Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Amadeus

As Mr. Mozart celebrates his 250th birthday on Friday, January 27th, we have started a small unit on this legendary composer.

Today we read three pictures books that each take a slightly different slant on the composer's life.

  • Mozart: Scenes from the Childhood of the Great Composer (by Catherine Brighton) looks at Mozart's younger life through the eyes of his sister, Nannerl. She is 4-1/2 years older than Mozart and together they charm Europe as musical prodigies -- Mozart at the ripe old age of 5 and Nannerl (9) travel to Vienna (it must have been a lovely trip down the Danube) and then to Paris and London -- playing for the royal houses of Western Europe. When the family -- Papa, Mama, Nannerl and Wolfi -- return to Salzburg years later, the boy is stricken with small pox. Nannerl gets it also and the two lie in bed for many weeks when "by the grace of God, we recovered, and the music lovers of vienna were able to see Wolfi and me perform." The story ends when Nannerl is 16 and "retires" from the public eye; Wolfi and Papa go on to Italy and the next part of Mozart's career. This is a wonderful book with lovely drawings and easy-to-read aloud text.
  • Wolferl - the first six years in the life of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (by Lisl Weil) takes a less personal approach to Mozart's young life. The focus is much more on Mozart as a child prodigy -- playing the violin perfectly at the age of 5 (after having taught himself), playing the organ (and hitting the pedals by standing on tip-toe), and playing for Maria Theresa of Austria and the Hapsburg clan (including mention of the famous scene when Mozart proposes to Marie Antoinette -- later Queen of France). This book ends with the time in Vienna and doesn't discuss the trips to Paris, the long stay in London or the time in Italy. A short glossary in the back assists in understanding the types of music Mozart wrote and other things that the reader may not know. The pictures are beautifully drawn pastel drawings with an almost cartoon-like feel. The text is story-like and the littles enjoyed it.
  • Young Mozart (by Rachel Isadora) again focuses on his young life but actually brings his story through his young adult life, marriage to Constanza, and death at the young age of 35. This book points out that Mozart died a pauper but his fame grew after his death -- to carry forward 250 years later.

Tomorrow, we'll read more and listen to some of Mozart's gorgeous music. Friday, we'll have a birthday party for the great Austrian -- including Kugelhuf for a cake and homemade Mozartkugeln for a snack during movie night.

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