Free «Preparing and Interpretation of A Mozart's Concerto» Essay Sample


The 18th century saw a rapid development of piano concertos with people like Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart putting their almost indelible mark in the history of piano concerto. The development of this genre of playing music was mainly unique in the sense that the performer or the soloist could develop concertos that were suited to various purposes and also different players. As a result of the variation in the performance and the freedom that the performer has while producing a concerto, there has emerged different concertos, which bear different characteristics, although all of them claim to be related to Mozart concertos. Among different variations of concertos are clarinet concertos, violin concertos, piano concertos, and horn concertos. The main distinguishing factor in all of these concertos is the role that the performer plays in the overall performance of the concerto as well as the effect it has on the interpretation of the kind of concerto (Tischler, 1988). The article discusses how the role of the performer’s effect on the interpretation of a piano concerto performance is related with general Mozart concertos.

Unique Performance Styles

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Performance of Mozart concerti is one of the most flexible and enduring styles in the history of music performance. Each performer has a certain amount of freedom to introduce a unique performance style to suit to the occasion and provide a sense of style which is also preferred by the audience. The individuality and originality of concerto performance must be distinctive in the sense that it should satisfy both the artistic and composition demand of the concerto without necessarily changing the concerto itself (O'Dea, 2002). However, the distinction should not depict the notion that there are special types of performance with their own ideas and images which are different from those of the composer. It is important to provide the artificial distinction on how the original composition is performed with the performance itself. It is difficult to find a performer who is completely detached from the composition in terms of the presentation of the concerto especially if the composer is different from the performer. It is notable that uniqueness of the performance can only be revealed when the ideas of the composer are taken into account. This helps to remove the danger of the performer turning into a calculated display of cold techniques which do not contain the important aspects of the sonata (Josephson &Kiwak, 2007).

Similarly, it is possible to exhibit a good performance from a performer without necessarily displaying individual qualities in the performance. In other words, the performance can be well executed without transmitting personal ideas and interests as well as overlooking the original concept behind the composition. This is because every phrase and passage used in the composition is actually communicating a special message as conceived by the composer. For instance, assuming that the sound of a concerto is fixed for perpetuity like when a composer’s performance is reserved it would be achievable to treat this presentation as the only one possible, undisputable, and unsurpassable standard for all other performers to follow suit (Estrella, 2010). However, this would be limiting the extent of performing a concerto by different performers. In this regard, any composer should definitely consider the possibilities of enormous performing art. Still, an outstanding interpretation consistently introduces extraordinary characteristics that give new direction to both on the masterpiece and on the performer. It should not be assumed that performance of a sonata reveals unique elements of the performer only during moments of noteworthy deviations from the original composition. Independent and luminous performances on the side of the performer are seen not only in free tempo dissimilarity, weight of stress on certain parts of the sound strand, or degree of buildup and decrease, but also in the minimum details and shadings displayed by the performer during the process of performance (Spaethling, 2005).

Moreover, most performance styles which are exhibited by individual performers are not copyrighted. This implies that they can be adapted by a different performer and modified to suit the needs of a particular performance. The copied performance style can in effect become the distinctive characteristics of a particular group of pianists who take up the style and perfect on it. The hidden features of performing and setting of sound and rhythm which are not transferrable and difficult to teach highlights the uniqueness of performance of Mozart concerti. These features are the ones that provide the audience with the reason to choose between two compositions from the same composer but performed by different performance artists. Each could present a different creative approach to the listener and thus be able to deduce a different idea depending on how it is performed. Thus, as noted by Suchet (2005), listening to such an artist can bring an experience in the growing boundaries of imagination as ideas are eliminated from the usual ordinary sounds that generate several layers in the awareness of the listener even as the sonata recovers its original force together with liveliness and significance.

