Discussion:
Why do you like Mozart's music?
(too old to reply)
Derek Hollman
2005-12-08 06:20:22 UTC
Permalink
Hey all,
I was interested in hearing some people's opinions on Mozart's
music. I don't have a strong opinion of my own, which is why I am
asking what other people think. The general view of him (from what
I've seen others say and from what I've read) is that he is a
musical genius. He was able to compose music effortlessly, flawlessly,
and beautifully. Even spending less time on his compositions, he was
leagues above his contemporaries.

I've heard his music described as many different things. It has
been called "light," "all the same," "boring," and "without passion."
On the other hand, however, I've also heard it called "perfect,"
"beautiful" (though I think this adjective is weak since so many people
define so many different types of music as beautiful), "technically
flawless," and "spiritual."

I don't subscribe to one view any more than the other. In fact,
I'm actually hesitant to subscribe to either. I guess what my point is
that I don't understand his music very well. I don't understand what
sets Mozart apart from other composers. I don't understand what
makes him unique. I know a lot of people dislike Mozart because they
think he sounds too "light:" he doesn't "say" anything; his
music isn't about anything. This, however, is not a view to which I
subscribe. I can enjoy music solely for music's sake (though I also
enjoy music that people describe as passionate, deep, etc.), and I do
enjoy a whole range of composers.

Perhaps if I describe why I like some of my favorite composers,
someone can point out to me how Mozart is genuinely unique from them
and how I can appreciate Mozart more because of this. A few of my
favorite composers are: Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, and
Gershwin. I like Bach because of his polyphonic writing. It is the
way in which the different voices interact with each other, like making
a piece of rope out of multiple strands, that sets him apart. I would
describe some of his music as the most perfect music I have heard
(especially the first movement of the second Brandenburg concerto). As
for Beethoven, it's hard to describe in words, but there is just a
feeling I get when I listen to his music that overwhelms me. To me,
his music seems to flow unrelentlessly and takes me with it, creating
tension and relieving it. Dvorak was one of the first composers that I
started to enjoy. He has a nationalistic, homely, folk-like tone. I
know he didn't use any existing folk-tunes in his music, but many of
his melodies remind me of such. He could be vigorous while being
gentle and epic while being quietly lyrical. I think it's difficult
to dislike RK. His orchestrations are wonderfully colored; each
instrument (or group of instruments) has its own unique image and
purpose in his compositions. I find his works magical, like a fantasy.
Finally, I will speak about Gershwin. He was the composer that got me
started on classical music, specifically his Rhapsody in Blue. His
catchy melodies are what caught my ear at first. The more I listened,
however, the more I found to appreciate. I, too, moved on to his other
orchestral works: the piano concerto, his tone poem, etc. When I
listen to Gershwin, I get overwhelmed with a feeling of joy. During
many of the slower sections of his works, I feel Gershwin contrasts
this with a bittersweet expression of hopelessly wanting a dream to
come true.

Anyways, I should get back to my point.

While writing these short comments on my favorite composers, I re-read
the first story in Bernstein's "The Joy of Music." (the 'Why
Beethoven?' scene). Basically his argument of why Beethoven is such
a great composer is that when he listens to Beethoven, he feels a
feeling of inevitability, a feeling that every successive note could
only be that note and that note alone. This is how I view many of my
favorite composers, too. However, I don't get this impression as
much when I listen to Mozart. I feel like a lot of his works could be
pieced together differently or certain parts could be left out without
changing the work (with exceptions of course). I'm sure my view of
him is askew, but this is exactly why I am asking for others' view.

The works I've heard by Mozart are his last symphonies (35-41), a
handful of his piano concertos (17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27), the
Requiem, and one of his operas (Don Giovanni I think). I didn't
dislike any of what I heard, but none of it really stood out to me
either (except the Jupiter symphony, and especially the finale). I am
not much of an opera buff, so I did not find much help in Don Giovanni.


So, at this point, I guess I will come to the crux of this message.
Since you all have now heard my views about various composers, my likes
and dislikes, I now ask of you to share with me your views of Mozart
and why you enjoy (or dislike) his music. Do you affirm the belief
that he is one of the greatest composers we know? Why? Any opinion on
anything I've asked/stated is more than welcome. One could suggest
specific works that I should hear, books to read, or anything. I'm
very open to suggestion (though I have difficulty reading music -
which is why I'm having trouble finishing Rosen's "The Classical
Style"). Anyways, please share your thoughts!


Regards,
Derek
Thornhill
2005-12-08 08:02:10 UTC
Permalink
Speaking as a person who considers Mozart to be my favorite composer, a
few points on why people like yourself don't like him:

1. The notion that Mozart composed 'light' music is a result of
pop-culture appropriating his fluffier pieces for fluffy purposes (e.g.
commercials, background music at posh parties in movies, Muzak, etc.).

2. Another problem Mozart has is that his music is really quite
difficult to perform well. Artur Schnabel summed it up best: "Mozart is
too easy for beginners and too difficult for artists." No matter how
bad a performance of Dvorak or Beethoven is, it's pretty hard to kill
the music, while with Mozart, a bad performance will be pretty boring.

(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)

3. A third and final issue, is that the popular mainstream classical
genres, specifically symphonic, doesn't showcase Mozart at his best;
you haven't experienced Mozart until you've heard the seven mature
operas, much of his chamber and the concerti.

Generally speaking, I enjoy the sheer economy of Mozart's music.
There's nothing superfluous or dense about it. The music always unfolds
in a completely effortless manner, never forced. This is probably why
people think of his music as simple -- nothing sounds too difficult --
but on a theory level it is quite complex. What's really interesting,
is that Mozart did stuff which he must have realized that no one in the
his time would ever be able to appreciate unless they some how had the
opportunity to own one of his scores or hear a piece repeatedly, but
it's why the music has held up on repeated listening for 200 some
years. And Mozart never really tries to point out what he's up to
(compare the first movements of Mozart's 39th and Beethoven's 3rd,
where there are these dissonant moments in the 3rd that you think only
Beethoven could have thought of, but he really just swiped them from
Mozart's 39th). So in this sense Mozart does demand a lot from his
listeners. To take an obvious example, most people would completely
miss what's going on in the coda of the 41st symphony unless told.

You note that an often used adjective is "beautiful"; I think a far
more appropriate one is "elegant."

The operas are a tour-de-force of music, especially the Da Ponte operas
and Die Zauberflote. They have everything: great arias, brilliant
orchestral writing, memorable themes, and compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas). No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes
like Mozart. You might find video recordings on DVD more engaging than
audio only.


--
==================================

Seth Levi
Philadelphia, PA
Cell Phone: 215-915-3348
AOL IM: stuckeys10
Ian Pace
2005-12-08 10:20:45 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
It took me a long time to come to love Mozart - with hindsight, I see that
it was performances on modern instruments, in pre-HIP 'mainstream' style,
that put me off the work. I agree absolutely with you about the texture of
period instruments, but would go further in terms of approach to phrasing
and articulation. Much of Mozart's work is absolutely ruined to me when the
'long line' approach is applied - that's what makes it sound like
mantlepiece music. Actually it's intensely dramatic work that makes the most
from highly varied contrasts on the level of fine detail. The 'long line'
just smoothes over most of this. Mozart was an incredibly refined
orchestrator who understood intimately the particular sonic characteristics
of the instruments he wrote for and their combinations (and the techniques
of playing them that were standard at the time). So much of this is diluted
when the music is rendered in terms of later performance practice. Though
research into Mozart performance has been quite exhaustive, I still think
there's plenty left to try in terms of approaches which don't aim to
'prettify' the work (not doing so doesn't need imply a lack of refinement,
however).
Post by Thornhill
Generally speaking, I enjoy the sheer economy of Mozart's music.
There's nothing superfluous or dense about it. The music always unfolds
in a completely effortless manner, never forced. This is probably why
people think of his music as simple -- nothing sounds too difficult --
but on a theory level it is quite complex. What's really interesting,
is that Mozart did stuff which he must have realized that no one in the
his time would ever be able to appreciate unless they some how had the
opportunity to own one of his scores or hear a piece repeatedly, but
it's why the music has held up on repeated listening for 200 some
years. And Mozart never really tries to point out what he's up to
(compare the first movements of Mozart's 39th and Beethoven's 3rd,
where there are these dissonant moments in the 3rd that you think only
Beethoven could have thought of, but he really just swiped them from
Mozart's 39th). So in this sense Mozart does demand a lot from his
listeners. To take an obvious example, most people would completely
miss what's going on in the coda of the 41st symphony unless told.
You note that an often used adjective is "beautiful"; I think a far
more appropriate one is "elegant."
The operas are a tour-de-force of music, especially the Da Ponte operas
and Die Zauberflote. They have everything: great arias, brilliant
orchestral writing, memorable themes, and compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas). No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes
like Mozart. You might find video recordings on DVD more engaging than
audio only.
The operas are exceptionally forward-looking in so many respects, not least
in terms of attitudes to class and gender. Mozart invests even the minor
characters with immense depth and humanity, more so than would be apparent
from the libretti alone. Again, I'd recommend listening to recordings on
period instruments. I'm sure it's been discussed here before, but what are
people's views of the Jacobs Figaro? The only HIP recording I own is the
Gardiner, which I like in many respects, but find Terfel a little too cuddly
in his portrayal of Figaro himself.

Ian
William Sommerwerck
2005-12-08 12:01:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
The operas are exceptionally forward-looking in so many respects,
not least in terms of attitudes to class and gender. Mozart invests
even the minor characters with immense depth and humanity, more
so than would be apparent from the libretti alone. Again, I'd recommend
listening to recordings on period instruments. I'm sure it's been
discussed
Post by Ian Pace
here before, but what are people's views of the Jacobs Figaro?
Terrific. Certainly one of the finest recorded performances this opera has
ever gotten.
Jon Alan Conrad
2005-12-08 14:52:21 UTC
Permalink
I suppose each of us hears different things in Mozart, but speaking for
myself: What keeps drawing me back to Mozart is not historical or
executional considerations, valuable as those can be, but his emotional
complexity. I can't think of anyone better than Mozart at conveying
what actors call "subtext," the reconciling of opposites in the same
music. And I can't figure out how he did it! There are famous examples
of commentators hearing opposite characteristics in the same symphonic
movement ("Grecian serenity" vs. "angry drama," or some such thing) --
but the thing is, they're both right, both those qualities can be
there, inseparably mixed. He can convey power that also has tenderness,
joy tinged with regret, anything he cares to. Of course this is
immensely valuable in his operas (and I think the 3 Da Pontes, plus
MAGIC FLUTE, are as close to perfect as opera gets, and full of such
complexity -- COSI is a heartbreaking comedy), but it's there in the
instrumental works too. And his work that perhaps moves me the most,
the concert aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te," somehow conveys all the
opposites I've been talking about.

JAC
James Kahn
2005-12-08 18:42:16 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
I suppose each of us hears different things in Mozart, but speaking for
myself: What keeps drawing me back to Mozart is not historical or
executional considerations, valuable as those can be, but his emotional
complexity. I can't think of anyone better than Mozart at conveying
what actors call "subtext," the reconciling of opposites in the same
music....
Yes, well said. This is most apparent in his slow movements--not the overtly
tragic ones like K. 364 or K. 488, but the ones in major keys, like K. 454
K. 310, K. 466.

I know Maynard Solomon gets a lot of flack here, but he has a nice chapter in his
biography where he expounds on this, and IIRC uses the term "bittersweet," which
I think is apt.
--
Jim
New York, NY
(Please remove "nospam." to get my e-mail address)
http://www.panix.com/~kahn
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-08 22:26:09 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
I suppose each of us hears different things in Mozart, but speaking for
myself: What keeps drawing me back to Mozart is not historical or
executional considerations, valuable as those can be, but his emotional
complexity.
But maybe you will agree that often the "historically aware"
performance approach brings out more of that complexity rather than
smoothing it over to make high-class elevator music out of it.
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
I can't think of anyone better than Mozart at conveying
what actors call "subtext," the reconciling of opposites in the same
music. And I can't figure out how he did it! There are famous examples
of commentators hearing opposite characteristics in the same symphonic
movement ("Grecian serenity" vs. "angry drama," or some such thing) --
but the thing is, they're both right, both those qualities can be
there, inseparably mixed. He can convey power that also has tenderness,
joy tinged with regret, anything he cares to. Of course this is
immensely valuable in his operas (and I think the 3 Da Pontes, plus
MAGIC FLUTE, are as close to perfect as opera gets, and full of such
complexity -- COSI is a heartbreaking comedy), but it's there in the
instrumental works too. And his work that perhaps moves me the most,
the concert aria "Ch'io mi scordi di te," somehow conveys all the
opposites I've been talking about.
JAC
Jon Alan Conrad
2005-12-11 03:37:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Schaffer
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
What keeps drawing me back to Mozart is not historical or
executional considerations, valuable as those can be, but his emotional
complexity.
But maybe you will agree that often the "historically aware"
performance approach brings out more of that complexity rather than
smoothing it over to make high-class elevator music out of it.
No, I don't think I will agree with that, even with the "often" hedge.
I have found much to enjoy in plenty of "historically aware"
performances, and I have no quarrel with them. But I see no need to
praise them by denigrating the work of, oh, Böhm, Leinsdorf, Giulini,
Solti, Karajan, Levine, Haitink, just to name a few random conductors
whose Mozart has enriched my life. I wouldn't dream of accusing them of
turning Mozart into elevator music; the single most profound Mozart
performance I know is the "Ch'io scordi di te?" of Teresa Berganza,
Geoffrey Parsons, and John Pritchard.

JAC
d***@aol.com
2005-12-11 22:24:35 UTC
Permalink
maybe you will agree that often the "historically aware" performance approach brings out more of that complexity rather than smoothing it over to make high-class elevator music out of it.
I don't agree, and you certainly do not need what you so quaintly refer
to as "historically aware" performers to avoid "smoothing over."
Indeed, the disappearance of distinctive phrasing and the rise of HIP
dogma more or less coincided in the history of classical performance.
(As for poor Mozart, he thought a huge orchestra with roughly the
complement of strings characteristic of the modern orchestra would be
ideal, just as Beethoven preferred the new more powerful grand pianos
developed in his lifetime to the anemic fortepianos he grew up with.)

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-11 22:35:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
(As for poor Mozart, he thought a huge orchestra with roughly the
complement of strings characteristic of the modern orchestra would be
ideal, just as Beethoven preferred the new more powerful grand pianos
developed in his lifetime to the anemic fortepianos he grew up with.)
The above statements are classic simplistic anti-HIP dogma, which have been
examined in much more detail by those who have researched these composers'
views on such matters intricately. I can post more on both subjects if you
like.

The anti-HIPsters often take one comment out of many from a composer out of
many and present it as emblematic of their views on everything, to a much
greater degree than any serious HIP researcher or performer I know of.

Ian
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 06:08:38 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
The anti-HIPsters often take one comment out of many from a composer out of
many and present it as emblematic of their views on everything

Mozart expressed the opinion that the ideal orchestra would include 50
strings. This statement is not quoted out of context. He was not
referring to a special occasion or an isolated effect, he was
describing the ideal. So much the worse for you when you claim, as you
did in this thread, that you were unable to grasp Mozart because of the
large number of strings used in traditional Mozart performances.

As for Beethoven, his attitude toward keyboard instruments could not
have been more un-HIP. He would have thought it was looney when
performing his earlier music to insist on using the earlier fortepianos
that existed when he wrote his earlier music rather than using the more
powerful grands developed during his lifetime. That's a fact. Nor is
it anti-HIP dogma (as you claim) merely to quote what Mozart and
Beethoven said. I admit that certain statements by Mozart and
Beethoven are problematic for HIPsters who must somehow rationalize
them away.

