“You can’t have Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart as your favorite composers,” said conductor and San Francisco Symphony music director Michael Tilson Thomas. “They simply define what music is!” True enough, though it doesn’t seem to have stopped anyone from, when asked to name their classical music of choice, unhesitatingly respond with the names of Bach, Beethoven, or Mozart — and Mozart most often. So why does the man who composed, among other works, the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, the Symphony No. 40 in G minor, and Don Giovanni still command such instinctive allegiance nearly 225 years after his death?
“Mozart did not come from nowhere,” writes New Yorker music critic Alex Ross. “He was the product of a society that was avid for music on every level, that believed in the possibility of an all-encompassing musical genius. The society we live in now believes otherwise; we divide music into subcultures and subgenres, we separate classical music from popular music, we locate genius in the past.” But as past geniuses go, we’ve picked a good one in Mozart to carry forward with us into our technological age: the kind of age where you can listen to an 18th-century composer’s collected works with the simple click of a mouse.
The simple click of a mouse, that is, onto this Spotify playlist of the complete Chronological Mozart, brought to you by the same folks who put together the playlists we’ve previously featured of 68 hours of Shakespeare and the classical music in Stanley Kubrick’s films. (If you don’t yet have the free software needed to listen, download it here.) A few tracks have vanished since the playlist’s creation (such are the vicissitudes of Spotify) but it still offers about 127 hours of the (mostly) complete works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the aforementioned famous pieces and well beyond. Listen and you’ll not only understand why Mozart defines what music is, but — apologies to Michael Tilson Thomas — why you, too, should number him among your favorites.
Colin Marshall writes on cities, language, Asia, and men’s style. He’s at work on a book about Los Angeles, A Los Angeles Primer, and the video series The City in Cinema. Follow him on Twitter at @colinmarshall or on Facebook.