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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000017.txt from 1993/12

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re the thinking of Diana at Ithaca
Date: Wed, 1 Dec 1993 19:10:42 -0500

Diana writes (in response to my suggestion that we discuss
issues about performing Mozart on the clarinet) that she "will
always enjoy a 'traditional' performance of a standard rep.
piece far more than a non-traditional one."

And therein lies our problem. Diana believes that what she
hears when she listens to (for example) the wonderful performance
of K. 622 by Cohen of Cleveland, that she is listening to a
traditional performance. I would suggest to her that she has
never heard a traditional performance of that work. What she has
heard are very contemporary nontraditional perforfmances of the
work that she presumes are traditional because that is what she
knows and has come to like.

In order to hear a traditional performance of the work, she must
understand what traditions were in effect when the work was written;
i.e., what Mozart expected the soloist to do when performing a work
that was, AT THAT TIME, a brand new composition, sort of avant
guarde music.

heard are contemporary performances of the work that are very
untraditional.

In order to hear a traditional performance of the work, she must
understand what traditions were in effect when the work was written,
both in terms of what Mozart expected the soloist to do and what
the soloist did because it was customary to do those things when
performing works that were, AT THAT TIME, brand new compositions.

Diana, you have so enshrined the Mozart concerto, perhaps "embalmed"
is a better word, that you perceive its performances by contemporary
players as the way the work was always played. False premise!

When Mozart wrote a solo composition, he expected the soloist to
alter the text. It was the tradition for music written in that
period (and all the way back to ca. 1650). When he played
his own piano concerti (and violin concerti) and improvised during
their performance he did so, not as the composer, but as a performing
musician of late 1700 doing what the audience expected him to do.

And make no mistake about the intelligence of the Viennese audiences
of that time. They expected inventiveness and imagination in
their performances, not the same work played over and over again with
the same unchanging notes.

This is not my opinion about how Mozart played and what he
presumed his performing colleagues would do. There is considerable
evidence from that time the establishes the player as a contributor
to the creative process, and not only by playing but by inventing.

You cannot presume that what you have heard is the traditional way.
It is only the way you have heard things. And the tradition of
one epoch often gets changed by the musical opinions of other eras.

When Brahms wrote his music, the tradition OF THAT TIME was the
long, flowing musical phrase, uninterrupted and lllllooooonnnngggg!!
There is nothing wrong with that. That is how Brahms perceived his
music and he was a child of his times. But to apply that kind of
thinking to Mozart borders on the irrational. Mozart wanted the
surface texture of his music to be much more articulated than
Brahms expected of the surface texture of his.

Brahms had long slurs over many notes. Mozart rarely did. This is
not an accident. Mozart did not forget to write slurs. He didn't
want them. And when one looks at the autograph of the wind
Serenades in E-flat, c-minor, and B-flat, one sees Mozart's
perspective on the surface texture of his music for that ensemble.

But around 1875 all that got edited, some of it by Brahms himself. He
was one of the editors of the great Mozart edition of 1875-1905. And
mostly, what the editors did were to put lots of slur marks into
Mozart's music under the assumption that it sound great for their
music so it should sound great for Mozart's music. Very false
premise!!

Excuse me if I speak bluntly. Neither you nor I are the decider
of what constitutes a "traditional" performance. The epoch in
which it was written decides that. Deviation from that epoch's
traditions constitute non-traditional performances, not the other
way round.

For one thing, if you don't have a basset clarinet, the performance
of K. 622, K. 581, the Parto solo from Titus, etc., are all
going to be non-traditional, because that is the instrument for
which the work was written and any performance using anything else
does not play what the composer requested. So tell me, when did you
ever hear a traditional performance? Who played it? What were the
traditions?

Anthony Taylor, this note will serve as a beginning to the discussion
you said you wanted to have (and to which I am delighted to comply).
Let's talk more.

====================================
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California
(leeson@-----.edu)
====================================

   
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