A recent article in The New York Times provides an appreciation of the sort of composer who makes a regular appearance in The Mozart Café (weekdays at Noon here on WDAV).
The composer in this case is the 18th century Czech composer Josef Mysliveček, known as Il divino boémo (“The Divine Bohemian”) because of the sublime beauty of his music. His admirers included no less a figure than Mozart himself, whose own name, Amadeus, means “beloved of God” (which might have qualified him to know a thing or two about the divine).
Composers such as Mysliviček, Wagenseil, Vanhal and Cannabich are hardly household names, nor are their Baroque counterparts such as Veracini, Tartini, Fasch and Quantz. Occasionally when WDAV plays their music, someone will say to us, “Why?” The argument is generally along the lines that, since these composers have been judged by history to be “minor” figures, we shouldn’t waste air time with their music.
But as this article in The Times points out, hearing the music of someone like Mysliveček can enhance our appreciation of Mozart. We hear not only how Mozart may have emulated him or been influenced by him, but also how he rose above that influence and the conventions of his time to create something timeless and enduring. And the same can be said for hearing music by the contemporaries of Bach and Brahms, Stravinsky and Shostakovich.
The challenge for us as a radio station is to strike the right balance between these lesser-known composers and the acknowledged masters who have contributed significantly to what is regarded (somewhat officiously, I fear) as the “Western Canon” of music. And also to ensure that the overall experience of listening to the station is still appealing and entertaining while maintaining that balance.
I was encouraged by the comments of a recent (and admittedly unscientific) Listener Feedback Group that met at the station. They enthusiastically endorsed the idea of discovering “new old stuff” on WDAV, and urged us to continue to mix in these less well-known works with the standards (some might say “warhorses”) of the repertory.
It would be great to hear your thoughts, too, either at this blog if you want to “go public,” or by email; so feel free to let us know what you think.