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Interview August 2016: 10 Questions with The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet

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The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet: Official Links
RDRQuartet Official Site: The Revolutionary Drawing Room
New CD Album 2016 Release (Uppernote): Revolutionary Flute Quartets
Butterfield Official Site: Adrian Butterfield
Butterfield (Royal College of Music): Adrian Butterfield (RCM)
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet Twitter
RDRQuartet: RDRQuartet YouTube
RDRQuartet: CD A Viennese Quartet Party
RDRQuartet: CD Mozart Clarinet Quintet with C.Lawson


1. Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf and Vanhal: four composers with four well defined characters! How did you come up with the idea of re-uniting them together again in the same Album? How do their different characters emerge from their very music? And also how and when did you decide to choose the name The Revolutionary Drawing Room for your group, a name which truly represents the spirit of 18th century?

R. Alford (cello): The name of the group was thought of by the founding cellist of the ensemble, Angela East.

A. Butterfield (violin): It is a rather distinctive name which arouses a lot of attention! The Drawing Room part derives from the withdrawing room found in the houses of the patrons of musicians in the Georgian era in England in the 18th century, a room to which families and their guests retired after dinner. Revolutionary refers to the years spanning approximately 1789-1848 during which there were many upheavals in Europe.

The idea of our Viennese Quartet Party programme was suggested to me by an audience member who came up to me many years ago after a concert and asked if we knew about the story of these four composers playing together in Vienna in 1784.

R. Stott (viola): I have loved reading the Reminiscences of Michael Kelly, the Irish tenor who sang in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro, in which he relates the Quartet Party story. He was quite a character!

A. Butterfield (violin): It’s true, these four composers were possessed of very differing temperaments.

Haydn is well known for his joy and sense of humour and that is reflected in the false ending of his quartet Op.50 No.1 which was designed to tease his audience. He was, though, also possessed of such wonderful originality in his use of musical ideas and form.

Mozart overflowed with beautiful melodies but Haydn’s Op.33 quartets inspired him to write music of great imagination and complexity and the opening of the Dissonance quartet is a particularly extraordinary example of this.

Dittersdorf wrote some interesting programmatic music and his A major quartet seems to us to have moments of story-telling too, especially the Minuet movement which feels very much like party music!

Vanhal, a pupil of Dittersdorf, comes across as a more serious character. The slow movement of his E flat major quartet is especially beautiful and close in style to Haydn.

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2. You, as single performing musicians (I mean you four members of the RDR Quartet), recorded also a wonderful Series of CDs devoted to many other authors of the first and second half of the 18th century from Jean-Marie Leclair to Handel to C.P.E.Bach to Luigi Boccherini. According to your opinion, who, among those composers, really exerted a strong musical influence on the composers of the First Viennese Group, Haydn, Mozart, Dittersdorf, Vanhal etc. and then Beethoven and so on?

A. Butterfield (violin): Our individual experience of performing a vast range of baroque repertoire has had a great influence on our performance of Haydn and Mozart.

J.S. Bach’s two most famous sons, Carl Philipp Emmanuel and Johann Christian, were especially influential!

K. Parry (violin): For example, J.C. Bach looked after Mozart when he came to London as a boy and his tuneful, rococo style can often be heard in Mozart’s music.

Handel and J.S. Bach became stronger influences later thanks to the encouragement of one of their patrons, Gottfried van Swieten.

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3. In October 2016, you are going to launch your The Beethoven Cycle, a series of peformances featuring all the Beethoven Quartets, and this also by underlining the strong philological association, which exists among the last Quartets by Haydn and the first ones by Beethoven: how do you feel, in their music, the Revolutionary character from an old Innovator (Haydn) and to a new Innovator (Beethoven)? And many anecdotes exist on this peculiar situation directly from those times!

A. Butterfield (violin): The relationship between Haydn and Beethoven is a fascinating one.

Beethoven asked Haydn for some lessons but these took place at a time when Haydn was preparing for his second visit to England in 1794 and it seems that Beethoven became frustrated that he didn’t have his teacher’s undivided attention.