In any case, the egregiously specific emphasis on the physical material
sound of music characteristic of the HIP movement is an anachronism
when it comes to 18th century music. Composition was a much more
abstract affair for any 18th century composer than it became for the
Romantics and later composers. The Romantics were really the first
composers to conceive of composition, not abstractly, but in terms of a
specific realization in sound, the characteristic sounds narrowly
specific to a given piece. Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did, and they cared far less than you do
about the specific realization of their music in sound, which is not to
say they didn't care about the performers or performance or that they
weren't careful when writing for, say, a keyboard instrument to make
sure that the music could be played by two hands at a keyboard. But
take a look at that un-HIP betrayal of Handel, Mozart's instrumentation
of the Messiah. And of course there are the countless occasions when
Bach reinstrumented a piece for whatever instrumentalists were
available . . . an ancient Baroque practice, since early 17th century
scores frequently countenance realization with any number of different
instrumental combinations.

For the record, I don't detest the sound of period instruments. I only
detest most late 20th century and 21st century performances on them.

-david gable
Thornhill
2005-12-12 06:58:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Ian Pace
The anti-HIPsters often take one comment out of many from a composer out of
many and present it as emblematic of their views on everything
Mozart expressed the opinion that the ideal orchestra would include 50
strings. This statement is not quoted out of context. He was not
referring to a special occasion or an isolated effect, he was
describing the ideal. So much the worse for you when you claim, as you
did in this thread, that you were unable to grasp Mozart because of the
large number of strings used in traditional Mozart performances.
50 strings in the 18th century does not equal 50 strings in the 20th
century. Differences range from gut to E steel, bowing and vibrato.
Post by Ian Pace
As for Beethoven, his attitude toward keyboard instruments could not
have been more un-HIP. He would have thought it was looney when
performing his earlier music to insist on using the earlier fortepianos
that existed when he wrote his earlier music rather than using the more
powerful grands developed during his lifetime. That's a fact. Nor is
it anti-HIP dogma (as you claim) merely to quote what Mozart and
Beethoven said. I admit that certain statements by Mozart and
Beethoven are problematic for HIPsters who must somehow rationalize
them away.
I don't think anyone doubts that Beethoven preferred the fortepianos
being made at the end of his lifetime to the ones when he first began
composing for, but he composed for the instrument that was being
popularly used at the time of composition. There's also a big
difference between the fortepianos from his era and the modern Steinway
design. One thing I've noticed about Brautigam's Beethoven sonatas on
the fp (BIS), is that he reveals how restrained pianists can be from
worrying about playing a forte that is just way too loud for Beethoven.
Thanks to using the fp, Brautigam has the luxury of not having to adapt
a 20th century piano to Beethoven's dynamics. Same is even more true
with Mozart.
Post by Ian Pace
In any case, the egregiously specific emphasis on the physical material
sound of music characteristic of the HIP movement is an anachronism
when it comes to 18th century music. Composition was a much more
abstract affair for any 18th century composer than it became for the
Romantics and later composers. The Romantics were really the first
composers to conceive of composition, not abstractly, but in terms of a
specific realization in sound, the characteristic sounds narrowly
specific to a given piece. Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did...
That may be true, but Bach never for saw the baroque bow going out of
fashion (arch shaped); much of his music is clearly intended to be
played on that kind of bow. And when you use a baroque bow, you cannot
bow with it like you would a modern one.

The same is generally true for all composers. Had they some how known
how their music would sound when played on 20th century instruments,
they may have made suggestions about instruments, bowing and number of
musicians.
Post by Ian Pace
For the record, I don't detest the sound of period instruments. I only
detest most late 20th century and 21st century performances on them.
I've never seen a period performance go past Verdi and Brahms. And you
know, gut strings were used up until WWI, plastic covered timpanis
didn't come about until the '60s, and in the first half of the 20th C,
brass instruments were still being modified. And there's a lot of
debate about current amounts of vibrato originating after the turn of
the century.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 07:33:35 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
50 strings in the 18th century does not equal 50 strings in the 20th
That's certainly true, but (a) I don't care . . but I do mostly detest
performances by the people (HIPsters) whose primary concern seems to be
this purely physical material aspect of performance, the aspect of
performance of least interest to 18th century composers and of least
interest to me; and (b) 50 strings in the 18th century was a whole lot
more than two or three strings to a part in the 18th century. You
certainly would have the same effect of a homogeneous group with 50
strings that you get with a modern orchestra rather than the soloistic
conception characteristic of HIP performances.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 12:02:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Post by Thornhill
50 strings in the 18th century does not equal 50 strings in the 20th
That's certainly true, but (a) I don't care . . but I do mostly detest
performances by the people (HIPsters) whose primary concern seems to be
this purely physical material aspect of performance,
That's just one of many aspects that HIPsters are concerned about - many of
them take equally seriously the styles of articulation, vibrato, phrasing,
relationships between various musical elements in a work and the means of
underlining them or not (for example in terms of the relationship between a
dynamic envelope and a melodic contour), tempo, and much else.
Post by d***@aol.com
the aspect of
performance of least interest to 18th century composers and of least
interest to me;
If this is of least interest to you, why do you keep going on about it so
often?
Post by d***@aol.com
and (b) 50 strings in the 18th century was a whole lot
more than two or three strings to a part in the 18th century.
HIP groups use varying sizes of string groups for 18th century music, by no
means primarily two or three strings to a part. Some will use different
forces for different works by the same composer.
Post by d***@aol.com
You
certainly would have the same effect of a homogeneous group with 50
strings that you get with a modern orchestra rather than the soloistic
conception characteristic of HIP performances.
You'd still get a very different sound if 18th century instruments and
playing techniques were involved - in fact the difference might be all the
more pronounced because of the magnitude of the forces.

Ian
Mark
2005-12-13 08:06:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Post by Thornhill
50 strings in the 18th century does not equal 50 strings in the 20th
That's certainly true, but (a) I don't care . . but I do mostly detest
performances by the people (HIPsters) whose primary concern seems to be
this purely physical material aspect of performance, the aspect of
performance of least interest to 18th century composers and of least
interest to me...
Who are these "people (HIPsters)"?
Post by d***@aol.com
and (b) 50 strings in the 18th century was a whole lot
more than two or three strings to a part in the 18th century.
Indeed.
Post by d***@aol.com
You certainly would have the same effect of a homogeneous group with
50 strings that you get with a modern orchestra rather than the
soloistic conception characteristic of HIP performances.
Doubling the woodwinds (and brass?) for a start.
--
Mark

x = 123 in email address
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 13:41:29 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
Post by d***@aol.com
As for Beethoven, his attitude toward keyboard instruments could not
have been more un-HIP. He would have thought it was looney when
performing his earlier music to insist on using the earlier fortepianos
that existed when he wrote his earlier music rather than using the more
powerful grands developed during his lifetime. That's a fact. Nor is
it anti-HIP dogma (as you claim) merely to quote what Mozart and
Beethoven said. I admit that certain statements by Mozart and
Beethoven are problematic for HIPsters who must somehow rationalize
them away.
I don't think anyone doubts that Beethoven preferred the fortepianos
being made at the end of his lifetime to the ones when he first began
composing for, but he composed for the instrument that was being
popularly used at the time of composition. There's also a big
difference between the fortepianos from his era and the modern Steinway
design.
There were also big differences between various quite dissimilar fortepianos
that existed during his era, most particularly between those of the Viennese
School (Walter, Streicher, Graf, etc.) and those of the Anglo-French school
(Broadwood, Erard). The latter have more in common with modern Steinways
(though they are still extremely different) than the former in many
respects; yet sustained investigation into this question suggests quite
strongly that Beethoven's preferences were for the former (detailed in
William S. Newman - 'Beethoven on Beethoven: Playing His Piano Music His
Way' (New York/London, 1988)).
Post by Thornhill
One thing I've noticed about Brautigam's Beethoven sonatas on
the fp (BIS), is that he reveals how restrained pianists can be from
worrying about playing a forte that is just way too loud for Beethoven.
Thanks to using the fp, Brautigam has the luxury of not having to adapt
a 20th century piano to Beethoven's dynamics. Same is even more true
with Mozart.
Also, very fine nuances of dynamic detail are much easier and clearer to
execute on those older pianos, which were acutely sensitive to microscopic
differentiations of touch.
Post by Thornhill
Post by d***@aol.com
In any case, the egregiously specific emphasis on the physical material
sound of music characteristic of the HIP movement is an anachronism
when it comes to 18th century music. Composition was a much more
abstract affair for any 18th century composer than it became for the
Romantics and later composers. The Romantics were really the first
composers to conceive of composition, not abstractly, but in terms of a
specific realization in sound, the characteristic sounds narrowly
specific to a given piece. Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did...
That may be true, but Bach never for saw the baroque bow going out of
fashion (arch shaped); much of his music is clearly intended to be
played on that kind of bow. And when you use a baroque bow, you cannot
bow with it like you would a modern one.
Absolutely, and the same is true of classical era bows (which are different
again).
Post by Thornhill
The same is generally true for all composers. Had they some how known
how their music would sound when played on 20th century instruments,
they may have made suggestions about instruments, bowing and number of
musicians.
And they would have had to have lived in the 20th century, and would almost
certainly have written very different music.
Post by Thornhill
Post by d***@aol.com
For the record, I don't detest the sound of period instruments. I only
detest most late 20th century and 21st century performances on them.
I've never seen a period performance go past Verdi and Brahms. And you
know, gut strings were used up until WWI, plastic covered timpanis
didn't come about until the '60s, and in the first half of the 20th C,
brass instruments were still being modified. And there's a lot of
debate about current amounts of vibrato originating after the turn of
the century.
All of which is stimulating wider diversities of approach to much of the
standard repertoire. Also, some early 20th century practices such as the use
of extensive portamento in strings, or wide use of extra spread chords and
desynchronisation of hands at the keyboard, are also beginning to make a
comeback.

Ian
James Kahn
2005-12-12 17:31:56 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
... Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did...
That may be true, but Bach never for saw the baroque bow going out of
fashion (arch shaped); much of his music is clearly intended to be
played on that kind of bow. And when you use a baroque bow, you cannot
bow with it like you would a modern one.
The same is generally true for all composers. Had they some how known
how their music would sound when played on 20th century instruments,
they may have made suggestions about instruments, bowing and number of
musicians.
Perhaps, or they might have left it to the discretion of the performers--
more likely given how much more they left to performers' discretion in
general. To put it another way, an alternative "solution" is for performers
using modern instruments to take into account the fact that the music was
written for diffent instruments in their interpretive decisions. Presumably
that is done today. One doesn't usually see Mozart played like Brahms.

I once had the misfortune of hearing Haydn 104 played with a full-size
orchestra of 110+ musicians. Perhaps it could work with the right musicians,
but in this case it brought to mind the image of trying to swim while fully
dressed.
--
Jim
New York, NY
(Please remove "nospam." to get my e-mail address)
http://www.panix.com/~kahn
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 17:42:06 UTC
Permalink
Post by James Kahn
Post by Thornhill
... Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did...
That may be true, but Bach never for saw the baroque bow going out of
fashion (arch shaped); much of his music is clearly intended to be
played on that kind of bow. And when you use a baroque bow, you cannot
bow with it like you would a modern one.
The same is generally true for all composers. Had they some how known
how their music would sound when played on 20th century instruments,
they may have made suggestions about instruments, bowing and number of
musicians.
Perhaps, or they might have left it to the discretion of the performers--
more likely given how much more they left to performers' discretion in
general. To put it another way, an alternative "solution" is for performers
using modern instruments to take into account the fact that the music was
written for diffent instruments in their interpretive decisions.
Presumably
that is done today. One doesn't usually see Mozart played like Brahms.
That is indeed often done today, to differing degrees by different
performers, conductors and orchestras (though not all - one could look, say,
at the work of Christian Thielemann if one wants resolutely non-HIP
performances from recent times). But the fact that some of the modern
instrument players have chosen to take on board some of the attributes of
their HIP counterparts is to anti-HIPsters like David probably yet another
sign of the end of civilisation as we know it.

That said, the fact some performance approaches have become prevalent at any
one point in time doesn't by any means necessarily make them an improvement
on what has come before (after all, HIP sprung from a challenge to that very
sort of orthodoxy). And I'm not necessarily convinced that the HIP
performances of now are necessarily more accomplished in all senses than
those from 20-30 years ago, for all the increased slickness. I feel the same
way about changing fashions of performance of contemporary music.

The issue of hearing 'Mozart played like Brahms' does of course also raise
the question of 'how does one play Brahms'? When Webern asked for his
Variations to be played 'like a Brahms intermezzo', it's worth considering
how Brahms Intermezzos were played in 1930s Vienna. Similarly when (as is
often the case), contemporary composers say 'play this piece like Schubert'
or something similar, one can do well to ask how they envisage Schubert
being played.

Ian
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 18:39:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by James Kahn
One doesn't usually see Mozart played like Brahms.
I wouldn't mind hearing Mozart played like Brahms.

Matty
William Sommerwerck
2005-12-12 11:53:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
As for Beethoven, his attitude toward keyboard instruments could not
have been more un-HIP. He would have thought it was looney when
performing his earlier music to insist on using the earlier fortepianos
that existed when he wrote his earlier music rather than using the more
powerful grands developed during his lifetime. That's a fact.
I'm sure it is. But some works simply "sound better" on a fortepiano. (I
rather like the "wooden" somewhat klunky sound -- not at all like a modern
concert grand.) To some extent, the way pieces are written is influenced by
the sound of the instrument.
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 11:55:05 UTC
Permalink
<***@aol.com> wrote in message news:***@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com...
Ian>>The anti-HIPsters often take one comment out of many from a composer
out of
Post by Ian Pace
many and present it as emblematic of their views on everything
David> Mozart expressed the opinion that the ideal orchestra would include
50
Post by Ian Pace
strings. This statement is not quoted out of context. He was not
referring to a special occasion or an isolated effect, he was
describing the ideal. So much the worse for you when you claim, as you
did in this thread, that you were unable to grasp Mozart because of the
large number of strings used in traditional Mozart performances.
If you're going to be so aggressively dogmatic, I'm going to evaluate your
arguments as I would if one of the students on the Performance Practice
course I teach made such easy claims.

First of all, documentation of the source of this statement would be nice:
it comes from a letter of Mozart's written in Vienna to his father Leopold,
on 11th April 1781. I will quote from the relatively recent translation by
Robert Spaethling (I don't have a copy of Emily Anderson's translations to
hand to cross-check, or the original German, but can cross-check against
those tomorrow if you like):

'Have I visited Bonno? - that's where we rehearsed my Sinfonie the 2nd time
[34] - I forgot to tell you the other day that the Sinfonie was Magnifique,
it was a complete Success - we had 40 violins - the wind instruments had
been doubled - 10 violas - 10 contrabasses, 8 violoncellos and 6 bassoons. -
...'

