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Who is Gottfried van Swieten?
Usually a rather blurred figure in Mozart’s biographies, in reality, Baron Gottfried van Swieten exerted an enormous influence on the development of Mozart’s interests in music composition and then also on Haydn and on the young Beethoven. Furthermore, van Swieten (a freemason himself, like Mozart), with the Abbé Stadler, had a crucial role in the promotion of Mozart’s works carried on by Constanze, after December 1791.
The son of the Vampirism scholar Gerard van Swieten
The father of Baron van Swieten, Gerard van Swieten, was an important Dutch-Austrian physician, who in 1745 became the personal physician of the Austria Imperial family and, in particular, of the Empress Maria Theresa.
From 1718 to 1732, suddenly, a previously unknown brutal myth on vampirism reached also Austria from Serbia and received a wide sudden diffusion throughout Europe and many scholars were called by the local authorities to directly investigate the phenomenon and to eradicate it.
Maria Theresa asked Gerard van Swieten to investigate and was sent to Moravia in 1755, to study the case. In 1768 Gerard van Swieten published his Essay against vampirism Discourse on the Existence of Ghosts, which led Maria Theresa to ban all traditional defences to vampires, as the product of vain fear and of superstitious credulity.
In 1774 and in 1789 (2nd edition) the Dissertazione sopra i Vampiri by Giuseppe Davanzati, Bishop of Trani, appeared, to support the Essay by Gerard van Swieten and Maria Theresa’s laws. Unfortunately the superstition was difficult to eradicate and, thus, in the end, the authorities tried to transform vampirism in an art genre, to defeat it, by using also opera and comic opera (among the first works, the comic opera I vampiri by Silvestro Palma, 1812, which promotes the rationalist theories of Giuseppe Davanzati).
van Swieten and the von Jacquins friends of Mozart
The fact that Mozart and his wife Constanze were close friends of Gottfried von Jacquin and his sister Franziska, is well known. What probably many still fail to consider is that both Gottfried and Franziska von Jacquin belonged to the circle of van Swieten’s close friends. In fact the father of Gottfried and Franziska was Nikolaus von Jacquin, a famous and important scholar and a personal pupil of van Swieten’s father, Gerard van Swieten. Even more, Nikolaus von Jacquin named a genus of mahogany after his mentor and friend Gerard van Swieten, the Swietenia. So Mozart and his wife, by regularly attending the von Jacquins, just remained within the group of close friends of van Swieten.
Mozart and the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program
Thanks to Mozart’s letters and Weigl’s autobiography and some reminiscences of Salieri, we are rather well informed on the van Swieten’s Sunday Music program held at his apartments from the Spring 1782 to some years later.
At 12 every Sunday, Mozart, Starzer, Teyber, van Swieten and, probably only on a few occasions, also Salieri met at van Swieten’s apartments to study and perform works by Handel, Graun, J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach. F. Bach, with Mozart accompanying at the fortepiano, van Swieten singing discant, Mozart also singing alto, Starzer tenor, Teyber bass. According to Weigl, when Salieri was there, he also sang some part.
Thanks to this sort of private academies, Mozart developed his peculiar taste for Handel’s and Bach’s works, now made known and available through the rare and difficult to find scores of van Swieten, and their art of counterpoint, a taste that well emerges in his major works from 1782 to 1791 (Mass in C Minor, Haydn Quartets, The Magic Flute, Requiem etc.).
Mozart tried to promote, instead, during such occasions, the knowledge of the sacred music works by Michael Haydn and Eberlin, even though, as far as we know, he decided not to promote Eberlin’s keyboard art of fugue, because he found it on a lower level in comparison to Bach and Handel.
The presence of Salieri at these private academies at van Swieten’s are much disputed, because his pupil Weigl tells this story and because Salieri’s own reminiscences of these academies are certainly heavily manipulated and distorted: i.e. Salieri was the leader of these academies and Mozart used to call him papa all the time (difficult to believe, because Salieri was not much older than Mozart and could not be a papa to Mozart).
van Swieten’s political roles & his influence on Mozart’s works
From 1780 to 1782 van Swieten reached a high position at Court with Joseph II, earning an annual salary of ca. 20.000 florins (ca. 140.000 modern US dollars).
