Friend Eric sends this link about Jay Greenberg, a 16-year-old composer who has a big catalogue already and a CD of the London Symphony Orchestra playing his Fifth Symphony. My local Borders will call me in a couple of days when my copy arrives. Some of the other publicity glop on the internet plays up the Mozart comparison, the “what were you doing at that age?” trope, and the glowing, wonder-filled remarks from his composition teachers, etc. Mozart is one of the magic names that is, of course, flung about with gushing abandon. Mozart, Mendelssohn, Saint-Saëns; wow! Prodigies! Is he as great as those? Just beneath the surface is the obvious (stupid) question: Will He Save Classical Music? Just what we need! A star! That Bell thing didn’t work out so well, but…
Hey, no pressure! Be Mozart and save classical music, kid, and learn to drive in the bargain. Can’t wait to either worship you or spit you out. Depends on our mood that day.
My understanding of Mozart is not only that his music is lovely—for pity’s sake—but that he blended the primary musical languages of his day (Austro-German and Italian) in a frighteningly economical and persuasive way, so one had surface attractiveness and a kind of depth of wit and learning that was essentially unequaled. (OK; we can talk about Haydn and Emmanuel Bach if you want.) His music was not “new” in the Boulez sense; it was that he spoke the received languages—melodism, topics and styles, various deployments of form—with unparalleled command.
OK; I’ll take the challenge. It’s not just grinding out passagework and making big pieces; actually, as a friend explained years ago, a number of young’uns at any given time can do that. I want to see if I can “understand”—whatever that means—what this young man is getting at, via the languages that he uses. Never mind the twittering network hype; I’m going to get a good recording of two of this guy’s pieces and give them a concentrated listen, and I’ll see what I think.
I’ll let you know.