[34] Presumably the symphony performed at the widows' concert, either K. 297
or K.338

[Robert Spaethling (ed.) - 'Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life' (London, 2000),
p.243]

Giuseppe Bonno was the court Kapellmeister in Vienna [ibid., p. 243, n32]

This is of course the sort of document that anyone research into orchestral
performance practice in Mozart takes very seriously, and is cited in every
writing on the subject I have seen. However, David is here drawing wild
conclusions as if they were objective fact without even considering
questions that first-year historiography would immediately raise (and any
real historian would be rightly chided for ignoring):

1. Mozart says that the performance was a 'complete Success' then lists the
forces used. This would seem to imply that this large orchestra worked well
on this occasion, but by no means necessarily implies that a performance
with a smaller orchestra couldn't equally be a 'complete Success'. Also the
following questions need to be asked:
(a) What was the venue that the performance took place in and what were its
acoustical properties? Might a smaller orchestra be indistinct in such a
venue?
(b) Is this statement actually a simple endorsement of doubling of winds
when the string section is much larger than normal, as suggested by Robin
Stowell in the chapter 'Performance Practice' in H.C. Robbins Landon (ed) -
'The Mozart Companion: A Guide to Mozart's Life and Music' (London, 1989),
p. 380, referencing the slightly later writings of Francesco Galeazzi -
'Elementi teorico-pratici di musica' (Rome, 1791-6) on this subject?
2. This is one short paragraph from one letter in Mozart's life. To the best
of my knowledge we have few if any other documents giving Mozart's views on
other orchestral forces available to him. In particular, I know of no
document where he bemoans the small size of one of the more typical
orchestras used to play his work. There are basic issues involved here that
any historical researcher should consider:
(a) Were Mozart's views necessarily consistent throughout his life (there's
plenty of evidence of numerous other composers changing their mind quite
drastically, especially on matters of performance practice - in recent times
one can experience this in the performances by Stravinsky and Boulez of
their own work)? Was what he felt on 11th April 1781 the same as what he
felt in 1791, or even for that matter on 11th May 1781? Might he have been
temporarily euphoric about one performance, which he might equally well have
been about other quite dissimilar ones on different occasions?
(b) What opinions might Mozart have expressed on these matters verbally? Are
there any accounts by his contemporaries that could be investigated (and of
course evaluated with the requisite degree of historiographical scepticism)?
3. K.297 or K.338, if one of those was the symphony played, might be
considered some of Mozart's more grandiose conceptions. Can we necessarily
extrapolate that if such orchestral forces were eminently satisfactory to
Mozart in one of these works, then they would also be ideal for all his
other orchestral writing?
4. As both Stowell (see above) and Zaslaw (see below) point out, Mozart
wrote for a wide range of different orchestras in various localities
5. (to be answered by someone with intense knowledge of both 18th century
German and Mozart's own highly idiosyncratic use of it in his letters and
writings) - what chains of implications might be drawn from the letter in
its original language and context, by virtue of the precise wording?

One of the most comprehensive examinations of this subject (Mozart's
orchestras) is to be found in Neal Zaslaw - 'Mozart's Symphonies: Context,
Performance Practice, Reception' (Oxford, 1989). I don't have a copy of this
at home at the time of writing this message, but would recommend you have a
read of this book before asserting such things simplistically. The otherwise
very interesting volume edited by R. Larry Todd and Peter Williams,
'Perspectives on Mozart Performance' (Cambridge, 1991) does not have a
chapter on the orchestra, though does have interesting chapters by Japp
Schroder and Robin Stowell on Mozart's violin style and the approaches to
articulation bequeathed by Leopold Mozart, respectively.

The more intelligent critics of HIP (including Dreyfus, Leech-Wilkinson,
Taruskin and some others) would be the first to point out the fallacies when
single sources which may potentially be unrepresentative are taken to
indicate absolute intent. And they are right to do so - serious scholars of
performance practice are well aware of this (as is any historian). What's
curious is how those who describe themselves as opposed to HIP

In conclusion, you are dogmatically asserting that 'He [Mozart] was not
referring to a special occasion or an isolated effect, he was describing the
ideal.', without providing any evidence that this was not a 'special
occasion' or even an 'isolated effect'. Extrapolating that this constitutes
the 'ideal' is to draw far-reaching implications from the document in
question which, though they may not necessarily be untrue, can in no sense .

You also said 'So much the worse for you when you claim, as you did in this
thread, that you were unable to grasp Mozart because of the large number of
strings used in traditional Mozart performances.' You might care to look at
what I actually typed in my earlier post in this thread:

'It took me a long time to come to love Mozart - with hindsight, I see that
it was performances on modern instruments, in pre-HIP 'mainstream' style,
that put me off the work. I agree absolutely with you about the texture of
period instruments, but would go further in terms of approach to phrasing
and articulation. Much of Mozart's work is absolutely ruined to me when the
'long line' approach is applied - that's what makes it sound like
mantlepiece music. Actually it's intensely dramatic work that makes the most
from highly varied contrasts on the level of fine detail. The 'long line'
just smoothes over most of this. Mozart was an incredibly refined
orchestrator who understood intimately the particular sonic characteristics
of the instruments he wrote for and their combinations (and the techniques
of playing them that were standard at the time). So much of this is diluted
when the music is rendered in terms of later performance practice. Though
research into Mozart performance has been quite exhaustive, I still think
there's plenty left to try in terms of approaches which don't aim to
'prettify' the work (not doing so doesn't need imply a lack of refinement,
however).'

The comment on large string sections was in Thornhill's post, not mine. He
was referring in particular to the balance between strings and winds. Now,
one thing that does seem pretty unequivocal from that letter of Mozart's (if
we make the not unreasonable assumption that he wasn't lying) is that with
this expanded string contingent, the winds were also doubled, presumably to
restore the relative balance? Would you therefore advocate that the 'ideal'
for Mozart performance always involves doubled winds, then? And thus
anything else is pure HIP dogma?

As for my post, I was speaking of phrasing, articulation, the particular
instruments involved, those sorts of aspects of performance practice which
do indeed significantly impact upon the sonic result. The instruments of the
violin family developed immensely between 1760-1830, with modifications to
the bridge, neck, fingerboard, bass bar, the types of bow used (the Tourte
bow, which was developed in Paris in the 1780s, and ushered in a new, more
seamless, approach to bowing, only became the standard well into the 19th
century; the Cramer bow is believed to have been much more widely used in
performances of Haydn and Mozart). The chin rest was invented by Louis Spohr
around 1820, well after Mozart's lifetime. Gut rather than metal strings
were generally used on the violin family instruments of Mozart's time (with
the G string on the violin usually wound with silver or copper). There were
some regional variations in this practice, of course, but is has been
established as a general tendency by most who have looked into the subject
in depth (as late as 1925 it was reported that the G string was the only
covered string on the violin). And of course there are also big questions
about the use of vibrato, messa di voce on long notes, etc., as well. I'm
just skimming over these subjects here as they are tangential to the
specific issue being debated above, but can provide sources for all these
claims if you so wish (a lot of excellent information can be found in Robin
Stowell - 'The Early Violin and Viola: A Practical Guide' (Cambridge,
2001)).
Post by Ian Pace
As for Beethoven, his attitude toward keyboard instruments could not
have been more un-HIP.
(gets out my red pen)

What do you mean by that statement? Please provide a definition of 'HIP' in
this context.
Post by Ian Pace
He would have thought it was looney when
performing his earlier music to insist on using the earlier fortepianos
that existed when he wrote his earlier music rather than using the more
powerful grands developed during his lifetime.
Please substantiate this claim, including sources.
Post by Ian Pace
That's a fact.
No it isn't, it's a bland assertion for which no historical evidence has
been provided.
Post by Ian Pace
Nor is
it anti-HIP dogma (as you claim) merely to quote what Mozart and
Beethoven said. I admit that certain statements by Mozart and
Beethoven are problematic for HIPsters who must somehow rationalize
them away.
Then please provide citations and evaluations of such statements, in
particular in the case of Beethoven (for whom I know much more information
exists on his thoughts on pianos than is the case for Mozart; most of this
is readily available in English in a wide range of literature on the
subject - if you wish a bibliography, I will provide one). You have not
provided a single actual statement of Beethoven in this respect.
Post by Ian Pace
In any case, the egregiously specific emphasis on the physical material
sound of music characteristic of the HIP movement is an anachronism
when it comes to 18th century music. Composition was a much more
abstract affair for any 18th century composer than it became for the
Romantics and later composers. The Romantics were really the first
composers to conceive of composition, not abstractly, but in terms of a
specific realization in sound, the characteristic sounds narrowly
specific to a given piece.
This is precisely the sort of received dogma that HIP has called into
question. Some pre-19th century music may have been more abstract in terms
of timbre (including some, but not necessarily all, of Bach's work). Do you
not think the instrumentation of the First Brandenburg Concerto, and the
intricate way in which Bach exploits the different sonorities, is of any
consequence? How about the decision to combine viols with cellos in
Brandenburg 6? And while we're at it, how about C.P.E. Bach's concerto for
harpsichord and fortepiano? Are the highly distinct timbres of the two
instruments irrelevant to the music? Telemann wrote for the chalumeau AFTER
he had already written for the clarinet, which is often considered a
development of the earlier instrument. Charpentier used more varied early
orchestral groups than Lully had before him, with a wider variety of
distinct instruments, often combining most early and modern ones (violins
and viols, crumhorns and oboes) in the same works. All of these and other
factors at the very least suggest that timbre was by no means an irrelevant
factor to pre-19th century composers.
Post by Ian Pace
Bach and Mozart did not conceive of music
the way Berlioz and Liszt did, and they cared far less than you do
about the specific realization of their music in sound,
I'm not claiming they conceived of music the way the later composers did -
but please substantiate your claim that they 'cared far less than you do
about the specific realization of their music in sound'.
Post by Ian Pace
which is not to
say they didn't care about the performers or performance or that they
weren't careful when writing for, say, a keyboard instrument to make
sure that the music could be played by two hands at a keyboard.
So why would you dismiss the possibility that they might have been concerned
about which type of keyboard instrument their music would be played on?
Post by Ian Pace
But
take a look at that un-HIP betrayal of Handel, Mozart's instrumentation
of the Messiah.
And Mendelssohn's revival of the Bach St Matthew Passion. These composers,
living in times which still believed in linear progress, probably assumed
the aesthetics of their time superceded those which had preceded them. There
is no way we can ever know that they would have necessarily felt the same
way about developments after their own lifetime.

For a rather different type of example, you might like at Brahms and
Joachim's performance of the Bach B-minor Mass in Eisenach in 1884, which
used a modern replica of an oboe d'amore and what was then referred to as a
'Bach trumpet' (I'm not quite sure of the precise details of this
instrument), and the comment in the 'Monthly Musical Record' that 'the
deficiencies in Bach's music, as we commonly hear it, are due, in fact, not
to the author, but to the imperfection, in several remarkable respects, of
our vaunted modern orchestra' ('The Bach festival at Eisenach', Monthly
Musical Record 14 (1884), pp. 248-9, cited in Colin Lawson and Robin Stowell
(ed) - 'The Historical Performance of Music' (Cambridge, 1999), p. 7). There
are, by the way, numerous other examples of scepticism about the ideals of
instruments, orchestras and performance techniques simply getting 'better'
from throughout the 19th century (in a sense the HIP movement can be dated
back to the early 1800s - one of the best sources on this is Harry Haskell -
'The Early Music Revival: A History' (London, 1988)).
Post by Ian Pace
And of course there are the countless occasions when
Bach reinstrumented a piece for whatever instrumentalists were
available . . . an ancient Baroque practice, since early 17th century
scores frequently countenance realization with any number of different
instrumental combinations.
Everyone is fully aware of this, and also of the modifications to the score
that were made in the process of reinstrumentation. Also, pragmatic
considerations certainly don't preclude the notion that Bach was interested
in timbre, let alone suggest that therefore 'anything goes' in terms of
instruments And Ravel, one of the most brilliant orchestrators ever, also
made piano versions of his orchestral scores either before or after their
orchestral realisations - should we therefore conclude that his
orchestration is insignificant?
Post by Ian Pace
For the record, I don't detest the sound of period instruments. I only
detest most late 20th century and 21st century performances on them.
I wonder how many of these you've actually heard? There are immensely varied
approaches to period instrument performances nowadays, and have been for
some time.

I'll go back to my initial premise: these types of uncorroborated anti-HIP
dogma do not stand up to serious scrutiny. I would recommend you read some
of the vast scholarship on the subject, which is ever-growing, expanding and
being re-questioned and re-examined.

Ian
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 13:40:20 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
4. As both Stowell (see above) and Zaslaw (see below) point out, Mozart
wrote for a wide range of different orchestras in various localities
I didn't complete this point in my previous e-mail, it should have been
followed by a few sentences along the lines of 'His works for performance in
Paris, Prague, Vienna, etc., all demonstrate quite different stylistic
elements. It as at the very least conceivable that the desired types of
orchestral forces might have varied in line with these factors.'
Thornhill
2005-12-08 15:07:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
It took me a long time to come to love Mozart - with hindsight, I see that
it was performances on modern instruments, in pre-HIP 'mainstream' style,
that put me off the work. I agree absolutely with you about the texture of
period instruments, but would go further in terms of approach to phrasing
and articulation. Much of Mozart's work is absolutely ruined to me when the
'long line' approach is applied - that's what makes it sound like
mantlepiece music. Actually it's intensely dramatic work that makes the most
from highly varied contrasts on the level of fine detail. The 'long line'
just smoothes over most of this. Mozart was an incredibly refined
orchestrator who understood intimately the particular sonic characteristics
of the instruments he wrote for and their combinations (and the techniques
of playing them that were standard at the time). So much of this is diluted
when the music is rendered in terms of later performance practice. Though
research into Mozart performance has been quite exhaustive, I still think
there's plenty left to try in terms of approaches which don't aim to
'prettify' the work (not doing so doesn't need imply a lack of refinement,
however).
Very true, and Mozart on modern instruments with some HIP sensibilities
can work quite well. Mackerras' recording of the 35th and 39th
symphonies with the Prague Chamber Orchestra are among my favor Mozart
recordings.

Another instrument Mozart understood inside-out and wrote for
specifically was the fortepiano. For example, compared the modern
piano, the fp's smaller reverberation rate lets you get away with quick
attacks of the keyboard; Mozart exploits this (as did Schubert).
Post by Ian Pace
The operas are exceptionally forward-looking in so many respects, not least
in terms of attitudes to class and gender. Mozart invests even the minor
characters with immense depth and humanity, more so than would be apparent
from the libretti alone. Again, I'd recommend listening to recordings on
period instruments. I'm sure it's been discussed here before, but what are
people's views of the Jacobs Figaro? The only HIP recording I own is the
Gardiner, which I like in many respects, but find Terfel a little too cuddly
in his portrayal of Figaro himself.
While I prefer Gardiner's "Figaro" for its superior orchestral playing,
Hagley's youthful sounding voice in Susanna, Gilfry having more fun
than he should as the Count and the collective excitement of a live
recording, Jacobs' recording is definitely worth picking up for the
clarity and lyricism of the recitatives brilliant addition of a
fortepiano continuo and excellent cast. If you like Gardiner's
"Figaro," pickup his "Don Giovanni" and "Cosi" (especially the DVD
version which Gardiner did the production -- for once the ending is
cleverly ambiguous).
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 08:14:00 UTC
Permalink
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification, although the use of this particular pejorative is a
symptom of the moralistic and puritanical character of the HIP
movement. Much of Mozart's music is indeed "pretty," consists of
gorgeous tunes conceived as such, and some 18th-century moralists were
shocked by the voluptuousness of much of Mozart's writing. Stravinsky
once aptly described most of Mozart's religious music as "operatic
sweets of sin."

The HIP movement is not a movement based on a detached and "scientific"
archaeology. It is not disinterested. It seeks to impose a new
aesthetic. Its anti-Romantic rhetoric is moralistic in tone, and
through performance it espouses a particular (modern, not period) view
of what constitutes art. Of what constitutes good art. For some
HIPsters in this very thread, apparently, all pre-HIP Mozart is bad
art.

HIPsters exhibit the same moral disapproval of a "fat" sound that some
people exhibit toward people who are overweight, except that sound
isn't fattening and can't hurt your health, and the lean sound favored
by late 20th century HIPsters is no more universal than Rubens' taste
for ample members of the opposite sex. Nevertheless,.HIP performances
of late 19th century music--Gardiner's Verdi, Norrington's Wagner,
Goodman's Schumann--resort to the same exact lean string sound as HIP
performances of Bach and Mozart. Whereas fans of Italian opera rightly
describe Pavarotti's light lyric tenor voice as small, a HIPster here
at rmcr once venomously complained about his "big fat sound," his post
dripping with moral disapproval, as if Mozart himself wouldn't have
been delighted to have such a voice at his disposal. (I suspect the
moral disapproval of the size of Pavarotti's voice was engendered by
more than Pavarotti's voice, by the manner of emoting characteristic of
Italian singers of Italian opera.)