He became Councillor of State, Director of the State Education Commission (1781) and Director of a new Censorship Commission (1782). van Swieten, in his official role, supported and carried on the program of reforms of Joseph II. If Mozart’s works, like Le Nozze di Figaro, and certain parts of Don Giovanni (regularly censored and cut in 1800s) and, on a certain level also The Magic Flute, were freely performed in Austria in 1780s, that was also the result of the activity of van Swieten within the Censorship Commission, which increased certain forms of freedom.
As is well known, the death of Joseph II (and the French Revolution) created troubles to all the people who worked for Joseph II. And van Swieten, already considered the person responsible for too much revolutionary freedom and for other disasters of the Imperial administration, was discharged from his commission post by Leopold II on 5 December 1791, the same day as the death of Mozart, while Imperial informers were building an act of accusation against Mozart’s The Magic Flute, considered a satire against Louis XVI of France and the Austria Emperor’s sister Marie Antoinette and an obscure promotion of the French Revolution.
Mozart, van Swieten and the Handel controversy
The strong interest of van Swieten in the music by Handel, if, on the one hand, it led to the birth of great masterpieces like Mozart’s Mass in C Minor, Haydn’s Oratorios and Beethoven’s various works, on the other hand, unfortunately reached also levels of a sort of fanaticism hard to be comprehended.
In 1786 van Swieten organized the Gesellschaft der Associierten (Society of Associated Cavaliers), to organize the performance of great orchestral works in Vienna. In 1788 van Swieten chose Mozart as official conductor of the Society and from 1788 to 1790 commissioned Mozart to write a revised and updated (mainly in the orchestration) edition of four major works by Handel: Acis and Galatea (1788), The Messiah (1789), Ode for St. Cecilia’s Day (1790), Alexander’s Feast (1790).
Despite Mozart’s intense activity on Handel, van Swieten kept a certain pressure on Mozart, because he wanted Mozart to write a purer Handelian work (possibly an oratorio?), to prove he was a real great composer (!?). From this, also the long lasting debate on Mozart’s borrowing from Handel in building his famous Requiem, considered already in 1790s also a collection of reminiscences of Handelian themes firstly heard by Mozart in his famous Tour in England when a child prodigy.
Moreover a letter of van Swieten written in 1798 ignited the Handel controversy among Mozart supporters, since van Swieten clearly declares himself unsatisfied with the work carried on by Mozart, but not with that carried on by Haydn, who really managed to prove himself a great composer on the same level as Handel. Mozart simply failed to prove this, due to his sudden death.
Here the infamous words from van Swieten’s letter (December 1798):
«Undoubtedly it [i.e. the level of Handel and of the two Bachs] would have been reached by Mozart, had he not been snatched from us prematurely. Joseph Haydn, conversely, truly stands there [i.e. with Handel the two Bachs]».
The harsh judgment of van Swieten simply means that Haydn, in the end, managed to deliver a great Oratorio, The Creation, in the high style of Handel, while Mozart miserably failed in doing this, due to his sudden death (!?).
van Swieten helps Constanze
After the death of Mozart, van Swieten actively helped Constanze Mozart and her children both financially and socially. Apart from his famous intervention for the funeral of Mozart, he promoted benefit concerts in favour of Constanze’s family and took care of the education of the young Karl Mozart. His role proved particularly crucial, in Prague, in April 1794, to save the young Karl Mozart, the 9 year old child of Wolfgang, from a trap organized by the supporters of Salieri in Prague: Karl Mozart had to publicly appear on stage during the performance of Salieri’s opera Axur «as the boy who is offered up for sacrifice». The immediate intervention of van Swieten and of his mother Constanze saved the boy from this orchestrated form of public humiliation against the child of Mozart by the supporters of Salieri.
van Swieten as composer, librarian, copyright promoter
van Swieten, who had studied music in his youth with a pupil of J.S. Bach and had become a member of the musical circle of the princess Anna Amalia, was also a composer and not only a simple patron of the musical arts.
While as patron van Swieten had already patronized the son of J.S. Bach, C.P.E. Bach (6 Symphonies H. 657–662, 1773; Sonaten für Kenner und Liebhaber, 1781) before reaching Vienna, through the years van Swieten developed his own musical compositions.
Today the critics are largely divided on the quality of his music. Even though The Grove Dictionary is particularly harsh in his judgment on van Swieten’s musical works, other scholars give more cautious opinions on his music works, especially because a few of them were considered for long time and printed and published as works by Haydn (3 of van Swieten’s Symphonies were printed and re-printed as Haydn’s Op. 29 for many years). Curiously enough, instead, Haydn considered most of van Swieten symphonies in the old fashioned 3 movements style, «as stiff as the man himself». Nonetheless, we know that Mozart conducted at least one of van Swieten’s symphonies in Vienna in 1782.
