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Interview January 2018: 10 Questions with I. Page

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Ian Page: Official Sites
Ian Page Site: Ian Page & Classical Opera / The Mozartists
Ian Page: Ian Page (Twitter)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Twitter)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Facebook)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (YouTube)
Ian Page: CO & The Mozartists (Season 2017/2018)

Ian Page: CD Albums
Ian Page: Mozart: Il Sogno di Scipione
Ian Page: Mozart: Haydn, Beethoven: Perfido!
Ian Page: Mozart: Zaide


1. In 2017/2018 you are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of Classical Opera, that, with its period-instrument orchestra under your direction as conductor, has gained the status of one of the major international leading exponents not only of the music of Mozart but also of his many contemporaries (i.e. Gluck, J.C.Bach, T.Arne, N.Jommelli and many others), thanks to a series of highly critically acclaimed live concerts and CD recordings. In 1997 you have founded Classical Opera, then in 2017 you have launched The Mozartists… Can you tell us about the story behind the birth and the many years of activity of Classical Opera? When did you encounter the music of Mozart for the first time and when did you decide to found Classical Opera and why? What have been the major challenges and the major accomplishments, you experienced during these 20 years? And what about The Mozartists?

It’s been a wonderful journey, although in many ways I’m always too close to it to be able to see the growth and evolution from a proper perspective.

In my late teens the music of Mozart occupied an increasingly important place in my heart – the piano concertos were my initial way in – and when I was at University at York (my degree was actually in English Literature), Roger Norrington came to conduct Beethoven’s Eroica symphony with the chamber orchestra there. It was completely revelatory for me, and I soon started supplementing by listening habits with period-instrument recordings of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven.

I was bowled over by how fresh, vibrant and surprising this core repertoire sounded with these instruments…

…The music suddenly seemed to make so much more sense; it was like scraping the veneer off an old painting by a great master and discovering that the original colours were so much brighter and more compelling.

By this stage I was in London studying as a postgraduate at the Royal Academy of Music, and there I met David Syrus, who was for many years Head of Music at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden (he only retired from the position last year). Like many other students before and since, I was fired by David’s musicianship, wisdom and supreme decency and generosity as a human being, and opera seemed to represent the ideal fusion of my twin loves of music and literature.

One thing led to another, and I naturally gravitated more and more towards Mozart’s operas…

…After the RAM I joined the music staff at Scottish Opera, where I worked with the Handel specialist Nick McGegan on a new production of La clemenza di Tito, and this again proved a revelatory experience. I was astonished by how wide the gulf generally was between a good and a bad performance of works like Tito or Idomeneo, and the following year Nick asked me to assist him at the uniquely beautiful and evocative rococo theatre in Drottningholm, Sweden. I was also now working at Glyndebourne, and specialising increasingly in Mozart. This was still limited to the big four or five operas, but I was becoming more and more interested in where Mozart’s operatic style and personality grew from. This was the seed for starting Classical Opera; I was struck by the dichotomy between Mozart being arguably the most highly regarded composer in the history of opera and yet only about a quarter of his operas holding a place in the repertoire of the world’s opera houses. There was no sudden light-bulb moment, but it gradually became important to me to try to set up a company that could do for Mozart what the Royal Shakespeare Company does for Shakespeare.

Over the years our brief, and my interests and ambitions for the company, have evolved, influenced partly by my growing fascination with placing Mozart’s music in context and partly by the feeling that there should be no limit to the repertoire we explore, having invested so much in assembling a wonderful team of musicians and establishing a shared philosophy and approach to performing the music of the 18th century. The name Classical Opera has increasingly felt limiting to this evolution, and earlier this year we launched The Mozartists as a vehicle for our expanding concert work.

Over our first 20 years our repertoire has already ranged from cantatas by Handel and Pergolesi to symphonies by Beethoven and Schubert, but Mozart – and his operas in particular – has always been our starting point. This new name allows us greater freedom and flexibility in our programming, while hopefully also causing less confusion among promoters and audiences. The important step for me was the recognition that we’re not exclusively an opera company, and so long as Mozart remains central to our repertoire and mission, there’s no reason why we can’t also explore Handel and Beethoven and even beyond.

20th Birthday Concert – 9 October 2017

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Classical Opera Company rehearsing Artaxerxes

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Classical Opera - Adriano in Siria

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2. In October 2017 you have released the CD recording Il Sogno di Scipione by Mozart, an opera composed in Salzburg in 1771, when Mozart was only 15 years old. You have studied and conducted Mozart’s early works, especially operas, for a long time: what’s your general impression on this incredible work by a young genius of 15 years old? Which parts of Il Sogno di Scipione impressed you most? In June 2018 you are going to conduct Mozart’s first full-length opera La finta semplice (1768), marking so another 250th anniversary. La finta semplice was written in 1768, in difficult conditions, and Il Sogno di Scipione in 1771, after Mozart’s formative experience in Italy: what’s the technical difference between the two works, in your opinion? Il Sogno di Scipione is part of your project The Complete Mozart Operas, which started in 2012: at which point of your Mozartian operatic parcours are you now and what for the future?

The parallel with Shakespeare is a significant one.

Both Mozart and Shakespeare wrote some works that are less good than others, but even in the least good ones they will suddenly do something – tap a depth of beauty, wisdom or truth – that no one else could have thought of.

Il sogno di Scipione is an interesting case in point. It’s not one of his most challenging or accomplished works – indeed it’s the first release in our ongoing complete Mozart Opera cycle that we recorded without having previously performed the work in the theatre or the concert hall – but it still has touches, details, sleights of hand, that none of his contemporaries could have thought of…

… There’s an accompanied recitative near the end in which Scipio awakens from his dream. As he stirs the sound-world suddenly changes and the strings play two bars that instantly transport the listener to a magical, elevated place.

Il sogno di Scipione

The more familiar I become with Mozart’s early operas the more aware I become that what he was extraordinary at is matching the scale and ambition of each work to the level and expectation of the commission. Works commissioned to celebrate royal weddings were virtuosic but emotionally shallow, and works written for young or amateur performers were charming but technically undemanding, while he was able to throw the kitchen sink at major commissions such as Mitridate and Lucio Silla, in the knowledge that he was writing for some of the top singers and players of the day.

Il sogno di Scipione was commissioned as a dutiful and obsequious act of homage to the Archbishop of Salzburg, so it had a specific function whose message would only be muddied by a complex plot. In truth, the piece has virtually no plot whatsoever, and this had been one of my reasons for not having performed it before. During rehearsals for the recording, though, the moment we accepted the lack of plot and started to explore the way the score underpins and enhances the philosophical nature of the libretto, we found that the music suddenly lifted off the page, and it was wonderful to see how much our singers and players started to appreciate and enjoy the piece.
La finta semplice was composed for Vienna’s leading opera buffa singers, although in the end it was never performed there, and Goldoni’s libretto is genuinely comic, so the twelve-year-old Mozart gave it his best shot. In keeping with the styles of the day, the arias are substantially shorter than opera seria ones, but the music is astonishingly skilful and successful, and the chain-finales already anticipate the celebrated Da Ponte operas

La Finta Semplice Trailer – 6 & 8 June 2018

… At the conclusion there is even a poignant pre-echo of Le nozze di Figaro, as Giacinta begs forgiveness from her brothers for her impish trickery. With Rosina’s Senti l’eco and Amoretti, too, time suddenly seems to stand still and the comedy is briefly suspended in a vision of genuine sincerity, compassion and vulnerability.

The next release (the seventh) in our ongoing complete Mozart cycle will be of Bastien und Bastienne, which we are coupling with the early dramatic cantata Grabmusik. These two works, both completed before Mozart even reached his teens, will be released in autumn 2018, and again reflect Mozart’s skill at matching his music to the scale of the commission. Bastien und Bastienne was the only one of Mozart’s operas to be conceived for performance in a private house rather than a theatre or opera house, but its bucolic charm and simplicity are beguiling.

Grabmusik, meanwhile, was allegedly the result of a test set by the distrusting Archbishop of Salzburg, who had the young composer confined to solitary confinement while he set the text, to prove that he was not receiving help from his father or any other elders. The result is one of Mozart’s least known works, but it contains music of incredible emotional range, that must have quashed any doubters for good!

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Ian Page’s
THE COMPLETE MOZART’S OPERAS – CD Series (2011-2017)
& Other Albums
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Mozart: Il sogno di Scipione
Perfido! Vocal Works by Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven
Mozart: Zaide

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Handel: Where’re You Walk
Mozart: Il Re Pastore
Mozart: Mitridate, re di Ponto

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Mozart: Die Schuldigkeit des Ersten Gebots
Mozart: Apollo et Hyacinthus
Gluck: Blessed Spirit

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Arne: Artaxerxes
A-Z Mozart Opera

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3. In 2015 with your Classical Opera you have launched another special type of concerts, synchronically featuring works by Mozart and by his major contemporaries during the same musical season: MOZART 250, which, through its concerts and its retrospective Series, chronologically follows an ideal 250th anniversary line in the annual footsteps of Mozart’s life from 1765/2015 (Mozart’s childhood visit to London) to 1791/2041. What led you to create such special annual series of musical events? Beside Mozart’s La finta semplice, in 2018 you’ll present Haydn’s Applausus, his Symphony No. 26 Lamentatione and other works by him and music by J.C.Bach, Jommelli, Hasse and Vanhal: what about your interest in the music by this group of composers and, in particular, in the music by Haydn?

Again, I can’t remember the exact moment I had the idea, but it seems to incorporate several of the things that are important to me. I’ve always been fascinated by what music Mozart heard and was influenced by, and which of his fellow composers he admired (he was famously dismissive of most of them!).

I also found myself being increasingly frustrated by reviewers and commentators judging Mozart’s early works in comparison with the masterpieces he was writing twenty years later rather than with the other music being written and performed at the same time.

Even when I first set up Classical Opera it seemed obvious that if we learnt to perform works like La finta semplice and Mitridate well then that would beneficially inform our performances of the great masterpieces of his maturity, and with MOZART 250 it’s proved really useful to be able to place Mozart’s works alongside works being written in the same year by other composers. Even those pieces which Mozart would almost certainly not have heard throw light on the gradual evolution of musical style during his lifetime, and of course the works that he did know are of even greater interest.

We’ve already featured over thirty composers in the first three years of MOZART 250, and our 2015 mini-festival exploring the music being performed in London during Mozart’s childhood stay there featured several composers that not even I had heard of before – people like Mattia Vento, Davide Perez, George Rush and William Bates.

We’ll be releasing a 2-CD set of highlights from these concerts in May 2018.

If everything goes according to plan MOZART 250 will generally form approximately half of our live projects each year between now and 2041.

Every January we present a retrospective concert offering an overview of the musical year 250 years previously. Our 1768 survey, which takes place at Wigmore Hall on 23 January, will include symphonies by Haydn and Vanhal, a flute concerto by Johann Christian Bach, played by our principal flautist Katy Bircher, and arias from Jommelli’s Fetonte, Hasse’s Piramo e Tisbe, Haydn’s Lo speziale and Mozart’s La finta semplice, all sung by the young Swiss-Belgian soprano Chiara Skerath, making her UK début. Devising these programmes is very labour-intensive but I really enjoy the process, and it always throws up some fascinating discoveries.

Of course there are some years when Mozart was extremely prolific and others when he wrote very little, but even the least productive years provide opportunities to dig a little deeper into other more obscure repertoire…

…  1766 (2016), for example, was a relatively thin year on paper, but it enabled us to present the UK première of Jommelli’s Il Vologeso, which proved to be a great success. As we enter the fourth year of MOZART 250 a consistent pattern is starting to take shape, with Haydn unsurprisingly emerging as the leading light alongside the young Mozart.

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And about Haydn,…

… just consider that, beside Applausus and his symphony No. 26 for this season, I’m on a mission to champion all the symphonies without a nickname, because they tend to be overlooked in favour of those with nicknames, and among those nos. 47, 80 and 99 are particular favourites.

Haydn 2009 Celebrations

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Ian Page’s MOZART 250 – The Journey of a Lifetime
Complete Concerts Series (2015-2018)
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Mozart 250: Year 1768-2018
Mozart 250: Year 1767-2017
Mozart 250: Year 1766-2016
Mozart 250: Year 1765-2015

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4. You have worked at Glyndebourne and Drottningholm, experiencing, in this way, peculiar conditions of opera performance, a few of them, certainly typical of the 18th century (the Drottningholm Theatre, for example): how such experiences enriched your vision of the 18th century music? You have worked also with Sir Charles Mackerras, Sir Alexander Gibson, Ivor Bolton, Nicholas McGegan, Mark Wigglesworth: how did they contribute to your growth as a musician, as a conductor and as an artist? You work with many marvellous, also young, artists and professionals year after year: do you want to remember someone in particular and some anecdotes? And as an entrepreneur, what have been your major challenges and what your advice and tips for those who’d like to launch their careers in the world of classical music as entrepreneurs?

When I assisted Nic McGegan at Drottningholm we were working on a production of Una cosa rara by Martin y Soler, and it was fascinating to work on such a typical 18th-century opera there.

After a few weeks in a rehearsal studio in Stockholm it seemed like a distinctly average piece with a fairly ordinary cast, but as soon as rehearsals moved into the Drottningholm theatre the piece, and the singers, suddenly sounded a million dollars!

That was a really formative experience for me; it made me realise that there are so many 18th-century works that need the right tender, loving care to flourish, and that they really start to make sense when you can recreate the conditions for which they were originally conceived.

Glyndebourne was also a wonderful place to work, and it was there that I first met and worked with Sir Charles Mackerras. I worked on all three of the Mozart/Da Ponte operas there, and as assistant conductor I had musical responsibility for luxuriously extensive understudy rehearsals, which provided me with the opportunity to work with some of the leading young singers in the country. I subsequently assisted Mackerras on his recording of Idomeneo, and he followed the development of Classical Opera with a keen interest, always generous with his advice and encouragement. Along with Stanley Sadie and Christopher Raeburn – two other great people, great minds and great Mozartians – he was the most influential mentor for me in the early years of the company.

I worked with the other three conductors you mention on rather different repertoire – Puccini, Britten and Stravinsky – but I learnt a huge amount from all of them. Sir Alex was particularly warm and inspirational, and I continue to hold Mark Wigglesworth up as a role model for his fierce musical intelligence and the depth of his thinking and preparation.