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 12:24:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification,
No it isn't, nor are HIP performances necessarily un-'pretty'. That depends
a lot on the particular performers and approaches. Pinnock's Mozart, say, is
to me a lot more 'pretty' than Harnoncourt's.
Post by d***@aol.com
although the use of this particular pejorative is a
symptom of the moralistic and puritanical character of the HIP
movement.
Who's the one being moralistic or puritanical here?
Post by d***@aol.com
Much of Mozart's music is indeed "pretty," consists of
gorgeous tunes conceived as such, and some 18th-century moralists were
shocked by the voluptuousness of much of Mozart's writing. Stravinsky
once aptly described most of Mozart's religious music as "operatic
sweets of sin."
Those various qualities are not at all the same as being 'pretty', at least
not as I understand the term.
Post by d***@aol.com
The HIP movement is not a movement based on a detached and "scientific"
archaeology. It is not disinterested.
If one can talk about a 'movement' (the approaches that have been applied
are so diffuse that I doubt one really can any longer), then on balance few
of those involved would claim it is detached, 'scientific' or disinterested.
Nor should it be.
Post by d***@aol.com
It seeks to impose a new
aesthetic.
If anything is common ground, it looks at alternatives to the predominant
homogenising late Romantic approaches applied across the board to the
repertoire earlier in the 20th century.
Post by d***@aol.com
Its anti-Romantic rhetoric is moralistic in tone,
I find the opponents of HIP sound much more moralistic and dogmatic.
Post by d***@aol.com
and
through performance it espouses a particular (modern, not period) view
of what constitutes art. Of what constitutes good art.
Actually, it espouses a variety of different approaches to the conception of
earlier music. At best, I feel the 'movement' espouses a greater rather than
lesser diversity of approaches.
Post by d***@aol.com
For some
HIPsters in this very thread, apparently, all pre-HIP Mozart is bad
art.
No, that is your moralistic reading. It seems more like the HIPsters in this
thread are expressing a personal preference for certain styles of Mozart
performance, finding them more musically illuminating than others.
Post by d***@aol.com
HIPsters exhibit the same moral disapproval of a "fat" sound that some
people exhibit toward people who are overweight, except that sound
isn't fattening and can't hurt your health, and the lean sound favored
by late 20th century HIPsters is no more universal than Rubens' taste
for ample members of the opposite sex.
Once again, that 'lean sound' takes many different forms.
Post by d***@aol.com
Nevertheless,.HIP performances
of late 19th century music--Gardiner's Verdi, Norrington's Wagner,
Goodman's Schumann--resort to the same exact lean string sound as HIP
performances of Bach and Mozart.
That's nonsense - listen to Gardiner's Verdi Requiem alongside his Mozart
Symphonies to hear the difference. Not least in terms of the size of the
string sections used. I reckon that anything other than the post-1930s late
romantic string sound, with metal strings, continuous vibrato, large string
sections, seamless bowing, etc., etc., would constitute for you 'the same
exact lean string sound'.
Post by d***@aol.com
Whereas fans of Italian opera rightly
describe Pavarotti's light lyric tenor voice as small, a HIPster here
at rmcr once venomously complained about his "big fat sound," his post
dripping with moral disapproval, as if Mozart himself wouldn't have
been delighted to have such a voice at his disposal. (I suspect the
moral disapproval of the size of Pavarotti's voice was engendered by
more than Pavarotti's voice, by the manner of emoting characteristic of
Italian singers of Italian opera.)
As you well know, there are and always have been many Italian singers of
Italian opera, and they aren't all identical.

Ian
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 16:08:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification, although the use of this particular pejorative is a
symptom of the moralistic and puritanical character of the HIP
movement.
And the above comment is a symptom of your own reactionary moralism (with a
healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).

Matty
Paul Ilechko
2005-12-12 17:30:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew Silverstein
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification, although the use of this particular pejorative is a
symptom of the moralistic and puritanical character of the HIP
movement.
And the above comment is a symptom of your own reactionary moralism (with a
healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).
Do we have to choose sides? Is it expected? If I like Gardiner's Missa
Solemnis better than Klemperer's, but I like Rilling's SMP better then
Herreweghe's, what does that mean? Am I a traitor to some cause, totally
confused, or just a music lover?
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 17:35:36 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Ilechko
Post by Matthew Silverstein
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification, although the use of this particular pejorative is a
symptom of the moralistic and puritanical character of the HIP
movement.
And the above comment is a symptom of your own reactionary moralism (with a
healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).
Do we have to choose sides? Is it expected? If I like Gardiner's Missa
Solemnis better than Klemperer's, but I like Rilling's SMP better then
Herreweghe's, what does that mean? Am I a traitor to some cause, totally
confused, or just a music lover?
Certainly I wouldn't be forcing anyone to take sides. HIP performances
reflect the individuals behind them just as non-HIP ones do (and that's no
bad thing in either case). If sometimes one is forced to mount a defence of
HIP, it's in response to those who dismiss in blanket fashion every single
thing about the movement and the performances and recordings it has
bequeathed. I don't like every HIP performance by any means whatsoever, and
there is still some music where I believe HIPsters haven't produced
performances/recordings that match some by non-HIPsters. But I think there
are tangible achievements made possible by period instruments and
historically aware approaches to performance practice, and for all the
extremely thorny problems involved in trying to ascertain how music might
have sounded in its own time or desired to sound by the composer, I don't
believe the results of research are wholly arbitrary.

Ian
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 18:38:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Ilechko
Do we have to choose sides? Is it expected? If I like Gardiner's Missa
Solemnis better than Klemperer's, but I like Rilling's SMP better then
Herreweghe's, what does that mean? Am I a traitor to some cause, totally
confused, or just a music lover?
Of course not. I never suggested that there's anything wrong with
preferring non-HIP performances. Many of my favorites are anything but HIP.
My point is merely that David's attacks on the HIP "movement" (as if there
were such a thing) have almost no basis in the way that most active
HIPsters think and play.

Matty
Paul Ilechko
2005-12-12 19:37:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew Silverstein
Post by Paul Ilechko
Do we have to choose sides? Is it expected? If I like Gardiner's Missa
Solemnis better than Klemperer's, but I like Rilling's SMP better then
Herreweghe's, what does that mean? Am I a traitor to some cause, totally
confused, or just a music lover?
Of course not. I never suggested that there's anything wrong with
preferring non-HIP performances.
I didn't think you did, I was just making a general comment. I find the
antagonism between the camps kinda stupid, overall. I like interesting
interpretations, regardless of the motivations behind them.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 22:56:19 UTC
Permalink
Many of my favorites are anything but HIP. My point is merely that David's attacks on the HIP "movement" (as if there were such a thing) have almost no basis in the way that most active HIPsters think and play.
Matty seems to have no idea what the word movement means. It doesn't
apply only to entire groups of people who have signed the same explicit
manifesto and who behave in absolutely lockstep. There was an
"impressionist movement" in painting, for example, although no two
so-called impressionist painters entirely agreed with one another or
used exactly the same techniques. As for how HIPsters think, the
evidence is in how they play. There and in the dismissive rhetoric of
such posters as Michael Schaffer whose post in this thread consigns all
non-HIP performances of Mozart to outer darkness on the basis of the
sort of implicit and explicit grandiose claims made at various points
in our lifetimes by various HIPsters and their supporters including Mr.
Schaffer in this very thread. The fact that many HIPsters have backed
down from some of the most untenable of their more extreme claims in
the face of logic doesn't necessarily mean that the beliefs from which
they've backed down do not continue to influence the sound of their
performances.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 23:00:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Many of my favorites are anything but HIP. My point is merely that David's
attacks on the HIP "movement" (as if there were such a thing) have almost
no basis in the way that most active HIPsters think and play.
Matty seems to have no idea what the word movement means. It doesn't
apply only to entire groups of people who have signed the same explicit
manifesto and who behave in absolutely lockstep. There was an
"impressionist movement" in painting, for example, although no two
so-called impressionist painters entirely agreed with one another or
used exactly the same techniques. As for how HIPsters think, the
evidence is in how they play.
Which is in many different ways.
Post by d***@aol.com
There and in the dismissive rhetoric of
such posters as Michael Schaffer whose post in this thread consigns all
non-HIP performances of Mozart to outer darkness on the basis of the
sort of implicit and explicit grandiose claims made at various points
in our lifetimes by various HIPsters and their supporters including Mr.
Schaffer in this very thread.
Even if this were true, is it any different to your attitude to HIP
performances, though?

And haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances
made grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the
history of music?

Ian
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 23:22:57 UTC
Permalink
haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances made grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the history of music?
Yes. Various people have been lionized as "artists," virtuosi,
demigods. The grandiose claims have been aesthetic and athletic. What
is new is the scientific pretentions to archaeological, historical, and
epistemological "authenticity." The extent of demonstrable
authenticity is extraordinarily limited. As for "authenticity," that
is a new and unprecedented goal in performance.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 23:43:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances made
grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the history
of music?
Yes. Various people have been lionized as "artists," virtuosi,
demigods. The grandiose claims have been aesthetic and athletic. What
is new is the scientific pretentions to archaeological, historical, and
epistemological "authenticity."
Pre-HIP performers sometimes described their work as revealing the
composer's true intentions, in a not dissimilar manner.
Post by d***@aol.com
The extent of demonstrable
authenticity is extraordinarily limited. As for "authenticity," that
is a new and unprecedented goal in performance.
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe what
they're doing as 'authentic'?

Ian
d***@aol.com
2005-12-13 00:58:29 UTC
Permalink
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe what they're doing as 'authentic'?
"Authentic" has many synonyms. In this context, "original" and
"period" (as in "original instruments" and "period instruments") can
be. The fact is, a great many ingenuous people believe they're getting
"the real thing" if a record cover boasts of the period instruments
used in a recorded performance and, even worse, that they aren't
otherwise. The arguments Matty claims nobody ever makes on behalf of
HIP performances are in fact accepted as fact by a great chunk of the
market. It's like the Bush administration's arguments for the invasion
of Iraq. The reasons given were fabrications, and even the Bush
administration is backing away from them to some extent, but many a Fox
news viewer still believes the reasons. Or, even if he or she no
longer buys the fabrications, still believes that the case made with
lies was made on behalf of unassailable truth.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-13 01:05:11 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Post by Ian Pace
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe what
they're doing as 'authentic'?
"Authentic" has many synonyms. In this context, "original" and
"period" (as in "original instruments" and "period instruments") can
be. The fact is, a great many ingenuous people believe they're getting
"the real thing" if a record cover boasts of the period instruments
used in a recorded performance and, even worse, that they aren't
otherwise.
'Period instruments' (a better term than 'original instruments') seems a
relatively unloaded term, just signifying the use of instruments from the
period when the work was composed. Don't people think that it means simply
that?
Post by d***@aol.com
The arguments Matty claims nobody ever makes on behalf of
HIP performances are in fact accepted as fact by a great chunk of the
market. It's like the Bush administration's arguments for the invasion
of Iraq. The reasons given were fabrications, and even the Bush
administration is backing away from them to some extent, but many a Fox
news viewer still believes the reasons. Or, even if he or she no
longer buys the fabrications, still believes that the case made with
lies was made on behalf of unassailable truth.
Well, I'm totally with you on the Bush administration and the arguments for
invading Iraq, but I doubt if many of the sort of buyers who would
appreciate the differences between the use of period and modern instruments
necessarily read much exalted claims into things. In the 1970s and early
1980s one would get ridiculous claims like 'Beethoven as he heard it'
(without realising the unintentional irony in that remark), but that's a
thing of the past (not that I think the actual performances from those times
are necessarily inferior, though).

But the propagandistic use of scantily-clad nubile female performers, or
those trying to look like the most image-conscious hip things (in the more
conventional sense of the word 'hip') to sell CDs bothers me much more than
whatever claims might be made for the actual performances, which are at
least related to the music itself.

Ian
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-13 06:59:03 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe what they're doing as 'authentic'?
"Authentic" has many synonyms. In this context, "original" and
"period" (as in "original instruments" and "period instruments") can
be. The fact is, a great many ingenuous people believe they're getting
"the real thing" if a record cover boasts of the period instruments
used in a recorded performance and, even worse, that they aren't
otherwise. The arguments Matty claims nobody ever makes on behalf of
HIP performances are in fact accepted as fact by a great chunk of the
market. It's like the Bush administration's arguments for the invasion
of Iraq. The reasons given were fabrications, and even the Bush
administration is backing away from them to some extent, but many a Fox
news viewer still believes the reasons. Or, even if he or she no
longer buys the fabrications, still believes that the case made with
lies was made on behalf of unassailable truth.
-david gable
Get a copy of L. Mozart's violin book and report back when you have
read and digested it.
Mark
2005-12-13 08:09:13 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Schaffer
Post by d***@aol.com
Post by Ian Pace
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe
what they're doing as 'authentic'?
"Authentic" has many synonyms. In this context, "original" and
"period" (as in "original instruments" and "period instruments") can
be. The fact is, a great many ingenuous people believe they're
getting "the real thing" if a record cover boasts of the period
instruments used in a recorded performance and, even worse, that they
aren't otherwise. The arguments Matty claims nobody ever makes on
behalf of HIP performances are in fact accepted as fact by a great
chunk of the market. It's like the Bush administration's arguments
for the invasion of Iraq. The reasons given were fabrications, and
even the Bush administration is backing away from them to some
extent, but many a Fox news viewer still believes the reasons. Or,
even if he or she no longer buys the fabrications, still believes
that the case made with lies was made on behalf of unassailable
truth.
-david gable
Get a copy of L. Mozart's violin book and report back when you have
read and digested it.
David's not arguing that research be ousted from the musical craft, if
that's what you're leading to.
--
Mark

x = 123 in email address
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-13 07:01:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by d***@aol.com
haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances made
grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the history
of music?
Yes. Various people have been lionized as "artists," virtuosi,
demigods. The grandiose claims have been aesthetic and athletic. What
is new is the scientific pretentions to archaeological, historical, and
epistemological "authenticity."
Pre-HIP performers sometimes described their work as revealing the
composer's true intentions, in a not dissimilar manner.
And isn't listening to people who are convinced of what and how they
are doing it what we want, whatever their style and angle is?
Post by Ian Pace
Post by d***@aol.com
The extent of demonstrable
authenticity is extraordinarily limited. As for "authenticity," that
is a new and unprecedented goal in performance.
When was the last time you heard anyone in the HIP world describe what
they're doing as 'authentic'?
Ian
John Thomas
2005-12-12 23:33:47 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
And haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances
made grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the
history of music?
Including supporters of Carter and Boulez.
--
Regards,
John Thomas
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-13 06:58:04 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by d***@aol.com
Many of my favorites are anything but HIP. My point is merely that David's
attacks on the HIP "movement" (as if there were such a thing) have almost
no basis in the way that most active HIPsters think and play.
Matty seems to have no idea what the word movement means. It doesn't
apply only to entire groups of people who have signed the same explicit
manifesto and who behave in absolutely lockstep. There was an
"impressionist movement" in painting, for example, although no two
so-called impressionist painters entirely agreed with one another or
used exactly the same techniques. As for how HIPsters think, the
evidence is in how they play.
Which is in many different ways.
Post by d***@aol.com
There and in the dismissive rhetoric of
such posters as Michael Schaffer whose post in this thread consigns all
non-HIP performances of Mozart to outer darkness on the basis of the
sort of implicit and explicit grandiose claims made at various points
in our lifetimes by various HIPsters and their supporters including Mr.
Schaffer in this very thread.
Even if this were true, is it any different to your attitude to HIP
performances, though?
But it's not true. I never said something like that. When I say that
"HIP" has led to some were complex and multilayered interpretations
where "conventional" interpretations have often smoothed things over
too much, that doesn't mean that all "HIP" is good and all "non-HIP" is
bad.
I personally listen to and collect a very wide spectrum of
interpretations from "traditional" in all its different manifestations
to HIP and back.
In fact, it is all these different layers and levels of playing and
interpretation styles that I find particularly interesting. My
collection of recordings could probably not more diverse in the type of
interpretations I listen to and find interesting.
David7 has a strange way of absolutizing (if such a word exists) things
here. He seems to have some "anti-HIP" fixation. But he doesn't
understand that these are not incompatible or mutually exclusive
"worlds. In fact, some of the most interesting interpretations have
fused elements of both.
At the same time, I have to say I am not under the impression that D7
really understands what he is talking about when it comes to the nature
of both HIP and "traditional" playing styles. I sudied in one of the
most traditional music academies in Germany, so I know from an insider
point of view exactly what these traditions are, and they are not at
all "unreflected" or "unexamined" or however D7 put it. I think you
addressed this yourself in another post.
D7 seems to have this somewhat unrealistic and romantic idea of what
this "unexamined", quasi subconsciously passed on tradition is about.
And whatever it is, it is not "endangered" by "HIP" at all. In the
recent past, we have heard great interpretations from both "camps" and
from "in between".
Post by Ian Pace
And haven't supporters of particular performers or styles of performances
made grandiose and exclusive claims for their approaches throughout the
history of music?
Ian
Ian Pace
2005-12-13 08:16:31 UTC
Permalink
Post by Michael Schaffer
At the same time, I have to say I am not under the impression that D7
really understands what he is talking about when it comes to the nature
of both HIP and "traditional" playing styles. I sudied in one of the
most traditional music academies in Germany, so I know from an insider
point of view exactly what these traditions are, and they are not at
all "unreflected" or "unexamined" or however D7 put it. I think you
addressed this yourself in another post.
D7 seems to have this somewhat unrealistic and romantic idea of what
this "unexamined", quasi subconsciously passed on tradition is about.
And whatever it is, it is not "endangered" by "HIP" at all. In the
recent past, we have heard great interpretations from both "camps" and
from "in between".
I studied at a very traditional music school in Britain, then at the equally
traditional Juilliard School and can vouch that the same situation applied
at both those places (this shouldn't be read as any sort of endorsement of
either place on my part, mind you). The idea of these unconscious,
acculturated traditions that simply float around in the ether to be
mysteriously absorbed by those who inhabit a particular environment is pure
mythology.

