|A silverpoint drawing by Doris Stock, made in 1789. “Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, as he usually spelled his name, was a small man with a plain, pockmarked face, whose most striking feature was a pair of intense blue-gray eyes. When he was in a convivial mood, his gaze was said to be warm, even seductive.”
—Alex Ross, “The Storm of Style,” in Listen to This
Mozart scares me. And not just because he could write a melody like this, or orchestrate it the way he did. Not just because this is one of three complete symphonies he composed in less than two months during the summer of 1788. Not just because he was 23 years younger than me when he wrote it, and only 3 years from his death. And not just because G Minor is an obviously frightening key. The thing that scares me most is that he named it Symphony Number 40 in G Minor. That’s serial killer shit. This should be called The Death of Heaven, or A Woman Scorned, or at least The Fire At Kelly’s Place. Numbers and key signatures should not be used as titles for works of art.
There’s a philosophical argument to be made that an infinite number of monkeys tapping an infinite number of keyboards would someday create this exact work, but we all know that’s bullshit. Nobody who ever lived or ever will live except Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart could write this.
Here’s a clip of Lenny taking the band through their paces. It’s over a half-hour long which is a length that can be intimidating but it is the first movement, about nine minutes long, that really uncorks the crazy. If you make it to the third movement you’ll be glad you did for the woodwinds alone, and the end is a deep cleansing breath.
Put it on in the background, if you think you can. It will be the foreground before you know what hit you.