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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
 
Extracts from Amiel’s Journal
Mozart and Beethoven
By Henri Frédéric Amiel (1821–1881)
 
Translation of Mary Augusta Ward

DECEMBER 17TH, 1856.—This evening was the second quartet concert. It stirred me much more than the first; the music chosen was loftier and stronger. It was the quartette in D minor of Mozart, and the quartette in C major of Beethoven, separated by a Spohr concerto….  1
  The work of Mozart, penetrated as it is with mind and thought, represents a solved problem, a balance struck between aspiration and executive capacity, the sovereignty of a grace which is always mistress of itself, marvelous harmony and perfect unity. His quartette describes a day in one of those Attic souls who prefigure on earth the serenity of Elysium….  2
  In Beethoven’s, on the other hand, a spirit of tragic irony paints for you the mad tumult of existence, as it dances forever above the threatening abyss of the infinite. No more unity, no more satisfaction, no more serenity! We are spectators of the eternal duel between the two great forces, that of the abyss which absorbs all finite things, and that of life which defends and asserts itself, expands, and enjoys….  3
  The soul of Beethoven was a tormented soul. The passion and the awe of the infinite seemed to toss it to and fro from heaven to hell. Hence its vastness. Which is the greater, Mozart or Beethoven? Idle question! The one is more perfect, the other more colossal. The first gives you the peace of perfect art, beauty at first sight. The second gives you sublimity, terror, pity, a beauty of second impression. The one gives that for which the other rouses a desire. Mozart has the classic purity of light and the blue ocean. Beethoven the romantic grandeur which belongs to the storms of air and sea; and while the soul of Mozart seems to dwell on the ethereal peaks of Olympus, that of Beethoven climbs shuddering the storm-beaten sides of a Sinai. Blessed be they both! Each represents a moment of the ideal life, each does us good. Our love is due to both.  4
 
 
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