from Ann Hulbert, 2005/6/1, Slate, “Mozart and Us: What the ur-prodigy has to teach his successors”:
However scholars end up resolving the question of authorship, it highlights a side of Wolfgang his father preferred to gloss over and popular legend tends to ignore: The boy genius, for all his originality, was also an impressionable imitator. Either he availed himself of a score by an elder and rearranged it somewhat (as he did with some early concertos), or, if the work is shown to be his, he was composing derivative music that experts could mistake for that of a mediocre adult contemporary. In other words, young Mozart was not simply a little boy who was visited by inspirational bolts from the blue. He was an industrious student inundated by contemporaneous influences.
The full article discusses the myth/legend/history of Mozart’s youthful creativity, placing it, and him, in his context: an environment rich with other works from which to draw, embellish, alter, and derive. Mozart was known for these variations, as alluded to in “Amadeus” by his easy & pointed re-working of Salieri’s piece.
(Hulbert draws a different conclusion from Mozart’s access to & use of other current popular works: that Mozart’s forced rapid exposure by his father-promoter to a huge number of popular works ultimately fostered his ability to assert his own creative independence and genius.
If Mozart is actually proof of anything, it may be that resilience cultivated in the face of overbearing influence and enforced dependence is one important secret to fulfilling rare genius.
Hulbert has her own axe to grind with this point, about how to raise children & so-called child prodigies, and that’s interesting too, and I probably agree with the critique of adult pressure on children to be geniuses. I don’t find that the Mozart material particularly well supports the “resilience to influence leads to genius” idea, but that seems to be a toss-away line to try to tie the stories together.)