Rehabilitating Salieri’s reputation—and his music

Posted on: May 30, 2019

“Shortly before Antonio Salieri died, in 1825, a story that he had poisoned Mozart went around Vienna,” writes Alex Ross in the June 3 issue of the New Yorker. “The real man was a more or less benevolent character who energetically involved himself in the musical life of Vienna and taught dozens of composers, including Beethoven and Schubert…. Above all, his music is worth hearing. Mozart was a greater composer, but not immeasurably greater.… Salieri’s operas are tuneful, excellently crafted, inventive in their orchestration, and sometimes startlingly progressive in outlook. ‘Tarare,’ which has a libretto by Pierre Beaumarchais, dares to show the overthrow of a despot. ‘Il Mondo Alla Rovescia’ (‘The World Upside Down’) reverses gender roles…. In ‘Il Mondo Alla Rovescia,’ the Count is sent to the temple of the Chaste Pigeons, a kind of rehab for misbehaving men. The music that accompanies the entrance … is a luminous pastiche of the Divine Mozart, with an unmistakable quotation from the ‘Gran Partita’ Serenade. The villain of ‘Amadeus’ hails that work as the ‘voice of God.’ The real Salieri takes things a little less seriously. If we listen closely, we may hear him laughing at us across the centuries.”

Posted May 30, 2019