Then there are the conductors and other musicians from whom I’ve learnt so much from watching them perform or listening to their recordings. We should always retain an overriding sense of modesty and humility, but at the same time it’s really important in refining our own thoughts and interpretations to analyse what we particularly like or dislike about other performers and performances.

When I started Classical Opera we quickly gained a reputation for our work in identifying and nurturing top-quality young singers. This was partly due to the fact that we couldn’t afford more established artists, but it’s also true that this repertoire particularly suits young voices.

Young singers also tend to be more open to the style of detailed, explorative rehearsals that I prefer, and what I find particularly satisfying now is that when singers who worked with us at the start of their careers come back after a gap of several years, we already have a shared language which comes back in a matter of minutes, as with all good friendships.

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It took me rather longer to work out and identify the sort of players that I most enjoyed working with, but now that we have established such a strong and loyal sense of ensemble I’m continually inspired and fed by the players with whom I work.

It takes a certain type of open spirit, and intellectual rigour, to tame and master these wonderful old instruments, and building an ensemble isn’t just about finding the best players but also about instilling the right shared values, goals and reasons for doing what we do.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

Oh dear, these answers will probably change on a daily basis!

For Mozart it would probably have to be one of the operas or one of the piano concertos.

The C minor Mass would also be a contender, probably more so than the Requiem, and a recent addition to the short-list would be the Sinfonia Concertante K.364, which I conducted for the first time three months ago. But how to whittle it down to one? The old cliché is probably right, that my favourite Mozart opera is the one I’m working on at the time, but this week, and off the top of my head because I know the question will get harder the more I think about it, my short-list would be Idomeneo, Così fan tutte, Die Zauberflöte and the Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor. And if I had to name one – today, and without questioning why on earth Figaro and Don Giovanni aren’t on my shortlist – I’ll say Così fan tutte. It’s such a profound, complex and modern score, and is still widely misunderstood and under-appreciated.

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Haydn is hardly any easier.

As I’ve already said previously, I’m on a mission to champion all the symphonies without a nickname, because they tend to be overlooked in favour of those with nicknames, and among those nos. 47, 80 and 99 are particular favourites. Today’s podium places, though, would be occupied by:

3. String Quartet in F major, Op. 77, no. 2.
2. Piano Sonata No. 52 in E flat major
1. Symphony No. 44 in E minor, Trauer

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

You mean apart from Mozart?…

… I’m only joking, but I do love the line of Peter Schickele, who, when asked which composer he considered to be the most underrated, replied: «Mozart – since the highest rave is a gross understatement».

Gluck CO’s Blessed Spirit at Gramophone Critics Choice December 2010

Apart from Mozart, there is still valuable work to be done in increasing appreciation of Gluck (especially his pre-Orfeo operas) and Johann Christian Bach, but of the more forgotten names there are five that stand out for me: Beck, Jommelli, Kraus, Traetta and Vanhal.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

I have quite a lot of these, including several by the composers I’ve just mentioned.

They’re not confined to lesser known composers either; in March we’re performing Haydn’s Applausus cantata, which doesn’t seem to have been presented in London for many years. I’m in a very fortunate position, because when I do come across a neglected work that I really rate I can often incorporate it into our programming.

For this question, though, I’m actually going to choose a work by Mozart – his concert aria Ah, lo previdi, K.272…

Perfido!

… Mozart’s concert arias in general don’t get as much exposure as they deserve, and I’ve never understood why this should be…

… Maybe promoters just don’t think of singers to fill their concerto slot. Whatever the reasons for their relative neglect, Mozart’s concert arias contain some of his best music, and the more extended ones are like concentrated mini-operas in their own right.

Ah, lo previdi is certainly one of these, a scena lasting over twelve minutes and incorporating two fiercely dramatic recitatives – the second one in particular contains some astonishing harmonic shifts and moments of exquisite, tender vulnerability – and two arias, the second of which incorporates a beautiful oboe solo.

Mozart clearly held the work in high regard, subsequently urging his beloved Aloysia Weber to learn it and «to put yourself in all seriousness into Andromeda’s situation and position», and the celebrated Mozart biographer Alfred Einstein wrote that Mozart «almost never wrote anything more ambitious, or containing stronger dramatic feeling».

We are including this piece in Perfido!, our recent recording of Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven concert arias with Sophie Bevan, and I was delighted how many of the reviews singled it out for praise.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I’m very grateful for the opportunity that this question gives me to acknowledge some of the books I couldn’t do without!

With Mozart of course we are lucky in that we have a very substantial series of Mozart family letters that have survived, and Otto Deutsch’s collection of Mozart documents is similarly indispensable, so these are the two bibles.

Too many modern biographies intercede with their author’s own attempts to formulate a particular theory or new angle, but a glorious exception is Stanley Sadie’s Mozart: the early years. This was intended as the first of a two-part biography, but Stanley sadly died before he could write the second book. For a clear, authoritative and insightful overview of Mozart’s life and works up until 1781, though, this is the book to have.

Scarcely a month goes past without me referring to two other fabulous books: The Compleat Mozart (don’t be put off by the title), edited by Neal Zaslaw, is a wonderful compendium of Mozart’s complete works, and Peter Clive’s Mozart and his Circle contains invaluable biographical entries on all the important people in Mozart’s life.

Zaslaw’s benchmark book on Mozart’s Symphonies is also outstanding, and for Mozart’s operas I still don’t think that anyone has rivalled William Mann’s The Operas of Mozart, first published in 1977, which has the huge advantage of devoting a whole chapter to each of the pre-Idomeneo operas, rather than merging them into a token single-chapter appraisal.

My final top recommendation would be John A. Rice’s Mozart on the Stage, which has fascinating information and insights on how Mozart’s operas would have been composed, rehearsed and staged.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Like the play, the film of Amadeus has plenty of critics, but despite its faults it does recreate the spirit of Mozart’s Vienna (despite being filmed in Prague!), and the flights of fancy about how some of Mozart’s compositions came into being are captivating and imaginative, if spurious. I also find Farinelli exciting for its evocation of 18th-century theatres and opera performances.

In terms of documentaries, Phil Grabsky’s excellent In Search of… series has incorporated full length films devoted to Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, but I have a hazy memory of a wonderful series of TV programmes on these composers (and Schubert) from the 1980s…

… It was presented by Bamber Gascoigne and had Stanley Sadie as musical consultant, and I think it was called Man and Music. I’ve no idea whether these programmes are available anywhere now, but I’d love to know if they are, if only to see if they’re as good as I remember…

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

I’m not sure I can think of anywhere about which I could make such an expansive claim, but the Drottningholm Slottsteater is my own personal First Choice.

I’m a big fan of Stockholm and its people, and the story behind the theatre’s preservation is such a fortuitous and romantic one. It’s an amazingly beautiful place and setting, too, but more than anything it’s the ambience inside the theatre itself which is truly magical. It feels as close to time travel as I’m ever likely to get!

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2018 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

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Interview December 2017: 10 Questions with M. S. Zimmer & W. Holsbergen

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Zimmer-Holsbergen: Official Sites
Zimmer-Holsbergen Site: The Unheard Beethoven

Zimmer-Holsbergen: CD Albums
Zimmer-Holsbergen : Beethoven: The Forgotten Works for String Quartet
Zimmer-Holsbergen : Beethoven: Fantasies for Piano


This month a very curious and interesting journey through the extra-rarities, the many snippets and sketches and the various intriguing unfinished works left by L. van Beethoven, which all constitute an incredible really voluminous corpus (ca. some hundreds of neglected works by the great master!) and the many contemporary projects to prepare or reconstruct new performance editions for the modern Concert Halls…

1. Your project and your work on Beethoven certainly reached a particular status of recognition, when it left the Internet to reach the Concert Halls. First of all, with the great Leonard Slatkin, conducting the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington in 2001 and then in 2011 with the Naxos Records Belgian conductor Patrick Baton. Can you tell us about your experience and some major anecdotes on the live premieres and such a special passage from the Internet to Concert Halls?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

I still remember well the phone call I received from our friend and supporter James F. Green, who is also on the board of the American Beethoven Society. He had, unbeknownst to us, leaned on some supporters of the National Symphony, and somehow received an audience with Maestro Slatkin, in order to show him the score of the Macbeth Overture as realized from Beethoven’s sketches by Willem. As Jim tells it, Slatkin was receptive, agreed to look at the score, and thumbed through it saying, «this is good… I like this… I think we have room in our opening concert of the fall». It’s far beyond what Jim had expected and certainly a massive surprise to us. It’s amazing what doors can be opened with just a little persistence. It’s really a tribute to Slatkin’s willingness to try new things and make an impression.

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The premiere was shaping up to be a major event, with dignitaries and ambassadors from across the globe penciled in to attend. Unfortunately, the concert was scheduled for September 2011, and the premiere was just over a week away when the World Trade Center was hit in New York. All flights were shut down, and it looked as though the concert might even be cancelled. It was exceedingly doubtful that Willem would be able to make it, coming from Europe. Finally the concert was confirmed, and some rules were loosened to permit air travel, and both Willem and I were able to attend. On my flight to Washington DC there was only one other passenger, a fellow on crutches, so I figured I could take him if he caused any trouble. But the trip was uneventful for me.

Once in Washington, I met up with Green and Willem, and also met a number of other Unheard Beethoven supporters: the late musicologist Avishai Kallai from Israel, writer Gail Altman, Annie Moss Moore the creator of the sadly now-defunct Beethoven recording database, pianist and musicologist Susan Kagan, William Meredith then the director of the San Jose Ira F. Brilliant Beethoven Center, and others. It was an amazing time, and it was incredibly thrilling to attend the rehearsal of the orchestra as they worked their way through the Macbeth; it was clear that the basses in particular enjoyed the meaty parts that Willem had written for them. While I’d heard the synthesized version from our website many time, to finally hear it with a live orchestra was simply overwhelming. It was the second time I’d met Willem face to face, but we had spent so much time talking over the Internet it was like we were brothers immediately.

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I attended all three performances of the Macbeth by the National Symphony, and it was a wonderful experience. The ABS had also arranged for some of us to venture to the National Archives and actually handle (with white gloves) some Beethoven manuscripts. It’s such a connection with history to physically touch the papers that Beethoven himself wrote upon. I happily translated in my best woeful singing voice what was written there and conducted in my white gloves, to the amusement of the other spectators.

Willem had more involvement with Patrick Baton than I did.

We also had another live presentation at the Kennedy Center about ten years after the Macbeth premiere, where Willem’s realization of the second movement of the lost oboe concerto Hess 12 was presented, with H. David Meyers as the soloist.

The Unheard Beethoven:
Beethoven, Choral Fantasy Op. 80 (New Version World Premiere)
After Beethoven’s own sketches (Hess 16)
Conductor Patrick Baton
Liege, March 2011 (first 3 min. 36)


                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

As Mark said, I was on the first plane from Europe after the 09.11. There were many Americans on board, who had been stranded in Europe for 5 days, because all flights had been cancelled. When we flew over New York, the Americans went to the windows looking for the disappeared Towers. A solemn moment. An inaudible, silent gasp went through the plane…

… Later on, when I reached Washington, of course, I never believed the theory that a group of Avantgarde composers had carried out the attack, and that their actual aim had been… the very Kennedy Center, just to sabotage the premiere. That’s just too silly… these people would never have been able to carry it through…

Anyhow one… I must really call him a journalist!?… (but we must really call him this way…!?) had been making a lot of noise for several weeks, protesting against the performance. He said that the time allocated to the Macbeth ought to have gone to a contemporary piece… But he totally missed the point that the Macbeth, by its very nature, could equally be called a contemporary piece, indeed, that is precisely its raison d’être

What he actually meant to say is that the emotional states expressed in that piece, and the use of 19th century skills, are strictly forbidden by the rules of the Avantgarde ideology, and… that these should be kept repressed…!?!?!?

As for Patrick Baton, he is a very intelligent musician, and passionate about the music he performs. I enjoyed our conversations very much. He has a rare insight, and the ability to get to the essence very quickly.

We did a special version of Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy, Op. 80. The piece starts with a long introduction for piano solo. The interesting thing, however, is that Beethoven sketched a string accompaniment for that intro, probably after he had published the score. These string parts are numbered as Hess 16, and Baton did the world premiere of that version. The main takeaway from the event was that the introduction does indeed sound much better with the strings.

So, pianists planning to perform the Choral Fantasy should really take that into consideration… Not doing so is, frankly, a real musical shame.

Belgian TV announcing
Beethoven: New Choral Fantasy Hess 16 World Premiere
Liege, March 2011

The Unheard Beethoven:
Oboe Concerto (Hess 12) World Premiere
Patrick Baton (Conductor), Nathalie Rompen (Oboe)
Liege, March 2011

2. What’s the origin of your project? How have you been developing it through the years? What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced during these years?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

The project began in a haphazard sort of way back in the 1990s. I was fresh to the Internet and had discovered DALNet, an Internet Relay Chat host, through an acquaintance who was using it to talk with friends about a mutual interest in carnival glass. I got onto it as well and wondered if there was a Beethoven discussion on the internet. In fact, there was a #beethoven channel, which was either run by Willem or he was one of the major participants, under the name of ‘xickx.’ We both were inveterate collectors of Beethoven recordings, and at some point the discussion turned to the complete works of Beethoven, and whether it was possible to amass a collection of recordings that would in some sense be complete. As a frustrated librarian and historian (I’m actually an attorney since neither of those things pays very well), I dove into the question with gusto.

The first issue was, what exactly constitutes the complete works?

Obviously, there are the 138 works with opus numbers, but there were at that time 205 more WoO (Werke ohne Opuszahl, or Works without Opus numbers) in the Kinsky-Halm catalogue. And then we found out about Willy Hess’s catalogues of Beethoven’s works, which in its 335 works overlapped somewhat with Kinsky-Halm’s catalogue. Thankfully, I live in Madison, home of the University of Wisconsin, and they have a splendid music library that has copies of both Kinsky-Halm (and its supplements) and the Hess catalogue. Then we found out that Giovanni Biamonti had in 1968 assembled an even more complete catalogue, with many more works, some of them fragmentary, some of them complete, that had been missed by both of the others, running up to… 849 numbers!

So complete was obviously a moving target that was elusive.

But it was shocking to us how many of these works had never been recorded!

