Mistress of the Mix: Mozart vs. McCartney

I was on stage the other night doing my thang before Rain (which is more of a Beatles full immersion experience than a tribute band). I made a joke about how I was pretty familiar with music from the 50’s and 60’s…..the 1750’s and 60’s, that is.

I mentioned that it was Mozart’s birthday and there was a nice round of applause from the audience, which I have to admit I wasn’t really expecting. Kind of caught me off guard actually.

But it got me to thinking. Mozart was a pretty kick ass composer. Classic rock star bad boy.

And a revolutionary. He really took music to completely new places. Then 200 years later, Paul McCartney did the same thing. The two of them are a lot alike, musically, when you stand back about 20 feet and squint your eyes. And I’m going to prove it to you with today’s Mozart vs. McCartney playlist.

My husband has warned me that you might disagree with me, and that I might find myself holding heated debates with people I barely know on the sundial bridge about this for a good long time over this  bold statement, but I really believe that Paul McCartney is the Mozart of the 20th century. I know there’s a lot of John Lennon lovers out there, and a huge contingency of Rogers & Hammerstein fans, but I’m going to hold fast on this.

McCartney is the dude. The composer of the 20th century.

Nowadays, that is. Or for the second half of the last century, if you really want to get nitpicky.

But if you go a few hundred years back, it’s hard to find anyone that eclipses Mozart. Even Papa Haydn, who wrote more than 750 works in his lifetime (but outlasted Mozart by about 40 years) in my opinion, can’t match Mozart’s genius.

Sometimes I find it hard to believe the things I read about Mozart. But the story goes that he was two when he started goofing off on a keyboard, tagging along at his big sister Nannerl’s music lesson, and within three years he had already composed his first work, a short little andante. I took three years of piano lessons as a middle schooler, and there was no way I could’ve composed anything like young Wolfie did at the age of five. Five! Think about what you were doing at the age of five!

By the age of 8, he had already written a few chamber works (which, for the classical music impaired means a small group of instruments, like 3 or 4).

By nine he had already written entire symphonies. Precocious little bugger, right? Even Paul McCartney didn’t start toying around with writing music until he was 14, a short little song (not a whole lot longer than Mozart’s very first piece, which clocks in at :38). McCartney played his little ditty on an episode of MTV Unplugged in 1991. Check it out:

By the way, his second composition (another short piece for the piano) later turned into “When I’m 64.” Pure genius. He was 16.

By the time Mozart was 16, he’d already traveled all around Europe performing concerts, had written more than 13 symphonies, at least 3 operas, and a crap ton of piano music. But he was still, perplexingly, looking for a full time music gig that paid real money.

I think McCartney was in the same boat until he joined up with Lennon, Ringo and Harrison. The Beatles had their first pop hit in 1963, followed by worldwide Beatlemania the following year. When that happened, McCartney was 22.

Mozart got his big break at 17 when he was hired as a court musician in Salzburg, but he moved on quickly, always looking for a bigger opportunity. By the time Mozart was 22, he’d written all but his last 10 symphonies (so at least 30), 5 violin concertos…and I could go on. But by the time he died at the young age of 36, he’d written over 600 incredible pieces of music. Solo piano pieces, chamber works, concertos for piano, violin, horn, numerous wind instruments and one for flute & harp, lots of operas and scores of symphonies.

McCartney is quickly catching up. A quick check to the Paul McCartney database of compositions claims he’s got 527 songwriting credits so far. He has also written pieces for solo piano, small chamber works, orchestral pieces, an opera, an honest-to-gosh oratorio, one of the most beautiful pieces of choral music I have ever heard in my entire life (Ecce Cor Meum), and most recently, a ballet. I bet you didn’t even know he was writing ballets and operas!

All I’m saying is….what Mozart was to the 18th century, McCartney was to the 20th century. And he’s not done yet. I have to admit that I’m not much of a fan of his recent performances with the remaining members of Nirvana, but I’m really looking forward to his next effort in the classical genre.

Today’s playlist is going to be a real treat, I hope. It’s Mozart vs. McCartney. Starting with Mozart’s first work at the age of 5, moving on to one of McCartney’s earliest works, back to Mozart’s early variations on a French song that I think you’ll be able to sing along to (and I guarantee you’ll be at least a teensy bit surprised), and then pitting the two against each other all the way to an amazing finish. I’m sure you’ll be surprised at some of the music you never knew came from the creative brain of Paul McCartney, and you might find some newfound love for Mozart as well.  I’m just going to go out on a limb and proclaim that if you don’t appreciate today’s Mozart vs. McCartney Playlist, I’m not sure if we can be friends any longer. What I really want you to do is take a listen to today’s playlist without peeking at who wrote what in advance, and see if you’re not fooled just a teensy bit.

  1. Mozart – Andante for piano in G, K. 1a
  2. McCartney – When I’m 64 (Canadian Brass)
  3. Mozart – 12 Variations on the French song, “Ah, vous dirai-je Maman”
  4. McCartney – Midwife (Loma Mar Quartet)
  5. Mozart – Prelude to Piano Concerto No. 23 (Bobby McFerrin & Chick Corea)
  6. McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed
  7. McCartney – Maybe I’m Amazed (Loma Mar Quartet)
  8. Mozart – Requiem: Lacrimosa
  9. McCartney – Lament from Ecce Cor Meum (Kate Royal & LSO)
  10. Mozart – Sonata No. 11 (Mitsuko Uchida)
  11. McCartney – Tuesday (London Symphony)
  12. McCartney – My Love
  13. McCartney – My Love (Loma Mar Quartet)
  14. Mozart – Violin Concerto No. 3: Adagio (James Ehnes)
  15. McCartney – Golden Earth Girl (Loma Mar Quartet)
  16. Mozart – Divertimento No. 15: Adagio
  17. McCartney – Golden Slumbers/Carry That Weight/The End (Phil Collins)
  18. Mozart – Credo from Mass in C minor (Arleen Auger)
  19. McCartney – Gratia from Ecce Cor Meum (Kate Royal & London Symphony Orchestra)
  20. McCartney – Live & Let Die

Valerie Ing-Miller has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for nine years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She’s the mother of a teenage daughter and a 7-year-old West Highland Terrier, and can’t imagine life without them or music. Valerie wakes up with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.
A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Greenberg, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

Valerie Ing

Valerie Ing has been the Northern California Program Coordinator for Jefferson Public Radio in Redding for 14 years and can often be found serving as Mistress of Ceremonies at the Cascade Theatre. For her, ultimate satisfaction comes from a perfect segue. She and her husband are parents to a couple of college students and a pair of West Highland Terriers, and Valerie can’t imagine life without them or music. The Mistress of the Mix wakes up every day with a song in her head, she sings in the shower and at the top of her lungs in the car.

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