A legend returns to enchant children: Mozart visits Hampstead elementary

December 13, 1992|By Pat Brodowski | Pat Brodowski,Contributing Writer

There's nothing dull about Mozart. He composed and played for all of Europe, leaving more than 600 pieces when he died at age 35. Giddy with genius, he ignited jealousy among his contemporaries.

On Friday, in purple silk coat and ruffled shirt, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart bounced out of the music and history books at Spring Garden Elementary School in Hampstead.

Ted Brown of Annapolis, a retired school principal, musician and painter, is known for his theatrical portrayals of masters of art and music. His gift for storytelling took the children back 200 years into the composer's turbulent life.

Spring Garden's two months of study of the music of Mozart began after "The Magic Flute" caught fire with the second grade, which designed sets and costumes by interpreting the music through a creativity lesson.

Mozart is wonderful for study, said music teacher Idalea Rubin.

"If you're developing taste in music for children, you certainly won't find words or messages you don't approve of," she said. Concert music "is part of the intellectual rounding-out. It's as natural as breathing to me, but in a lot of homes, it's not."

Certainly, music was as natural as breathing to Mozart.

Mr. Brown brought excitement Friday as he began with "a little light dance piece, a rondo," he said.

Mozart had played a rondo for Marie Antoinette when both were 6, he said. Speaking as Mozart, Mr. Brown added: "Then I jumped off the bench and gave her a big kiss on the cheek." The children laughed, charmed by the antics of a child genius.

The antics were many. He teased a sprightly tune from the keys as first-graders Sandra Barker and Sarah Holbrook held a black cloth over his hands, a trick Mozart had performed at age 8.

Mr. Brown said, "This shows that if you learn something well when you're young, you'll never forget it."

The sobering facts of Mozart's life -- the death of his parents, his unemployment, the jealous sabotage of his work by those paid to play it -- surfaced through animated stories of a life without discipline.

"You know when I write my best music is when shooting pool," he said, describing how the opera "Don Giovanni" was written.

Familiar, yet chilling, were the final days, when Mozart composed "The Magic Flute," and at the same time his "Requiem," which he came to think was for himself. Dying from kidney disease, Mozart never lived to see them performed.

Most amazing to fifth-grader Kenny Sears was "that he died owing $20,000," which translates into millions today.

"That was not from the high cost of living," said Mr. Brown after the show, "but from the cost of living high."

The Mozart study will culminate in "Of Mice and Mozart," a musical that will be presented by the fifth grade students at 10 a.m. Dec. 16 and at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m. Dec. 17.

Acting the role of Papa Mozart will be Matthew Bezanson; as Mama Mozart, Katie Hall. Kevin Zander will be Wolfgang, and his talented sister, Nannerl, will be played by Katie Walker.

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