Probably also van Swieten’s surviving opéras comiques may deserve a better study and approach by both scholars and musicians, since his Les talents à la Mode has certain important affinities with Mozart’s Bastien und Bastienne and features important, beautiful and very difficult coloratura arias and Colas toujours Colas, mostly in the pastoral style, has passages with strong affinities with Haydn’s The Seasons (in particular, the hunt scene).
As librarian and copyright promoter, van Swieten not only expanded the official Imperial library with books on science, but kept promoting music, by collecting rare scores and trying to convince the Emperor Joseph II, in 1784, to adopt the new copyright and royalties law in favour of the authors of works of art. In the end, Joseph II rejected the proposal by van Swieten and the system of copyright and royalties, so, was not available for those living under the Austrian Empire. Such law would have certainly changed the life of Mozart in better, by making it a bit easier.
The importance of van Swieten as Imperial Court librarian is due also to the fact that he is considered the first librarian in Europe to use the first form of library catalog, entirely based on a easily searchable system of cards, instead of the usual old bound volumes.
van Swieten, Haydn and the young Beethoven
The great interest of van Swieten in Handel’s music was also a distinctive trait of his patronage relationship with Haydn and the young Beethoven.
It is well known how, thanks to van Swieten and his intense activity of patron, music promoter, librettist and public concerts organizer in Vienna, Haydn managed to carry out his three great oratorio projects of the 1790s: The Seven Last Words of Christ (1795/96), The Creation (1796/98) and The Seasons (1799/1801). Nonetheless the personal relationship between the two men was not always easy, as it happened with the famous quarrel between Haydn and van Swieten on the French-style passages Haydn disliked for The Seasons, the Frenchified trash.
Instead, a lesser known episode of van Swieten’s life is his fundamental role, in 1790s, in the development of young Beethoven‘s interest in Handel’s and Bach’s music, as he had done with Mozart many years earlier. This time, he accomplished his music educational program through a long series of soirées at his home, usually starting at 8.30 pm, with Beethoven who was expected to play many pieces of music and especially many fugues by Bach for various hours in the night and then to sleep at home of van Swieten.
So, when Beethoven’s pupil Ferdinand Ries wrote: «Of all composers, Beethoven valued Mozart and Handel most highly, then S. Bach.», we know that Beethoven was, in this, highly influenced by van Swieten’s program of music education, based principally on the fact that, still in 1790s, van Swieten was one of the few owners of many scores by these authors, scores which were, in certain cases, still particularly rare to find on the 18th century market of music.
In 1801 Beethoven dedicated his 1st Symphony Op. 21 to van Swieten: Erste Symphonie von L. van Beethoven Dem Baron van Swieten gewidmet.
van Swieten & Vermeer
The father of van Swieten was the owner of one of the greatest masterpieces in the History of Art, painted by the Dutch painter Johannes Vermeer, The Art of Painting, between 1665 and 1675. Then the painting became property of his son, Baron Gottfried van Swieten. They both probably ignored the name of the real author of the painting, since, until 1860, the painting was considered a work by Pieter de Hooch.
Ten years after the death of van Swieten, in 1813, the painting was sold to the family of the Bohemian-Austrian Counts Czernin.
WORKS BY VAN SWIETEN
A) Compositions by van Swieten:
• Ariette for La Rosière de Salency (1769)
• Opéra comique: Les talents à la Mode
• Opéra comique: Colas toujours Colas
• Opéra comique: La chercheuse d’esprit (lost)
• 10 Symphonies (7 surviving), 3 of them for long time considered works by F. J. Haydn as Op. 29 (according to some sources the symphonies were at least 12)
At imslp.org the score of van Swieten’s opera Colas toujours Colas is now available: Colas toujours Colas.
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Petronel Malan: Official Sites
Petronel Malan Site: Petronel Malan
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Hänssler Classic)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Blüthner Pianos)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Twitter)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (Facebook)
Petronel Malan: Petronel Malan (YouTube)
1. In 2006 and in 2008 you produced two beautiful, interesting and critically acclaimed CD Albums on Mozart and Beethoven: Transfigured Mozart and Transfigured Beethoven. What can you tell us about the origin and the story of these two CD Albums?
