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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000153.txt from 1994/01

From: Cary Karp <nrm-karp@-----.SE>
Subj: Re: Charles Hillen's comments on Mozart and performance issues
Date: Sun, 23 Jan 1994 10:14:51 -0500

On Fri, 21 Jan 1994, Dan Leeson wrote:

> In the case of Mozart, I assert that the first measure of every movement
> of every Mozart compositions was expected to be played forte if no
> dynamic marking was present. This was Mozart's assumption: no opening
> dynamic means "forte." It was not negotiable. It was not decided on
> by vote. It was the accepted performance practice of the day. Given
> a sheet of music that had no dynamic mark in the opening measure meant
> to play loud and every performer knew it just as every performer of
> today knows what to do when the stock arrangements says "Tempo di
> Rhumba."

To be sure -- but one of the salient differences between the orchestras of
Mozart's day and of our own is that the former was a healthy sight
quieter. Does a faithful realization of his self-understood forte mean
pumping out the same number of decibels as his orchestra did, in which
case an editor would indeed have to indicate something less than forte, or
does it mean for us to play what we now perceive as forte, which would
certainly be unauthentically loud?

This is not a trivial conundrum. An "authentic" performance of a Mozart
work (or anyone else's) can be defined in at least two ways. The first
would be the recreation of what to the best of our present knowledge and
ability was presented to his own ears, preferably at a performance with
which he was satisfied. The second would be the recreation of the affect
that his music was intended to produce. That is, to have the audience
laugh and cry in accordance with Mozart's intent, for them to perceive
tedium and tension and to have them say such things as, "what a
delightful mezzoforte", in exactly the right places. Both definitions
sustain credible argument but, boy oh boy, can they ever result in
different sounding performances.

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