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Review May 2016: Mozart’s Music of Friends


 bkekcup Author: E. Klorman
Title: Mozart’s Music of Friends: Social Interplay in the Chamber Works
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Year: 2016
Price: £74.99 / US$120.00
ISBN: 9781107093652
Cambridge University Press Link:
Official Site of the Book:
with additional online resources for this book + Scores, Videos, Audios & Image Galleries
The Author: E. Klorman is a MozartEra Scholar and distinguished musician. He is professor of Viola and Music Theory (QCCU New York & The Juilliard School).

Read also the exclusive interview with the author: 10 Questions with E. Klorman

That famous assertion by Goethe that the string quartet is a conversation among four intelligent people, an assertion which dates back to 1829, is a leitmotiv many chamber music musicians have heard repeated so many times that it has become a sort of indistinct echo.

And exactly here the author, E. Klorman, a distinguished violist himself, eminent theorist and 18th century music scholar, decides to position the very starting line of his historical, theoretical and musical research: why?

Why? Why Goethe? Why is a string quartet a conversation? Which kind of lost world existed behind such a famous assertion? And, above all, was Goethe really right? Is quartet really a conversation? And a conversation of which type then?

Only an adventurous and documentary journey across the lost world of the drawing rooms and of the salons with their now funny, sometimes even naive (i.e. Mozart, Constanze and Jacquin playing with a ribbon like children, a moment of private sociability then rapidly reproduced by Mozart in the musical form of a buffo terzetto in strict Viennese dialect, K. 441, or the infamous sight-reading by Vogler or others trying to ruin Mozart’s reputation) and extravagant rituals… but places which shaped, in the end, in re16abimgfull the destiny of our Modern History among some sober conversations, quaffing spiced punches and hearing in the dusky air the voice of some talkative quartets played by four friends around a circular table under the feeble flickering light of a few candles – So only a journey of this type can raise the curtain of time on the real musical practice of the 18th century, a disclosure, an act of time decoding which can lead the reader to comprehend the real deep reasons of this art of musical composition and of those certain particular musical choices in music writing (and this even in imagining the phrasing for an instrument!) by such excellent architects of this science of music, as many called it in the 18th century, like Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

Following the path created by the author, the reader will discover an entire secret world, that very exclusive environment which gave birth to much admired masterpieces of all times, a world where musical-rhetorical concepts of equivalence govern the internal voices jotted down on score sheets by that Haydn, who seems to attentively ponder the precepts of the Ars Poetica by Horace before even choosing the number of instruments to be used in one of his works, a world where sociability, tensions and relational amicability among friends and performers change the conversational course of a trio or of a quartet by Mozart, where 18th centre16acimgury and 19th century forms of analytical formal treatment of music, even profoundly imbibed of Ciceronian rhetorical rules and distinctions (as Jones, 1784: the Talk of the Teatable vs. the Oratory of the Bar and the Pulpit), suggest how a voice in a quartet must speak and what is its role in the hierarchy, and if a hierarchy does really exist among the four voices of a quartet. In this way, Klorman leads the reader through the analysis not only of the 18th century rituals of the light-hearted conversational game of the Musik spielen among friends and of the Hausmusik, all social activities under the rule of an omnipresent sight-reading absolute imperative, but also of the main 18th century theories and formal descriptions of the conversation in music, and even in reference to its actual practice, from Sulzer, Koch, Carpani, Momigny up to the most querulous pseudo-Cambini and the enlightening poems by a Talleyrandian funambulist like Baillot, an avid promoter and performer of the Viennese quartet, who can really walk the tightrope of his times and conceive, after so many Napoleonic imperial wars and so many political and military upheavals, a violin who is the king (!) of a republic.


If the first part of the book is marvellously rich in documents, in accounts and rich in the historical assessment of the pre-20th century theories and forms of musical analysis, all somehow gravitating around the rules of eloquence, the second part of the book is strictly normative anre16adimgd practical and delineates the founding principles of the Multiple Agency methodology, developed by Klorman in his double role as historically informed music performer and music theorist. He then surpasses a too simplistic vision of music as conversation (the Goethian quartet as a conversation is a too limited metaphor for the factual and technical reality) and builds a philological methodology of musical analysis, which, based on the functional acts of the social interrelation typical of the sociability of the 18th century, is capable of formally describing and guiding the real technical game of the parts of the chamber works of that period.

This second part of the book is so magnificently completed by a fundamental series of theoretical practical applications of the Multiple Agency methodology seen at work in combination with the Sonata Form and the Models of the Metrical Musical Analysis and we can assist, in this way, at important formal treatments of Mozart’s chamber works, which lead the readers to a more profound comprehension of their music: K. 304, K. 493, K. 465, K. 379 and, above all, K. 498 the Kegelstatt trio, one of the summits of the Mozartian production of his music of friends, where an extravagant and totally unusual trio (piano, clarinet and viola) is a musical personification, thus conceived by Mozart himself from the very beginning, of that special conversational interrelation among the three close friends: Franziska von Jacquin, Anton Stadler and W.A.Mozart.

Therefore we cre16aiimgomprehend also how the Multiple Agency methodology, delineated by Klorman, with its principles, fully integrates the 20th century formal structural theories of musical analysis, which, surely still fundamental, however all suffer from an excess of that positivistic technicality. In fact, that, unfortunately, as it results, is incapable of formally representing and explaining the very act of composing in the 18th century (Mozart certainly knew his art well, but was not that arid algid mechanical mechanocentric technocrat, as someone tried to sell him in the past – and especially if that music composing is just like a dialogical conversation among close friends during a soirée) and not only on a compositional structural level, but also on the level of the very musical gesture, phrasing and performance.

As a consequence, the Multiple Agency methodology finally fills those many serious unhistorical voids created by the modern theoretical tradition and represents the essential and indispensable missing link between the real historical 18th century musical practice both in composing and in performing and the too self-referential and scarcely philological theories of the past 20th century, assuming, in this way, an undisputed role of leadership in its own field.


Mozart’s Music of Friends is a marvellous book of history and theory by a scholar and a musician devoted to excellence, but also an open manual of musical practice for chamber music musicians. It is splendidly integrated with an essential selection of additional resources available online through, featuring many documentary extra rarities and fundamental practical audio-visual guides to the Multiple Agency theory, for all the musicians to experience interactively and directly.

The book is enriched by an important foreword by Patrick McCreless (Yale University) and by detailed footnotes which make the reading a more precious and refined experience.

After years of historical studies, this book by Klorman is the culmination of a whole movement of scholars and philologists (i.e. Rosen, Heartz, Rice, Irving, Eisen just to name a few) and represents the new frontier of the historically informed performance for our music academies, concert halls and musical seasons. As Klorman himself states, a precise, technical and philologically correct sensitivity to this spirit of social intercourse is another way to be historically informed that matters just as much as, say, playing on gut strings or with a fortepiano.

S. & L.M. Jennarelli

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Iconography from the site or from the book is in public domain or in fair use.


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