Klarinet Archive - Posting 000158.txt from 1996/04
From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: Re: Stan Geidel's very to-the-point comments
Date: Sat, 6 Apr 1996 18:25:32 -0500
The notion of "what Mozart wanted" is an idea that is usurped by different
people and in different ways. And as Stan spoke about it in his
interesting and informative note, I was reminded of how many times
I have sat through lectures on Mozart that began with the words, "Today
we know what Mozart meant ... " and then continue with the presentation
of an opinion that was developed from whole cloth by the author of the
I call it "putting Mozart's signature on the author's speculation"
or, alternatively, "putting your opinions in Mozart's mouth."
I once read a really good article on the instrumentation of the Gran
Partitta that suddenly went crazy when the author said, "I am confident
that if Mozart were alive he would agree with me that the substitution
of xxx for yyy does nothing but improve the work." It is very easy
for one to assert that Mozart would agree with him or her for any
statement of any nature on any topic known to humanity.
Now Szell, of course, had real credentials. This was a very well-trained
musician, and yet his comments about tongued articulation being more
like Weber than Mozart shows how ego can so get in the way that facts
are distorted. And a comment from a guy like him can influence
performances for 20 years. I once went to a performance of the NY
Philharmonic around 1942 and Bruno Walter (who was considered the
leading Mozartean of his day), did the Jupiter Symphony with doubled
winds and 14 string basses. The orchestra was about 95 people and
I thought they were going to play the Rite of Spring. And for the
next 10 or 15 years, I never heard a performance of the Jupiter that
was done with less than 12 basses, and occasionally more. When questioned,
the response was invariably, "Bruno Walter has shown us how to do
this Mozart symphony." Today's performances have now swung the other
way, often with as few as one bass.
Moral: don't believe anyone who says, "Today we know that ... "
Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California