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Tuesday, March 25, 2014


For about half its length, this fictional account of the Mozart family’s Grand Journey thru the major European cities (around the time Wolfie was 10 and sis Nannerl 15) paints a believable and touching portrait of the mixture of pride & profit Papa Leopold got for his efforts. Of course, the real value lay in exposing his unfathomably gifted boy to the cultural & musical influences of the day. But as the film goes along, the temptation to stuff modern sensitivities/sensibilities on the action, with poor Nannerl fighting class & sexual battles two centuries before the fact, prove irresistible and drag everything down with it. The main non-family action involves a suggested romance between Nannerl & Le Dauphin of France, father of Louis XVI. Is there any factual basis in the idea? The birth/death dates alone make it seem unlikely. While any notion of Nannerl having a hand in Mozart’s early work is both silly & irrelevant since no important Mozart composition was penned when she was around. And if it never reaches the libelous (not to say ludicrous) intentions of Peter Shaffer’s AMADEUS/’84, the dramatic demands of political correctness make all the handsome period recreations more or less useless. (Just as the ‘natural’ candlelight photography makes too many interiors non-visible.) Not even the music, mostly non-Mozartean, comes to the rescue. Certainly not the schlurpy romantic harmonies they try to pass off as Nannerl’s gift to Le Dauphin.

WATCH THIS, NOT THAT; READ ALL ABOUT IT; SCREWY THOUGHT OF THE DAY: Some of Mozart’s most delightfully scatological letters were for Nannerl back in Salzburg, written as he toured Italy (with Papa) & France (with Mama) after she had ‘retired’ from their co-prodigy act. (Mozart’s mother died suddenly in Paris when he was about 16, and his tact and psychological insight in presenting the news to his father in two letters are as stunning as they are heartbreaking. See letters 106, 107 & 108 in the link.) The fall off in the siblings once close relationship stems from Wolfgang's move of independence to Vienna and his subsequent marriage to Constanza Weber. A reaction in line with Papa Leopold’s general disapproval. If anywhere, that's where a workable, worthwhile story of Nannerl lies. There are many editions/translations of the letters; or go for Maynard Solomon’s excellent general bio MOZART: A LIFE. And there’s also Andre Previn’s 5-part video presentation: MOZART ON TOUR/’91. Much better handled than usual with these things.

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