The Transfigured Bach recording was given to me as a project and I practiced and recorded it.
I did not do the research for that album.
When Hänssler Classic suggested I record a second CD, I started researching all the music and options to continue with transcriptions – and I found all the scores for Transfigured Mozart.
It happened to fall on the 2006 anniversary for Mozart and we decided to release in time for the anniversary.
I have always loved transcriptions, so it was a natural idea to record this music and since I discovered so many world premiere recordings, that happened almost naturally also.
As I was researching the Mozart, I started saving scores for future projects. I have a huge database of scores now.
So for my last 4 recordings, I did all the research for each recording.
I still have many lesser-known scores saved for future use for other recording projects. People also give me rare scores after concerts. So many scores I just received as a gift from a stranger after a concert!
… It is almost funny the two things people bring me most after concerts: Vintage dresses from their grandmothers… and rare scores. I love both things so I am always happy when people give this to me!
Petronel Malan plays Glinka’s Transfigured Mozart.
2. We know you have in your concert repertoire also piano works by Haydn. What’s your relation with the compositions for piano by Haydn?
I have always loved playing Haydn.
It falls well on the hand and I think there are some absolutely beautiful music available.
People always know about Mozart, but the average person sadly doesn’t always know about Haydn.
Then I make sure to tell them that Beethoven studied with Haydn a bit, since he wanted to study with Mozart but Mozart had died. And Schubert was a pallbearer at Beethoven’s funeral. They are all connected.
What an amazing time to be alive and think that they all, all those great composers, had met each other!
Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. I
Petronel Malan plays Haydn’s Sonata in C major Hob XVI/50, Mvt. II & III
3. You are an official Artist of the most famous Leipzig firm Julius Blüthner Pianofortefabrik GmbH, one of the Big Four. What can you tell us about the distinctive quality of this piano manufacturer. And why and how did you choose their pianos? And what’s your story of collaboration with Blüthner?
When I walked into Skywalker Studios (George Lucas’ estate in California) to record my first CD, there were 2 pianos to choose from.
There was one of the most beautiful Blüthner Model 1 pianos and also another piano – which was also quite beautiful, but it didn’t have the sound and colour of the Blüthner.
So, I chose the Blüthner for my recording.
It was almost by accident that this happened.
After my first recording was nominated for the Grammy awards, they made me an official Blüthner Artist.
I then recorded my next 4 recordings in Leipzig, so that I would have easier access to Blüthner pianos.
They supplied not only the pianos but also the technicians for every recording.
Pianists will know how very important this is! I was really spoiled – and very lucky.
By recording in Leipzig, I now had choices of up to 5 Blüthners before every recording session!!
4. You regularly organize Piano Masterclasses. What’s your approach in teaching to your students?
I don’t organize the Master classes… they happen mostly in conjunction with my concerts.
Usually, after a concert, I teach classes for local students.
I do not teach on a regular basis since I am usually traveling for concerts, so I have these classes to teach younger students.
When I was a child, I always asked every pianist I heard if I could get a lesson, but they mostly could not fit lessons into their schedule… which disappointed me greatly as a child.
So I made a point of being available for younger students after my concerts.
I’ve met some wonderful young talents and they have kept in touch through the years.
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
For Mozart, it would have to be operas, but since I can’t sing at all and only listen to the operas, I’ll say the piano concerti… Absolute genius music.
For Haydn, probably string quartets, but again, I can’t play them so piano sonatas or variations?
I want to be able to play my favourite music myself, so it is hard to have something as my favourite when I can’t play it. That’s one of the reasons I love transcriptions so much – I can play almost everything and anything – even if it wasn’t written for me.
There are some exceptions, however: Second movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony might be one example of something that doesn’t work on the piano… I have a few transcriptions of that movement but the solo piano doesn’t do it justice.
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
No one specific comes to mind, but it is not something I am actively searching for.
For me, personally, I would say that great transcriptions based on music of this era would be something that I am always looking for.
I have fantastic friends who also collect lesser-known scores and we are always exchanging scores we find.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.
Transcriptions of works from the 18th Century!
8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
I usually read something about the composer as I am preparing for a recording project.