Ordinarily, it is not always the case that normal performance crosses the horizon beyond the intentions of the composer such as the original ideas that the composer had in mind when coming up with a particular sonata. Artistic performance from a performer is only supposed to be the completion of the original concept of the composer as envisaged in the sonata (Suchet, 2005). Most of the time, the original concept is not always evident to the performer. However, through analysis and introspection, it is possible for a performer to be precise on the concept that the composer had in mind when coming up with the composition. Without mentioning the issues that surrounds the straightforwardness and intricacies contained in a composition or even introducing the issue of why a composition’s complications and ease of access are treated in a contrasting manner, it is equally important to first decide whether such issues are pertinent in the performance of the composition (Jackson, 2005).  The intricacies of a sonata can be seen as the irrefutable complexity of its individual components, at least in some respects. As pointed out by Hummel (1994), this is evident to individual persons who are able to, “point to the number of voices in a fugue, the multi-layered content of harmonic combinations, the conjoining of varying meters, the complexity of thematic and variation development, or finally to broad formal development that requires special attention”.  In the same way, an individual listener might argue that, “polyphonic compositions are more complex than homophonic and that polytonal and polyrhythmic compositions require greater attention by the listener and performer” (Newman, 2010). Such observations are important especially where the performer intends to improve his or her performance based on the views received from the listener (Josephson &Kiwak, 2007).

It is important to note that piano concertos as arranged by Mozart offer an extremely interesting variety with each concerto having the possibility of being regarded as a well-organized whole. It is clear that in composing his concertos Mozart completely exhibited his genius approach to concerti composition and revealed the best standard for the contemporary performers to judge Mozart as a pianoforte composer and performer composing majority of the concertos for himself. He put himself among the greatest composers of all times (Girdlestone, 1997).  Mozart’s six concerti are among the greatest honored works in literature. The use of clarinet in the performer also stands out as a special instrument in the performance of the concerto. The effect that the performer has on the composition and performance of a concerto also depends on the kind of instruments that the performer utilizes. The years that followed Mozart’s composition saw the emergence of other instruments including the piano leading to a new genre in the performance of concerti (Zaslaw, 1996). Mozart’s work exhibits a variation in the division of cello-base line as its upper part is automatically played using double basses because of their tendency to play octave, which is occasionally lower than the one that is composed. The use of shorthand in notations is also another factor that a performer of Mozart’s composition needs to pay attention to as he is expected to fill in and decorate just the same way it is done in the D Minor concertos.

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Unlike in other forms of musical compositions such as Jazz, which allows for artistic expression to tentatively undergo an evolution with time, Mozart concertos have withstood the test of time to survive from the 18th century well into the 21st century with the same characteristics. Arguably, the 20th century witnessed a massive evolution of jazz as a way of communication partly from the historical background that the inventors of jazz music were emerging. The birth of jazz music parallels a revolution in music "media" (Dubal, 1995). The American nation had abolished slavery and the African Americans were trying to reinvent their culture through music. However, because of the time lapse between slavery and its subsequent abolition in 1808, the Creole Americans were not fully conversant with their African music and thus there was need to reinvent the way they could communicate through music. Among the greatest contributors to the evolution of jazz music were the 20th century jazz legendaries Louis Armstrong and Miles Davis much the same way as Mozart put a stamp to the concerti music composition and performance. An outstanding feature is that Mozart concerti follow a predetermined form of performance that requires from the performer to have a glimpse of what the composer was expecting or thinking about while writing different notations (Keefe, 2005).

