The ‘Mozart Effect’
Opinion seems to vary about what’s now described as the ‘Mozart Effect’. This is the suggestion borne out by some research that says listening to Mozart will make you smarter. The original experiments were based on observations of subjects before and after listening to a ‘Mozart song’.
Even if you’re reluctant to accept the theory, having heard them, you can’t deny that Mozart songs themselves have more than just charm. There are not so many of them – 31 in all (well, forgive him, he was busy!) – but they are all delightful miniatures in their own right.
Aria or leider or art-songs?
They don’t fit easily into categories like ‘aria’ (although some are described as ‘ariettas’) or even ‘Lieder’ – which should just mean ‘songs’ but in English, has come to mean European songs of the Romantic period – which Mozart predates. So maybe it’s better to call them as German speakers do, ‘Kunstlieder‘ or ‘art-songs‘ – settings of lyric poetry for solo voice and piano that are not intended for stage performance.
Art songs then, but Mozart’s songs are disarmingly artless. Well over half of them are straightforward ‘strophic’ songs like ‘Das Kinderspiel‘ (his last song) with repeating verses. The rest, however do anticipate the many complexities of the through-composed songs that were to follow in the Romantic period. Who knows how much this relatively small part of Mozart’s work paved the way for all of these?
Many of his songs, typically, seem to have been written quite quickly. Unbelievably, sometimes two have the same composition date to the day, as is the case with ‘Abendempfindung‘ and ‘An Chloe‘ – 24th June 1787. Now, how smart was that?
One thing about Mozart songs is sure – not one of them is easy. Maybe listening to them could just possibly make you smarter but singing them most certainly will!
A few for you to try
Die Alte – How many songs do you know that has the direction, ‘with nasal tone’? This Old Woman tells us how it wasn’t like that in her day (that would be nearly three hundred years ago now) and you can practically see her finger wagging in the first four bars of each verse.
Der Zauberer – where the singer tells how Damon brought a little ‘magic’ into her life…
Try the glorious Abendempfindung and resist shedding that tear along with Mozart’s friends who, when prevailed upon to do so are in return assured that he will return in spirit and unveil glimpses of Heaven…