’ll hear something of the heart of the Creator. And that is joy!