The Role of the Performer

Mozart concertos can be challenging to create and execute. However, with a persistent learningm one is able to grasp the complexities that are involved in the composition and performance of concertos. A number of different artists wrote many concertos which are played today. However, it was Mozart who pioneered the work of concertos with his elevated keyboard concertos to among the prominent positions of instruments. A closer examination of the concertos will reveal a relationship in structure and form to the traditional baroque operatic arias, which were first exhibited by Mozart piano concertos (Feinberg, 2001). The same structure is evident in the violin concerti, especially with its three movement concerto and vita, which involves six sections. Despite the complexities of producing a concerto using whichever instruments one chooses, it is notable that the role of the performer in influencing the final product of concerto is significant in the production of a Mozart concerto. For instant, many concertos in Mozart performance needed an intermediary performer to be creative and be able to precisely interpret his own composition (Lateiner, Brubaker & Gottlieb, 2000). The major point is that the performer must know exactly what is composed because some Mozart concerto performers do not understand the composition that they have produced themselves. In concerto performance, the performer takes the centre stage and is charged with the responsibility of significantly influencing the artistic and creative process of interpreting the music, which has been composed for this purpose (Josephson& Kiwak, 2007).

The music persona of the performer will only be exposed as much as the perfectness and completeness of the overall performance of the artist. The secret is for the performer to enter into the mind of the composer and allow blending of individual traits of his talent as well as those of the composer. In many occasions, however, the composer is always the same as the performer of a concerto and thus removes the need to try and interpret the mind of the composer before performing the concerto on the stage. It is the sole duty of the performer to ensure that strength and courage form part of the overall performance and exhibit a high sense of unity in playing the concerto. This is always important as it helps to harmonize the sound ideas and images contained in the artistic work as it is interpreted by a bystander listening to the performance objectively (Rosen, 1997). Important also is the ability of the performer to connect the intention of the composition with his artistic personality. This is definitely present in the acknowledgement of the overwhelming imperativeness of the composer as well as the role that the composer plays in transferring his ideas to the performer. Characteristically, the composer and the performer of a piano concerto must exhibit the same approach and interpretation of the music, even though they do not necessarily need to be the same person. Thus, this elevates the role that the performer has in the complete execution of a piano concerto, especially now that the composer does not technically rely on the performer. However, the same cannot be said of the performer who completely depends on the composer for his performance to be effective (Tovey, 2009).

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The person listening to the performance several times need to establish the existing connection between the composer and the performer. This should be evident from the artistic personality that the performer shows in his performance while appreciating the enormous essential of the composer and also in the connection of the composer’s ideas. The effects that composers and performers have in the execution of the concerto rest in the realization of the ideas that the composer had when composing the concerto (Grayson, 1998). More often than not, concerto composers are the performers of their own compositions. Arguably, the combination of the composer and the performer in the performance of a concerto is the most fruitful approach in the execution of Mozart concerti. It helps in producing the greatest artistic achievements in the execution of concertos. Evidently, the performer of a Mozart concerto is the main character in a performance invariably written by him. This characteristic of concerto performance makes execution easier and appeals to the listener because the performance is well up to the point in relation to the visualization of the composer. Nevertheless, performance needs to be based on the instrument that is used. For instance, a piano concerto must exhibit characteristics, which are unique to piano concerto as opposed to clarinet or violin concerto, even though the same could have been composed by the same person (Estrella, 2010).  This implies that the perfection of the instruments used in the performance of the Mozart concerto is solely the work of the performer. It also means that the performer is given the responsibility of interpreting the work as conceived in the concerto by the composer, especially with a better mastery of different instruments that are used in the performance.

Notably, composers with a better mastery of the instruments to be used in the performance of a concerto are not always proficient with the techniques to be applied in the performance of their composition. It happens that most composers of the concerti sometimes exhaust the creativity required in the composition and performance of a concerto during the process of composing it. This is always the case with the Mozart concerti as performance is completely delineated from the composition of the same concerto(Newman, 2010). In composition of numerous concerti, Mozart intended to develop virtuosity and emergence of professional performers whose artistic efforts would definitely concentrate on the performance rather than the composition of the concerto. Additionally, the separation of composer skills from those of the performer were consciously intended to enable the performer to concentrate on the execution of the composition while at the same time reading the minds of the composer and the listener. It is a role that the performer of a Mozart concerto put into consideration if they are to get it right from the start(Suchet, 2005).The performer of a concerto has the sole role of establishing principle elements of the classics and the styles that are used in the performance.  This is evident in the compositions by Mozart. He establishes virtuoso characters in the technical passages of solo parts, which progressively become difficult and demanding on the part of the performer. The idea is to bring the performer to the appreciation of the work of composing complex and technical concerti with respect to the conception that the composer has in mind. It is important to adhere to the technical part of the concerto, which explores the sonata as a whole as it is expressed in the general outline of the composition(Spaethling, 2005).