At that time, the vast majority of the folksong arrangements had never been recorded, many of the piano bagatelles, some of the lieder and choral works, and many others. In addition, the recordings of some of the others were quite rare and hard to come across. I combed through the library’s old Schwann catalogues covering the entire LP era trying to track down recordings. I had standing orders with a number of record search services to find the more elusive items. For several years Willem and I swapped cassette tapes of recordings across the Atlantic in those pre-MP3 days, in an effort to fill in the holes in each others’ collections.

In the end, we were still left with a great many Beethoven compositions that we would never be able to hear. Willem then introduced me to midi sequencers, which allowed one to synthesize a crude version of a composition so you could hear something of what it would sound like; he shared a number of his efforts and it seemed like a great idea. In the meantime, I was also in touch with the San Jose Beethoven Center and its gloriously helpful librarian/archivist Patricia Elliott Stroh, about getting scores for a number of Beethoven pieces that hadn’t been recorded. We began synthesizing them and sharing them with each other and the participants on DALnet. I no longer remember what Willem’s first efforts were, but I remember that mine were the string quintet version of WoO 62, the last thing of substance Beethoven wrote, and his setting of Erlkönig, WoO 131, written decades before Schubert’s famous settings but nevertheless quite similar indeed.

As we proceeded, getting copies of scores from the UW-Madison Music Library, which had a set of Hess’s Supplement to the Gesamtausgabe, and more scores of rarities from San Jose, we soon had close to 100 midi files. While it was fun to swap them and share them on DALnet, it was clear that there was an opportunity being lost there, and it would be nice to share them more widely…

I think Willem suggested a permanent website to host them. I had a friend, Steve Lange, who did website design and hosting, and asked if he’d be willing to help us out. He was more than willing—I think his exact reaction was something like: «This is exactly what the Internet should be about». We puzzled about a name for a while and came up with The Unheard Beethoven, which is a little clunky, but certainly distinctive, since it both suggests what people are missing and plays off Beethoven’s own deafness.

It took a few months, but Steve got us up and running and we’ve been adding things in fits and starts ever since. The website still resides at http://unheardbeethoven.org after nearly 20 years.

At some point Steve Lange got another job and no longer was doing website design; he tried to help us over the years but eventually he had to turn it over to another fellow who did some nice work for us. Unfortunately he had some personal problems and we had difficulty reaching him.

That was unsatisfactory, and we asked Steve for help again. He suggested another of his friends, composer Kevin McLeod (who provides a massive library of his royalty-free music at https://incompetech.com/music/ ). Kevin was wanting to do more web design and he agreed to help us bring The Unheard Beethoven back to life in the 21st century. Kevin got us set up with a new website in February of 2013, running on a WordPress framework that allows us to (mostly) do all the updating we want ourselves.

We celebrated by converting many of the MIDI files to mp3s to take advantage of the greater bandwidth availability and the ubiquity of the format… not to mention improved sound quality, since we could use our sample libraries that were much superior to the run of the mill libraries that our users generally had, in order to generate the mp3s.

Among the new features of the new site, probably The Unheard Blog is one of the features we like best, since it allows us (and guest writers) to spout off about topics that we are interested in.

We’ve been adding things steadily and there’s still more in the works; I’m currently working on the recently-published volumes of Beethoven’s counterpoint studies with Haydn and Albrechtsberger; they’re not the most interesting things in the world (especially the studies with Haydn), but the knowledge of fugue and counterpoint that Beethoven developed in these works is vital to the understanding of the fascination that the fugue held for him throughout his life. And of course, precious few of these fugues and exercises have ever been recorded, so much of this will be new to listeners.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

The great challenge in completing the sketches has been to feel one’s way into the emotional states of these sketches.

In some cases the emotions are pretty obvious, in other cases not at all. It is wrong to think that if you just rake together some notes you get melodies expressing wonderful things, and that is certainly not always the case in the Beethoven sketches.

You have to be able to recognize the synergetic effects between the notes, and then become aware of the emotional charge of these effects. This is essentially the same way I work on my own melodies in their early stages. However, in the case of Beethoven the additional challenge is to get emotional states that are at his level (while in my own work I have, in principle, the right to go for whatever trivialities I choose). Sometimes small changes in the notes are required to get any synergetic effects at all, which is then considered controversial by those who do not understand how these things work. By the way, recognizing the synergetic effects was in the old days loosely referred to as having an ear for melody.

Once you know the emotional charge, then things will come together, and what has to be done at the technical level becomes obvious. The technical issues are trivial compared to the first stage, but can still be quite challenging. Of course a lot can be said about these issues, but going into that would be somewhat beyond the scope of this interview. Anyone who is interested should write to us at the Unheard Beethoven, and we will discuss it there.

3. A fundamental part of your project is also dedicated to the Seldom-Heard Beethoven, an important reference tool for any musician interested in the music by Beethoven. In fact, while now the Complete Mozart Edition has two great monumental products as reference, which are both easily available to anyone, the old Complete Beethoven Edition 1997 (Deutsche Grammophon) and the following projects by other classical music record labels are neither easily available nor so complete, after all. Can you trace out a state-of-the-art about the recordings of Beethoven’s works and their availability?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

It’s correct that the Complete Beethoven Edition of 1997, while it was good, was woefully incomplete and now it’s long out of print and can be quite expensive to acquire (not to mention that it was never cheap in the first place; I paid close to a thousand dollars for it the first week it came out, but I was ecstatic to be able to do so since it offered the first more or less complete recording of the folksongs and many other items that were never before recorded, so for that we owe Deutsche Grammophon a great deal of thanks).

Much of the slack since that now twenty-years-old set has been picked up by Brilliant Classics, which has had at least three different versions of its Beethoven Edition box over the years, which not only covers much of the ground that DG had done for a tenth of the price, but has also added new recordings. Their set of the confusing Italian part-songs Beethoven wrote for Salieri is to date the best, and is more or less complete; they also have added the very first complete recording of the lied Der Bardengeist WoO 142, previously available only in badly truncated and incomplete recordings.

There was also an inexpensive complete set of CDs from Cascade Records that had a number of problems (missing the first bar of the First Symphony being but one of them), and we understand that a number of licensors never were paid. But it also includes as of this writing the only commercial release of Erlkönig WoO 131 (in Reinhold Becker’s completion, not our version that adheres more closely to Beethoven’s continuity draft).

Over the years we have also been pleased to be a resource to boutique labels such as Monument Records from Washington DC, and Inedita Records from Italy. Both catalogues are sadly now slowly going out of print, but between them they released a great many Beethoven works that had never been recorded. So they are an important resource for collectors as well.

There was also a recording of never-before recorded orchestral works, including some realizations by Willem, made by Stefan Sanderling and the Orchestre de Bretagne for the ASV label. Unfortunately, just before it was released ASV fell into financial trouble and it never came out…

… My understanding is that Universal Music (which now owns DG, Decca, Philips and other labels) now controls the ASV catalogue, so perhaps we will see that CD someday. I’ve heard it and it’s quite wonderful; it’s really a loss that Universal hasn’t seen fit to do anything with it.

Given that Beethoven’s 250th birthday is coming up in the year 2020, I feel confident that we can expect some major releases from various labels.

I’d like to hope we see a truly comprehensive megabox of Beethoven along the lines of the splendid Mozart 225 box from DG/Decca released last year.

In fact, we have been contacted by one label (I don’t know that we are at liberty to specify which) to try to help them make the most complete release possible of Beethoven’s works, and we’re excited at the opportunity. If we are able to do that and make The Unheard Beethoven unnecessary, then I for one will be overjoyed that we’ve succeeded in our mission.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

I’m afraid that my only contribution to the Seldom-Heard-Beethoven page has been to encourage Mark to go ahead with an update, at a moment he was doubting whether it was worth the effort.

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4. You have established a long collaboration with the Ira F. Brilliant Beethoven Center at San Jose State University. Since both Mozart and Beethoven were great improvisers, many of their sketches of music were material for actual improvisation and so for what were, in reality, complete full-length performances. It is a fact that the work carried out by Constanze Mozart and her collaborators, the Abbé Stadler, in particular, after 1791, was also intended to make many works by Mozart, just left in fragments, available again for performance. Your project seems to have had the same target and to have carried on a sort of work, no-one actually did for Beethoven,… as, instead, Constanze and the others had done for Mozart. What have been the interest of modern composers and conductors in your work of collecting Beethoven’s fragments in this particular way? How many completion works have you published? How is it possible to receive a performing score for those completion works? And, in conclusion, what’s the actual situation of the 10th Symphony today, after so many attempts of reconstruction?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

This is really a better question for Willem since he does the heavy lifting for the reconstructions and realizations; I’ve dabbled with it a little but he has a unique ability to see the sketches through Beethoven’s eyes and at the same time use his own imagination within the constraints of the classical style and Beethoven’s compositional attitudes to come up with completions and realizations that are both convincing and true to the spirit of Beethoven.

One of the projects we have had ongoing for some years is related to an improvisation that Beethoven did as a teenager in Bonn against the chant of the Lamentations of Jeremiah during Holy Week. His sketches for that still survive and we’ve made several attempts at getting them into a performing state, but they really point out just how harmonically adventurous Beethoven could be. In that particular instance, as Wegeler relates the tale, the young Beethoven asked the tenor who was engaged to sing the Lamentations whether he minded if Ludwig attempted to throw him off with his harmonizations. The tenor, not realizing who he was dealing with, laughed and told the boy to try his best. That evening, as the tenor began singing, Ludwig went into the most wild and outrageous harmonizations and soon the tenor was red-faced and spluttering with rage. After he complained to the Elector, Beethoven received a gentle chiding not to do that again to their guests.

In any event, once we have that in a workable form it will really open some eyes as to what Beethoven’s imagination was capable of. I’d like to see that put into finished form within the next two years, before the 250th birthday.

We’ve also hosted completions by others, one of the most important being Nicholas Cook’s performing edition of the first movement of the incomplete Piano Concerto No. 6 in D, Hess 15 (not to be confused with the piano concerto arrangement by Beethoven of the Violin Concerto Op.61, which is sometimes referred to as Piano Concerto No. 6). That completion had a brief bit of notoriety, and then seemed to have vanished until we found Cook’s journal article. We contacted Dr. Cook for a copy of the score, which he generously provided, and put it on the website, where I’m pleased to say it has generated some interest and resulted in its being recorded on the Inedita Records label by Robert Diem Tigani with Maurizio Paciarello on piano.

Some notable names such as Slatkin, Sanderling, Tigani, Steven Beck, the Covington String Quartet and others as noted have been willing to give these realizations a chance, and for that we’re grateful.

They’re obviously not Beethoven, but they do give us an insight into what Beethoven was thinking.

The Tenth Symphony is something we haven’t tackled, although there are quite a few sketches extant, and as you say a number of versions, Barry Cooper’s being the best known. We also have on the website two different composers’ attempts at a realization of the symphony, which differ vastly from each other and from Cooper’s efforts. Given the quality of Cooper’s realization, we’re content to keep that on the back burner and concentrate on pieces that haven’t seen the light of day… But the differences of opinion as to where the composer was going to go with the piece are pretty startling to say the least.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Of course, the completion of Mozart’s Requiem by Süssmayr was critized by a certain Gottfried Weber in the 1820s. He said: «Wouldn’t it be terrible if we mistook a stupidity by Süssmayr for a stroke of genius by Mozart? And wouldn’t we then look foolish?». His weakness was, obviously, that he, for one, couldn’t tell the difference, because otherwise there is no need to worry. Abbé Stadler wrote several articles defending Süssmayr’s completion, and Beethoven wrote a letter to Stadler, saying that he fully agreed with him.

From modern composers of the old Avantgarde school the reaction has ranged from total indifference, to hostility at best.

The younger generation is more interested.

But their problem is that their education is conforming them to the 20th century paradigm, so they are not sure whether they are allowed to take an interest.

Many sense that what they are looking for can be found by us, but often they are still a bit scared. I hope that I’ve been able to teach some of them things of value, and point them in the right direction.

You can get performing scores by asking us for it. If an edition for the requested piece doesn’t exist, we will produce one.

However, I’ll do it only under the strict condition that you understand that you perform a completion because of its own intrinsic merits, and place the performance or recording in the context of the 21st century. We cannot go back to an imaginary 18th or 19th century, nor should we want to, but these fundamental values ought to be revived in our era.

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5. If it is possible to add a few words on this subject… After all, you well know that, beside the intricate Requiem affair and also thanks to the letters of Constanze, we are aware of the fact that she tried, in many occasions, to have Mozart’s scores back into a performance version… and sometimes trying to relying on the memories of those who heard the actual performance or who played the parts. That’s why modern scholarship has some suspicion also on a few masterpieces by Mozart: some Horn concertos, for example, and even the Clarinet Concerto K. 622 may be objects of some suspicion (see, in particular, Benjamin Perl, The Doubtful Authenticity of Mozart’s Horn Concerto K. 412, and Mozart Studies 2006, editor Simon P. Keefe, passim). So are they real completed compositions by Mozart or performance editions reconstructed by his friends and collaborators? And, beside Constanze’s problem with money and after so many years of much praising on such pieces, can we really really say that Constanze was really wrong in wishing such masterpieces to be in a completed performance form, instead of leaving such works as not usable and useless sketches on paper?…

It’s really an interesting subject, which requires much consideration…

Moreover we know that in classical music a culture of sketches completion and music reelaboration always existed and has been always part of the musical common practice. Apart from the variations technique and the improvisation fugues on themes or sketches, just consider Hummel’s famous own arrangements of Mozart’s works (sometimes trying to render an idea of an actual musical performance which was a bit different from the written score), the musical paraphrases and all those pieces of music which can be called transfiguration works (see MozartCircle Interviews July 2017)…

                                            ____________

Your favourite work by Beethoven, by Mozart, by J. Haydn.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

My favourite work by Beethoven tends to change from time to time; it’s usually one of the Third Symphony, the Waldstein sonata op.53, Rage over a Lost Penny op.128, or the Appassionata op.57. Others frequently in the running are the string trio op.3, Piano Concerto No. 3, the Violin sonata No. 5 Spring, and the Coriolan Overture. Today it’s the Waldstein. You might get a different answer tomorrow.

I’m similarly undecided about Haydn. Any of the London symphonies could qualify at one time or another. I’m a big fan of his The Creation and The Seasons as well. I love his string quartets en masse and would have a difficult time picking one of them. But I think today’s answer is the trumpet concerto.

