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Still discovering Mozart

The world is at last going to hear a long lost symphony that Mozart wrote at the age of nine. This fact alone is thrilling, to use a Bavarian State Library spokesman's word for the recent discovery of the work among some private papers. But the news can also be taken as a reminder that there has always been more to Mozart than first meets the ear. Indeed, in the depths beneath the gleaming surfaces of his compositions, especially the later ones, there are hints of that music beyond music which exists in mental and spiritual realms. And which makes plausible Mozart's own assertion that the source is not intellect or imagination but love.

Now in May the newly found symphony will be performed in Bavaria.It will be recorded to join the wealth of Mozart available daily around the globe almost two centuries after his passing. All this comes on the heels of the London and Broadway hit, "Amadeus," which also recalls Mozart's extraordinary gifts. It is not hard to imagine the man in the play having written symphonies as a child when he sits down at the keyboard to perform another composer's piece he and the audience have heard just once -- and adds improvements while he's at it.

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But Mozart does this in a manner not calculated to warm the heart of the composer, who is standing by in wry nonamusement. Biographers have speculated that Mozart's exploitation as a child prodigy deprived him of the ordinary broadening experience that could have made him more congenial in human relationships and more effective in coping with daily life. Certainly in the play he himself is often as hard to take as his music is sublime.

Here's where the current Mozart headlines might also be a reminder -- that artistic integrity can surmount tawdry circumstances, that harsh experience can be transmuted for the enrichment of generations. The Mozart who started composing at six, who became the finest composer, pianist, organist, and conductor in the Europe of his time, earned his way to the knowledge that "music , even in the most terrible situations, . . . must never cease to be music."m

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