Friday, July 26, 2019

16. Salieri

Salieri got a bad rap. In an article entitled "Salieri's Revenge in the June 3, 2019 issue of The New Yorker, Alex Ross addresses and adjusts the view of Salieri—promulgated by Alexander Pushkin and, much later, he movie "Amadeus"—as a conniving schemer against Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Apparently, Salieri was talented, gracious, and decent. A more-than-pretty-good musician got a bad rap in a great movie.

Because these 100 entries aren't book reports but projects to overcome discomfort, I'll simply quote what I found most striking in the article.

Ross writes of Salieri's agreeability may have done him harm. "Sometimes . . . he keeps pace with events rather than taking charge of them. This is a recurring flaw of his operatic work . . . Salieri's habitual agreeability . . . prevented him from asserting himself over his material, as Mozart did. At his best, though, he not only equals his contemporaries but heralds the future." As an congenial worrier who stays too much in place, I was struck by how decency can be dull.

Of course, history and who writes it can make a difference. Another striking passage in the article points out that "the dividing line separating 'genius' from the rest of humanity is blurrier than we might expect." 

Given the blurriness, it makes sense to stop worrying about being a genius and try to take charge of events rather than keeping pace.

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