With Mozart, the answer is easy. As much as I love Beethoven, Mozart’s Ave verum corpus K.618 is the most sublimely beautiful and perfect piece of music ever written by anyone, anywhere, any time, ever. The music Mozart wrote just before he died is so amazing that one dearly wishes he had managed to hang on for at least another year to see what else he would do.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Of course, there is no answer to this question: these guys wrote so many works of the highest quality, that it would be something of an insult to pick just one out. So, I will not do that, and instead mention some works I’ve recently been going through, and point out the details that impressed me.

For Beethoven, I’d like to mention his Sonatas Op. 2. They are really good, and I consider them unsurpassed by anyone in the 19th century (let alone 20th century) in the handling of the structures. Listen to the finale of Op. 2 No. 2 in A. Do note how exaggerated the arpeggio is with which it opens, followed by a fall of more than an octave in the melody. Yes, it is elegant and charming, but the effect is that of making someone a compliment which is somewhat over the top, and may therefore be ironic, and border on the insulting. At each repeat the exaggerations become worse and worse, which then result in the explosion of the middle section. Did the recipient of our compliment notice the insults? So we have here a subtle balance between elegance and humor, which is delightful, and I don’t think there are many other pieces playing a similar game.

A Mozart piece I admire greatly, is his Fugue in C minor, KV. 426 (=KV.546). It is chockablock with all sorts of canons, which makes this piece an intellectual tour de force. But even more important is that, beyond the intellectualism, every bar is filled with deep emotion. Truly the greatest fugue since Bach. It seems that many Mozart fans do not particularly care for this piece, but to fully appreciate his genius, one has to be aware of this other side of his… dark emotions and frightfully intellectual.

Haydn plays a fine joke at the end of the slow movement of his Symphony  No. 97; he is clearly imitating a steam engine! It starts slowly, then picks up speed. You can hear the safety valves (flutes), and some sort of brakes which are very noisy when the engine comes to a slow stop. Haydn must have met a good many industrialists in London, who made their money with their industrial steam engines in their factories, so they will have been very pleased with this joke.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Leopold Kozeluch would be a good candidate.

Over the years quite a few of his compositions have been misattributed to Beethoven. Anyone who can confuse the musicologists that badly as to being the composer of a Beethoven-quality work has to be worth reconsidering.

I’d also like to see Luigi Cherubini reevaluated. He was one of Beethoven’s few contemporaries that Ludwig actually respected and admired, and that has to count for something. There was a recording of Cherubini’s string quartets by Hausmusik London that’s just spectacularly good. His opera Medea/Medée has managed to stay alive thanks in large part to the classic performances of the title role by Maria Callas, and the overture sounds like it could be a Beethoven composition. I’d like to hear a lot more from him. Maybe it’s time for The Unheard Cherubini if The Unheard Beethoven becomes superfluous at some point.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Well, of course I could mention Méhul, who was a transition figure from the classical to the romantic era, like Beethoven, but totally independent from him.

His overtures and symphonies are really intriguing, like La Chasse du Jeune Henri. He is master of good melody, which gives his music great authenticity, although his melodies seem dryer than, say, Mozart’s: perhaps not quite capable to express the full range of human emotions.

Staging a complete Méhul opera may therefore be a good idea, but given the said limitation of his melody, it may not be an entirely enjoyable experience (but I love to be proven wrong here, I haven’t seen any of the scores).

Also, some of his libretti are really bad, with nothing happening at all, as one critic puts it. Mozart was very lucky with his Da Ponte. (Or perhaps Da Ponte became Da Ponte thanks to Mozart).

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Beethoven’s String Trio Op.3 doesn’t get the attention it deserves.

It’s really a remarkable piece that even more than the Opus 1 Trios and Opus 2 Piano Sonatas announces to the world that music has changed forever, and you had better deal with it.

In it I hear the seeds of the Romantic era, quite clearly being planted.

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                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Charles Avison (1707-1790) arranged a selection Scarlatti Sonatas into 12 Concerti Grossi. Roy Goodman, with the Brandenburg Consort, did a fantastic job recording these concerti, back in the 90s, I think. These works, in this arrangement, are to me just as enjoyable as Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos and Handel’s 12 Concerti Grossi Op.6. I hope that some violinists will make them part of their repertoire, and start performing them regularly. It may also be a smart career move for them.

HOWEVER, I must say that this giving thumbs up for this or that composer, or this or that composition from the 18th century, might be a good occasion for further rethinking our relationship with our own contemporary classical music… I mean… that for our spiritual nutrition we are apparently depending on these composers of a previous era. This dependency might be a bit shameful (or helpful? See, infra, my considerations on Charles Rosen’s books), because… well, does it demonstrate that, probably, we are no longer able to create this vital quality ourselves?

You see, in the 18th (and 19th) century music emotion and intellect went hand in hand, indeed, strengthening each other. What I mean is that by the late 20th century, intellect and emotion have become separated quite rigorously; the so-called serious music has become almost exclusively intellectual, to the detriment of the emotional states, while in pop-music any form of intelligence has been removed, allowing for only the most childish emotions. This signifies a deep collective neurosis.

And it should be clear to anyone who is slightly aware of this complex, that part of the solution is to be found in the work of those composers and artists, who are trying to bring about a reconciliation of these psychological functions.

This restoration of the balance should help raise the emotional state of the planet, and possibly start curing the collective neurosis: the unwanted heritage of the last century.

The 21st century has begun. Luckily some have already made the transition, but still too many haven’t.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

Jan Swafford’s 2014 biography, Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph to me has some of the most original thinking on Beethoven that we’ve seen since Thayer.

His discussion of the intellectual background of Neefe, Beethoven’s first teacher, his enormous influence on Beethoven’s worldview lays a convincing and expansive foundation for understanding Beethoven’s work.

I know Willem is a huge fan of Charles Rosen’s writings in The Classical Style so I’ll leave that one to him.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

As Mark said, I find Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style and Sonata Forms essential for any deeper understanding of this period.

However, the issues in these books go well beyond merely understanding that period, since they are, to me, highly important for the regeneration of the classical style in the 21st century.

First, you must realize that structure in music, as in poetry, is part of the content: it matters not only WHAT you say, but also HOW you say it.

This is somewhat analogous to how in physics space and time are intertwined. There is a big difference in the handling of the form by Mozart, Haydn and Beethoven, and the masters of late Romantic era.

In the first decades of the 20st century, the form had become, if you want, a vehicle to express mainly an obsession with death, as if announcing its own demise, which did of course occur at that time.

That, while in the hands of the classical masters the form had been full of vitality, buzzing with energy, expressing a wide range of different emotions in a single piece. Moving from one emotional state to another gave the composers the power to continuously refresh and renew the music.

Indeed, this magical property can be heard as a spiritual fountain of eternal youth. Mozart and Beethoven are the great masters of this magic.

So what had happened in those 120 years, going from eternal youth to death? The official music history tells us that this was a century of continuous progress: composers got better at everything all the time, better at harmony, better at orchestration, better at melody…. (oh, ooops!). Obviously there is something wrong with this narrative…

The books by Charles Rosen are a good first step in reaching a more objective and balanced understanding of this process. First we must know how the masters of the first Viennese school actually understood their own forms, as opposed to how these were perceived by later composers and critics. Only then we can see how in a series of little steps, which by themselves may have been pretty harmless, gradually the original understanding evaporated. Only then are we free to make our own decisions on these matters, a fact which is of vital importance for the new music.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

That’s pretty difficult since so many movies tend to romanticize or worse fantasize impossible and ridiculous things onto the screen (such as the wretched Immortal Beloved, which wastes Gary Oldman’s fine performance on a stupid and obviously wrong solution to the mysterious riddle, or the thoroughly execrable Copying Beethoven). I’m willing to cut some slack for Amadeus because it’s forthrightly a fictional treatment of the story (as told through the memories/delusions of the aged and demented Salieri) and it’s a gorgeous film; nevertheless I can’t in any way recommend it as improving the comprehension of the music of the classical period.

The one film that I think captures the music of the period is the BBC production entitled Eroica (2003), depicting the rehearsals for the first performance of the Third Symphony. I think it does as well as possible at giving a glimpse of what the situation must have been like, and to my knowledge it’s more or less accurate. That the music is provided by John Eliot Gardiner and his Orchestre Révolutionaire et Romantique is a wonderful bonus. The performances are first-rate, and it’s quite absorbing from start to finish, so it has my vote.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

I agree with Mark that the 2003 BBC movie Eroica is the best. The guy who wrote the script did actually investigate his subject! Wow, that really makes a difference.

I used to like Amadeus, but now I find the depiction of Mozart as some punk idiot quite intolerable. Something far better should be possible.

Another movie, which is not about this period, but nevertheless good, is Delius, Song of Summer, by Ken Russell, from 1966. It is about the collaboration between Eric Fenby and Frederick Delius. In his last years Delius was paralyzed and blind, and could no longer work. A young music student, Fenby, offers his services to help Delius finishing his last works. The film is important because of its authenticity: it is based on the book Fenby later wrote, and he was also involved in the production of the movie. One high point in the movie is when Fenby turns on the radio, which is playing Beethoven’s Fifth. Delius then starts a diatribe: Listen my boy, scales, arpeggios! Fillings, my boy, fillings, don’t bother your young head about symphonies! Beethoven, Bruckner and Mahler and that lot with their long driveling note-spinnings! A complete waste of time. A few bars of sincerely felt original music is worth whole pages of that kind of drivel. Throw it away! Forget the immortals! I finished with them years ago!

It should be obvious what is going on here: a minor master ridicules his great predecessors, in order to make himself appear more important, at least in his own eyes.

If he had merely said that he, Delius, was unable to produce anything of value with Beethoven’s technical means, then that would have been a correct and objective statement.

He is also correct in that one has to distance oneself from the great masters in order to find the space for one’s own creativity. But his emotions show that we are dealing here with a neurosis… Also, it should be pointed out that this defence mechanism has been used throughout the 20th century, endlessly repeated by many in all sorts of forms, aimed at whatever demi-god that had gone under their skin… This way much of the deeper understanding has disappeared from our culture.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

                                          Mark S. Zimmer

I’ve never been to Vienna myself, but I have to think that would be the one place. Between Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert etc. etc. etc. there’s something about that place that makes it a fertile ground like none other. I’d like to get there, as well as to Bonn, some day.

                                            ____________

                                         Willem Holsbergen

Yes, the scores of the great masters.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.+++

Impossible Interviews September 2017: Mozart’s Patron van Swieten

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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.

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__________________________________________________
WO
RKS BY VAN SWIETEN
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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.

Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved. MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview July 2017: 10 Questions with P. Malan

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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)

Petronel Malan: CD Albums
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Mozart
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Beethoven
Petronel Malan: Transfigured Bach


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.

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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

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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!!

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

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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.

Highly recommended.

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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.

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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!

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use

Interview/Essay February 2017: 10 Questions with Edward Green

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Edward Green: Official Links
Edward Green Official Site: Edward Green
Edward Green: Edward Green at Academia
Edward Green: Edward Green at LinkedIn

Edward Green: Edward Green (Manhattan School of Music – New York)
Edward Green: Edward Green (Aesthetic Realism Foundation)

Edward Green: Haydn Book edited by Edward Green (Journal of Musicological Research – Routledge)
Edward Green: Duke Ellington Book edited by Edward Green (Cambridge University Press)

Edward Green: Edward Green’s Concertino (Grammy Award Nominated)
Edward Green: Edward Green’s Trumpet Concerto
Edward Green: Edward Green’s Quartet for Guitars


AN INTERVIEW/ESSAY WITH SCHOLAR & COMPOSER EDWARD GREEN

CONTENTS
______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________
Question No. 1   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
The Aesthetic Method, Beauty and Musicology
Music and Justice to Reality
About Eli Siegel
I Learn About Harmony
Aesthetic Realism and Music Education
The Aesthetic Realism Foundation

Question No. 2   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
The Ethical Significance of Musical Technique
A Call for Papers for Haydn: The Online Journal
Clearing Up a Possible Confusion

Question No. 3   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
Attwood and Chromaticism

Question No. 4   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
Haydn’s Path to Chromatic Completion

Question No. 5   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
Duke Ellington
Haydn, Mozart, and My Own Work as Composer

Question No. 6   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
An Aria I Love by Haydn

Question No. 7   (Read)

Question No. 8   (Read or Choose a Chapter)

Incipit
Martha Baird

Question No. 9   (Read)

Question No. 10  (Read)

______________________________________________________
______________________________________________________

1. You have been a champion of an important new approach to Musicology and to the understanding and teaching Music History: Aesthetic Realism. Clearly, it has profoundly informed your scholarly activity, including as to the Classical Era. Can you tell us more about this, including about your studies with its founder, the eminent American poet and scholar Eli Siegel?

Thank you for asking. Let me begin by saying that I see Eli Siegel’s definition of beauty as the greatest philosophic and cultural achievement of the 20th century. «All beauty,» he explained, «is a making one of opposites, and the making one of opposites is what we are going after in ourselves.» This definition gives what the centuries have searched for: the explanation of what beauty is in all the arts. It shows the true relation of Art and Life. It also makes possible something completely new in music education: a way for people to learn technically from the music we care for how to have lives that are good.

For example, take what might be the most famous music from the Classical Era: the opening of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony. It is passionate, yet controlled. There is a torrent of energy joined to notes which hold firm. It has enormous abandon, yet at the very same time it is so precise. Isn’t this what we are hoping for? Don’t we want the equivalent of this in our lives? As Eli Siegel said in a 1951 lecture: «There is not one thing music does which does not say something about how a person should organize himself, too».

The Aesthetic Method, Beauty and Musicology

The logic of Aesthetic Realism about the relation of Art and Life thrills me, and has thrilled me since I first met it decades ago. I was 14, and read Eli Siegel’s The Aesthetic Method in Self-Conflict, a chapter from his larger work Self and World, which is published by Definition Press. I remember, in my teenage enthusiasm, saying right after I read it: «This explains everything!». Well, here I am, a bit more than 50 years later, and with a great deal more scholarly and artistic experience… and while likely I’d use different words to express my opinion, I have that opinion more firmly than ever: there is no book greater than Self and World if one wants to see what the human self truly is; nor any work which explains more deeply the meaning of art.

I’ll quote a passage from The Aesthetic Method which I love: «Beauty has not been respected sufficiently. The word beauty, even today, has a delicate, frail ring to it. If you talk about beauty, you are regarded by many as not being tough-minded. This should stop. Beauty has to be seen as complete logic, good sense carried further than usual: resplendent sanity».