Before I recorded Transfigured Brahms, I read Jan Swafford’s book about Brahms. While I was researching and preparing for Transfigured Beethoven, I read The Last Master by John Suchet (@johnsuchet1 on Twitter!)…
I warn everybody before you read these books, that it will forever change how you view Beethoven not only as a musician, but also as a person.
I absolutely LOVED these books.
You will always look at Beethoven in a different way. The books are in 3 volumes and I hesitated starting volume 3, because I knew Beethoven was going to die and it made me quite sad. It is written as historic fiction – so the facts are always correct, but the conversations are made up.
I can not recommend these books enough to anyone working on Beethoven in depth.
Suchet writes with so much love and empathy about Beethoven, that it was only after reading these books that I truly realized Beethoven’s as a human being and not just as this historic figure who wrote great music.
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
I will always love Amadeus, but you have to be aware what is legend and what is fact.
I did not really like Immortal Beloved but I need to see it again perhaps. It has been years.
10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?
I try to visit composers’ graves whenever I travel.
Beethoven is easy because he is right next to Schubert and Brahms and Strauss in Vienna.
You can also visit one of the many places where Beethoven lived while he was in Vienna. I think in total he stayed in almost 40 different places because he was always having problems with his neighbours and landlords.
I visited Mozart’s houses in Salzburg.
I visited Bach’s grave in Leipzig and Chopin’s grave in Paris and Rachmaninoff’s in NY.
I went to Liszt’s apartment in Budapest and was allowed to play on his pianos.
I think these type of visits, are always good for how you view a certain composer.
And you can take them flowers and say thank you for enhancing our lives for the better!
Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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John Irving: Books, CDs and Links
John Irving: Understanding Mozart’s Piano Sonatas
John Irving: Josef Haydn – Piano Sonatas
John Irving: www.johnirving.org.uk
John Irving (VIBF – Valletta): vallettabaroquefestival.com.mt
1. You are one of the few MozartEra scholars and, at the same time, one of the few MozartEra performing musicians, who has also a direct experience of the real repertoire of the 18th century, beyond Mozart. According to your experience, what’s the real technical striking difference between Mozart and his father, Mozart and Vanhal, Mozart and Haydn.
In the case of Mozart and his father, what I notice most – especially as a performer – relates to control of movement within a measure or phrase. This aspect is perhaps more effectively felt than described analytically against the benchmark of musical notation.
In performance, the greater suppleness of rhythm that Wolfgang attains compared to his father (who published several rather good solo keyboard sonatas that I recorded a few years ago) is a factor that is unmistakeable the moment you consider how you might interpret phrase shapes.
Vanhal is a very fine composer, who comes much closer to Mozart in terms of the control of material in relation to overall structure. Vanhal achieves a distinctiveness of voice (especially in sonata forms) that few of his contemporaries matched; for instance, if you were to switch on the radio during a movement of Vanhal, you could immediately tell from the nature of the material exactly where you were in the course of the structure.
With Haydn, that is not so easy, as his exceptional command of musical material allows him to juggle ideas in unusual ways that go beyond typical expectations. For Haydn, musical discourse lies on the border between perception and expectation, creating an expressive field around which those two essentials of communicative possibility have to adapt in each piece! Mozart’s expressive parameters rarely work in this way, though he sometimes achieves nearly the same thing in terms of phrasing, for instance in the minuet theme from the Hunt Quartet, K.458.
2. You have played an important role in the preparation of The Mozart Project – The First Interactive Book on Mozart for iPad (itunes.apple.com). What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced with this special work?
Looking back on this project, now the recipient of several international awards, including iBook of the Year and Best Musical Work in 2015, I think the main challenge was writing the front page chapter texts in such a way as to draw the listener into an unfolding story, and tempt them to explore the book’s amazing hypertext functionality (including multiple layers of audio, video and text that deepen the understanding). I regularly had to resist the urge to give too much explanation on the surface level, leaving that for the hyper texts. Another challenge was organizing the two chapters I wrote in such a way that their various sections could be independently read in almost any order. I greatly enjoyed being able to record quite a few audio and video performances with Ensemble DeNOTE (including three videos specially-filmed for this project) that hopefully give users an insight into period performance matters.
I think the book’s greatest accomplishment is its flexibility: addressing itself to any reader, whether familiar with Mozart, or coming to his work for the first time. That flexibility has now extended into a stage show, The Mozart Project Live! (johnirvingfortepianist.wordpress.com), supported with funding from Arts Council England, which presents a journey through Mozart’s chamber music in a combination of live performance and extracts from the original iBook.
