Born in Salzburg before it was a part of Austria, Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus (translated Gottlieb, or Amadeus) Sigismundus Mozart (1756-1791), is represented on the Naxos edition of "The Best of Mozart," by various recording artists (1998). It features 14 of the composer's more popular pieces, purveying the novice with a glorious snippet of his 626 work oeuvre.
The fidelity of Naxos recordings is uncontested, and at the bargain price of only $8.49, one cannot go wrong. Perhaps that's why some of the lesser known, nevertheless productive, maestros/ensembles, like Andras Ligeti conducting the Concentus Hungaricus with pianist Jeno Jando, are utilized here, in lieu of, say, the more famous Sir Colin Davis directing the English Chamber Orchestra with pianist Alicia De Larrocha.
Swedish born American psychologist, Carl Emil Seashore, Ph.D., LL.D., Sc.D., D.Litt. (1866-1949), penned "Psychology of Music" (1938); a copiously illustrated, 408 page, dated--yet helpful, text on the subject; supplying the peruser with the mental tools required to discern fabulous music.
So, armed with Seashore's book, I wondered just what I should be seeking when I'm immersed in a Mozart score. Bear with me as I describe four of the basic building blocks of music the author delves.
First, there is the most discussed and diverse musicological issue--harmony, and that which is, for Seashore, inextricably interwoven with it--melody. Herein he speaks of consonance--stability, versus dissonance--instability, through the conceiving of specific number and size of intervals in the musical scales employed in a musical score. Track 13 on this CD, the Andante (2nd movement) from Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major (theme from the 1967 movie, "Elvira Madigan") amply demonstrates his facility for blending perfectly the fusion of strings and woodwinds; and notice, too, the vicissitudinous succession of the right tones that are easily remembered for a catchy tune.
Next, regarding rhythm, Seashore talks about its grouping through intensity and time of sense impressions that recur, offering pleasure to the ear with habitual attention, and feelings of balance, freedom and power. It agitates and yet pacifies; being the backbone of life. This is quite evident on track 6, the Molto allegro (1st movement) from Mozart's Symphony No. 40 in G minor, with the rousing buildup of all the carefully metered changes the orchestra provides.
Finally, timbre or tone colour, as we know, is what differentiates the sound of two different instruments or voices when their loudness and pitch are equal. The author speaks of rich tones commensurate with the number and preponderance of its overtones. I seek what the various colours the instruments selected in a piece, if they are apropos, mentally evoke, in me. Mozart crafted moody soundscapes, as in the disc's 7th selection, the Adagio (2nd movement) from his Clarinet Concerto in A major, wherein one can appreciate the strings, clarinet and other wind instruments with their various, characteristic tone qualities.
And the author speaks of how Schumann, Mozart, Berlioz and Wagner (the latter two, whose "The Best of" Naxos releases, I've reviewed elsewhere) were affected by mental imagery (a term not then in vogue), in a tonal world. Seashore quotes English biographer Edward Holmes, from his volume "The Life of Mozart, Including His Correspondence" (1845), who quoted Mozart, who, regarding how he created a work, said, "'...my subject enlarges itself, becomes methodized and defined...so that I can survey it like a fine picture....the parts...I hear...all at once....'" Therefore, as Seashore declares, "Take out the image from the musical mind and you take out its very essence." True, and further, I believe that, behind it all, for Mozart, et al, "Music is...a play upon feeling with feeling" as the author also states.
For scientific insight, read Carl Seashore's book, "Psychology of Music," but, for the vibrant, emotive picture, purchase the music: the Naxos CD "The Best of Mozart" by various recording artists, where cosmic waterfalls crash against the hush of glazed instruments.