Mostly Mozart

This week: a musical conversation about Mozart, with biographer Jan Swafford and pianist Robert Levin. Listen today at 2 pm or anytime at our website.

On this week’s show, you’ll hear the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart along with plenty about the man himself, thanks to biographer Jan Swafford. Swafford sat down with the pianist Robert Levin to tell the Mozart story.

Robert Levin at the piano, with Jan Swafford.

Mozart: The Reign of Love is the title of Jan Swafford’s biography, and this week Swafford explains how Mozart and his music grew in response to his contemporary scene—this was sociable music from a sociable, imaginative composer. Says Swafford:

The pianist Robert Levin describes the complexity of music that has room for both improvisation and reflective composition:

The dramatic richness of Mozart’s music, and its social entanglements, made for lively entertainments. Says Levin:

You’ll also hear about a composer’s mastery of all sorts of stories, moods, tones. Swafford says that Emperor Joseph II, who “heard Mozart early on, before he was emperor . . . was famous for saying to Mozart after the premiere of The Abduction from the Seraglio, ‘Too many notes, Mozart!’ That was the standard line. He has too many ideas. He’s too imaginative.”

Joseph II.

Listen: Levin Improvises Mozart

Here’s more of Robert Levin: a YouTube clip of improvisation in the style of Mozart.

Read: Mozart: The Reign of Love

From the Washington Post:

Watch: Universal Horror

For Halloween preparation: over at the Criterion Channel you’ll find a crucial phase of 1930s film history: a collection of horror films from Universal Studios, including the James Whale masterpiece Bride of Frankenstein and The Wolf Man.

Listen: The Just Enough Family

Ariel Levy is the latest New Yorker writer to explore the world of audio. Ariel dishes with her friend Liz Lange, the fashion designer who revolutionized maternity clothing in the 90’s, who’s part of the storied mega rich Steinberg family of New York. Totally binge-worthy.

Buy or Behold: Harvard Square

Illustration by Susan Coyne

The great illustrator Susan Coyne sent us her latest. You can find all her work here.

This week’s ephemeral library

Life after Trump prophecies. On Melvin Van Peebles and exile. Regarding Henry Kissinger. Jonathan Franzen Thinks People Can Change. The Koch Empire Goes All Out to Sink Joe Biden’s Presidency. The Tampa Bay (Pats vs Bucs) Game is a High School Reunion When Your Boyfriend Dumped You.

That’s all for this week, folks. Tune in next week for our interview with Jonathan Franzen.



An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.

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Radio Open Source

An American conversation with global attitude, on the arts, humanities, and global affairs, hosted by Christopher Lydon.