The fact that Beethoven’s first set of quartets were being written at the same time as Haydn’s final set and that they were commissioned by the same person, Prince Lobkovitz, is intriguing, especially since Haydn only managed to write 2-and-a-half of his set of six. He wrote in the manuscript of the third quartet, «Old and weak am I; all my strength is gone.» and yet he went on to write The Creation and The Seasons after this so the pressure from his pupil clearly got to him.
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R. Alford (cello): The revolutionary character of Beethoven’s music is unmistakeable, especially his use of sforzando accents and other surprise dynamics as well as shocking harmonic shifts.

It is easy to forget, though, how innovative Haydn and Mozart were and that so many of the devices that Beethoven used had already been pioneered by his predecessors.

The Overture to Mozart’s Don Giovanni, for example, contains dramatic crescendos that lead to sudden pianos, a device that Beethoven was to develop on a grand scale and Beethoven’s scherzos were a clear development of the myriad examples written by Haydn.

As a young man in the 1790s Beethoven probably saw Haydn as old-fashioned but he wrote his Op.74 quartet just after Haydn’s death in 1809 almost as a tribute to his former teacher and perhaps he had come to realise that he had learned rather a lot from him.
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K. Parry (violin): Our Beethoven quartet cycle starts in October 2016 at St. John’s Smith Square in London and we will perform his complete quartets there over a period of three years.

It is still quite rare to hear Beethoven quartets on period instruments and this is a very exciting project for us.

There is plenty of standard 19th century repertoire by composers such as Mendelssohn and Schubert that we want to explore, but we like to mix that with much more rarely performed works by composers like Boccherini, Spohr, Viotti, Donizetti and even Coleridge-Taylor.

A. Butterfield (violin): We work regularly with wind players and piano and our new recording of the flute quartets of Mozart as well as those of his contemporaries in Mannheim and Paris, with Rachel Brown, is due for release in August 2016 on Rachel’s Uppernote label.

K. Parry (violin): However a composer we always come back to is Haydn. Maybe one day we will work our way through all of his wonderful quartets!

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4. You, both as a quartet and as single performers, are also an important example of musicians and entrepreneurs, creating and founding your own Ensembles and Musical Seasons, what’s your very first advice to those young musicians who want to follow this particular type of path? What can you say from your experience?

A. Butterfield (violin): Being an entrepreneurial classical musician certainly doesn’t become any easier!

But if you love the music you want to perform enough and are prepared to work incredibly hard you can still do well. One needs to be innovative and imaginative in terms of the way one presents programmes.

Our Viennese Quartet Party idea is a good example of that!

So many audience members have told me how much they appreciate being given some explanation of the context of the music I am performing for them and this is particularly true of music from long ago.

R. Alford (cello): With so much studio-recorded music available these days it is vital that concerts offer more than just perfection of ensemble and intonation, important though those are. Live performance should be dangerous and spontaneous so that audiences go away having been so thrilled and moved that they will be inspired to go to more concerts in the future.

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

A. Butterfield (violin): Favourite compositions are such an impossible question! I tend to have favourites that are the pieces I am working on at that moment!

R. Stott (viola): Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro will always be a highly treasured piece and it happens to be very relevant to our Quartet Party programme.

A. Butterfield (violin): The slow movement of Haydn’s last completed quartet, the F major Op.77 No.2, is always one we love to come back to. It has an almost prayerful, elegiac quality to it that never fails to move us.

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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?

R. Stott (viola): Alessandro Rolla (1757-1841) is an interesting musician who is little known. We have played one of his quartets and we think his music deserves more exposure.

A. Butterfield (violin): I have championed Jean-Marie Leclair‘s music for some years now. He was a French baroque violinist/composer (1697-1764), who wrote a large amount of wonderful violin and chamber music as well as an opera

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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.

R. Stott (viola): Telemann’s Die Donnerode (TWV 6:3a/6:3b).

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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?

K. Parry (violin): Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style is a very important book and Paul GriffithsThe String Quartet, A History contains much useful information. And I know you want to add another book.

A. Butterfield (violin): I met and was coached by Hans Keller many years ago. He was a controversial figure who made people think by challenging received ideas. I refer regularly to his book The Great Haydn Quartets.

