Speaking Mozart’s Lingo

Bernard D. Sherman

in Inside Early Music

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195169454
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865017 | DOI:
Speaking Mozart’s Lingo

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Robert Levin became a fortepianist by accident. What makes Levin uncommon is that he introduces into the Mozart works he performs: he does not play the same notes at each performance but makes some of them up on the spot. We now think of music in terms of a division of labor: the composer writes it, the performer plays it. In Mozart’s time, genres like the opera aria and the concerto still called for a good deal of performer input. In these works, Mozart did not write down all of the passagework, lead-ins, and cadenzas, but often played whatever occured to him at that moment. This chapter presents an interview with Levin on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and improvisation in music, how character is delineated in concertos, absolute pitch, use of the continuo in Mozart and Joseph Haydn, how improvisation can be translated into the recording studio, and the decline in size of audience for classical music.

Keywords: Robert Levin; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart; improvisation; classical music; cadenzas; concertos; absolute pitch; continuo

Chapter.  12248 words. 

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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