Archive for June, 2013

The Gift of Limits

Tuesday, June 18th, 2013

It’s now been quite some time since I last posted. April was the climax of a ridiculously busy spring, and the downslope toward a saner, more manageable schedule has been long and slow. The whole, mad, busy time, however, got me thinking about art, obstacles, and the nature of creativity.

Early in May, on a rare night when my wife and I were in the same city and otherwise unscheduled, we heard the Cincinnati May Festival performance of Mozart’s Requiem, that astonishing work commissioned in strange fashion and left unfinished at Mozart’s deathbed, circumstances that have inspired two centuries of speculation. What is now known of the Requiem’s history is rather less the stuff of film noir than Peter Shaffer’s Amadeus makes out, but the fact remains that Mozart, whose pen flowed so effortlessly across the staved page, completed or revised two great operatic works, La Clemenza di Tito and The Magic Flute, as well as the luminous A major Concerto for (basset) clarinet in the six months following the mysterious commissioning, yet died with half the Requiem unwritten, his last additions sketched out on his bed the night before he succumbed. His widow, who desperately needed the money due on completion, turned to other composers to finish it. My wife and I heard the Sussmayer version, familiar to anyone who pays attention to such details.

The performance was as moving as ever – the orchestra focused and ever so slightly restrained, the chorus a mighty unified instrument, the soloists expressive but not showy. Conductor Robert Conlon lowered his baton at the end of the Lacrimosa, the last partially-completed section of the Requiem, and stood stooped shouldered and unmoving long enough for everyone to reflect that precisely here, Mozart ran out of time. (more…)