This is so important. For example, a person can feel that when they are tender, yielding they are not the same person as when they are tough and assertive. Literally, we can seem to ourselves and others like two different people. A person can likewise feel that to be exact and logical, he has to keep his emotions out of it. Or to have a passionate time, he has to put his critical intellect aside.

These divisions gives us pain. But the setting off of one opposite against another, and at the expense of the other, is exactly what art never does. For example, in Mozart’s 40th Symphony, assertion and yielding, exactitude and passionate intensity, are beautifully together. Art, I learned from Aesthetic Realism, embodies the integrity and good sense we want; it is «resplendent sanity».

Music and Justice to Reality

Another core principle of Aesthetic Realism is: «The world, art, and self explain each other: each is the aesthetic oneness of opposites». We come from the world; its substance is our substance. Because of this, I learned, we need to do all we can to like the world in order to like ourselves. Eli Siegel’s grand principle provides the logic for this: it shows the unbreakable connection between who we are, what the world is, and the beauty of art.

It is also crucial for our happiness to study what Aesthetic Realism explains, for the first time, is the unconscious ethical debate which goes on in everyone: Is it better to respect the world and other people, or to look down on them and feel superior through having contempt for them? «There is a disposition in every person,» wrote Eli Siegel, «to think we will be for ourselves by making less of the outside world.» And he wrote: «The greatest danger for a person is to have contempt for the world and what is in it, despite its aesthetic structure».

Contempt weakens our minds; it stops us from finding value where it authentically can be found. Music stands for the principle of respect, and is a constant criticism of the contemptuous way of mind.

For example, when a person has contempt, he asserts himself at the expense of other people and the world. This doesn’t happens in successful music. A good composer takes the diversity of sound, the diversity of instruments, and gives it form. Nothing is diminished: every note helps every other note in a melody; every movement helps every other movement in a symphony. Difference is cared for, not scorned. And this is equally true – is it ever! – for the art of performance and improvisation: you express your own part, your own voice, your own very personal feeling, and simultaneously you blend with, fit in with, every other part and are moved by the feelings of the other musicians around you.

This is the ethical message music has. It is a message very much needed now – in my own country, and across the world.

In my opinion, Aesthetic Realism provides Musicology with something it never had before: a methodology completely free of cultural bias and limitation. That is because it is a way of seeing music which begins in a bedrock manner, with what is logically prior to any individual culture. That bedrock – the oneness of opposites – is the permanent metaphysics of the world. Motion and rest; diversity and unity; separation and junction: these are aspects of what reality always is. Every culture is based on, and also illustrates, the great fact that reality itself has an aesthetic structure. So does every instance of music.

An essay on this subject which I co-authored with the noted anthropologist Arnold Perey is Aesthetic Realism: A New Foundation for Interdisciplinary Musicology, which was presented at the 2004 conference of the European Society for the Cognitive Sciences of Music: edgreenmusic.org/1-ESCOM.htm. We show that whatever its genre, or century of its origin, or the society which gave it birth, music always attempts to answer humanity’s deepest need: to like the world on an honest basis by seeing its aesthetic structure. As a musicologist – let alone as a composer – my gratitude to Eli Siegel for showing this is enormous.

About Eli Siegel

I studied with Eli Siegel from 1974 to 1978, attending Aesthetic Realism classes he taught in New York City. It was right after I had completed my undergraduate studies in music and philosophy at Oberlin College. It was the honor of my life that he accepted me as a student. He had greatness in three fields. He was great as an artist, a scholar, and in terms of human kindness. In the hundreds of classes I attended which he taught, there was consistent intellectual honesty, beauty in his words, and the never-failing presence of good will.

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He was born in 1902, and lived to 1978. He founded Aesthetic Realism in 1942. A compact biographical sketch which I wrote of him, which was originally a Google Knol, can be found at: aestheticrealism.org/knol-on-eli-siegel/. I’ll mention just one fact, here: in 1925 he won the poetry prize of The Nation for his Hot Afternoons Have Been in Montana. I love this poem, and I’d like to quote some lines. The idea, so central to Aesthetic Realism, that everyone’s deepest desire is to like the world through knowing it, is already here in embryo – and given beautiful poetic music:

«The world is waiting to be known; Earth, what it has in it! The past is in it;

All words, feelings, movements, words, bodies, clothes, girls, trees, stones,

things of beauty, books, desires are in it; and all are to be known;

Afternoons have to do with the whole world;

And the beauty of mind, feeling knowingly the world!»

Wrote William Carlos Williams: «I say definitely that that single poem, out of a thousand others written in the past quarter century, secures our place in the cultural world». Williams wrote that in 1951; when Hot Afternoons appeared as the title poem of a volume of Eli Siegel’s poetry in 1957, that volume was nominated for a Pulitzer Prize.

I Learn About Harmony

I said earlier that when I studied with Eli Siegel, every class was beautiful: there was a depth of human kindness simultaneous with scholarly precision. I can give an example. It was a class in 1975, which I remember with large gratitude. In it, I learned how – without my having known it – I had a way of seeing people which interfered with my expression as a composer. I was not yet 24. And my way of seeing music and my family was unfortunately representative of many young musicians.

Though I had studied hard in ear-training classes to listen to music well, I had made up my mind that there was nothing of any importance I could hear from my parents. This, I learned, was contempt and it was against art.

In this class, he asked me:
«Do you think the way you see your parents is good for music, or not good, or is there no relation?»
EG: I don’t see a relation.
ES: Do you think that music is an attempt to take different things and show that they can work together?
EG: Yes.
ES: Do you feel if you could say, «I like the way I see my parents,» you will be in harmony with yourself more than if you say, «I don’t want to think about them?»
EG: Yes, I see that.
ES: And if you show a lessening of harmony in one field, do you think it has some relation to a lessening of harmony in other fields?
EG: It must.
ES: You don’t want to think about your parents because you think it will interfere with your comfort. But the whole history of music is to get to something uncomfortable and show that there is something harmonious there – and particularly modern music. One we decide to be contemptuous of anything it can work even in a field where we think we are fervent. So, would you say that when you dismiss the reality which is your parents you are caring for the reality music tries to describe?
EG: No.
ES: As soon as you insult any reality, you insult reality as such; and reality as such is what you want to see as an artist.

Aesthetic Realism and Music Education

What a wonderful, grand education I was getting in the relation of art and life! Also in the essentials of harmony: the fact that when harmony is successful, it is a oneness of difference and sameness, disagreement and agreement – of sounds which discomfort us and sounds which soothe. Of course, I had had years of technical study in harmony before this 1975 lesson. But never once in my classes at Oberlin, or in any textbook I ever read later, was the subject of harmony actually, pointedly made useful to my life. Up to that moment, it might as well have been abstract sonic engineering – and I am afraid it is still largely taught this way.

Because of my Aesthetic Realism education, I’m able to ask students questions in the classroom that relate the technical, even mathematical details of music to the immediate, pressing questions they face in their lives: about their parents, about love, even about how to like a world that has so much economic and political injustice in it

Consider the subject of dissonance. Why, in music, is a well-placed dissonance such a welcome thing? It has to do with life: we need to oppose complacency in ourselves, and perhaps in others – and to do so with good will. Criticism that is kind is against a person and for that person at the same time. We question someone, even sharply, with the hope to respect that person more: to encourage him or her to be in a fuller, richer, more exact relation to the world.

Now, a good non-chord tone does the same thing! – it questions the sounds around it so that they can be more vibrantly connected to what came before and what will come after. Think, for example, of the third measure of the Molto Allegro of the Overture to Don Giovanni and that marvelous D# in the key of D major. Perfectly beautiful, and perfectly dissonant! And it certainly helps everything around it.

People interested in this may enjoy an article I wrote in 2011 for the Hellenic Journal of Music, Education, and Culture, Harmony and the Oneness of Opposites: Teaching Music Theory through Aesthetic Realism. hejmec.eu/journal/index.php/HeJMEC/article/view/10/17
I’d also like to mention another publication in that journal: an interview I gave in 2015 with the renowned flutist Barbara Allen. In a vivid, thoroughly engaging way, she says things about music education, instrumental education, and life itself which every musician should know. Along with the singer Anne Fielding, who is an Obie Award-winning actor, we teach a class at the Aesthetic Realism Foundation titled The Opposites in Music. We’ve been doing so since 1980. Here’s the URL to the interview with Barbara Allen: hejmec.eu/journal/index.php/HeJMEC/article/view/55/51.

The Aesthetic Realism Foundation

There’s a great deal more to say about the value of Aesthetic Realism, including how it sees science. All the sciences show that reality has an aesthetic structure: that it is the oneness of opposites. One of Eli Siegel’s major books, not yet published, is titled The Aesthetic Nature of the World – and it shows the underlying kinship of the sciences and the arts.

Though Eli Siegel died in 1978, his work has been carried forward by Ellen Reiss, the Aesthetic Realism Chairman of Education, and the faculty of the Foundation. Its website is aestheticrealism.org/ You can find writings there not only by Siegel but also by teachers and scholars in a wide range of disciplines who base their work on his great philosophy. I study in classes Ellen Reiss teaches; they are profound in their scholarship, beauty, and ethics. She is a true poet; in my opinion, she is without peer in the world today as a critic of that art. She also lectures on a large range of other subjects, including history and contemporary happenings. As a teacher myself, I’m inspired by her example. I’ve also benefitted personally many times in her classes.

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I’ll mention an instance: some years back, in a class she taught, she dealt with the meaning of melody in music and its relation to two of the largest ethical matters in life: integrity and sincerity. It was a discussion in which I learned about my own attitude as a composer towards melody: how the desire to be impressive, rather than to see what I truly felt, hurt my music. The impact of that class was deeply useful to me as man and musician. In fact, I’ve had the opportunity to talk to many other composers in the years since about what I learned in that class, and they were grateful to Ellen Reiss for having defined the problem so clearly. It is easy – oh, so easy – without realizing it, to go after impressiveness rather than sincerity.

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2. Now a question about Haydn. Apparently, he was very jealous of his scores and his methods of harmonic and composition treatment. Your scholarly work, especially regarding his use of the technique of Chromatic Completion has been pioneering, and has unveiled some previously unknown aspects of his Art. Would you explain Chromatic Completion and its place in Haydn’s work? And in a more general way, what are your fundamental conclusions as to Haydn’s place in music history, and the enduring value of his work? In addition, you are on the Editorial Board of Haydn: The Online Journal; what have been the main challenges and goals of this important project?

My largest work concerning chromatic completion is the doctoral thesis I wrote in 2008 for New York University, Chromatic Completion in the Late Vocal Music of Haydn and Mozart: A Technical, Philosophic, and Historical Study.

It’s available through Inter-Library Loan, or from Pro Quest (available here at Pro Quest: search.proquest.com/docview). I’ve also published various articles on the subject; several are online.

Before I point to those articles, let me indicate swiftly what chromatic completion is, and why it matters. We have in western music twelve basic tones: the chromatic aggregate. Seven of these, in any given key, are diatonic. And chromatic completion occurs when – against that diatonic background – a composer gradually unfolds all twelve tones and then brings emphasis to an important structural or emotional moment in the music by having the final tone, the twelfth and completing tone, arrive at just that moment. Often in a vocal composition chromatic completion happens on a dramatically – even theologically – significant word.

In a moment, I’ll give an example from Haydn. But I want to preface the example by saying how important it is, when looking closely at any musical technique, not to separate it from feeling. Technique arises from feeling, I learned from Aesthetic Realism. It is true for chromatic completion: as I show in my thesis, many composers used the technique without being aware, just so, of it. With some however – most notably Haydn and Mozart – it was conscious. But Haydn and Mozart never employed the technique coldly; there was always an expressive reason for it.

Consider Haydn’s Harmoniemesse

It has a sixteen measure orchestral introduction. The first non-diatonic tone, Gb, appears in measure 5. (We are in the key of Bb major). In measure 10 we hear E natural; in measure 12, Ab and Cb. All that remains to complete the unfolding of the chromatic aggregate is the tone which most plainly contradicts the underlying major key: the flattened third. Where does this Db appear? At the sudden entrance and passionate outburst of the chorus in measure 17 on the words Kyrie eleisonLord have mercy. It is a moment at once bold and convincing. Chromatic completion helps give that boldness solid logic.

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The technique of chromatic completion, I believe, has an ethical source. We all want to have integrity. We want to be complete, to be everything we can be and ought to be. We also need – for our own good opinion of ourselves – to see the world and other people with the fullness they deserve. Chromatic completion arose from this. It is a symbolic, technical expression of something deep in the human mind. It is technique impelled by profound emotion. And it doesn’t just happen in the Classical Era, although that period is where we find it most consciously employed. I have seen instances of chromatic completion in music from Bach to Puccini, from Richard Rodgers to The Beatles.

This likely is the time to mention some of my shorter essays on the topic. For example, Haydn’s Secret Dodecaphonic Art which I wrote in 2009 for the Journal of Music and Meaning, which is based in Denmark:
www.musicandmeaning.net/issues/showArticle.php?artID=8.6.

If you are a subscriber to the journal Haydn, there’s a 2011 article on how chromatic completion is present throughout his late masses – often with stunning technical bravura:
www.rit.edu/affiliate/haydn/technique-chromatic-completion-haydn%E2%80%99s-late-masses.

And If you have access to JSTOR, I wrote at length about the Chaos Prelude in Donald Francis Tovey, Aesthetic Realism, and the Need for a Philosophic Musicology. You’ll find that essay by looking up the Review of the Aesthetics and Sociology of Music Vol. 36, No. 2, pp. 227-248.

The Ethical Significance of Musical Technique

Every year as I study music, I’m seeing more about what impels it. I’m learning new things about how ethics and aesthetics explain each other. You asked about Haydn’s place in music history, and the enduring value of his work. Both are enormous. I don’t want to sum the matter up swiftly, but one thing is very clear: What we find in the motto of the French Revolution, we find technically in Haydn’s music – only decades earlier. It has to do with his beautiful part-writing. He gave each part in an instrumental ensemble a new Liberty. The parts have independence, uniqueness. Unlike what we see in a good deal of earlier 18th-century composition, there is Equality in Haydn’s parts. In his quartets, for example, the first violin is not necessarily always in the lead. Anyone can have the main melody at any moment; there is no fixed or rigid hierarchy. Meanwhile, all the parts gracefully interlock and help each other. So there is also Fraternity – the feeling: «You are different from me, Brother, and you help me!».

