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1. Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 23 in A, I. Allegro

February 13, 2011

Welcome to my classical music blog lectures! Hope you enjoy them.
We have lots of great music to discuss, but Mozart is always a good place to start, so let’s get right into it..

Listen here on youtube: Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, I. Allegro

About the composer:
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (pronounced “moats-art,” not “mow-zart”) lived 1756-1791, born in Salzburg, Austria. One of the greatest child prodigies we know of – was touring Europe by the time he was 5 years old, and was beginning his composing career too around then (and what were YOU doing when you were 5?). According to one story, he once listened to a performance of a piece, later wrote the entire thing down by memory, with only minor fixes needed. Many of his hand-written scores, including of some his greatest works, were perfectly clean upon first draft – like “dictation from God,” somebody said. Jealousy of his talent was told, and heavily dramatized, in the movie “Amadeus. “Produced some of the greatest works in all classical music, all by his untimely death at age 35.

Terms and definitions:
“Concerto” (pronounced “con-CHAIR-toe”) – a piece written for an orchestra with a solo instrument – here, a piano. a concerto typically has 3 movements – kind of 3 separate pieces that form one work. The first movement is entitled “Allegro” which is Italian for “fast.”

Stylistic context:
Mozart was the master of the “classical” style, of which the dominant traits were about form and structure, balance, pattern, symmetry, proportion, order (the same traits appear in the classical period of visual arts, if that connects for you). But not that these make classical era stoic and logical. We’ll see in Mozart that there is a lot of emotion, joy, distress, and tension going on – but in this period, these had to be controlled, and handled properly. Later Mozart works begins to push at the seams a bit of these restraints, but they didn’t burst just yet.

Mozart’s greatness:
Mozart’s music, as a whole, is beautiful to perfection – his writing always sounds light and effortless, perfect in clarity and balance, never an extra note, graceful and elegant. He had a gift for melody – his melodic writing is as good as it gets – I’ve heard vocalists say that they feel “alive” when they sing Mozart’s music.

What to listen for:
This being a concerto, listen to the interaction between the piano and the orchestra (once the piano enters following an orchestral introduction) – how they weave in and out of each other, how one is the main subject and the accompaniment (and then switching roles), how one introduces a melodic idea and then later the other takes it over, or embellishes upon it, or takes it and develops it further. Listen for Mozart’s melodic writing, as described above, and also the “orderliness” of everything (if you’re not pinpointing this quality, it will be more evident once we at composers whose writing aren’t so symmetrical and contained). At 9:10 into the piece, the piano takes a long solo, known as a “cadenza” – in which the soloist kind of gets an extended moment to shine.

Next: 2nd movement of the same piano concerto.

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