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

K. Parry (violin): In search of Haydn (Seventh Art Productions), The Genius of Mozart and The Genius of Beethoven (top documentary films), excellent introductions to the lives and times of three extraordinary composers.

And for fun: Amadeus – the remarkable film of Peter Shaffer’s play.

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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?

K. Parry (violin): Surely Vienna? Mozart and Haydn even played quartets together here! And what about Mannheim?

A. Butterfield (violin):Vienna is obviously a good choice, but I wonder whether Mannheim would be a bit different and an opportunity to remind the reader about our new recording that is just coming out of Flute Quartets by Mozart and some of his colleagues in that city.

K. Parry (violin): Oh, yes! Certainly!

A. Butterfield (violin):The Mannheim orchestra was famous for its meticulous discipline and for numerous novel and strikingly dramatic effects such as the Mannheim crescendo (a passage that started very softly and built up very gradually to a great fortissimo), the Mannheim rocket (a rapid rising arpeggio figure across a wide range with crescendo) and the Mannheim sigh (an affettuoso use of slurs as aspirating figures with diminuendo). Mozart spent a number of months in Mannheim getting to know the talented musicians there especially the flautist, Wendling, who brought about the commissions for Mozart’s flute quartets and concertos. Mozart desperately wanted a job at the court there yet sadly it wasn’t to be, but his later music was greatly influenced by the musicians that he got to know in that orchestra. Our recording of Mozart’s flute quartets, with the flautist Rachel Brown, which she has to intermingle with works by his contemporaries in both Mannheim and Paris (such as Wendling, Gluck, Viotti and Danzi) is due for release on Rachel’s own Uppernote label in the next few weeks.

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So, dear MozartEra fans, with this new CD Album Revolutionary Flute Quartets – Mozart, Mannheim & Paris, this summer another musical gem will be added to the exquisite and magnificent recordings by The Revolutionary Drawing Room Quartet! Dear Adrian, dear Kathryn, dear Rachel and dear Ruth, thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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

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Interview June 2016: 10 Questions with J. Irving

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John Irving: Books, CDs and Links
John Irving: Understanding Mozart’s Piano Sonatas
John Irving: Josef Haydn – Piano Sonatas
John Irving: www.johnirving.org.uk
John Irving (VIBF – Valletta): vallettabaroquefestival.com.mt


1. You are one of the few MozartEra scholars and, at the same time, one of the few MozartEra performing musicians, who has also a direct experience of the real repertoire of the 18th century, beyond Mozart. According to your experience, what’s the real technical striking difference between Mozart and his father, Mozart and Vanhal, Mozart and Haydn.

In the case of Mozart and his father, what I notice most – especially as a performer – relates to control of movement within a measure or phrase. This aspect is perhaps more effectively felt than described analytically against the benchmark of musical notation.

In performance, the greater suppleness of rhythm that Wolfgang attains compared to his father (who published several rather good solo keyboard sonatas that I recorded a few years ago) is a factor that is unmistakeable the moment you consider how you might interpret phrase shapes.

Vanhal is a very fine composer, who comes much closer to Mozart in terms of the control of material in relation to overall structure. Vanhal achieves a distinctiveness of voice (especially in sonata forms) that few of his contemporaries matched; for instance, if you were to switch on the radio during a movement of Vanhal, you could immediately tell from the nature of the material exactly where you were in the course of the structure.

With Haydn, that is not so easy, as his exceptional command of musical material allows him to juggle ideas in unusual ways that go beyond typical expectations. For Haydn, musical discourse lies on the border between perception and expectation, creating an expressive field around which those two essentials of communicative possibility have to adapt in each piece! Mozart’s expressive parameters rarely work in this way, though he sometimes achieves nearly the same thing in terms of phrasing, for instance in the minuet theme from the Hunt Quartet, K.458.

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2. You have played an important role in the preparation of The Mozart Project – The First Interactive Book on Mozart for iPad (itunes.apple.com). What have been the great challenges and the great accomplishments, you experienced with this special work?

Looking back on this project, now the recipient of several international awards, including iBook of the Year and Best Musical Work in 2015, I think the main challenge was writing the front page chapter texts in such a way as to draw the listener into an unfolding story, and tempt them to explore the book’s amazing hypertext functionality (including multiple layers of audio, video and text that deepen the understanding). I regularly had to resist the urge to give too much explanation on the surface level, leaving that for the hyper texts. Another challenge was organizing the two chapters I wrote in such a way that their various sections could be independently read in almost any order. I greatly enjoyed being able to record quite a few audio and video performances with Ensemble DeNOTE (including three videos specially-filmed for this project) that hopefully give users an insight into period performance matters.

I think the book’s greatest accomplishment is its flexibility: addressing itself to any reader, whether familiar with Mozart, or coming to his work for the first time. That flexibility has now extended into a stage show, The Mozart Project Live! (johnirvingfortepianist.wordpress.com), supported with funding from Arts Council England, which presents a journey through Mozart’s chamber music in a combination of live performance and extracts from the original iBook.

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3. Sometimes, listening to Mozart’s Piano Concertos and then to Mozart’s Piano Sonatas and then to the other piano works by Mozart, a common listener perceive a sort of difference in the type of pianism, actually used by Mozart. What’s your opinion on this?

Mozart always had a keen sense of scale, as you would expect from a man of the theatre. The nature of material, along with presentational aspects including register and texture, rarely misfires because it was so closely suited to context.

So, the solo piano music was conceived for presentation in a domestic setting (in a Viennese salon, for instance), whereas his piano concertos were more public genres with a pronounced sense of occasion. After his death, concert traditions developed in ways he probably did not envisage, with music acquiring a social role as a species of civic entertainment, including such things as the rise of the solo piano recital, and the vaguely comical visual spectacle of a piano concerto presented on stage with a 9-foot Steinway grand pitted against a large orchestra being directed as if by a circus ringmaster-ac-lion-tamer brandishing a long baton, while simultaneously liaising with the soloist-ac-hero.

Given what became of Mozart’s intimate and rhetorical language within such settings, it is hardly surprising that modern audiences perceive apparently different types of pianism in sonatas and concertos! In fact, the urge to bulk out Mozart’s slender solo piano textures was felt surprisingly early, for instance in Louis Adam’s 1804/5 piano method for the Paris Conservatoire, perhaps with a view to rendering them more effective on Erard pianos, rather than Viennese ones. In all these cases, though, Mozart survived the experience!

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4. Your very first technical advice to the musicians who want to begin playing 18th Century Music in a more historically informed way.

Fundamentally, you need an open mind and an ability to listen. With that basic equipment, you are well-placed to let the particular instrument teach you how to play.

For keyboardists, that might be harpsichords, clavichords or fortepianos – sometimes interchangeably across repertoires. The flexibility of keyboard medium found on printed title-pages throughout the 18th century is remarkable, with both harpsichord and clavichord hanging on alongside the emergent and eventually triumphant piano for a remarkably long time. As has been repeatedly shown, even Beethoven can sound well on a large late 18th century clavichord (a medium that certainly discloses a debt to CPE Bach).

It’s always sad to learn of students who have been put off playing 18th century music on fortepiano, harpsichord or clavichord by their teachers, who wrongly believe that the different touch of these instruments will ruin students’ modern piano touch.

Yes, the touch is different, and takes effort to master. Speaking different languages also requires hard work and a willingness both to fail and adapt, but the effort is worthwhile because of the greater fluency of vocabulary that you gain through trying (including always a gain in sophistication in the speaking of your native tongue).

Above all, do not waste time thinking that your motivation to be historically informed means you are engaging in an act of authenticity, recovering the original sounds as Mozart heard and intended them. This myth is still common; regrettably it remains effective as a deterrent (see above, in relation to bad teachers).

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

Mozart: probably the Piano and Winds Quintet K.452, especially the descending chromatic scale in the finale when played on natural horn (chromatic here in a literal sense, since each pitch has its own unique colour characteristic – modern valve horns don’t come close!).

Haydn: Creation.

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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?

I’d like to hear more Pleyel generally. His output is very diverse and deserves to be better known.

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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, especially thanks to your special experience as musician and as MozartEra scholar.

C.P.E. Bach’s symphonies – radical, and shocking!

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8. Beside your books, do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?

I think Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style remains at the top of my list, even after almost half a century!

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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 DVD, Knowing the Score.

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10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music.

Not what you might think, but my answer is Valletta: European Capital of Culture in 2018.

Our appreciation of 18th century music continues to evolve, and one of the most fascinating contemporary developments has been happening in the Maltese capital in recent years: the Valletta International Baroque Festival, masterminded by Kenneth Zammit Tabona.

Direct links to VIBF & John Irving at VIBF.

Using astonishing 18th century buildings as locations (including the spectacular Manoel Theatre), VIBF is developing our appreciation of both performing and listening to 18th century music afresh, in relation to spaces and acoustics that fire our musical imaginations.

Once again, this isn’t about some mistaken authenticity!

It’s a challenge to our creative imaginations to mould together the possibilities of instrumental sounds, historical playing styles and spaces to fashion something we’ve never heard before.

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So, dear MozartEra fans, you are all invited to these extraordinary rendezvous in the magnificent scenery of Valletta-Malta for a wonderful series of 18th century music must-be events from the Valletta International Baroque Festival to Valletta European Capital of Culture 2018! Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!

Thank you!

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

Interview May 2016: 10 Questions with E. Klorman

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Read also the review of the book: Mozart’s Music of Friends


  1. Your book Mozart’s Music of Friends (official site: mozartsmusicoffriends.com) has proved once more that J.Haydn has played a fundamental role in the evolution of chamber music, and has cast further documentary light on the strong connection between his chamber music works and the social conversational interrelation typical of the 18th century community and this from the very beginning. You mention in your book, just for example, his String Quartets Op. 1 published by La Chevardière in 1764 as Six Simphonies ou Quatuors Dialogués.
    It’s hard to overstate Joseph Haydn’s importance, not only in terms of his own output of chamber music but furthermore in terms of his influence on the following generation. We all know the six quartets that Mozart dedicated to him, but I only recently learned of the over 40 collections of quartets that were dedicated to Haydn during his lifetime. My friend and colleague Balázs Mikusi, based at the National Széchényi Library in Budapest, oversees Haydn’s personal collection of quartets and has pointed out that Haydn owned several of these published collections, which are mostly by composers who today are little known. It’s difficult to imagine a history of the Viennese string quartet without Haydn, Beethoven, and Mozart.
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  2. Do you see a possible influence of the socio-political hierarchy system of the 18th century Ancien Régime in the game of the parts and in the evolution of chamber music?
    I think about this in two ways, one literal and one more figurative. According to an oft-cited foundation myth (reported by Haydn’s biographer Griesinger), Haydn’s invented the string quartet at the request of a Baron Fürnberg, who needed music for four friends to play together at his country estate. The story is probably not true, but it reflects an understanding of the aristocracy’s role as musical patrons and hosts. It’s hard to tell the story of Viennese chamber music in this period without mentioning, for example, King Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia, Baron von Swieten, or Prince Rasumovsky played vital roles (just to name a few). And certainly the aristocracy’s deep engagement in chamber music (especially in Vienna) influenced those upper-middleclass families who sought to emulate their manners and customs. If one’s children could learn to play music with grace, that would elevate their social status.
    But a second way to answer this question is more metaphorical: the Enlightenment period brought about changing attitudes in music (just as in society) toward hierarchy vs. equality. If an earlier styles had more prescribed roles for melody instruments vs. harmony instruments vs. the bass, late-18th-century chamber music draws special attention to the role-exchange and witty interplay among the parts. The theorist Heinrich Christoph Koch writes that, in a string instrument, there is not a single instrument with the ancestral privilege (Vorrecht) to be the main melody, but four main melody instruments that exchange taking leading roles. This spirit of interchange seems to me to emulate the witty repartée of the salons, which cultivated a certain loosening of strict, aristocratic hierarchy.ae16bbmz
  3. After having delineated the fundamental aspects of the real meaning of conversation in music in the 18th century and then having reached the formal definition of a Multiple Agency methodology, what is your technical advice to the musicians who want to play chamber music in a more historically informed way?
    Of course there are many ways a performance can be informed (by history, by our own intuitions, by inspiration from other art forms, by innovative new ideas, etc.), and that’s very a good thing.
    As far as historically informed performance, we’re all familiar with sources about period instruments, ornamentation, etc. But another way to be historically informed is to consider the spirit of the music vis a vis the culture that gave rise to it. This is what led me to exploring the Enlightenment salons, which emphasized sociability, wit, and artful conversation. This is mirrored in the music that was played in these salons, you can see this in both historical accounts of these performance settings and in paintings or drawings that depict them, since the social aspects are emphasized as much as the musical ones. Therefore, sensitivity to this spirit of social intercourse is another way to be historically informed that matters just as much as, say, playing on gut strings or with a fortepiano.ae16bcmg
  4. Do you think there may be possible technical solutions to perform chamber music on stage, but reproducing at the same time the more intimate and private salon atmosphere for which most of chamber music was originally conceived?
    At John Ella’s Musical Union concerts in England (founded 1845), he placed the musicians in the center with the audience seated all around them. He wrote that this was meant to simulate for a larger audience the intimate experience of a Quartettabend in a Viennese salon.
    Whether it’s the setting of the room, or the way musicians interact with audiences, I think we can find ways to emulate aspects of the private salon atmosphere for larger audiences. The strict rituals and protocols of the traditional concert hall are not for every listener, so there’s room for us to experiment with ways to break down the wall from performers to audience. Usually we think that to do so is very innovative, but perhaps it’s actually going back to traditions that predate the formal concert halls.
  5. Your favourite work by Mozart and your favourite work by J. Haydn.
    I’m glad I don’t have to limit myself to playing just one! But since you ask for one of each, I’ll mention the Mozart Kegelstatt Trio, which is a favourite of mine being a violist. The story that Mozart composed the game while playing skittles (Kegelspiel) is not true, although Mozart was a great enthusiast of the game. But since the piece was written for the theretofore unprecedented combination of piano, clarinet, and viola, Mozart is constantly inventing new ways to use the instruments within the texture, and the players seem to be working out their roles throughout the piece as they do. Of course the piece is of special interest for me, being a violist, since Mozart wrote that part to play for himself.
    And for Haydn, I’d mention the Trio no. 44 in E Major, which (as I violist) I unfortunately can’t play. But the opening is brilliant, since it’s as if the piano wanted to play pizzicato – a piano masquerading as a string instrument!ae16bdkgae16bekg
  6. Do you have in mind the name of some neglected composer of the 18th century you’d like to see re-evaluated?
    Reading Mozart’s letters, I’m struck that he very often writes, «I arrived at the home of so and so, in such and such a city, and he had some very pretty new keyboard sonatas by composer XYZ». More often than not, XYZ is a name that I haven’t heard of and who is no longer part of the concert repertoire, and yet Mozart thought their sonatas were worth playing through and thinking about. Leaving aside the question of whose sonatas are better – not the most interesting question – we could at least say that music by so-called Kleinmeister helps us to understand the world Mozart or other more familiar composers operated in and the conventions they were drawing from. Music scholars are starting to look more thoughtfully at the broader landscape, rather than study a handful of master composers in a vacuum. See, for example, Robert Gjerdingen’s book Music in the Galant Style.
  7. Name a neglected piece of music of the 18th century you’d like to see performed in concert with more frequency, especially after the long documentary research you have carried on for your book Mozart’s Music of Friends.
    I’m a big fan of Mozart’s piano-and-violin sonatas and violin/viola duos, which I wish I’d hear more often in concerts and in recordings.
    As for lesser-known composers: I can’t name one piece, but as a musician interested in string quartets, I am struck how few composers are represented in concerts today and how few I really know (especially since so many quartets were published only in parts and have never appeared in scores).
    The Viennese music publisher Johann Traeg published an advertisement in 1784 in the Wiener Zeitung offering essentially a Netflix-like service for chamber music parts. For a modest fee, he would provide music for your weekly, private chamber music gatherings at your home (either three symphonies or six quartets, quintets, or sextets), but he required that the parts be returned the following day so you could receive new pieces the following week. His rental catalog contained over 1100 quartets, in more than 200 collections, by over 100 composers! (How many quartet composers from this period can you name?) This gives a sense for the voracious appetite of the Viennese aristocracy for new quartets to play through, week after week. Probably many of them were written more to sight-read through for fun, rather than to live with over a lifetime (as we do with canonical works today), but it gives an idea how much repertoire is out there than remains obscure today.ae16bfqt
  8. Beside your books, do you have in mind a particular book on Mozart Era you consider important for the comprehension of the music of this period?
    It’s hard to name just one! For a global view of the period, I can recommend very highly Daniel Heartz’s magisterial and amply documented trilogy of books, (1) Music in European Capitals: The Galant Style, 1720-1780, (2) Haydn, Mozart, and the Viennese School: 1740-1780, and (3) Haydn, Mozart, and Early Beethoven: 1781-1802. He has other books too, including a great study of Mozart’s operas. His protegé John A. Rice has a book called Music in the Eighteenth Century that covers much of the same ground but more concisely in a single volume.
    I would also mention the outstanding new collection entitled the Oxford Handbook of Topic Theory, edited by Danuta Mirka. The over twenty contributors explore musical topics or styles, such as the hunting style, brilliant style, ombra style, or dance styles, which gets into expressive musical meanings that we recognize when we play or listen to this music. The idea of musical topics was first suggested in a lovely book by Leonard Ratner entitled Classic Music, which has been a strong influence on my own work. Ratner’s influence cannot be overstated, since students and disciples, such as Wye Allanbrook, Kofi Agawu, and Raymond Monelle, have written important books that explore these same aspects. For example, Allanbrook points out that Figaro’s aria Se vuol ballare is essentially a stylized minuet. If a listener recognizes that the servant is singing in the style of a courtly, aristocratic dance, then it takes on extra meaning when he says Se vuol ballare, signor contino, il chitarrino le suonerò (If you wish to dance, my little count, I’ll play the little guitar).
    Then I’d be remiss if I neglected to mention Charles Rosen’s The Classical Style, which is such an important landmark in 18th century studies. My own book is dedicated in his memory, and his way of hearing the witty interplay of opera buffa in string quartets was profoundly influential for my work.
  9. Name a movie or a documentary that can improve the comprehension of the music of this period.
    Scholars are quick to point out the historical problems with Amadeus (Milos Forman’s adaptation of Peter Shaffer’s play), which is indeed highly fictionalized. But there are certain scenes in it that ring true to me in some way, and besides, the acting is superb. There’s a scene toward the end that shows Mozart composing parts of Die Zauberflöte in a pub, among his musician friends who try out the music as quickly as he composed it. The scene is pure fantasy, but it captures the silly tone Mozart uses in his letters and that surely were a part of his collaboration with Emanuel Schikaneder, the impresario who produced the performance, wrote the libretto, and performed at Papageno. One could imagine Pa-pa-pa-pa-pa-pageno growing out of just such an evening of revelry!
  10. Name a place to be visited that proved crucial to the evolution of the 18th century music, considering that then also some composers friends of Mozart, like Pleyel and Vanhal, rapidly reached the New World with their music and even with own Societies of Followers and considering the special relation between the von Zinzendorf family and the Viennese salons and Mozart himself.
    As an American, I always enjoy visiting Europe because I am surrounded by so many famous places in the history of western concert music. When I first visited Vienna and searched for my grandmother’s childhood home, I found that it was just around the corner from Haydn’s house.
    But in the United States we have some sites with interesting 18th-century musical history as well. I recently attended a conference at Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania. The Moravian community in Bethlehem was founded in 1741 by Nikolaus von Zinzendorf, and music was fundamental to their society. For instance, the basic social unit in their community was called the choir. One of the scholars who organized the conference, Sarah Eyerly is also a descendant of the community and organized an authentic Singstunde service and performance of Moravian songs accompanied by cittern and harp. Our venue at Moravian College was originally known at the Brethren’s House, built in 1748 and later visited by George Washington.
    And exactly there in 1811 the American premiere of Haydn’s The Creation was organized in the Sanctuary of Central Moravian Church. So I think it’s a strong symbol of how the Viennese divine sparkle of the music of friends of the circle of Mozart and Haydn managed to reach and enlighten so many parts of the World in just few years! Thank you very much for having taken the time to answer our questions!
    Thank you!

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