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It's Mozart's 260th Birthday Today: Here's Why You Should Celebrate His Genius

Composer and pianist Rob Kapilow deconstructs one of Mozart's most iconic works, summing up why he's considered one of the greatest.

It's Mozart's 260th Birthday Today: Here's Why You Should Celebrate His Genius

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Posthumous painting by Barbara Krafft in 1819

[Photo: via Wikimedia]

It was 260 years ago today that Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart—or just Mozart if you’re short of breath—waltzed into the world and set a new precedent for the word "prodigy": wrote music by age six, first symphony composed at age nine, appointed assistant concert master for the Royal Court of Salzburg by 17.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Posthumous painting by Barbara Krafft in 1819

Mozart’s early genius developed into a prolific career of what would become classical standards—one of which being Symphony No. 40 in G Minor.

During a segment for PBS’s NewsHour, composer and pianist Rob Kapilow anatomizes Mozart’s Symphony No. 40, starting with that iconic theme.

"I often say that classical music is really about becoming, not being," Kapilow says in the segment. "It’s not what a musical idea is when you first hear it, what it is to be, but it’s about what it can become or how it transforms over the course of a piece of music."

Those three notes expand to a swell and slowly contract measure by measure to what Kapilow describes as a "cosmic essence."

It’s his depth of composition—his ability to extract a world of music from the simplest of ideas that made Mozart the genius that he was, and why, even 260 years later, we’re still analyzing, performing, and enjoying his work.

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