170 CDs. Is that too much? She picked out the first CD, which is the early symphonies. Number one was composed when he was eight years old. So can you have too much Mozart?
I'm thinking about Mozart today because this afternoon I am going to a lecture titled "What's so great about Mozart?" in which the speaker expresses puzzlement about why Mozart is great despite not being a great innovator or revolutionary. I put up a post about this very question quite recently: Does greatness always involve being revolutionary? The thing about Mozart is that he is a very great composer, but showed few signs of being either an innovator or a revolutionary. As my previous post points out, it was Beethoven that set that model.
Mozart is not the only composer that seems to go against the model narrative that we have: great composers are great because they were innovative and revolutionary. For the last hundred years we have followed this narrative so slavishly that many composers have pursued their careers as if the only criteria was to be innovative and revolutionary: John Cage, Karlheinz Stockhausen and Pierre Boulez are merely the most well-known. An astonishingly large amount of bad music has been created as a result.
But Mozart is not the only great composer to not be primarily an innovator nor revolutionary (though you can find some elements in his music). Another one would be J. S. Bach. Both of these composers absorbed the whole of the musical style and genres of their time and then went on to simply perfect them. Bach certainly did not invent the fugue, nor its basic techniques of stretto, inversion and so on. He just did it better than anyone else. Similarly with Mozart. He did not invent the symphony or string quartet or opera--though he very nearly invented the piano concerto! But he just did them better than anyone before him (and pretty much everyone since as well!).
What the last hundred years in composition seem to be telling us is that there is not a wealth of styles and genres just waiting for someone to come along and perfect them, but rather a dearth of them!
What do you think?
Let's have a couple of examples of non-innovative, non-revolutionary music. This is the "Dissonant" Quartet by Mozart, often claimed to be revolutionary by people who have no knowledge of the outrageous harmonies found in pieces like Les Elemens by Jean Féry Rebel or a host of pieces by C. P. E. Bach:
And this is the Magnificat by J. S. Bach, coming out of a long tradition of festive settings of sacred texts: