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Mozart’s coming home

Posted on 24 May 2010, 23:02

I’m soon to go into the recording studio with the excellent Andy Havill to record ‘Conversations with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’ for the audio version of the book.

He was a child prodigy, hawked around the courts and concert halls of Europe as a six and seven year old, by his ambitious and rather controlling father. Many were charmed by this tiny keyboard maestro, though he and his sister became ill with the stress of it all.

His father’s attitude was natural, if not partcularly beautiful, in a parent/ child relationship. He was what is nowadays called ‘a pushy parent’. But unfortunately, it continued into Wolfgang’s adult life.His father was an increasingly negative influence, as he felt his control slipping away. He could not give his son a compliment, only a complaint.

Mozart didn’t know how to handle this, and his response was to pretend it wasn’t so; to imagine that his father was just having a bad day, that he didn’t mean what he said and that he would soon be more pleasant. Always Mozart hoped for this. Like many, he couldn’t handle the inadquacy of his parents. So he continued to speak highly of his father, with reconciliation always round the next corner…and then the one after.

But here’s what he really thought -  he didn’t attend his funeral. Watch what people do, not what they say…

Instead, Wolfgang fed his hopes and longings, sadness and rage into his music, which, as Nicholas Till’s biography has it, offered a vision of humanity ‘redeemed through art, forgiven, and reconciled with nature and the absolute.’

Home at last.

Conversations with Mozart

Audiobook download available below from

Conversations with Mozart: In His Own Words

Conversations with Mozart: In His Own Words

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, a child prodigy who became an adult genius….

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Was Tolstoy’s father God?

Posted on 17 May 2010, 21:35

From his youthful and sneering atheism, Tolstoy discovered a great joy in God in later life. ‘I was filled with such joy,’ he writes, ‘and such a firm assurance did I gain of him! And my joy grew so great that all these last days I have been experiencing the feeling that something very good has come to me, and I keep asking myself, ‘Why do I feel so happy? Yes, God! There is a God, and I need never be anxious nor afraid, but can only rejoice.’

Yet amid this wonderful happiness, he also counsels restraint in our dealings with God: ‘In establishing your religion, it is best to leave God in peace…and refrain from attributing to him will, desire and even love…understand him to be completely beyond our comprehension.’

I am haunted by the phrase ‘leave God in peace’, for it seems to come from nowhere. But I wonder: Tolstoy’s mother died when he was two, and his father when he was nine. His father was away from home alot, pursuing various legal causes. But when he was at home, he allowed his children to sit in his study sometimes, as he pursued his business, and met with clients and advisors. What warmth, security and joy the children must have felt at such times - just to be with their father, even if he wasn’t attending to them. Yet no doubt they also will have heard, as childish shouts interrupted father’s business, ‘Leave me in peace!’

Sometimes, Tolstoy is happy for his God to be loving. At other times, it is deemed an inappropriate description. ‘And nor should love be demanded!’ he says - as no doubt little Leo had learned, long long ago. 

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The Vincent Van Gogh who wasn’t

Posted on 11 May 2010, 15:46

Vincent Van Gogh was born and died on March 30th, 1852. The second Vincent Van Gogh was born exactly a year later, on March 30th, 1853. And the explanation was this: in order to remember the dead Vincent, his parents decided to name the next boy after him, thus giving the dead child continued life. And so Vincent Van Gogh followed Vincent Van Gogh.

This was probably an unwise move. There is the strong sense that his parents never quite forgave the living Vincent for not being the dead one - unreachable and forever perfect in the grave, which the young Vincent was made to visit regularly as a child. Buried there was the boy Vincent could never be. Is this what Vincet felt, I wonder?

‘I wish they would take me as I am,’ said Vincent of his parents.‘My youth was gloomy, cold and sterile. The germinating seed must not be exposed to a frosty wind - that was the case with me in the beginning.’

Perhaps it is not surprising that someone who described their childhood as cold and frosty, should come alive in the sun. When Vincent left the cold grey north, for the warmer and more colourful climes of Arles in the South of France, it was a new life in so many ways; and new energy.

The sapling caught too soon by the frost never quite recovers; but pehaps for them above all, beauty becomes a passion. They need it more than others; and will go to greater lengths.

Certainly Vincent had nothing to return to, having left in angry and unforgiving circumstances. As he recalls: ‘When someone tells me in no uncertain terms, ‘Leave my house and the sooner the better, within the half-hour rather than the hour!’ - well, old chap, then I’m out in less than a quarter of an hour, and won’t come back again either.’

And he didn’t. 

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Ukraine War: A Story of Survival, Sacrifice, and Service – If charitable service to those in need is the ultimate in spirituality here in the physical life, this book most certainly deals with spiritual matters. The author, Amber Poole, an American woman and her husband, Paul, from Scotland but with Polish roots, operated an educational center in Poland when the Russians attacked Ukraine in 2022. As many Ukrainians fled to Poland, they turned their center into a home for as many as 40 refugees. The author kept a very interesting “war diary” over the first 18 months of the war, discussing everything from the cultural adjustments required by both the Polish and the Ukrainians to her own reactions and adjustments, as well as philosophical concerns and conflicts that often surfaced. In spite of the adversity and distress, she embraced the adversity. Read here
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