Occasionally, I meet people who are unimpressed by Mozart. They insist that his music is “light” and “simple.” They are irritated by the myth-making around him. They’re so used to hearing about him that they’ve relegated him to being part of the wallpaper. I must confess that I’ve never understood this. In my view, Mozart isn’t a composer; he’s the composer. He’s the Shakespeare of the genre. He’s The One.
The writer Douglas Adams has an oft-repeated line that “Beethoven tells you what it’s like to be Beethoven and Mozart tells you what it’s like to be human. Bach tells you what it’s like to be the universe.” I agree with Adams’s characterization of Beethoven, and I agree with his characterization of Bach. But he’s wrong about Mozart. Mozart doesn’t tell you what it’s like to be human, because Mozart barely was human. I forget who said that they didn’t believe in God but that Mozart made them wonder, but whomever it was, I understand it. The scale of Mozart’s talent is such that it’s almost impossible to accept at face value without wondering whether he was merely transcribing from somewhere else.
Cooke seems to have an Epicurean sensibility of his own, as evidenced by this and his previous appreciation of P.G. Wodehouse. I love Mozart and Wodehouse for the same reason: it’s a delight to watch virtuosos at play, especially when they’re so obviously enjoying themselves.