This matter of Haydn’s way with part-writing is important aesthetically. It is also important from a strictly historical point-of-view, because it illustrates the ethics that were growing clearer and clearer, more and more insistent, throughout the 18th century: the ethics which would culminate in the 1789 revolution. Mozart learned from Haydn about beautiful part-writing (and much more). So did Beethoven. So, did every sensitive musician of the time and the next generation. The impact of Haydn on Rossini is obvious in his nickname: Il Tedesco. Haydn’s impact on Glinka is unmistakable as well – and I could name many others.

A Call for Papers for Haydn: The Online Journal

As for the Haydn Society of North America, I’m proud to be associated with it. Let me salute Dr. Michael Ruhling, professor at Rochester Institute of Technology.

He was the one who first felt the crying need for a journal having Haydn as its central focus. Ruhling’s hard work, over many years, is what made Haydn, the online journal of the Society, possible.

What is our greatest challenge?

Having the musicological community more widely aware of the Society and its journal. So I’d like to use this interview to encourage more scholars to submit their essays. The editors are always happy to publish solid and adventurous work.

The URL to the Society is:
www.haydnsocietyofnorthamerica.org/

The URL to the journal is:
www.rit.edu/affiliate/haydn/

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Clearing Up a Possible Confusion

There is something I now realize I should have mentioned as I answered your first question. Some people reading this interview might wonder, «Haven’t I heard of Aesthetic Realism» before, but wasn’t it from a very different perspective? The answer may very well be, Yes. Eli Siegel founded Aesthetic Realism in 1942, and for decades he alone used that philosophic terminology. It was very clear to the academic, cultural, educational world that the phrase stood for his thought. In recent years, however, a number of writers have begun using these words in a very different manner: to headline their own academic work. Their aesthetic and intellectual premises, however, are entirely different. To be blunt: this appropriation of the words Aesthetic Realism, in my opinion, is scholarly theft, and it has made for unnecessary confusion.

I published a short piece on this matter in the October, 2005 issue of the British Journal of Aesthetics: A Note on Two Conceptions of Aesthetic Realism.

I wish I could say that the situation has changed, but unfortunately that is not the case. Over the nearly 75 years since Eli Siegel began teaching his grand and revolutionary philosophy, people have felt the power, truth, and value of his ideas. Another aspect of the theft of Aesthetic Realism is this: rather than acknowledge the source, various people used these ideas as if they were their own. This use without acknowledgement greatly accelerated after the publication in 1955 of Eli Siegel’s Is Beauty the Making One of Opposites? in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism. Were this a different kind of interview, I could give many examples. It is very shameful. That it has also happened in the field of Musicology, I particularly abhor.

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3. Now, let’s turn to Mozart as a Teacher of Composition. It is a subject full of mystery, yet one which has engaged people since the 18th century. What can such a genius teach to others? And how? Your own writings on this matter are very original. How would you summarize your conclusions as to his pedagogical methods, especially in composition?

I’m glad you asked me just to summarize, because the richness of this matter could easily make for hours of discussion.

Essentially, I believe that a close investigation of the Ployer and Attwood notebooks prove that Mozart taught chromatic completion to these students. Consciously taught them. I also show in my dissertation that not only are the portions of the Requiem Mozart himself composed based on this technique, but likewise the parts Süssmayr worked on after Mozart’s death. I see no way to account for this other than to say that Mozart explained the technique to Süssmayr.

We can also see the presence of chromatic completion years later, sometimes decades later, in Attwood’s music and Süssmayr’s.

For example, Attwood’s The Prisoner – a musical romance which premiered at the Haymarket Theatre in 1792. Or his Verse Anthem Teach Me, O Lord from 1797. Another example, from 1814, would be his O God, Who By The Leading Of A Star a Collect for Epiphany.

For Süssmayr, I’ll give just one example: his 1792 Ave verum corpus. Interestingly, it illustrates the technique in a way that differs from Mozart’s own celebrated 1791 setting.

Süssmayr, Ave verum corpus
Live 2003, Coro e Orch. Wiener Hofmusikkapelle, Muti

By means of chromatic completion, emphasis is brought to different words, and this may point to a difference of feeling in the two composers: a different perspective about life, the world, and God.

Attwood and Chromaticism

Looking at the Attwood notebooks (see the NMA complete edition: Mozart/Attwood Notebooks): it is striking how Mozart wanted his student to be aware of the full world of chromaticism as rapidly as possible.

There are two introductory pages of scale studies – straight-forward and rather dry. But then Mozart plunges immediately into the subject of chromatic harmony. On the very first page of the exercises in harmonization which he presents to Attwood, there are three short progressions. The first requires only a single accidental. The second uses three. The final example makes use of all twelve tones. From then on, nearly every exercise makes use of all twelve tones. Many – not all – are clear examples of chromatic completion.

Interestingly enough, it is only after many pages of chromatic harmony that Mozart turns to diatonicism. This pedagogical order – chromatic first, then diatonic – is the reverse of what one would expect. The diatonic portion of the notebook is also the section where Mozart teaches Attwood species counterpoint.

Outside the writings of Vogler, nowhere else among Mozart’s contemporaries do we see a teacher of composition placing such an emphasis upon chromaticism. Even so, Mozart is unique: he teaches chromatic completion, which is something that can’t be found in Vogler.

To relish chromaticism is one thing; Vogler had that relish, and he encouraged others to have it through his writings. But it is quite another thing to give to this world of rich and subtle tonal diversity, a clear structural design.

That is what chromatic completion does: the unfolding of the 12 tones is felt as a single arc of sound. Its point of completion matters, emotionally and dramatically. There is, in effect, a trajectory towards it. And without going into detail, let me add that chromatic completion is not only evident in the Ployer notebooks, it is also prominently employed by Mozart in the piano concerti he wrote for her.

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4. Since you mentioned G.J. Vogler, you are one of the very few scholars who has systematically studied the theories concerning chromaticism of that most mysterious Abbé, and how these theories affected the work of Mozart, and through Mozart, Haydn. What did you discover?

Well, I spent over fifty pages on this matter in my dissertation. It was, in fact, the concluding chapter. I hope people who want a detailed answer to your question will look there. Meanwhile, I’ll try to say something useful here.

Vogler was the first theorist to posit the independent reality of the chromatic scale; even to suggest its primacy. Before him, it was seen simply as a set of inflections to an underlying diatonic scale.

Paula Tedesco writes valuably about all this in her essay Forward-Looking Retrospection: Enharmonicism in the Classical Era, in vol. 19 of The Journal of Musicology.

It wasn’t so much Vogler’s compositions which inspired Mozart, because, as is well-known, he spoke in a very slighting way about Vogler’s creative gifts. So slighting that Leopold Mozart chastised his son, saying there was much Wolfgang could learn from Vogler. The fact that Vogler would later become the teacher of both von Weber and Meyerbeer supports Leopold.

Even so, the encounter Mozart had with Vogler in Mannheim in the winter of 1777-1778 was a turning point in his musical life. In those weeks, and the months immediately following, Mozart tried to come to grips, in a creative manner, with Vogler’s theories.

He began to write composition after composition in which chromatic completion was present. This was not true before the Mannheim experience. Nor would Mozart, having once added the technique to his compositional palette, ever forsake it.

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Haydn’s Path to Chromatic Completion

Haydn’s path was different. While Mozart was ablaze in the late 1770s and early 1780s with the systematic use of aggregate completion, Haydn in those years appears to have shown only intermittent interest in the technique.

Then, suddenly, it’s very different, and chromatic completion becomes a constant, central feature of his music.

When did that happen?

In the years of his close friendship with Mozart: the mid and late 1780s. The implication is that Mozart’s enthusiasm for chromatic completion helped to spur Haydn’s.

This, of course, is speculation – informed speculation, I trust, but speculation, still.

There’s no direct documentation to support it, other than the scores of these two great composers, and the chronological hints they offer. Yet since we have strong evidence that Mozart taught the technique to his students, it is more than likely he also spoke to Haydn about it at that time.

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5. Switching perspectives: We know that many jazz musicians have been magnetically attracted by the music of J.S.Bach, and also by other great classical masters of Europe, including Mozart. Thanks to your long experience as a teacher not only of the European classics, but also of jazz – and, in particular, your well-known studies in the music of Duke Ellington – can you tell us what, in your view, are the profoundest links between the classical music of Europe and jazz? Where and how, for example, do Haydn and Mozart relate to Ellington? And since you are also a concert composer, can you tell us how you feel, in your own creative work, you’ve been indebted, and grateful, to Haydn and Mozart?

The deepest relation between European classical music and jazz is the one I pointed to earlier: as we listen to instances of music from around the world – from many centuries and from divergent cultures – no matter how different these musical examples sound one from the other, they all arise from the same inevitable and beautiful impulsion: to put opposites together.

There are many opposites I could talk about, but let’s start with freedom and order.

A large reason people love jazz has to do with this. In jazz, there’s often a solid groove simultaneous with the unexpected twists and turns of inspired improvisation. Do we also experience order and freedom, stability and surprise, in the best examples of music from the Classical Era? We sure do!

The technique is different, but the emotional impact is akin.

And since you asked about Bach, I’ve often used his Passacaglia in C minor as a way of showing jazz majors how close his way of creating variations over a repeating bass is to certain effects in the music of Miles Davis. But that’s just one example; there is so much in Bach that is near to jazz – including the unprepared use of flattened 7th blues tones, as, for example, in Bourrée II of the A minor English Suite.

Another strong connection between jazz and the music of the Classical Era is that they each deal, in their own way, with the world as rough and smooth. We hear these opposites in the timbres of jazz as well as in its blues-drenched harmony.

Haydn doesn’t use harmon-muted trumpets; Mozart doesn’t write 12-bar blues – (though he does have a liking for dissonant cross-relations).

But who can hear the 104th Symphony of Haydn, or the 40th of Mozart, without having a thrilling, satisfying, surprising, and beautiful experience of roughness and smoothness?

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Duke Ellington

You asked about Ellington. Thank you! I see him as America’s greatest composer.

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As I say in my Editor’s Introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Duke Ellington:

«a good case can be made that, all in all, Ellington… was the most influential composer of the twentieth century… for jazz, with its various stylistic offspring, has had more impact worldwide than any other form of modern music. And Ellington is acknowledged almost universally as the greatest of all jazz composers».

I’d like to quote a bit more, if I may. Under the heading Ellington and the Opposites I wrote:

«In Ellington’s masterpieces – compositions such as The Mooche, Harlem Air Shaft, East St. Louis Toodle-O, Jack the Bear, and Concerto for Cootie – we meet vibrant energy and deep thoughtfulness, passion, and control. Again and again, his music swings with intensity, yet also with natural ease. Just think, for example, of Cotton Tail. Opposites are convincingly, beautifully together… joined in a way we hope they can be in our own lives.

There are, in Ellington’s finest works, a true composition of roughness and velvet smoothness; a sense of the orderliness of the world and its confusion. Sounds are heavy, yet also winsome in their lightness. Sounds are wide, but also edgy; painfully thrusting, yet also lovely, suffusing, tender. There is surprise after sonic surprise; at the same time, there is the beat and an unshakable continuity of musical design. We hear poise, elegance, sophistication; we are also in the presence of a sincere, primitive wildness that comes straight from the gut.

It is honest, stirring music. Duke Ellington, by putting opposites together, gives us the opportunity to have emotions about the world and the human self that are grand and logical and beautiful. I love him for it.»

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If you care for Mozart, Haydn, or any other composer of the Classical Era, you can ask: do I love them for similar reasons?

I think the answer will be, Yes!

In terms of more narrowly defined technical links between jazz and European classical music, let me mention one which I think has gone under-appreciated. It has to do with motivic development, which everyone knows is a central thing in Haydn and Mozart, and also with Schönberg’s concept of Grundgestalt. What is not often realized is how central these principles are in jazz; certainly in Duke Ellington.

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In 2008, I published an essay in Jazz Perspectives with the purposefully humorous title: It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Grundgestalt! – Ellington from a Motivic Perspective.

Among other things, I show how closely Ellington’s approach to jazz composition parallels Beethoven’s way of writing music – including in the Fifth Symphony. The essay is on my website: www.edgreenmusic.org/Articles/Ellington_Essay.pdf

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Haydn, Mozart, and My Own Work as Composer

You also asked about the impact of Haydn and Mozart on my work as a composer. I’ve learned so much from them, I couldn’t possibly say it all. I’ll just point to some major things.

From Haydn, I learned how joyous, humorous, light-hearted, music can be while still maintaining complete seriousness. There’s a wonderful relation in his music of weight and lightness, substance and grace. I suppose the two clearest examples in my own of the Haydnesque would be the finales to my Trumpet Concerto, and Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Strings. You can hear these concerti, if you like, at:
www.edgreenmusic.org/1-compositions-orchestra.htm.

  • www.edgreenmusic.org/1-compositions-orchestra.htm (Trumpet Concerto)

Listen to Edward Green:
       Concerto in C for Trumpet and Orchestra – Finale

  • www.edgreenmusic.org/1-compositions-orchestra.htm (Alto Saxophone Concerto)

Listen to Edward Green:
Concerto for Alto Saxophone and Strings – Finale

From Mozart, I’ve been awed by how simple, clear, straight-forward he is, and yet how subtle. One aspect of this, which has affected me greatly, is his way with rhythm. I can’t think, in fact, of a composer whose underlying rhythmic structures are at once so syncopated and subtle, yet balanced, coherent, and graceful. I’m including Stravinsky when I say this.

Consider his Piano Sonata, K.311. It opens with a seven-bar phrase: 3 + 4. We don’t notice that irregularity at first because the first sub-phrase dovetails with the next in measure 4. As a result, we get a conclusion and a beginning at once. Similar things happen throughout the sonata. Similar things happen everywhere in Mozart.

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Another delightful instance of symmetry and asymmetry can be heard in the coda of his Rondo alla Turca. There are 6-bar and 7-bar phrases; some with and some without dove-tailing. Children love this music. I know I did; I remember loving it when I was 10-years old, maybe earlier. Everyone wants to feel secure and yet be delightfully taken by surprise. This music meets those desires.

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Another astonishing example of Mozart’s superb way with rhythm is in the Overture to Der Schauspieldirektor. Its opening phrase is 6 measures long. In terms of dynamics, it is divided neatly in half: three bars forte, and then three bars piano. Yet in terms of motivic structure, the same 6 measures are divided not in two parts, but in three: there are three 2-bar phrases. The design is A, B, B’. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any other composer do just this.