3. Sometimes, listening to Mozart’s Piano Concertos and then to Mozart’s Piano Sonatas and then to the other piano works by Mozart, a common listener perceive a sort of difference in the type of pianism, actually used by Mozart. What’s your opinion on this?
Mozart always had a keen sense of scale, as you would expect from a man of the theatre. The nature of material, along with presentational aspects including register and texture, rarely misfires because it was so closely suited to context.
So, the solo piano music was conceived for presentation in a domestic setting (in a Viennese salon, for instance), whereas his piano concertos were more public genres with a pronounced sense of occasion. After his death, concert traditions developed in ways he probably did not envisage, with music acquiring a social role as a species of civic entertainment, including such things as the rise of the solo piano recital, and the vaguely comical visual spectacle of a piano concerto presented on stage with a 9-foot Steinway grand pitted against a large orchestra being directed as if by a circus ringmaster-ac-lion-tamer brandishing a long baton, while simultaneously liaising with the soloist-ac-hero.
Given what became of Mozart’s intimate and rhetorical language within such settings, it is hardly surprising that modern audiences perceive apparently different types of pianism in sonatas and concertos! In fact, the urge to bulk out Mozart’s slender solo piano textures was felt surprisingly early, for instance in Louis Adam’s 1804/5 piano method for the Paris Conservatoire, perhaps with a view to rendering them more effective on Erard pianos, rather than Viennese ones. In all these cases, though, Mozart survived the experience!
4. Your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music in a more historically informed way.
Fundamentally, you need an open mind and an ability to listen. With that basic equipment, you are well-placed to let the particular instrument teach you how to play.
For keyboardists, that might be harpsichords, clavichords or fortepianos – sometimes interchangeably across repertoires. The flexibility of keyboard medium found on printed title-pages throughout the 18th century is remarkable, with both harpsichord and clavichord hanging on alongside the emergent and eventually triumphant piano for a remarkably long time. As has been repeatedly shown, even Beethoven can sound well on a large late 18th century clavichord (a medium that certainly discloses a debt to CPE Bach).
It’s always sad to learn of students who have been put off playing 18th century music on fortepiano, harpsichord or clavichord by their teachers, who wrongly believe that the different touch of these instruments will ruin students’ modern piano touch.
Yes, the touch is different, and takes effort to master. Speaking different languages also requires hard work and a willingness both to fail and adapt, but the effort is worthwhile because of the greater fluency of vocabulary that you gain through trying (including always a gain in sophistication in the speaking of your native tongue).
Above all, do not waste time thinking that your motivation to be historically informed means you are engaging in an act of authenticity, recovering the original sounds as Mozart heard and intended them. This myth is still common; regrettably it remains effective as a deterrent (see above, in relation to bad teachers).
5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
Mozart: probably the Piano and Winds Quintet K.452, especially the descending chromatic scale in the finale when played on natural horn (chromatic here in a literal sense, since each pitch has its own unique colour characteristic – modern valve horns don’t come close!).
6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
I’d like to hear more Pleyel generally. His output is very diverse and deserves to be better known.
7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency, especially thanks to your special experience as musician and as MozartEra scholar.
C.P.E. Bach’s symphonies – radical, and shocking!
8. Beside your books, do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
I think Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style remains at the top of my list, even after almost half a century!
9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
Malcolm Bilson’s DVD, Knowing the Score.
10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music.
Not what you might think, but my answer is Valletta: European Capital of Culture in 2018.
Our appreciation of 18th century music continues to evolve, and one of the most fascinating contemporary developments has been happening in the Maltese capital in recent years: the Valletta International Baroque Festival, masterminded by Kenneth Zammit Tabona.
Using astonishing 18th century buildings as locations (including the spectacular Manoel Theatre), VIBF is developing our appreciation of both performing and listening to 18th century music afresh, in relation to spaces and acoustics that fire our musical imaginations.
Once again, this isn’t about some mistaken authenticity!
It’s a challenge to our creative imaginations to mould together the possibilities of instrumental sounds, historical playing styles and spaces to fashion something we’ve never heard before.
So, dear MozartEra fans, you are all invited to these extraordinary rendezvous in the magnificent scenery of Valletta-Malta for a wonderful series of 18th century music must-be events from the Valletta International Baroque Festival to Valletta European Capital of Culture 2018! Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
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Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.