Ian

d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 20:35:05 UTC
Permalink
(with a healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).
My prejudice is extremely well informed.

-david gable
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 21:06:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
My prejudice is extremely well informed.
Hardly. You seem to know little or nothing about how current HIPsters think
about the music they play. For that matter, your knowledge of the wide
variety of HIP performance styles is also rather limited. You may know a
lot about music, but your conception of the HIP "movement" is based on
what was said 20 years ago by musicians who are, for the most part, no
longer central to the HIP music scene (and on the dogmatic assertions of a
few individuals here in this newsgroup). I've discussed musical and
performance issues with many members of the London HIP scene, and I've
interviewed several prominent HIP conductors (including Bruggen,
Norrington, and Harnoncourt). None of them fit the mold into which you're
constantly trying to squeeze them.

Matty
Brendan R. Wehrung
2005-12-13 05:55:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
(with a healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).
My prejudice is extremely well informed.
-david gable
I wonder if he gave to the CBC when they were in desperate funding straits
a few years ago ahd held a national fundraiser. At least the government
listened becuase they are still around.

Brendan
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-13 07:52:39 UTC
Permalink
Post by Brendan R. Wehrung
Post by d***@aol.com
(with a healthy dose of uninformed prejudice).
My prejudice is extremely well informed.
I wonder if he gave to the CBC when they were in desperate funding
straits a few years ago ahd held a national fundraiser. At least the
government listened becuase they are still around.
Is there any way I could give to CBC instead of PBS?
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
SG
2005-12-12 18:42:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification
Of course not. How could anybody who heard and could hear Yudina's or
Furtwangler's uberdramatic interpretations suggest anything similar,
other than purely ideologically? However, one of the funniest things is
to hear incoherent pontifications against the prettification allegedly
brought (inherently, it seems, as if the instruments plays the man and
not the man plays the instrument) by the big bad Steinway, and how the
old klunky ruin of a instrument brings out the "drama" of the music.
Then what you actually hear is more or less the sound produced by a
housewife clumsily washing dishes in the kitchensink. As for the issue
of ideal Mozartean orchestra, it remains incontrovertible that Mozart
expressed musical delight at having ample forces play. On the other
hand, you will notice that except for a lot of foggy lawyerly blather,
no counter-document (suggesting, e.g., that Mozart actually wanted - as
opposed to having to live with - a small orchestra) was ever produced.

regards,
SG
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 18:47:58 UTC
Permalink
As for the issue of ideal Mozartean orchestra, it remains
incontrovertible that Mozart expressed musical delight at having ample
forces play. On the other hand, you will notice that except for a lot of
foggy lawyerly blather, no counter-document (suggesting, e.g., that
Mozart actually wanted - as opposed to having to live with - a small
orchestra) was ever produced.
But do you really think that Mozart's concerns in this respect are
relevant? If evidence did turn up that he preferred small orchestras for
his symphonies and concerti, would you think it relevant to performance
decisions today? If not, then why bother bringing the point up about his
expression of "musical delight"? Or does the evidence only matter when it
is in line with your preferences?

Matty
SG
2005-12-12 20:25:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew Silverstein
But do you really think that Mozart's concerns in this respect are
relevant?
Slightly so. Not totally irrelevant.
Post by Matthew Silverstein
If evidence did turn up that he preferred small orchestras for
his symphonies and concerti, would you think it relevant to performance
decisions today?
It could be part (small part, in my own view) of what governs the
motivational ensemble of a given performer's decisions. Historical
awareness is not to be rejected altogether, as it is not to be
transformed in an absolute, imo.
Post by Matthew Silverstein
If not, then why bother bringing the point up about his
expression of "musical delight"?
Because it shows that even the point (not at all central, I agree with
you there) of the alleged "composer's wishes" does not work.
Post by Matthew Silverstein
Or does the evidence only matter when it is in line with your preferences?
I have little idea of where that allegation came from. If evidence
would surface showing that Bach actually *wanted* (not *accepted*, due
to budget constrictions) not more than a half of dozen of braying boys
to sing his grand works, I would still prefer the big choirs because of
how they sound. (Even if, granted, getting the larger or the small
choir or the newer or the older instument are not at all decisions
sufficient to guarantee decent music-making.) However, on a theoretical
level I would not negate the evidence. So please do not insinuate a
double standard on the matter which exists only in your convoluted
rethorical questions and assumptions, not in my answers.

regards,
SG
Matthew Silverstein
2005-12-12 20:32:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by SG
It could be part (small part, in my own view) of what governs the
motivational ensemble of a given performer's decisions.
Of course not. The question is whether is *should* be part of what governs
a performer's decisions.
Post by SG
Because it shows that even the point (not at all central, I agree with
you there) of the alleged "composer's wishes" does not work.
But have HIPsters made this claim dogmatically? My favorite HIP recording
of Mozart 40 is Bruggen conducting two HIP orchestras!

Matty
Paul Ilechko
2005-12-12 19:39:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by SG
Post by d***@aol.com
Failure to use a HIP approach is not remotely synonymous with
prettification
Of course not. How could anybody who heard and could hear Yudina's or
Furtwangler's uberdramatic interpretations suggest anything similar,
other than purely ideologically? However, one of the funniest things is
to hear incoherent pontifications against the prettification allegedly
brought (inherently, it seems, as if the instruments plays the man and
not the man plays the instrument) by the big bad Steinway, and how the
old klunky ruin of a instrument brings out the "drama" of the music.
Then what you actually hear is more or less the sound produced by a
housewife clumsily washing dishes in the kitchensink. As for the issue
of ideal Mozartean orchestra, it remains incontrovertible that Mozart
expressed musical delight at having ample forces play. On the other
hand, you will notice that except for a lot of foggy lawyerly blather,
no counter-document (suggesting, e.g., that Mozart actually wanted - as
opposed to having to live with - a small orchestra) was ever produced.
Who cares what he preferred? What's relevant is how well any particular
version works for us, the listeners.
Simon Roberts
2005-12-08 15:26:00 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@g49g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, Thornhill
says...

[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
[snip]

"Unlike Haydn"?

Simon
Thornhill
2005-12-08 16:16:21 UTC
Permalink
Post by Simon Roberts
says...
[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
[snip]
"Unlike Haydn"?
Simon
When I wrote that, I was thinking in the back of my mind that the
development of symphonic and orchestral composition goes Haydn, Mozart
then Beethoven, with the major difference between Haydn and Mozart is
that Haydn composed for string orchestra with winds, brass and timpani,
and without proper attention to balance, listeners miss out on how much
Mozart composed for wind and brass in his orchestral music, and thus
miss out on the color of his music (yeah that's a long sentence).
Simon Roberts
2005-12-08 16:27:02 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, Thornhill
says...
Post by Thornhill
Post by Simon Roberts
says...
[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
[snip]
"Unlike Haydn"?
Simon
When I wrote that, I was thinking in the back of my mind that the
development of symphonic and orchestral composition goes Haydn, Mozart
then Beethoven, with the major difference between Haydn and Mozart is
that Haydn composed for string orchestra with winds, brass and timpani,
and without proper attention to balance, listeners miss out on how much
Mozart composed for wind and brass in his orchestral music, and thus
miss out on the color of his music (yeah that's a long sentence).
Simon Roberts
2005-12-08 16:28:32 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@g44g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, Thornhill
says...
Post by Thornhill
Post by Simon Roberts
says...
[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)
[snip]
"Unlike Haydn"?
Simon
When I wrote that, I was thinking in the back of my mind that the
development of symphonic and orchestral composition goes Haydn, Mozart
then Beethoven, with the major difference between Haydn and Mozart is
that Haydn composed for string orchestra with winds, brass and timpani,
and without proper attention to balance, listeners miss out on how much
Mozart composed for wind and brass in his orchestral music, and thus
miss out on the color of his music (yeah that's a long sentence).
I agree, but would also suggest it's true of Haydn as well, that's all.

Simon
Thornhill
2005-12-08 08:02:21 UTC
Permalink
Speaking as a person who considers Mozart to be my favorite composer, a
few points on why people like yourself don't like him:

1. The notion that Mozart composed 'light' music is a result of
pop-culture appropriating his fluffier pieces for fluffy purposes (e.g.
commercials, background music at posh parties in movies, Muzak, etc.).

2. Another problem Mozart has is that his music is really quite
difficult to perform well. Artur Schnabel summed it up best: "Mozart is
too easy for beginners and too difficult for artists." No matter how
bad a performance of Dvorak or Beethoven is, it's pretty hard to kill
the music, while with Mozart, a bad performance will be pretty boring.

(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite. Another problem with his orchestral music is
that conductors call for too many strings. Unlike Haydn, in Mozart's
orchestral music the winds and brass are an equal partner with the
strings; large string sections obscure this, result in a dense string
layer. You never need more than 8/8/4/4/3 or even just 8/6/4/4/2)

3. A third and final issue, is that the popular mainstream classical
genres, specifically symphonic, doesn't showcase Mozart at his best;
you haven't experienced Mozart until you've heard the seven mature
operas, much of his chamber and the concerti.

Generally speaking, I enjoy the sheer economy of Mozart's music.
There's nothing superfluous or dense about it. The music always unfolds
in a completely effortless manner, never forced. This is probably why
people think of his music as simple -- nothing sounds too difficult --
but on a theory level it is quite complex. What's really interesting,
is that Mozart did stuff which he must have realized that no one in the
his time would ever be able to appreciate unless they some how had the
opportunity to own one of his scores or hear a piece repeatedly, but
it's why the music has held up on repeated listening for 200 some
years. And Mozart never really tries to point out what he's up to
(compare the first movements of Mozart's 39th and Beethoven's 3rd,
where there are these dissonant moments in the 3rd that you think only
Beethoven could have thought of, but he really just swiped them from
Mozart's 39th). So in this sense Mozart does demand a lot from his
listeners. To take an obvious example, most people would completely
miss what's going on in the coda of the 41st symphony unless told.

You note that an often used adjective is "beautiful"; I think a far
more appropriate one is "elegant."

The operas are a tour-de-force of music, especially the Da Ponte operas
and Die Zauberflote. They have everything: great arias, brilliant
orchestral writing, memorable themes, and compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas). No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes
like Mozart. You might find video recordings on DVD more engaging than
audio only.
A. Brain
2005-12-09 00:06:57 UTC
Permalink
"Thornhill" <***@gmail.com> wrote in message news:***@f14g2000cwb.googlegroups.com...


[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite.
I agree. How about listing some of your faves?


[snip]
Post by Thornhill
3. A third and final issue, is that the popular mainstream classical
genres, specifically symphonic, doesn't showcase Mozart at his best;
you haven't experienced Mozart until you've heard the seven mature
operas, much of his chamber and the concerti.
Don't forget the sacred music. Years ago, before I really discovered
the operas' richness, I picked up what was then one of a very few
recordings of the Mass in c, by Goennenwein on Angel. This and
the Requiem are must-haves (but get Hogwood for both). And both
"Vespers" are worthy as well, with K. 321 overlooked. The
"Coronation" Mass is another little gem.



[snip]
Post by Thornhill
The operas are a tour-de-force of music, especially the Da Ponte operas
and Die Zauberflote. They have everything: great arias, brilliant
orchestral writing, memorable themes, and compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas). No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes
like Mozart. You might find video recordings on DVD more engaging than
audio only.
The DaPonte operas and Zauberfloete are unmatched in opera and
unsurpassed in all music, or for that matter all art. I hear something
new every time I see or hear them and my favorite is whatever one
I am hearing/seeeing at the time.
--
A. Brain

Remove NOSPAM for email.
Thornhill
2005-12-09 00:46:43 UTC
Permalink
Post by Simon Roberts
[snip]
Post by Thornhill
(I'm going to take heat for this, but I feel that Mozart is one of a
handful of composers whose music sounds better when performed on period
instruments. This is not to say that modern instruments are inadequate
and great things can't be done with them, but the texture of period
instruments just sounds 'right' to me; their rough and sharper sound
gives the music more bite.
I agree. How about listing some of your faves?
Off the top of my head:

Operas: Gardiner/EBS (Archiv) and Jacobs/CK (Harmonia Mundi)
Piano Concertos: Bilson/Gardiner/EBS (Archiv) and Levin/Hogwood/AAM
(Decca)
Symphonies: Pinnock/EC (Archiv) and Gardiner/EBS in 38, 40 and 41
(Philips)
Wind Concertos: Pay (Clarinet), Piguet (Oboe), Halstead
(Horn)/Hogwood/AAM (Decca)
Piano Sonatas: Brautigam (BIS)
Clarinet Quintet: Neidich/L' Archibudelli (Sony)
Divertimento K.563: L' Archibudelli (Sony)
Quintet for piano, oboe, clarinet, horn & bassoon: Levin, et al (Decca)
String Quintets K. 515 & K. 516: L' Archibudelli (Sony)
Eine kleine Nachtmusik: Manze/EC (Harmonia Mundi)
Post by Simon Roberts
[snip]
Post by Thornhill
3. A third and final issue, is that the popular mainstream classical
genres, specifically symphonic, doesn't showcase Mozart at his best;
you haven't experienced Mozart until you've heard the seven mature
operas, much of his chamber and the concerti.
Don't forget the sacred music. Years ago, before I really discovered
the operas' richness, I picked up what was then one of a very few
recordings of the Mass in c, by Goennenwein on Angel. This and
the Requiem are must-haves (but get Hogwood for both). And both
"Vespers" are worthy as well, with K. 321 overlooked. The
"Coronation" Mass is another little gem.
I'm not a huge fan Mozart's sacred music. I prefer Gardiner's
Monteverdi Choir greatly to Hogwood's choral forces in the Requiem and
c minor Mass.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 20:31:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas).