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One place where my Mozartean education is easy to hear is the Gigue to Music for Shakespeare, an orchestral suite you can find on the same URL I gave earlier for the concerti. The Gigue is in 11/8 – so while it’s meant to evoke that older style of dance music, it’s clearly modern at the same time. Of course, old and new are opposites everyone is always trying to make sense of: the past and the present.
  • www.edgreenmusic.org/1-compositions-orchestra.htm (Music for Shakespeare)

Listen to Edward Green: Gigue to Music for Shakespeare

But the big thing, in terms of Mozartean impact, is that as the Gigue goes on, the grouping of beats constantly shifts. The Gigue starts with a one-measure phrase organized 2+3+3+3 = 11. The next measure is similarly organized. But the third phrase spills beyond the limits of measure three. That phrase is 2+3+3+3+ 2; adding up to 13 beats. As a result, the fourth phrase is just 9 beats: 3+3+3. In keeping with the opposites, this last phrase is the shortest of all, but it also ends with a fermata – so it’s likewise the longest.

Well, it takes longer to describe all this than actually to hear it! And, I hope, enjoy it.

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6. What is your favorite work by Mozart? By Haydn? And can you give some of the technical and aesthetic reasons?

A hard question, because there are so many works I love with all my heart. I can only tell you what first comes to my mind.

For Mozart, it’s the 41st Symphony. It brings together two very different ways – in fact two very contradictory ways – people can be. I see those ways in myself, and often, to be honest, they don’t blend as well as I would like. But in the Jupiter Symphony, they make a one.

Here’s what I mean. The first two measures of the symphony are thrusting, powerful, drum-like. Sudden silences sharply separate musical figures from each other. We seem to be hearing a self which is assertive, decisive, fiercely confident. A self, even, in a military mode – what with that evocation of drums. The dynamic is forte, and the entire orchestra plays in octaves, asserting the tonic again and again.

I’ve got this in me: this assertiveness; this desire to be decisive. Everyone does in his or her own way.

Then, how utterly different the next two measures are! They are quiet. We hear only the strings; moreover, the heaviest of the strings – the contrabass – is absent. Unlike what came before, there are no sharply etched silences here; the music is entirely legato. And in contrast to the open octaves, now we hear rich harmony, softening the atmosphere. The melody in the first violins sighs sweetly in a rising series of appoggiaturas. And this second two-bar phrase ends not on the solid tonic, but on a yearning first inversion dominant seventh chord. A beautiful question seems to hangs in mid-air.

What a contrast!

And in the hands of a lesser composer, what a chance for incoherence. It’s the kind of thing, in fact, Mozart made fun of in Ein musikalischer Spass: music which has all kinds of contrasts, but no real coherence.

The wonderful thing about the opening of the Jupiter Symphony is that both from a technical and an ethical point-of-view Mozart sees the relation between these two ever-so-different ways of mind. The forceful self and the tender, gentle self, the decisive self and the yearning, questioning self, are working as one.

How does Mozart do this? Through an implied beat which we hear all the way through these four measures. It is made up of a dotted quarter followed by an eighth. Drum that pattern out as you listen; the dotted rhythm connects everything. We feel through this background rhythm that as contradictory as these states of mind are, they belong together and help each other.

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«Every person,» Eli Siegel once said, «is always trying to put together opposites in himself.» Mozart illustrates this – and how beautifully!

An Aria I Love by Haydn

For Haydn, let me say that the aria Mit Würd und Hoheit angetan from Die Schöpfung has been a favorite of mine for decades. I first met it when my High School Chorus in Jericho, Long Island did selections from the oratorio. The aria celebrates marriage as the completion of one self by another self.

It begins in a very masculine manner as the archangel Uriel (who is singing) describes Adam. The rhythms are sharp, and the music, over-all, is forceful. Then, as Uriel tells of the arrival of Eve, the aria shifts to a more feminine mode: more flowing, sweet, graceful. The contrast couldn’t be clearer, yet it’s all one continuous melody, and the progression seems natural and inevitable. We feel Adam is completed by Eve – a musical expression of the success of love.

Aesthetic Realism defines love as Proud Need; we hear that in Haydn’s music.

I’m very grateful, too, to say that my own happy marriage was made possible through studying Aesthetic Realism and this great definition of love. I am proud to need my wife, Carrie Wilson – glad that she represents the world different from me. Through her encouragement and criticism, I see the world, music, and people better. Carrie is a consultant to women on the faculty of the Aesthetic Realism Foundation, and the instructor of the course The Opposites in Singing: Technique and Feeling. She is also an important critic of the visual arts, and a fine actor and singer.

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7. Is there a neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated? And – whether by this composer or another – is there a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency?

J.M.Kraus
I’d start with Joseph Martin Kraus. He’s 1756 to 1792, almost an exact contemporary to Mozart. His symphonies, in particular, are important. I’d like to thank Dr. Bertil van Boer for first drawing my attention to this fine, almost entirely forgotten composer (B. van Boer at Academia).

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A.Reicha
Going a bit into the early 19th century, I’d point to Anton Reicha‘s cantata Lenore. It’s hardly ever performed, yet has real emotional and dramatic power. Given Reicha’s teenage friendship with Beethoven in Bonn, and also their relations with Haydn in Vienna, it would be easy to imagine that this 1806 work uses the same text as Beethoven’s 1805 opera carrying the same name. But no: Reicha’s text is the 1773 Sturm-und-Drang ballad of Gottfried August Bürger.

Reicha published, just on the edge of the 18th century (1800) an extraordinary set of Twelve Fugues. Nothing more radical ever happened to fugal form. There are experiments here which seem positively 20th century: a polytonal fugue; a fugue in 5/8. Yet the wonderful thing is not, per se, the astonishing experimentation; it is that these fugues are good, musically. As we know from a good deal of 20th and 21st century contemporary music, there are lots of musical experiments about which that can’t be said. Daring experiments, but dull music.

So along with Kraus, I feel strongly that Reicha is a person who demands to be better known. Not just as a composer; also as arguably the most successful teacher of composition ever. Among his students were Berlioz, Gounod, Liszt (to a degree), and then also Adolph Adam and Caesar Frank. Wow!

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J.J.Rousseau
Finally, a word in support of Rousseau as composer. He’s better than many people have realized. I wrote about that in a piece for Vol. 16 (Winter, 2007) of Ars Lyrica: Reconsidering Rousseau’s Le devin du village—an Opera of Surprising and Valuable Paradox.

As for his impact on musicology, which was considerable, there’s his pioneering work to have Europeans respect music from other continents. I wrote about that in an essay included in Music’s Intellectual History, a 2009 volume of the RILM Perspectives Series, titled The Impact of Rousseau on the Music Histories of Burney and Hawkins.

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8. Have you read a particular book on the Mozart Era which you consider particularly important for the comprehension of the music of this period? Feel free to mention more than one!

Here, I have to be very selective, since there are dozens of excellent books on the Classical Era. I have always admired Donald Francis Tovey’s essays on Haydn, Mozart, and Beethoven. Charles Rosen’s books… The Classical Style and also Sonata Forms – I have learned from deeply. That is true likewise for Leonard Ratner’s Classic Music, as well as his book on the Beethoven String Quartets. Kerman’s book on the quartets is also excellent. I care very much, too, for Julian Rushton‘s fictionalized, but lovingly rendered portrait, Coffee with Mozart (J.Rushton at Academia).

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Wye Allanbrook’s Rhythmic Gesture in Mozart made everyone take fresh notice of the importance of dance rhythms. Robert Hatten‘s books (R.Hatten at Academia) are very valuable in understanding the hermeneutics of the period, as is Robert Gjerdingen‘s A Classic Turn of Phrase (now available also at Gjerdingen’s Academia Site: e-book A Classic Turn of Phrase). Of course, to study Haydn is also to read H.C. Robbins Landon. His books are still the foundation for Haydn research.

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Another work I love – though this brings us more into the early 19th century – is Rudolph Reti’s Thematic Patterns in Sonatas of Beethoven. You asked earlier about the relation of jazz and the music of European classicism; Reti’s book provides a solid methodology relating composition and improvisation, seeing them as aspects of a single creative drive. This makes it invaluable to anyone who is interested in seeing the common thread between these two very different kinds of music. Reti’s book, as you likely know, bases itself on Schönberg’s idea of the Grundgestalt… and I’ve already indicated how important I think that concept is.

I’m sure I should be mentioning other people. That I haven’t is not, in any way, meant as a slight. There just isn’t time. And – of course – it’s crucial that scholars dig into the theoretical texts of the time by Koch, Riepel, Vogler, and others.

Martha Baird

The single writing which has most deeply affected how I see the Classical Era is Martha Baird’s essay Some Opposites in Mozart, Con Amore. In it, among other things, she shows how important it was to Mozart – as a man as well as composer – to make a one of anger and sweetness, force and tenderness. She illustrates this through his Symphony #32, Belmonte’s O, wie ängstlich and Osmin’s Solche hergelaufne Laffen. She also writes in that essay about the Fifth Violin Concerto – the Concerto that has the famous Turkish interruption of its Tempo di Menuetto finale.

I spoke earlier about the fierceness and tenderness, the assertiveness and sweetness of the Jupiter Symphony. I’m sure it was the impact of Martha Baird’s essay that made it possible for me to see something of what Mozart accomplished there, and its deep human significance – including personally for myself.

Martha Baird was the wife of Eli Siegel, and a scholar with original insight on many aspects of music. I love, for example, her papers on Verdi’s Aida, and on the perennial philosophic question of the relation of Absolute and Programmatic music. This was titled What Is Music About? During the years I studied with Eli Siegel, I likewise studied with her, and I cherish it. Never did a critic write about music with such a combination of ease, naturalness, and solid intellectual rigor.

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9. And is there a movie or a documentary film which you feel can likewise benefit people in the comprehension of this music?

After my enthusiastic listing of many authors whose work I value as to the Classical Era, I don’t want to seem ungenerous and chary as I answer this question. But, largely, I’ve been disappointed in the movies and documentaries I’ve seen.

Two which I’ve felt were useful as introductions to Beethoven when I taught non-music-majors were the BBC biography of the composer, and also Michael Tilson Thomas’ engaging film on the Eroica – though, at times, it is a bit idiosyncratic.

I would love to see a full-length film on the life of Haydn, or Mozart, or Beethoven that does them justice – as men and as artists. To my knowledge, none have yet appeared.

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10. Finally, is there a special place you think scholars of the Classical Era, and lovers of its music, ought to visit to gain crucial insight into the evolution of the musical 18th century?

Certainly, as cities, Vienna and Paris are the most important. When it comes to libraries, I’d have to say the great Bibliothèque nationale de France in Paris. But speaking personally, nothing did more to sharpen my sense of the 18th century as a whole and its music than visiting Versailles and Schönbrunn.

There’s such splendor there, but then you realize the horrific cost of that splendor – the evil of aristocracy which made it possible. All that wealth for the benefit of a very small group of people: wealth gotten by grinding millions of others in awful poverty!

Walking through those palaces, I had a vivid, gut-grabbing sense of why the 18th century led inevitably to the French Revolution.

If we want to have the Classical Era truly in our minds, nothing is more important than understanding the forces – intellectual, political, economic, and ethical – which led to the great event of 1789.

Thank you for these questions. It was a pleasure to try to answer them.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

Copyright © 2017 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview January 2017: 10 Questions with L. McCawley

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Leon McCawley: Official Links
Leon McCawley Official Site: Leon McCawley
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley at RCM
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley Twitter (Official)
Leon McCawley: Leon McCawley Facebook (Official)

Leon McCawley: CD Haydn Sonatas & Variations
Leon McCawley: CD Mozart: The Piano Sonatas

Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Beethoven Concerto No. 3 (Gijon: 19 January 2017)
Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Beethoven Concerto No. 3 (Oviedo: 20 January 2017)

Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Mozart Concerto K. 491 (London – RPO: 23 March 2017)
Leon McCawley: Next Concert: Mozart & Schubert & Liszt (Grieg Museum: 26 March 2017)


1. Which considerations led you to publish a CD Album of piano music by J. Haydn and which criteria you followed in choosing the piano works by Haydn to be featured in your CD Album? What do you find particularly attractive and pleasing in the style and music by J. Haydn?

Haydn is a composer that I have always felt connected to.

I have been drawn to his piano music since childhood and performed his Sonatas and Variations in recital many times over the years. Since I had already recorded piano music of Mozart and Beethoven, I felt that it was the right time to add some of Haydn’s repertory to my discography.

On my recently released CD on SOMM recordings, I feature four Sonatas that demonstrate the myriad of possibilities for the 18th century keyboard and also include his most profound and deeply felt keyboard composition (in my opinion), the F minor Variations.

What pleases me most though about Haydn is his wit, humour and sunny optimism.

There is so much fun in his work and he explores extremities of the keyboard with great variety of dynamics and unexpected harmonic shifts.

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2. You have recorded piano works by Mozart, by Beethoven and by Haydn, works which have also long been part of your recital repertoire. In your opinion and according to your experience, what are the real elements of continuity and of innovation in the music and in the pianism developed and used by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven?

It is always interesting to make comparisons with these great composers and whether this is a distinctly natural progression.

Haydn was a great innovator for his time and without doubt paved the way for Beethoven, his pupil. The extremes of register, dynamic, tempo and unconventional treatment of sonata form were of a huge influence to Beethoven and you can see this with striking vividness in Beethoven’s Sonatas in comparison to Haydn.

Mozart perfected the sonata form that Haydn had mapped out so effectively so that every work published is a compositional gem; I would not want to alter a note of Mozart’s and his wonderful gift for melody inspired the great keyboard melodists of Schubert and later Chopin and Schumann in the Romantic period.

I feel his piano music strikes a perfect middle ground between the two composers. In his dramatic C minor Sonata K457 you can hear a youthful Beethoven (think of the Pathétique Op. 13) and his early Sonata K282 was surely an influence on Haydn’s charming late Sonata No. 59 Hob. XVI/49.

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BEETHOVEN CDs (Leon McCawley)
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Beethoven: Works for piano, 32 Variations, Patéthique & Les Adieux

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Beethoven: Choral Fantasia

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3. In 1993 you won the highly prestigious 1st Prize in the International Beethoven Piano Competition in Vienna. What are your memories and impressions linked to that experience and what did it mean to you and your career, to win such a prize in the very city of Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven?

