Amadeus And All That Classical Jazz

By Sunil Kumar

Wigs, Romans and Countrymen! In the time before MTV and music channels; we had music. Slow and methodical; not as snappy, but more thought out, considerably so. India’s classical traditions such as Hindustani and Carnatic were even more introspective; aiming at a direct communion with the divine. But; I’m now talking about “Amadeus“; the 1984 Milos Forman film on the musical composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

It was the classical age in Europe; a transition period between their cocooned existence and global imperialism. The music seems to be reflective of the grand aesthetics of town squares, commonplace vulgarity and the choirs of medieval Europe.

Sahitya Academy Award (2005)

Visit Sahitya Academy Award (2005) (Photo credit: namoraghavay)

The Academy Award winning “Amadeus” is an exploration of an episode that is in between fact and fiction. It details the rivalry between Antonio Salieri and Mozart in the court of the emperor at Vienna.

A facsimile sheet of music from the Dies Irae ...

Visit A facsimile sheet of music from the Dies Irae movement of the “Requiem Mass in D Minor” (K. 626) in Mozart’s own handwriting. It is located at the Mozarthaus in Vienna. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

According to historians; the real Mozart acccused a cabal of “Italians” for thwarting his progress; but there was relatively little animosity and most of the people were his collaborators. Mozart’s real son was taught by Salieri; who however actually went mad at the end of his life and mentioned that he was responsible for poisoning Mozart; which he later retracted.

Peter Shaffer‘s screenplay however paints a different picture. In this movie; Salieri is the evil manipulator behind the scenes; who resents the musical prowess of Mozart. His childish behaviour and prodigious talents both irk Salieri; who believes that his life is dedicated to music. From the time Mozart turns up at the court; Salieri wants to get his hands on his compositions; and sets up roadblocks for him to overcome; while overtly acting as his benefactor.

As Mozart becomes increasingly riddled with debt; the increasing demands of creating a Requiem and “The Magic Flute” prove to be too much; and he becomes more of an alcoholic; driving away his wife and child. In the final act; Salieri brings him back from the theatre in his inebriated state; writing down Mozart’s last opera; the music for the libretto(script). The world of Western classical music replete with vocal fireworks; action, arias, composers, set pieces and string quartets. However; it can usually seem jaded and boring. When Mozart’s wife turns up; and Salieri sternly defends his presence; the high-pitched laughter of the actor playing the legendary composer comes to a dramatic close. He dies and is buried in a common grave outside town.

According to historical fact; since the aristocracy of the time was temporarily penny-pinching; like out politicians today, Mozart was indeed buried in a common grave. Another famous composer; Beethoven also wanted to learn from him, but apparently never got the chance to do so.

In India; the most famous of our classical musicians is Tansen; the legendary “navaratna” of Akbar’s court. (Another famous one is Baiju Bawra)The kingdoms of the Rajputs, Mandu and the Mughals were noted for their appreciation and encouragement of the classical arts; especially the “sur”, “tal” and gharanas of Hindustani classical music. It is fascinating to note how the whole idea of song and dance has evolved around the world; in its myriad forms.

And with this; I complete my blog-essay for this site(as of today). Hope you did not enjoy it. And even if you did; OK. Ciao! Ciao!(For Now)






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