As far as I'm concerned, Don Giovanni has the weakest libretto of the
"big four." I have almost no problem with the plot to The Magic Flute,
and those problems are minor and local: they don't impinge on the
central thrust of the piece.
Post by Thornhill
No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes like Mozart.
Except Verdi in Falstaff.

-david gable
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-12 20:50:13 UTC
Permalink
"***@aol.com" <***@aol.com> appears to have caused the
following letters to be typed in news:1134419486.651039.141430
Post by Thornhill
Post by Thornhill
compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas).
As far as I'm concerned, Don Giovanni has the weakest libretto of the
"big four." I have almost no problem with the plot to The Magic Flute,
and those problems are minor and local: they don't impinge on the
central thrust of the piece.
Post by Thornhill
No one quite writes these hectic multi-voice scenes like Mozart.
Except Verdi in Falstaff.
Sullivan comes close on occasion, such as "A nice dilemma" in "Trial By
Jury" (itself a parody of the _Lucia_ Sextet).
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
James Kahn
2005-12-12 20:50:12 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
Post by Thornhill
compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas).
As far as I'm concerned, Don Giovanni has the weakest libretto of the
"big four." I have almost no problem with the plot to The Magic Flute,
and those problems are minor and local: they don't impinge on the
central thrust of the piece.
Hmm, my only problem with DG is the section of Act II where it seems like
one character after another comes on the stage by him or herself and sings
an aria. (Of course some of that is padding that wasn't necessarily intended
by the librettist.) But otherwise the storyline would seem to be the
tightest of the four, except perhaps for Cosi.

The Magic Flute gets a bit tedious in Act II, not musically but just from
all the overblown sentiment. I also kind of like Bergman's notion of making
Sarastro the father of Pamina, which suggests that something needed fixing.
--
Jim
New York, NY
(Please remove "nospam." to get my e-mail address)
http://www.panix.com/~kahn
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-12 21:24:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by James Kahn
Post by d***@aol.com
compelling plots (well, the Da Ponte operas).
As far as I'm concerned, Don Giovanni has the weakest libretto of the
"big four." I have almost no problem with the plot to The Magic Flute,
and those problems are minor and local: they don't impinge on the
central thrust of the piece.
Hmm, my only problem with DG is the section of Act II where it seems
like one character after another comes on the stage by him or herself
and sings an aria. (Of course some of that is padding that wasn't
necessarily intended by the librettist.) But otherwise the storyline
would seem to be the tightest of the four, except perhaps for Cosi.
The Magic Flute gets a bit tedious in Act II, not musically but just
from all the overblown sentiment. I also kind of like Bergman's notion
of making Sarastro the father of Pamina, which suggests that something
needed fixing.
Anna Russell had an even sillier idea about the identity of Pamina's dad.
Hint: It has something to do with the reference, in the _Flute_ libretto,
to a large ash-tree....
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
Thornhill
2005-12-12 21:08:01 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
Post by Thornhill
compelling plots (well, the
Da Ponte operas).
As far as I'm concerned, Don Giovanni has the weakest libretto of the
"big four." I have almost no problem with the plot to The Magic Flute,
and those problems are minor and local: they don't impinge on the
central thrust of the piece.
I agree that things get a bit derailed in Act II, but I still give DG
major points for its clever Enlightenment reworking of Don Juan. As for
MF, the large amounts of dialogue pose more of a problem than the plot.
William Sommerwerck
2005-12-08 11:58:08 UTC
Permalink
The real question should be... Why would anybody _not_ like it?
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-08 15:29:42 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Sommerwerck
The real question should be... Why would anybody _not_ like it?
Brain damage?
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
A. Brain
2005-12-09 00:06:57 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
Post by William Sommerwerck
The real question should be... Why would anybody _not_ like it?
Brain damage?
Actually, Dennis's is one of the better recordings of the
horn concertos.
--
A. Brain

Remove NOSPAM for email.
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-09 02:50:54 UTC
Permalink
Post by Matthew B. Tepper
Post by William Sommerwerck
The real question should be... Why would anybody _not_ like it?
Brain damage?
Actually, Dennis's is one of the better recordings of the horn concertos.
LOL!
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
Richard Schultz
2005-12-11 11:10:47 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@comcast.com>, William Sommerwerck <***@comcast.net> wrote:
: The real question should be... Why would anybody _not_ like it?

The *real* question is "Who is this Moe Zart guy, anyway?"

-----
Richard Schultz ***@mail.biu.ac.il
Department of Chemistry, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Opinions expressed are mine alone, and not those of Bar-Ilan University
-----
It's a bird, it's a plane -- no, it's Mozart. . .
John Thomas
2005-12-08 15:00:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by Derek Hollman
Hey all,
I was interested in hearing some people's opinions on Mozart's
music
To quote the equally incomparable Louis Armstrong on jazz, "If you
have to ask you'll never know."
--
Regards,
John Thomas
Andrys Basten
2005-12-08 10:58:24 UTC
Permalink
Post by Derek Hollman
Hey all,
I was interested in hearing some people's opinions on Mozart's
music. I don't have a strong opinion of my own, which is why I am
asking what other people think. The general view of him (from what
I've seen others say and from what I've read) is that he is a
musical genius. He was able to compose music effortlessly, flawlessly,
and beautifully. Even spending less time on his compositions, he was
leagues above his contemporaries.
I've heard his music described as many different things. It has
been called "light," "all the same," "boring," and "without passion."
They like to pick those for "Mozart in the Morning" shows here
and it's no wonder you wouldn't care for what you heard.

I happened to see Amadeus last night. It's sometimes harder
to hear all that is happening in something like the Symphony 40
until, as in my case, a couple of us tried a 4-hand version of it
because, actively, you notice all that is working there, while
with the more blanded out orchestral treatments of the past,
for listeners sometimes everything is blended together in a sort
of tranquil smoothness that takes out all the edge from his
progressions and shifts.

At any rate, if you rent Amadeus, ignore the goofy laugh
that the actor gives Mozart (who -was- a bit of a loon in his
written communication) and listen to the music as Salieri
hears it. The sequence at the end, when he creates
and builds sequences in the Requiem is amazing.

But some of his best music is played all through.

I was disappointed in the Papageno/Papagena duet, which
in Bergman's version was actually very touching but
not here (sounding more like Mozart in the morning).

I'd be interested in your take after hearing some of that.

- Andrys
--
http://andrys1.blogspot.com
r***@gmail.com
2005-12-08 17:57:52 UTC
Permalink
I don't have the musical knowledge, or even the vocabulary, that most
of you seem to have, but Mozart *is* my second-favorite composer. I can
spend months listening to very little else in the world besides Mozart.
Every couple of years I find myself listening to the piano concertos. I
have them by different performers, and hardly have any favorites. Maybe
Brendel and Perahia, but that's mainly because those were my first
exposures.

This music is so good, I don't have to listen to a specific version to
enjoy it completely, something that's not true of my favorite composer,
Mahler. I have very specific favorite versions of Mahler symphonies,
and I hardly ever listen to anything but my favorite
conductor/recording.

Mozart's music, as I think I read someone else say here, seems
inevitable, perfect, and easy. Each note seems as if it could never be
wrong, or ever be anything other than exactly what it is. I've probably
listened to Mozart more than any other composer in the 20 years or so
that I've been listening to classical.

The only person who comes close as far as "inevitable" and "perfect"
are concerned is Brian Wilson. I believe that these two composers are
played in heaven on alternate days, and that that's all the music you
need in heaven.
Vaneyes
2005-12-08 18:02:05 UTC
Permalink
Very often he gives me happy feet.

Regards
k***@yahoo.co.uk
2005-12-08 19:07:31 UTC
Permalink
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music." Of the 600-odd compositions left for successive
generations to choose from, "barely one-tenth of Mozart's music has
found any lasting favour. ... Mozart wrote 22 operas yet only five of
them ever see the light of day ... Then there are the symphonies. Out
of more than 40, a mere eight or nine turn up on concert programmes."
Hartford asks: "When did you last hear Mozart's 37th Symphony, which
once stood in the Mozart canon, neighbour of the 'Linz' and the
'Prague', given its due as a comparable vessel of Mozart's genius? Then
it was discovered to be by Michael Haydn and was promptly consigned to
oblivion."

Hartford then explains the 'Dittersdorf game' in which one selects a
record of late 18th century music and asks the listeners to name the
composer. "Oh, Mozart," they will reply. "No, it's by Dittersdorf. ...
or Hummel, or Sussmayer, or Duschek, or even the afore-mentioned
Michael Haydn." Hartford adds: "Indeed it could be by a thousand
others, none recognisable as a genius, but all sounding uncommonly like
Mozart."

In conclusion, Hartford writes: "I have the cure for Mozart idolatry
... A diet of serenades, divertimentos, counter-dances, marches,
minuets and church canons, relieved not by 'Figaro' or 'The Magic
Flute' but by 'La Betulia liberata' and 'Ascanio in alba,' which will
improve the condition in a way only a concentrated intake of D and B
flat major is able."

In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
John Thomas
2005-12-08 20:04:22 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
Even Beethoven could write a "Wellington's Victory" and even Tolstoy
could end his career with "Resurrection." The bulk of the work of most
geniuses, even in science, is mediocre. I'm happy to drink from a glass
that's still 10% full.
--
Regards,
John Thomas
Thornhill
2005-12-08 21:26:14 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music." Of the 600-odd compositions left for successive
generations to choose from, "barely one-tenth of Mozart's music has
found any lasting favour. ... Mozart wrote 22 operas yet only five of
them ever see the light of day ... Then there are the symphonies. Out
of more than 40, a mere eight or nine turn up on concert programmes."
Hartford asks: "When did you last hear Mozart's 37th Symphony, which
once stood in the Mozart canon, neighbour of the 'Linz' and the
'Prague', given its due as a comparable vessel of Mozart's genius? Then
it was discovered to be by Michael Haydn and was promptly consigned to
oblivion."
Does he comment on the fact that Mozart died at age 35? Something like
a sixth of his music was written before hit puberty. Lumping his early
works together with his late really isn't fare, especially since he
didn't become the composer history remembers him as until his late 20s.
Only Mendelssohn was writing masterpieces as a teenager.
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
Hartford then explains the 'Dittersdorf game' in which one selects a
record of late 18th century music and asks the listeners to name the
composer. "Oh, Mozart," they will reply. "No, it's by Dittersdorf. ...
or Hummel, or Sussmayer, or Duschek, or even the afore-mentioned
Michael Haydn." Hartford adds: "Indeed it could be by a thousand
others, none recognisable as a genius, but all sounding uncommonly like
Mozart."
I have no problem picking out Mozart's works blindly from other 18 C.
composers, even his early music.
Johannes Roehl
2005-12-08 21:27:50 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music." Of the 600-odd compositions left for successive
generations to choose from, "barely one-tenth of Mozart's music has
found any lasting favour. ... Mozart wrote 22 operas yet only five of
them ever see the light of day ... Then there are the symphonies. Out
of more than 40, a mere eight or nine turn up on concert programmes."
Hartford asks: "When did you last hear Mozart's 37th Symphony, which
once stood in the Mozart canon, neighbour of the 'Linz' and the
'Prague', given its due as a comparable vessel of Mozart's genius? Then
it was discovered to be by Michael Haydn and was promptly consigned to
oblivion."
In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
IMO this is just plain wrong; what's Hartford's stance on Bach's 300
cantatas and choral preludes? On Handel's 100+ italian secular cantatas
and 30+ operas? On Haydn 70+ quartets and 104 symphonies? Schuberts
first 6 symphonies, early sonatas and quartets?
The 10% (even if they were right) are a highly misleading number,
because some Koechel items are a single aria and some are Don Giovanni.
Of the 8 operas and Singspiele Mozart completed after the age of 25 (not
in the 4 last years of his life) 3 have been in the repertoire since
they were written more than 200 years (as about the first pieces in
musical history). Two more (Abduction and Cosi) are standard rep since
the early 20th century, Idomeneo is staged frequently since the 60ties,
also one or two of the earlier works (La finta giardiniera). Most of the
early opere serie are works of a gifted teenager in a style that became
obsolete soon afterwards. I seriously doubt that R. Strauss, Puccini,
Donizetti Rossini and Bellini have more that 5 operas each in the core
repertoire...
Apart from the operas, which composer besides Mozart is present in
concerts with 10-12 piano concertos, 3 violin concertos, a handful of
wind etc. concertos, about 8 symphonies, 10 string quartets, maybe a
dozen chamber music pieces additionally, a few piano sonatas, 3 or 4
large scale choral works?
Of course there are dozens of early works htat are not on the level of
these later ones, but I can't think of a major work of Mozart's after
the age of 25 (and he wrote quite a few great things before that: the
violin concertos, KV 271, the "little" g minor symphony, the a minor
sonata etc.) that would be less than very good. Dozens are as great as
very few other composer's are.
Really, that kind of "disenchanting the genius" is about a trite as the
genius worshipping was before...

Johannes
James Kahn
2005-12-08 20:02:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music." Of the 600-odd compositions left for successive
generations to choose from, "barely one-tenth of Mozart's music has
found any lasting favour. ... Mozart wrote 22 operas yet only five of
them ever see the light of day ... Then there are the symphonies. Out
of more than 40, a mere eight or nine turn up on concert programmes."
This Hartford sounds like a blithering idiot. Let's leave aside the
fact that roughly one-third of Mozart's compositions were from before
he was 18, and 2/3rds from before he was 25 (how many of Beethoven's
pre-age 25 works do we listen to today?), and that all of his mature
(and some of the "immature") symphonies turn up on concert programs.
And leave aside the lumping together of 3-hour operas with 10-minute
minuets and concerta arias and the like. I suspect the 10 percent
figure is low, in any case, but how many composers have 60-70 works
that continue to turn up on concert programs? As if it's the
percentage rather than the absolute number that matters. As if
the fact that he wrote some uninteresting dance music to make some
money somehow should detract from my enjoyment of "Nozze di Figaro."
--
Jim
New York, NY
(Please remove "nospam." to get my e-mail address)
http://www.panix.com/~kahn
Jon Alan Conrad
2005-12-08 22:57:27 UTC
Permalink
Yes, the Hartford statement is ridiculously easy to demolish. First,
leaving aside the whole "popular = good" argument (which I certainly
would prefer to do), and the well-taken point of how much of it is
juvenilia, much of what Mozart wrote was *meant* to be ephemeral
useful music: dances, sonatas for students, whatever. Such music is
still likely to be attractive and well-made when Mozart creates it, but
I wouldn't expect it to stop the presses two centuries later. But
within the symphonies, the chamber music, the concertos certainly, the
sacred music, I'd say he has a pretty good batting average of music
that people still want to hear. And it's not really fair to bring the
operas into it, as good music has never been enough to make an opera a
repertory staple: it also has to tell a story that people respond to
(yes, even the Italian melodramas that people like to mock), in a way
that they can accept theatrically. So the fact that Mozart has 4, or 5,
or 7 operas regularly performed by the world's international opera
houses is extraordinarily impressive. It's more than any other composer
before Verdi/Wagner can say.

