The Greeks also liked to illustrate the knowledge of what is just by the image of the arrow that hits its mark. Apollo is "the one who strikes far." Through his music and the accents of his lyre, his divinity expresses itself, penetrating and clear, luminous and free, because his music heralds the reign, full of meaning, of the just measure. In truth, Apollo does not want our soul, but our mind.
And his song, the brightest song of all the gods, does not rise like a dream from an intoxicated soul. It flies straight to a clearly chosen target: the truth.
Thus French pianist Hélène Grimaud describes the effortless perfection of the song created by the god of the sun, of poetry, of science, of music. If any composer approaches this divine state of communion with the absolute, this ability to express with unerring accuracy the rare emotions, incurable foibles and deeply contained fears of humanity, it is Mozart (1756-1791), whose 257th birthday is being celebrated today. Every year, on January 27 the classical radio stations go overboard in effusive praise of the young man whose short life produced many light years' worth of Apollonian melodies, "luminous and free".
I very much wanted to feature a French soprano in the following selection, a concert aria that tests a soprano's ability to sound pure and crystalline as she reveals her secret love, then agitated, even desperate, as she urges him to flee. Both Natalie Dessay and Patricia Petitbon have good recordings, but the version by the late Elizabeth Parcells, a little-known American soprano was too good to ignore.
Click here for both Italian and English lyrics.
The quote from Hélène Grimaud is from page 127 of the pocket edition of Variations sauvages published in 2003 by Robert Laffont. The English version is entitled Wild Harmonies.
The painting above shows the Mozart family on tour. This watercolor was painted circa 1763 by Louis Carrogis Carmontelle (1717-1806). The painting may currently be viewed in the Musée Condé, Chantilly, France. From Music with Ease.