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"For the respect his works have commanded of musicians, and the popularity they have enjoyed among wider audiences, he is probably the most admired composer in the history of Western music." With this appraisal the New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, published in 1980, begins its magisterial article on Beethoven. More than a decade later one might not apply this statement to the Teutonic Goliath but to the David of Mozart. Not only is this year (1991) the bicentennial of Mozart\'s death, it also comes at a time when his pristine classical image has become the preferred taste over Beethoven\'s more extroverted expression.

Turn your channel to PBS, where Hugh Downs or Peter Ustinov is narrating a Mozart special. Turn to one of the commercial channels, and Mozart\'s Piano Concerto K. 466 and "Little" G Minor Symphony K. 183/173dB are selling MacIntosh computers, Don Giovanni gives class to Cheer laundry detergent, The Marriage of Figaro hawks the Sirocco automobile, the Requiem\'s Lacrymosa seemingly sanctifies Lee Jeans, and another piano concerto (K. 482) perks Maxwell House coffee. The recovery of a Mozart symphony, even if juvenilia, receives front-page coverage from The New York Times. Dealers and collectors will go to any extreme for a piece of the action; Mozart autographs sell at the same prices as fine paintings, and dealers in one case dismembered the "Andretter" Serenade K. 185, retailing it piecemeal for greater profit. The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni now rival the box-office receipts of La Boheme and Madame Butterfly.

This popularization of Mozart did not come from the opera houses or concert halls -- its most direct beneficiaries -- but from the stage and screen. More than any other factor, the Mozart mania of the 1980s was initiated by Peter Shaffer\'s play Amadeus. It and the subsequent film directed by Milos Forman did more for Mozart\'s case than anything else in the two hundred years since the composer\'s death. Amadeus ran in London, Washington, and New York and was translated into German and Hungarian, among other languages, as it entered the repertoire of the Burgtheater in Vienna and the Nemzeti Szinhaz in Budapest. Shaffer continually revised the stage version with, in his words, "a nearly obsessive pursuit of clarity, structural order, and drama. . . . One of the faults which I [Shaffer] believe existed in the London version was simply that Salieri has too little to do with Mozart\'s ruin." For the film version, Shaffer and Forman again revised the script, not only for the new medium but also for a larger and less-sophisticated audience. Both men agreed that we were not making an objective "Life of Wolfgang Mozart." This cannot be stressed too strongly. Obviously, Amadeus on the stage was never intended to be a documentary biography of the composer and the film is even less of one. . . . But we are also blatantly claiming the grand license of the storyteller to embellish his tale with fictional ornament, and -- above all -- to supply it with a climax whose sole justification need be that it enthralls his audience and emblazons his theme.

Even more so than on the stage, the film translated what could be accepted as compelling drama into what for many viewers became the time, place, and characters of history. The caveats published with the stage play were never imprinted on celluloid; fiction was never segregated from truth.

Amadeus centers on the deep envy of the imperial court composer Antonio Salieri of Mozart\'s godlike gifts as a composer. Despite Mozart\'s uncouthness and immaturity, he produced one work after another that seemed divinely sponsored as they transcended his own personality. He was beloved of God -- truly befitting the name "Amadeus." Both the play and the film concern themselves with the most significant decade in the composer\'s life, beginning with his dismissal from the service of the Archbishop of Salzburg in 1781 until his death ten years later. During this time Mozart resided in Vienna and became a composer free from the daily obligations of court appointments, but encumbered by the quest for financial stability. In this decade Mozart composed a large number of works astonishing for their quality. Amadeus sets much of its action at the Viennese court in