Jon
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-08 22:22:02 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music."
Even if only 5% of his music were "genius material" (how do you measure
that anyway?), it would still be a lot. Mozart wasn't one of those
romantic composers who sat by the open window in candle light and
wrestled with monumental conpositions for years. He was a musical
craftsman, probably the greatest master of them all, so naturally he
wrote a lot of music, a lot of which was never supposed to be a
masterwork for the ages, but simply good entertainment. It is still
astounding how much music Mozart wrote that isn't just of value for
musicologists, but still reaches so many listeners directly as if it
was written for them, in our time. That is true genius.
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
Of the 600-odd compositions left for successive
generations to choose from, "barely one-tenth of Mozart's music has
found any lasting favour. ... Mozart wrote 22 operas yet only five of
them ever see the light of day ... Then there are the symphonies. Out
of more than 40, a mere eight or nine turn up on concert programmes."
Hartford asks: "When did you last hear Mozart's 37th Symphony, which
once stood in the Mozart canon, neighbour of the 'Linz' and the
'Prague', given its due as a comparable vessel of Mozart's genius? Then
it was discovered to be by Michael Haydn and was promptly consigned to
oblivion."
Hartford then explains the 'Dittersdorf game' in which one selects a
record of late 18th century music and asks the listeners to name the
composer. "Oh, Mozart," they will reply. "No, it's by Dittersdorf. ...
or Hummel, or Sussmayer, or Duschek, or even the afore-mentioned
Michael Haydn." Hartford adds: "Indeed it could be by a thousand
others, none recognisable as a genius, but all sounding uncommonly like
Mozart."
In conclusion, Hartford writes: "I have the cure for Mozart idolatry
... A diet of serenades, divertimentos, counter-dances, marches,
minuets and church canons, relieved not by 'Figaro' or 'The Magic
Flute' but by 'La Betulia liberata' and 'Ascanio in alba,' which will
improve the condition in a way only a concentrated intake of D and B
flat major is able."
In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
So what? Where are Hartford's masterpieces?
William Sommerwerck
2005-12-08 23:57:37 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music."
We judge a composer only by their best music. And if that's only 10% of
their output, who cares? In Mozart's case, that 10% (which is probably
closer to 25%, or more) is sublime.
Raymond Hall
2005-12-09 07:06:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music."
One of the most sublime works ever written, is the clarinet concerto K.622.
Mozart's clarinet quintet, his horn concertos, violin concertos and his
symphonies from No.25 onwards, are enough to place him in the highest rank.
And I really don't know his operas much at all. So I would say, that
whatever percentage these works represent, is irrelevant. They alone, are
surely enough, to rate him higher than a mere low percentage genius.

Perhaps, controversially for others, but not for this listener, I simply
don't rate his piano concertos that much. Slightly hollow things, and too
pretty by half. Same for his piano sonatas. But the clarinet concerto soars
above them all, for sheer sublimity. Only Hovhaness, and late Beethoven, get
as close, in their different ways.

I'll get my coat .......

Ray H
Taree
Toby Winston
2005-12-09 13:53:58 UTC
Permalink
I'll admit Mozart isn't always the first composer I turn to, but to
question his genius? This is like questioning Shakepeare's relatative
lack of understanding of the English language. All informed music
lovers of course know that Mozart was one of the most natural talents
we have seen; and to think he died so young. It may be interesting in
retrospect to try to pick on his weaknesses, but really, his genius is
so far above anyone composing today that critical appraisal seems so
empty today. Imagine if he lived 20-30 more years. It is, of course.
our loss that he didn't.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-09 19:50:15 UTC
Permalink
his genius is so far above anyone composing today
If you had said it was "so far above" anyone else ever, I wouldn't balk
at this comment. But Mozart isn't "so far" above everybody composing
today. Not while Elliott Carter is alive.

And the odds that either of us knows which 20- and 30-year-olds are
writing the most interesting music today are slim to none.

-david gable
Bill McCutcheon
2005-12-09 17:32:44 UTC
Permalink
Post by Raymond Hall
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In "Classical Music" (10 March 1984) Robert Hartford wrote an article
entitled "Mozart - the ten-per-cent genius." In it he argued that for a
composer hailed as an all-time genius, "Mozart wrote some pretty
ordinary music."
One of the most sublime works ever written, is the clarinet concerto
K.622. Mozart's clarinet quintet, his horn concertos, violin concertos
and his symphonies from No.25 onwards, are enough to place him in the
highest rank. And I really don't know his operas much at all. So I would
say, that whatever percentage these works represent, is irrelevant. They
alone, are surely enough, to rate him higher than a mere low percentage
genius.
Perhaps, controversially for others, but not for this listener, I simply
don't rate his piano concertos that much. Slightly hollow things, and
too pretty by half. Same for his piano sonatas. But the clarinet
concerto soars above them all, for sheer sublimity. Only Hovhaness, and
late Beethoven, get as close, in their different ways.
I'll get my coat .......
Ray H
Taree
I certainly agree with you about the clarinet concerto. IIRC, you and I
both quickly picked that when someone asked about the most beautiful/ most
sublime / most whatever single piece of classical music. I have to
disagree strongly about the piano concerti, while agreeing that they
suffer badly when they're "prettified." No. 20, my favorite, is a
beautiful, dramatic piece.

Some pundit said that Haydn (who I love) makes you laugh and cry; Mozart
raises you to the heights of elation and drops you into the depths of
despair (or something like that). Haydn, who was an acclaimed and honored
composer at the time, called the younger lesser-known Mozart "the greatest
composer I know."

-- Bill McC.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-09 18:59:52 UTC
Permalink
doubtless many will agree with Robert Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of his life."
This is idiotic nonsense. In order to make a convincing case against
the majority of Mozart's operas, for example, Hartford has to include
all of the operas Mozart wrote as a teenager. Include only the operas
Mozart wrote after the age of 21 and Hartford's case immediately
collapses. The difference between Mozart and most other composers is
that most of them didn't write more than a dozen fluent operas in their
teens, and the operas Mozart wrote in his late teens in particular are
full of glorious music on a level that would make any composer proud.
"Il re pastore," for example, is full of extraordinary music
including its best known excerpt, the soprano aria "L'amero, saro
costante." The only problem for the operas Mozart wrote in his late
teens is the competition they face in Mozart's later operas.

As for Mozart's greatest music all dating from the last four years of
his life, Mozart completed the Jeunehomme Concerto around the time of
his 21st birthday, and in every year of his life thereafter he
completed numerous works of comparable ambition on the same exalted
level. In order to indict Mozart, Hartford is deliberately
indiscriminate, factoring in all of the light music Mozart wrote. Like
every composer of his period, Mozart wrote his fair share of less
ambitious light music, serenades, dances, and so forth. The fair
comparison is not between the light music Mozart could dash off
effortlessly more rapidly than he could write it down and the equally
endless series of more ambitious string quartets, string quintets, and
other chamber music, symphonies, piano concertos, and operas that
Mozart wrote but Mozart's light music and that of his contemporaries.
Not that Mozart could stop himself from contributing masterpieces even
to lighter genres. With its extraordinary displays of 3-part
counterpoint (an expecially difficult and virtuosic compositional feat
because there isn't the usual 4th voice to plug leaks in the harmony),
the string trio divertimento is no disposable light music but one of
the most remarkable achievements by any composer in the Western
tradition, and there are magical and unexpected felicities in even the
least ambitious light piece by Mozart.

It's certainly true that any comparatively inexperienced listener to
late 18th-century music could easily guess Mozart or Haydn when hearing
a piece by Dittersdorf: Haydn and Mozart are the names that have come
to stand for the period because professional musicians ever since have
been far more interested in performing their music than that of their
lesser contemporaries. Hartford demonstrates his own ignorance by
failing to recognize the profound difference between the average Mozart
piece and the average piece by any number of his contemporaries or the
nature of the difference. Mozart was beyond any question one of the
most ambitious composers in history, one of a tiny handful of composers
since J.S. Bach whose mastery of counterpoint equaled Bach's. It is
quite possible to demonstrate this technically: the evidence of
Mozart's ambition--the evidence for the complexity of his
imagination--is right there in the music. The evidence doesn't
inevitably hit the listener over the head like a brick as it does so
often in Beethoven's case, for example, because of the effortless
grace of Mozart's production, while the pieces in which he didn't
choose to display the full extent of his ambition are no evidence at
all.

If all Hartford can hear in Mozart's music is the surface of the
period style, if there's no real difference for him between Dittersforf
and Mozart, he's not the right guide to Mozart's music or to any of
the other music of the period.

-david gable
William Sommerwerck
2005-12-10 00:17:09 UTC
Permalink
One mark of Mozart's genuis is his concerto for flute and harp -- absolutely
gorgeous -- from a composer who hated the flute!
Jon Alan Conrad
2005-12-11 03:26:34 UTC
Permalink
Post by William Sommerwerck
from a composer who hated the flute!
What is the evidence for that, please?

JAC
Thornhill
2005-12-11 05:53:58 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by William Sommerwerck
from a composer who hated the flute!
What is the evidence for that, please?
JAC
In his letters he ranted about the instrument. His strong dislike for
the instrument is quite well documented.
Richard Schultz
2005-12-11 11:09:31 UTC
Permalink
In article <***@g14g2000cwa.googlegroups.com>, Thornhill <***@gmail.com> wrote:
: Jon Alan Conrad wrote:
:> William Sommerwerck wrote:

:> > from a composer who hated the flute!

:> What is the evidence for that, please?

: In his letters he ranted about the instrument. His strong dislike for
: the instrument is quite well documented.

Didn't he once write something to the effect that the only thing that is
as out of tune as a flute is another flute?

-----
Richard Schultz ***@mail.biu.ac.il
Department of Chemistry, Bar-Ilan University, Ramat-Gan, Israel
Opinions expressed are mine alone, and not those of Bar-Ilan University
-----
It's a bird, it's a plane -- no, it's Mozart. . .
Jon Alan Conrad
2005-12-11 21:14:33 UTC
Permalink
Post by Thornhill
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by William Sommerwerck
from a composer who hated the flute!
What is the evidence for that, please?
In his letters he ranted about the instrument. His strong dislike for
the instrument is quite well documented.
Isn't that *one* letter, in which he was mainly excusing himself to his
father for being late with a composition, and trying to justify it by
saying he hated the instrument?

Maybe he hated the flute, maybe he didn't. But I would never build up a
case for someone having a lifelong loathing on the basis of one
statement in a private letter (which, like any letter any of us might
write, may be a mixture of truths, half-truths, and little fibs;
they're not written under oath, or sodium pentathol). Just think what
lifelong biographical "facts" might be deduced about any of us from
what we post here!

As far as I know (always willing to learn more), that's it. Not what I
would call "well documented."

JAC
Johannes Roehl
2005-12-11 21:59:10 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by Thornhill
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by William Sommerwerck
from a composer who hated the flute!
What is the evidence for that, please?
In his letters he ranted about the instrument. His strong dislike for
the instrument is quite well documented.
Isn't that *one* letter, in which he was mainly excusing himself to his
father for being late with a composition, and trying to justify it by
saying he hated the instrument?
Maybe he hated the flute, maybe he didn't. But I would never build up a
case for someone having a lifelong loathing on the basis of one
statement in a private letter (which, like any letter any of us might
write, may be a mixture of truths, half-truths, and little fibs;
they're not written under oath, or sodium pentathol). Just think what
lifelong biographical "facts" might be deduced about any of us from
what we post here!
That's what I have read. "Hate" oder "loathing" is certainly too strong
a word (Mozart didn't "hate" Suessmayr, Salieri oder other fellow
musicians despite plenty of verbal abuse in his letters...). The
flippant remarks around the time of his compositions for flute may well
have the reason you mention or may have more to do with the
flute-playing abilities or caprices of the nobleman (or his daughter)
for whom he wrote these pieces.

Johannes
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 17:27:26 UTC
Permalink
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by Thornhill
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Post by William Sommerwerck
from a composer who hated the flute!
What is the evidence for that, please?
In his letters he ranted about the instrument. His strong dislike for
the instrument is quite well documented.
Isn't that *one* letter, in which he was mainly excusing himself to his
father for being late with a composition, and trying to justify it by
saying he hated the instrument?
It's from a letter to his father on the 14th February 1778. The paragraph in
which the quote appears is as follows:

'The fact that I could not finish the assignment can easily be explained. I
never have a quiet hour around here. I cannot compose except at night; which
means, I also can't get up early in the morning. And then, one isn't always
in the mood to write. Of course, I could scribble all day long, and scribble
as fast as I can, but such a thing goes out into the world; so I want to
make sure that I won't have to feel ashamed, especially when my name appears
on that page; besides, my mind gets easily dulled, as you know, when I'm
supposed to write a lot for an instrument I can't stand. So, for a change of
pace, I've been working on something different now and then, for instance,
Clavier duetti with violin, and a Mass...'

(in Spaethling, p.130)

If anyone knows of other sources for Mozart's comments on flutes, it would
be good if they could post them on this thread.
Post by Jon Alan Conrad
Maybe he hated the flute, maybe he didn't. But I would never build up a
case for someone having a lifelong loathing on the basis of one
statement in a private letter (which, like any letter any of us might
write, may be a mixture of truths, half-truths, and little fibs;
they're not written under oath, or sodium pentathol). Just think what
lifelong biographical "facts" might be deduced about any of us from
what we post here!
Similarly, imagine if someone in a future time extrapolated composers' views
on violas from the plethora of viola jokes that existed in the very late
20th and early 21st century, some of which were told by composers! :)

Ian
Paul Ilechko
2005-12-09 19:57:32 UTC
Permalink
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
He apparently can't spell "Schubert" ... ;-)
Matthew B. Tepper
2005-12-09 19:59:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Paul Ilechko
Post by k***@yahoo.co.uk
In contrast to all the hyperbole, doubtless many will agree with Robert
Hartford's assessment that Mozart wrote "more music in the commonplace
vein than any other of the really great composers" and was just "a
workaday craftsman who wrote his best music in the last four years of
his life."
He apparently can't spell "Schubert" ... ;-)
You are Richard Schultz, and I claim my £5.
--
Matthew B. Tepper: WWW, science fiction, classical music, ducks!
My personal home page -- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/index.html
My main music page --- http://home.earthlink.net/~oy/berlioz.html
To write to me, do for my address what Androcles did for the lion
I ask you to judge me by the enemies I have made. ~ FDR (attrib.)
Stephen Montgomery-Smith
2005-12-08 19:18:40 UTC
Permalink
I find that as the years go by, that my tastes in music change quite a
bit. In particular, music that a few years ago sonded boring and trite
can suddenly sound completely profound and the most beatiful thing I
ever heard.

My theory is that certain music is so profound, and musically very fast
moving, that often the brain is simply not capable of processing the
music fast enough to fully enjoy it.

I think that Mozart most certainly belongs in this category. I would
rate Mozart's music as being on the fringe of what my brain is able to
process. So, for example, I think that his 21st piano concerto is
perhaps the most beatiful music in the world. I would similarly rate
the slow movement from his 41st symphony. Some of his other stuff I
find very boring. But I now thing that the problem is definitely with
me - not the music itself.

I found that a really good way to "train" my brain is to listen to late
Schoenberg. After listening to it a few times, I still don't get what
it is about. But then when I listen to other composers, I suddenly
really understand it. Indeed one thing I found out was that I used to
be only able to listen to one musical line at a time. Now I am able to
listen to about 3 or 4 at a time. My enjoyment of music is greatly
increased.