Rosenblum (1991) noted that the composition of some concerti may not have been correctly executed as required by the composer. As a performer, it is their role to identify the mistakes that composers have made in composing the concerti. Even though the composer may have a remarkable interest in the final performance of the concerto, performance execution is very important and on many occasions detailed. This is normally much more than the composition and draws the inspiration from written notes and refers to essential interests that the composer has in the concerto, which highlights future interpretation of the concerto by the performer. A well-experienced and dedicated performer spends many hours on mastering the techniques and ideas that the composer has expressed and thus occupies a special place to make corrections in and adjustments to the original composition. A clever performer should not desist from making corrections in the original script of a concerto by passing the same mistakes into the performance. This shows the special relationship that the composer and the performer have with each other and that espouses the serious role occupied by the performer in the final execution of a concerto. It is unusual for a performer to overlook shortcomings and misses inherent in the concerto composition, which are always committed even by the greatest composers such as Beethoven and Mozart. The transcription of the misses made by the composer should not be seen as a modest approach by the performer and a conceited crossing of the margins outlining his role as secondary to the composer.

Consequently, the role that the performer plays in interpreting and sometimes arranging a concerto is equally important as much as that of the composer. The performer is responsible for popularizing the concerti as perceived by the composer (Zaslaw, 1996). Numerous examples exist of performers who have popularized the works of some concerti composers to worldwide fame. The role that they play does not fit the description of a secondary approach to the successful and excellent execution of a concerto. Agreeably, the purpose of the performer is not to carry out intensive editorial transcriptions of the works of a composer, but rather to participate in the passage of a message, which the composer may not have executed as expected of him. Sometimes, it is normal for the dictation by the performer to result in an unexpected modification of the original composition and to totally deviate from the composer’s original ideas. Notably, these changes are logically conceived owing to the elements of different instruments, which are used in the performance and the instrumentation systems as a whole. The performer has the leeway to use whichever system that will lead to an excellent performance. This means that various modifications of the original concerto will be inevitable in the final performance presented to the listener (Keefe, 2005). 

Moreover, existing records indicate that performers fair poorly when it comes to identifying and correcting mistakes of the composer in a concerto script. This difficulty emanates from the fact that many performers have not connected fully with the composers, some of whom produced difficult and complex compositions. The notes of the composer, and especially 18th century composers like Mozart and Beethoven, were highly conceived and contemporary composers are still marveling at the mastery of these composers, many of whom were able to perform their own compositions better than modern performers. A factor in this might be the transformation of the instruments used in the contemporary performance. Ludwig van Beethoven’s and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s compositions continue to be a subject of study by music scholars, dramatists, and screen players. It is evident that the two were accomplished classical era composers whose marks in different genres of music remain indelible in the history of music. Despite all these achievements, the two composers did not lead befitting lives that were a show of the public admiration that they enjoyed amongst their supporters (Dubal, 1995).  


Notably, the performance of a concerto and the use of different editions of composers by performers reveal that a small deviation from the original text of the composer or addition of an extra note, a transcription in the figuration or any other detail in the original composition will change overall intentions of the composer. During the early development of concerti, the composers were also the performers. However, in the contemporary performances composers are not necessarily the performers of their composition. This makes it important for performers to have a full understanding of their role, which is subordinate to the composer. Transcription should only be done when necessary. One should therefore avoid making transcriptions that will completely change the concerto. In situations where the transcriptions completely change the original ideas of the composer, the performer can be said to lack a total understanding of the style of the composer. 

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