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What Makes Great Music So Great: Part II

Updated: Mar 27

Whether you're a Classical Music aficionado, a fledgling enthusiast, or blissfully unaware of the amazing potential of this art form, there are a few names that transcend categorization: Mozart; Beethoven; maybe Bach and Brahms, too. Heck, even if classical music makes your skin crawl and break out in hives, you can probably still bang out the opening rhythm of Beethoven's Fifth.

Mozart giving a thumbs-up
"How you doin?'" - W.A. Mozart

So what is it about these composers and their music that makes them so famous, timeless, almost immortal? Let's break it down...


Daddy Issues

Over 200 years before Barbra Streisand asked "Papa, Can You Hear Me?", Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was having the opposite problem. His dad, Leopold, was Wolfgang's teacher (and helicopter parent/tour manager), shuttling young Wolfie and his sister Nannerl across Europe as virtuosic VIPs. (If you think T-Swift's Eras tour is going on for a while, the Mozarts' tour lasted three and a half years!) These family trips made the Griswolds' family vacations look like a picnic: travel conditions were primitive, they had to wait for invitations and reimbursement from the nobility, and they endured long, near-fatal illnesses far from home. Fun times.


Fun Fatherly Fact No.1: George Frederic Handel was banned by his dad from learning music and had to practice in secret.

Mozart's Symphony No. 1, written when he was 8 years old. Not bad. For a kid.


A few years later, Wolfie and his dad set out on tour once again. This disastrous trip to Germany and France, coupled with the death of Wolfgang’s mother, made the father/son relationship a little complicated. From then on, Leopold restricted Wolfgang from pursuing love affairs, regularly demanded money, and eventually disinherited him altogether. Which raises the question: Would Mozart have written the music he did if it weren't for his deadbeat daddy issues? Would he have made sopranos around the world scream high "D's" at the top of their lungs for hundreds of years if it weren't for Leopold's lousy parenting?


Fun Fatherly Fact No.2: Ludwig van Beethoven's dad was his first music teacher, relied heavily on alcohol, and took out his violent temper on Beethoven Jr. when his playing wasn't up to scratch.

Did Mozart's paternal problems lead him to write the most kick-ass aria of all time? We'll never know.


How the heck should I know? I'm writing a blog post, not psychoanalyzing dead people.


Either way, some historians even speculate that Wolfgang’s notoriously weak immune system was due to the constant pressure from his derelict dad. How do we know his immune system was weak? When Mozart was 35 he got sick, wrote this...



...And died.


Fun Fatherly Fact No.3: Johann Strauss II's dad was a famous composer who gave his son a whipping for playing the violin.

Postscript

Gone but not forgotten, the musical artist Falco brought Mozart back to the forefront of popular culture with this magnum opus, recorded almost two centuries after Mozart's death, cementing Wolfgang's reign as the preeminent holder of the Mozart name.

Take that, Leopold.



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