Stephen
m***@cpu-net.net
2005-12-12 05:19:48 UTC
Permalink
Post by Derek Hollman
Hey all,
I was interested in hearing some people's opinions on Mozart's
music. I don't have a strong opinion of my own, which is why I am
asking what other people think. The general view of him (from what
I've seen others say and from what I've read) is that he is a
musical genius. He was able to compose music effortlessly, flawlessly,
and beautifully. Even spending less time on his compositions, he was
leagues above his contemporaries.
I've heard his music described as many different things. It has
been called "light," "all the same," "boring," and "without passion."
On the other hand, however, I've also heard it called "perfect,"
"beautiful" (though I think this adjective is weak since so many people
define so many different types of music as beautiful), "technically
flawless," and "spiritual."
I don't subscribe to one view any more than the other. In fact,
I'm actually hesitant to subscribe to either. I guess what my point is
that I don't understand his music very well. I don't understand what
sets Mozart apart from other composers. I don't understand what
makes him unique. I know a lot of people dislike Mozart because they
think he sounds too "light:" he doesn't "say" anything; his
music isn't about anything. This, however, is not a view to which I
subscribe. I can enjoy music solely for music's sake (though I also
enjoy music that people describe as passionate, deep, etc.), and I do
enjoy a whole range of composers.
Perhaps if I describe why I like some of my favorite composers,
someone can point out to me how Mozart is genuinely unique from them
and how I can appreciate Mozart more because of this. A few of my
favorite composers are: Bach, Beethoven, Dvorak, Rimsky-Korsakov, and
Gershwin. I like Bach because of his polyphonic writing. It is the
way in which the different voices interact with each other, like making
a piece of rope out of multiple strands, that sets him apart. I would
describe some of his music as the most perfect music I have heard
(especially the first movement of the second Brandenburg concerto). As
for Beethoven, it's hard to describe in words, but there is just a
feeling I get when I listen to his music that overwhelms me. To me,
his music seems to flow unrelentlessly and takes me with it, creating
tension and relieving it. Dvorak was one of the first composers that I
started to enjoy. He has a nationalistic, homely, folk-like tone. I
know he didn't use any existing folk-tunes in his music, but many of
his melodies remind me of such. He could be vigorous while being
gentle and epic while being quietly lyrical. I think it's difficult
to dislike RK. His orchestrations are wonderfully colored; each
instrument (or group of instruments) has its own unique image and
purpose in his compositions. I find his works magical, like a fantasy.
Finally, I will speak about Gershwin. He was the composer that got me
started on classical music, specifically his Rhapsody in Blue. His
catchy melodies are what caught my ear at first. The more I listened,
however, the more I found to appreciate. I, too, moved on to his other
orchestral works: the piano concerto, his tone poem, etc. When I
listen to Gershwin, I get overwhelmed with a feeling of joy. During
many of the slower sections of his works, I feel Gershwin contrasts
this with a bittersweet expression of hopelessly wanting a dream to
come true.
Anyways, I should get back to my point.
While writing these short comments on my favorite composers, I re-read
the first story in Bernstein's "The Joy of Music." (the 'Why
Beethoven?' scene). Basically his argument of why Beethoven is such
a great composer is that when he listens to Beethoven, he feels a
feeling of inevitability, a feeling that every successive note could
only be that note and that note alone. This is how I view many of my
favorite composers, too. However, I don't get this impression as
much when I listen to Mozart. I feel like a lot of his works could be
pieced together differently or certain parts could be left out without
changing the work (with exceptions of course). I'm sure my view of
him is askew, but this is exactly why I am asking for others' view.
The works I've heard by Mozart are his last symphonies (35-41), a
handful of his piano concertos (17, 20, 21, 23, 24, 26, 27), the
Requiem, and one of his operas (Don Giovanni I think). I didn't
dislike any of what I heard, but none of it really stood out to me
either (except the Jupiter symphony, and especially the finale). I am
not much of an opera buff, so I did not find much help in Don Giovanni.
So, at this point, I guess I will come to the crux of this message.
Since you all have now heard my views about various composers, my likes
and dislikes, I now ask of you to share with me your views of Mozart
and why you enjoy (or dislike) his music. Do you affirm the belief
that he is one of the greatest composers we know? Why? Any opinion on
anything I've asked/stated is more than welcome. One could suggest
specific works that I should hear, books to read, or anything. I'm
very open to suggestion (though I have difficulty reading music -
which is why I'm having trouble finishing Rosen's "The Classical
Style"). Anyways, please share your thoughts!
Regards,
Derek
It took me a long time to fully appreciate Mozart. I had been familiar
with a few of his sypmhonies and other 'overplayed pieces'. But I
finally started his genius with a live performance of the Requiem (at
the Madelaine in Paris) almost 14 years ago. The Requiem is a tough one
because not all of it is Mozart's work, buit it was really obvious to
me, through the performance, what was Mozart's and what was the work of
his student that completed the work (name escapes me at the moment.)

Get the Requiem and listen to just the Dies Irae piece. Listen to it
repeatedly. Consider how short the piece is and how utterly awesome the
music is in its fearfulness, (apart from the text). Mozart, with the
greatest economy, is able to get across real turmoil and fear with what
seems like unbelievably simple, yet intricate, melodic lines and above
all that string accompaniment slipping and sliding at breakneck speed.
I have a Karajan and a Hogwood recording (the Hogwood one uses a
different take on the 'original' score and it quite interesting to read
the liner notes by the copyist, I think his name his Maunder(sp?), and
in both cases, the performances are decisive enough to help get the
point(s) across.

Once you understand a little bit of how much Mozart is able to render
with what seems like modest means, you'll be able to appreciate the
music better. Mozart truly requires some indepth and repeated listening
to get past the apparent 'easy blend' of textures. Some of his piano
concerti are another good starting point too. Another good 'study
platform' is a CD of Mozart 'Adagios'. Some of these pieces are
unbelievable in their elegance+ poignancy+ understated drama, again
with an incredible economy of means. Afterwards Beethoven seems like an
amateur reveling in the obvious(!)

Marcello
Ward Moron
2005-12-12 09:03:30 UTC
Permalink
Post by Derek Hollman
Hey all,
I was interested in hearing some people's opinions on Mozart's
music. I don't have a strong opinion of my own, which is why I am
asking what other people think. The general view of him (from what
I've seen others say and from what I've read) is that he is a
musical genius. He was able to compose music effortlessly, flawlessly,
and beautifully.
That last sentence sonds like marketing talk. In particular
'effortlessly' may be inappropriate; he may have been able to do it
effortlessly but if so, he didn't always do so. He worked hard on the
'Haydn' quartets, for instance.
d***@aol.com
2005-12-12 23:17:47 UTC
Permalink
The HIP movement has triumphed. Many listeners who haven't for a
minute given a thought to the issues involved buy into it hook, line,
and sinker, which is always a clear signal that a movement has
triumphed.

Nevertheless I feel duty bound to post against the HIP movement from
time to time because the language used by many supporters of the HIP
movement reveals that they hold their "truths" to be self-evident.
They are not self-evident. I think the HIP movement is the worst thing
that has ever happened to a performing tradition, and I want it to be
clear that, despite the vast chorus of true believers, not everybody
buys the claims implicit in their performances. My view is deeply
pessimistic. I believe that the HIP movement has almost single
handedly come close to obliterating the sorts of phrasing that I
consider the very life blood of musical performance.

The trouble with the HIP movement is that it's subject to the same
problem as that corner of Quantum Mechanics that lead Heisenberg to
elaborate his theory of indeterminacy. (For the record, I know zip
about Quantum Mechanics and only know about Heisenberg's principle of
indeterminacy because no educated person could have failed to learn of
it.) There are aspects of performance that, once you look at them, you
change their very nature. Performing traditions have always depended
on a solid and fundamental bedrock of unexamined habit. The HIP
movement calls unexamined habit into question, and once you examine
behaviors heretofore hidden away from immediate view in the realm of
habit, their nature is changed. Traditional phrasing is not the result
of exclusively conscious choices despite the fact that a conscious
intelligence guides its unfolding. It fundamentally depends on the
kinds of acculturated habit characteristic of performing traditions, on
things that were never and could never be taught chapter verse but only
picked up listening to other members of a performing tradition perform.

-david gable
Ian Pace
2005-12-12 23:41:41 UTC
Permalink
Post by d***@aol.com
The HIP movement has triumphed. Many listeners who haven't for a
minute given a thought to the issues involved buy into it hook, line,
and sinker, which is always a clear signal that a movement has
triumphed.
Nevertheless I feel duty bound to post against the HIP movement from
time to time because the language used by many supporters of the HIP
movement reveals that they hold their "truths" to be self-evident.
They are not self-evident.
No, nor is it clear what they are supposed to be. Please elaborate.
Post by d***@aol.com
I think the HIP movement is the worst thing
that has ever happened to a performing tradition, and I want it to be
clear that, despite the vast chorus of true believers, not everybody
buys the claims implicit in their performances.
Maybe some people simply like them? You attacked the 'movement' for being so
'moralistic', can't you accept that some of us find the results (the best of
them) envigorating, stimulating, illuminating, affecting?
Post by d***@aol.com
My view is deeply
pessimistic. I believe that the HIP movement has almost single
handedly come close to obliterating the sorts of phrasing that I
consider the very life blood of musical performance.
Even where composers indicate something else quite different? I can think of
more than a few contemporary composers that do so. Should we run roughshod
over their express desires?
Post by d***@aol.com
The trouble with the HIP movement is that it's subject to the same
problem as that corner of Quantum Mechanics that lead Heisenberg to
elaborate his theory of indeterminacy. (For the record, I know zip
about Quantum Mechanics and only know about Heisenberg's principle of
indeterminacy because no educated person could have failed to learn of
it.) There are aspects of performance that, once you look at them, you
change their very nature.
Such as which instruments to use, whether or not to use vibrato all the time
or selectively, what sort of layout to have for the orchestra and what size
the relative sections should be, whether to add embellishments upon repeats
of material, how elaborately to realise a figured bass, for example?
Post by d***@aol.com
Performing traditions have always depended
on a solid and fundamental bedrock of unexamined habit.
That is the claim you repeat like a mantra, and it's not true now or then.
Why do you think all these treatises on performance appeared? Why would
Leopold Mozart write his treatise on violin playing, or Quantz his on the
flute, or C.P.E. Bach and Turk their's on playing on keyboard instruments,
if players always relied upon 'unexamined habit'? And that's just for one
period, there are countless treatises for the Renaissance and early Baroque,
and more than a few for the 19th century as well. What as the object of
Joachim and Moser's 'Violinschule', say? Or, for that matter, Neuhaus's 'The
Art of Piano Playing'?
Post by d***@aol.com
The HIP
movement calls unexamined habit into question, and once you examine
behaviors heretofore hidden away from immediate view in the realm of
habit, their nature is changed. Traditional phrasing is not the result
of exclusively conscious choices despite the fact that a conscious
intelligence guides its unfolding.
I think you'll find most of the above speak of phrasing, and the views
expressed are by no means identical.

By the way, those in the HIP movement, give or take the odd figure, don't by
any means deny the value of certain practices ingrained through one's
training.

The phrasing presented in the music of Kagel or Ferneyhough, to give two
dissimilar examples, by no means corresponds to easy 'traditional'
categories - actually what's going on in terms of dynamic envelope, melodic
contour, rhythmic profile, articulation, are often significantly 'out of
phase' with each other. Should one jettison all the detailed information in
the score in favour of a more 'traditional' approach (I know some people do
indeed do that)?
Post by d***@aol.com
It fundamentally depends on the
kinds of acculturated habit characteristic of performing traditions, on
things that were never and could never be taught chapter verse but only
picked up listening to other members of a performing tradition perform.
Performance is and always has been a combination of ingrained tradition and
conscious thinking and rethinking of aspects of that tradition. The
contemporary HIP 'movement' is just a continuation of that, applying such
rethinking to certain late romantic norms that had become rather set in
stone by the mid 20th-century.

Ian
Michael Schaffer
2005-12-13 07:11:23 UTC
Permalink
Post by Ian Pace
Post by d***@aol.com
The HIP movement has triumphed. Many listeners who haven't for a
minute given a thought to the issues involved buy into it hook, line,
and sinker, which is always a clear signal that a movement has
triumphed.
Nevertheless I feel duty bound to post against the HIP movement from
time to time because the language used by many supporters of the HIP
movement reveals that they hold their "truths" to be self-evident.
They are not self-evident.
No, nor is it clear what they are supposed to be. Please elaborate.
Post by d***@aol.com
I think the HIP movement is the worst thing
that has ever happened to a performing tradition, and I want it to be
clear that, despite the vast chorus of true believers, not everybody
buys the claims implicit in their performances.
Maybe some people simply like them? You attacked the 'movement' for being so
'moralistic', can't you accept that some of us find the results (the best of
them) envigorating, stimulating, illuminating, affecting?
Post by d***@aol.com
My view is deeply
pessimistic. I believe that the HIP movement has almost single
handedly come close to obliterating the sorts of phrasing that I
consider the very life blood of musical performance.
Even where composers indicate something else quite different? I can think of
more than a few contemporary composers that do so. Should we run roughshod
over their express desires?
Post by d***@aol.com
The trouble with the HIP movement is that it's subject to the same
problem as that corner of Quantum Mechanics that lead Heisenberg to
elaborate his theory of indeterminacy. (For the record, I know zip
about Quantum Mechanics and only know about Heisenberg's principle of
indeterminacy because no educated person could have failed to learn of
it.) There are aspects of performance that, once you look at them, you
change their very nature.
Such as which instruments to use, whether or not to use vibrato all the time
or selectively, what sort of layout to have for the orchestra and what size
the relative sections should be, whether to add embellishments upon repeats
of material, how elaborately to realise a figured bass, for example?
Post by d***@aol.com
Performing traditions have always depended
on a solid and fundamental bedrock of unexamined habit.
That is the claim you repeat like a mantra, and it's not true now or then.
Why do you think all these treatises on performance appeared? Why would
Leopold Mozart write his treatise on violin playing, or Quantz his on the
flute, or C.P.E. Bach and Turk their's on playing on keyboard instruments,
if players always relied upon 'unexamined habit'? And that's just for one
period, there are countless treatises for the Renaissance and early Baroque,
and more than a few for the 19th century as well. What as the object of
Joachim and Moser's 'Violinschule', say? Or, for that matter, Neuhaus's 'The
Art of Piano Playing'?
Like I said before, D7 doesn't understand the nature of the
"traditional" playing school(s) and how they "work" at all.
Check this out: we play the music of Mozart and who wouldn't kill to be
able to hear a performance in which Mozart himself plays? Aren't people
curious how that sounded? Well, we have no recordings, but - there is
actually a book about playing published by Mozart's father in the year
Mozart was born, and since Leoplod was his son's first and probably
most important teacher, we actually have a fairly good idea what he
taught him. What a treasure of knowledge. But most people haven't even
read it. It is quite a revelation.
It is only natural that we are interested in finding out about
historical performance practice since we are dealing with historical
music here. This study is only enrichening and doesn't kill off other,
allegedly more traditional playing styles at all. We have seen how
happily these approaches can "co-exist" and even merge.
Obviously, not all so-called "HIP" performers are really good and as
well informed as they pretend to be, but that is equally obviously the
case with many non-HIP performers, but luckily, there quite a few
interpreters across the whole spectrum of performance styles.
I think I will go now and listen to Harnoncourt's Amsterdam recording
of the Haffner symphony and then maybe Giulini's LA Eroica. Listening
to music can be so much fun when one stays open and unprejudiced.
Post by Ian Pace
Post by d***@aol.com
The HIP
movement calls unexamined habit into question, and once you examine
behaviors heretofore hidden away from immediate view in the realm of
habit, their nature is changed. Traditional phrasing is not the result
of exclusively conscious choices despite the fact that a conscious
intelligence guides its unfolding.
I think you'll find most of the above speak of phrasing, and the views
expressed are by no means identical.
By the way, those in the HIP movement, give or take the odd figure, don't by
any means deny the value of certain practices ingrained through one's
training.
The phrasing presented in the music of Kagel or Ferneyhough, to give two
dissimilar examples, by no means corresponds to easy 'traditional'
categories - actually what's going on in terms of dynamic envelope, melodic
contour, rhythmic profile, articulation, are often significantly 'out of
phase' with each other. Should one jettison all the detailed information in
the score in favour of a more 'traditional' approach (I know some people do
indeed do that)?
Post by d***@aol.com
It fundamentally depends on the
kinds of acculturated habit characteristic of performing traditions, on
things that were never and could never be taught chapter verse but only
picked up listening to other members of a performing tradition perform.
Performance is and always has been a combination of ingrained tradition and
conscious thinking and rethinking of aspects of that tradition. The
contemporary HIP 'movement' is just a continuation of that, applying such
rethinking to certain late romantic norms that had become rather set in
stone by the mid 20th-century.
Ian
Loading...