I have enormously happy memories of my time in Vienna. At nineteen, to win a competition as prestigious as this meant so much to me.

I had not expected to win as I was one of the youngest competitors but was very grateful for such a wonderful experience, performing Beethoven 1st Piano Concerto in the Concerto Final in the beautiful surroundings of the Musikverein.

The competition prize included a Bösendorfer Grand Piano which I still cherish today in my practice studio some 23 years later.

Preparing for the competition really propelled my interest in Beethoven further and the added icing on the cake of taking 1st Prize was a boost to my career as a concert pianist.

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4. You have produced a marvellous CD recording of the complete edition of Mozart’s piano sonatas 2005/2006 and in 2011 you have also performed the complete Mozart’s sonatas over one weekend at King’s Place (London) with great audience and critical acclaim. What led you to produce such magnificent Mozartian events in such a challenging context for a pianist and what are your pieces of advice and tips to those pianists who want to approach the repertoire of Haydn and Mozart and want to build a personal repertoire on their works?

The main reason for recording the Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas in 2005/6 was the desire to offer my own personal dedication and celebration of Mozart’s Bi-centenary of his birth.

It was also a timely dedication and admiration for my mentor of over ten years, the Russian pianist and fine Mozartian, Nina Milkina, who passed away in 2006 and had been a great source of inspiration to me, in particular for Mozart; incidentally she shares the same birthday as Mozart, January 27th.

Performing the complete Mozart sonatas five years later in London was tremendous undertaking; I enjoyed the challenge very much but I think will spread the performances over a season or two next time, that is if the opportunity arises again!

My tips to young pianists would be not to be afraid of projecting when performing Haydn and Mozart and try to have more of an operatic approach when dealing with cantabile and melodic line.

Also don’t treat this music with too much fragility; a full-bodied sound that is fully spirited and fully expressive will help to illuminate any interpretation of a classical sonata.

Learn all the repertoire, or as much as you can!

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

It’s difficult to choose only one of each but here goes: Mozart’s Piano Concerto K466 and Haydn’s F Minor Variations.

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6. Vanhal, Hummel, F.X.Duschek, J.L.Duschek, L.Kozeluch, J.G.Albrechtsberger… Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of piano music of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Not yet! I don’t find as much inspiration here as the three greats that we have been discussing.

There is so much to explore here that I feel I don’t need to delve any further just yet as I am endlessly fascinated by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven.

That said, I do like Hummel’s Piano Concertos and will be performing Hummel’s cadenzas when I play Mozart Piano Concerto K491 with Royal Philharmonic in London on March 23rd at Cadogan Hall.

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7. Name a neglected piece of piano music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

I adore Mozart’s Duport Variations and you don’t often hear them in concert.

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8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

The Letters of Mozart are fascinating… but for full comprehension the best place to visit is the music where the worlds of these marvellous composers open up in your hands.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Miloš Forman’s Amadeus in 1984 was a wonderful film adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play and the use of Mozart’s Requiem in the movie was particularly striking.

But again, I turn to the music and the scores for comprehension first and foremost.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century piano music?

Undoubtedly Vienna!

… as this was the centre of keyboard development in the 18th century.

And it also was a significant place for my pianistic development too!

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THE NEW BÖSENDORFER-SAAL IM MOZARTHAUS VIENNA
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Bösendorfer-Saal in Mozarthaus
Since October 2010 the new Bösendorfer-Saal im Mozarthaus Vienna is running. It is the third one in the history of Bösendorfer and it is situated in the Mozarthaus Vienna. It’s a beautifully designed hall in the vaulted cellar of the very building of Mozart’s flat in Vienna, near St. Stephan’s Cathedral.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

Copyright © 2016 MozartCircle. All rights reserved.MozartCircle exclusive property. 
Iconography is in public domain or in fair use.

Interview October 2016: 10 Questions with K. Woods

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Kenneth Woods: Official Links
Kenneth Woods Official Site: Kenneth Woods
Kenneth Woods & ESO Official Site: English Symphony Orchestra (ESO)
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods at ESO
Kenneth Woods: Colorado MahlerFest
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods Twitter (Official)
Kenneth Woods: ESO Twitter (Official)
Kenneth Woods: Kenneth Woods Facebook (Official)
Kenneth Woods: ESO Facebook (Official)

Kenneth Woods: CD Elgar Piano Quintet – Sea Pictures Top 10 Best Seller
Kenneth Woods: CD Hans Gal & Mozart Piano Concertos

Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn & Mozart (11 December 2016)
Kenneth Woods: Next Concert: Haydn, Mozart & Beethoven (21 December 2016)


1. Your recent CD Elgar: Orchestrated By Donald Fraser, Piano Quintet, Sea Pictures reached the Amazon Best Seller Top 10 last June! In his youth, in 1870s, Elgar himself arranged many works by Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven for quintet and wrote his Harmony Music and Shed Pieces, which had a strong, yet personal, Mozartian writing, do you think that the influence of those composers on his music still emerges from his later works? And if yes, how?

Elgar is an interesting figure, because his own compositional voice is so strong and so consistent across his entire maturity. Composers like Shostakovich or Beethoven, or even Mozart, went through huge changes of style in their careers, while the differences between early Elgar and late Elgar are pretty small. The only composer I can think of who has such a consistent and recognizable voice is Brahms. Elgar’s voice was so strong, that even his orchestrations of other composers sound like Elgar.

This means it’s quite hard to spot the influence of other composers in Elgar’s music. His knowledge of Brahms, Beethoven, Wagner, Schumann, Mozart, Haydn and Bach (I’d say those are the composers who shaped his language and technique the most) is so deeply assimilated and integrated into his own musical world that one almost never thinks «Oh, that sounds a bit like…».

What Elgar ultimately learned from the Austro-German masters is a multi-layered approach to motivic development. There are thematic connections in his music that are very obvious, and there are those that are almost undetectable. In a piece like the Piano Quintet, there are obvious moments of cyclical structure, where whole themes return at the end of the piece which we know from the beginning and which are easy for anyone to spot, and then are tiny, microscopic relationships of intervals and ideas that are very important to the musical logic, which one can only really dig out with lots of analysis while looking at the score.

Haydn and Schumann were the greatest masters of this kind of layering, but Mozart excelled at it too.

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2. You are a well known promoter of Haydn’s music, also through your own blog A View from the Podium, what are your considerations on your activity on Haydn and on the importance of building a wider knowledge of his music, still, unfortunately, a bit neglected? In September you have conducted the beautiful Symphony no. 80 by Haydn, what have been your thoughts, while preparing your performance? Written in 1784, 2 years before Mozart’s Prague K504 and 1 after Linz, do you think this Symphony by Haydn somehow influenced Mozart’s late symphonic writing?

I think there are two main reasons why Haydn’s music is still mostly misunderstood or underappreciated by the general public. First, I think he’s been very badly served by performers and writers who have tried to tame him as both a human being and a musician. The banal image of the benevolent Papa Haydn is only a tiny portion of a complex and fascinating personality – he was a man of tremendous temperament, great tenacity, capable of great anger and passion, and someone who took great personal and professional risks throughout his career. He must have been a genius at dealing with people – think of what it took to keep that incredible orchestra together at Esterháza with all those great artists and strong personalities. The musical manifestation of this problem is that we keep Haydn’s music behind glass. Too many Haydn performances are too bland – everything is made polite and genteel. I think his music is overflowing with madness and genius. It’s not just gently witty.

Of course, Haydn, even well performed and well curated, asks a lot of listeners. It’s very sophisticated and endlessly modern music.

But I’ve found that if you strip away all the accrued politeness and gentility that has become attached to his music and play it with real commitment and total abandon, audiences hear it and are just stunned.

As far as Haydn’s influence on Mozart, it’s not an easy thing to describe in a few words. They were writing during an era in which the language of music was as standardized and codified as pretty much any time I can think of – the only parallels I can think of are movements in popular music, where certain formulae completely dominate the discourse for a while, like doo-wop, rockabilly or ragtime. Mozart and Haydn were fairly unique in taking a system of stock musical gestures and using them to create incredibly expressive and completely radical music. Both of them understood the power of expectation – how to create it and how to undermine it. Haydn provided the structural framework for Mozart by creating or perfecting the forms in which Mozart would excel: sonata form, the string quartet and the symphony.

But by the time you get to Mozart’s earliest mature symphonies like 25 or 29, you can see he’s a totally different character than Haydn. There’s a melodic brilliance and emotional directness one almost never finds in Haydn, but it lacks Haydn’s wildness and technical genius.

What’s touching is that they clearly understood and loved each other’s music without any hint of jealousy or condescension.

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HAYDN & A VIEW FROM THE PODIUM (by Kenneth Woods)
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Haydn’s Music- Bathed in Fire and Blood
Haydn in The Oregonian
Haydn the Yurodivy
Reading Haydn from Beginning to End
Haydn- more talented than Mozart
Haydn- smarter than Brahms
Controversy over Haydn and magic with Schumann
RCCO- Schubert and Haydn
Haydn the Subversive
Podcast- The “true” story of Haydn 59
Listen Again- Haydn Trumpet Concerto
Haydn- More fun than Mahler!
More Haydn
Haydn’s on- let’s cancel the concert and rehearse
Haydn

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3. You have published also a really beautiful series of CDs with music by the Austrian-British composer Hans Gál. Among them, Gál’s Concerto for Piano and Orchestra and, in the same album, Mozart’s Piano Concerto K482: what led you to create this special combination? You have in your repertoire also a few rare works from 18th/19th century like the Harmoniemusik after Mozart’s Don Giovanni and Figaro by Triebensee and Wendt: do you think this special charming type of works, which had also a specific social value when written, should receive more attention in Concert Seasons, in order to enrich them?

Gál is a special case.

Throughout the decade or so I’ve been working on his music with the Gál Society, one thing I got from them was their deep conviction that his music shouldn’t be assessed too much in terms of his biography.

There has been a lot of long-overdue interest in composers like Gál, whose lives were disrupted (or worse) by the Nazis. It’s important that we let their music be assessed on merit, and not presented with too much special pleading because of their personal tragedies.

With that in mind, we’ve always coupled his works (with a few exceptions, like our disc of string trios by Gál and Krása) alongside works from the Austro-German tradition that he saw himself belonging to. Generationally, he was closer (by far) to Mozart and Schubert than I am to Shostakovich or Mahler.

Hopefully placing his music next to Mozart’s helps us to better understand both composers.

As for the Harmoniemusiks– I think they’re wonderful!

I’m a great fan of arrangements in general. Mozart was, too!

Audiences love these arrangements, and it’s wonderful that one can showcase one’s woodwind section using some of the greatest music ever written.

Orchestras don’t feature their wind sections enough!

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4. When you work with the orchestra, preparing a new series of concerts, what are your pieces of advice and tips to the musicians on approaching Mozart and on approaching Haydn?

On a technical level, I don’t think musicians think as deeply about meter and metric structure as they perhaps should in Baroque and Classical repertoire!

Understanding all the nuances of different kinds of impulses and strong and weak beats and bars is absolutely essential for giving this repertoire the right sense of variety and elegance. When you work with a good orchestra over time, you try to develop a shared understanding about how meter works in Mozart and Haydn (and Bach and Handel).

On a more spiritual level, Classical repertoire seems to bring out musicians’ worst tendencies to imitate other people’s performances and mannerisms. The HIP movement has made the problem even more common… it’s become shorthand for a set of performance habits which are mostly the result of a very contemporary aesthetic.

If I’m feeling naughty, I occasionally point out that the aesthetics of Ikea furniture and many period instrument recordings are basically the same. It’s all about clean lines, bright textures, standardized approaches. I would hope the study of performance practice would lead us to be more questioning and more radical, not to simply recycle the interpretations of a conspicuously brilliant generation of other conductors, whose aesthetics were obviously shaped by the British Cathedral choral tradition as much as anything else.

Why do so many performers ignore or downplay Haydn’s use of fortissimo… a dynamic he uses very sparingly? Why do so many performers end every phrase in Mozart with a diminuendo, even when it precedes a subito piano? Surely these kinds of habits are very destructive to the music… it robs it of drama, intensity, contrast and expression.

I felt like I started to blossom as a Haydn interpreter when I freed myself of any worry about whether other people would approve of what I was up to, or whether anyone else had done it before the way I thought it should go.

You’ve got to be honest with yourself about what you find in the score and try to be true to what you learn from it. Once an orchestra feels free to try different things, to make different, more dangerous sounds, everyone’s creativity and energy starts to flow.

Mozart and Haydn come to life when the performers are letting themselves really give their all to the music, instead of trying to imitate the sound of historic instruments, or conform to some emasculated idea of this music being terribly prim and proper.

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5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.

Mozart… It has to be the Requiem, which is a work I’ve been immersed in most of my life!

Haydn… It’s harder to pick one piece with him than perhaps any other composer, as there are so many works of such staggering originality and beauty, and whatever Haydn symphony I’ve just played always seems the most miraculous. If I had to pick one work, maybe the Oxford Symphony (no. 92): it’s a work particularly close to my heart and a piece I learned a great deal from studying.

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6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?

Franz Danzi!

I was always fond of his Cello Concerto and it, and his other music, seem due for a re-appraisal.

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7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency.

Any Haydn symphony before no. 92 that doesn’t have a nickname!

8. Have you read a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

Maynard Solomon’s biography of Mozart is both an impressive piece of scholarship and a touchingly human piece of writing.

I find it very moving.

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9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.

Malcolm Bilson’s documentary Knowing the Score is a great, compact introduction to the world of performance practice.

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10. Do you think there’s a special place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music?

Vienna!
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HAYDN, MOZART & BEETHOVEN IN VIENNA
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  • Haydnhaus
Haydn’s final Vienna home, here Creation & Seasons were written.
Mozarthaus
Mozart’s only surviving Vienna home (1784-1787). Here the Piano Concertos K.466, K.467, K.482, K.488, K.491, the Haydn Quartets, Davidde Penitente & Nozze di Figaro were written.
Beethoven’s Eroicahaus
Here Eroica was written.
Beethoven’s Pasqualatihaus
Here 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th & Fidelio were written.
Beethoven’s Wohnung Heiligenstadt
Here 1802 works (ie. Tempest, The Hunt, Eroica Variations, Kreutzer) were written.

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Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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