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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000281.txt from 1996/04

From: "Dan Leeson: LEESON@-----.EDU>
Subj: "Improving" a composition
Date: Wed, 10 Apr 1996 20:20:47 -0400

Two items were brought up as examples of "improvements" that did not (in
the view of some) improve the works involved.

The first example was Mozart's rearrangement of Messiah (though two other
Mozart arrangements exists of other Handel choral works). While Mozart
may very well have thought that he was improving those pieces, that is not
why he was paid to do the work. He was asked to arrange the works because
performances of all three were scheduled in a church that had no organ.
So he was to expand the instrumentation and incorporate all organ music
that was not expendable.

So there was this practical reason for his arrangement. Once he got started,
however, his genius took over. After all, what he did musically, he did
to the best of his abilities. And what turned out was wonderful, exciting,
interesting, but not Handel. It was David in denim shorts, a scotch plaid
tie, and a puce umbrella, very suitable for Picasso,
tie, and a puce umbrella, just the very thing that Picasso might have done,
but not Handel.

The second example was in reference to improvisation in the Mozart
concerto (which Stolzman does not do by any stretch of the imagination).
It is presumed that those of us who do improvise when playing Mozart's
music do so in order to improve it. I can't speak for anyone else, but
it would be foolhardy of me to think that anything I do at an instant's
notice could in any way improve on Mozart's music. That is not why I
do it. There is a completely different purpose in mind, one that is far
too long to go into here. But that purpose is a valid one and I have hard
history on my side when doing it. I may do it badly and it may even
unimprove the music, in which case I'll have to rethink the issue. But
my reasons for doing it are concrete solid, and have nothing to do with
improving the music. Any improvisor in music of the classic period
would be foolish to approach the problem of one of improving the music
that the person is about to play.

I did a piece on Stan Geidel's website that addressed exactly why
improvisation was part of the 18th century performance practice handbook.

Dan Leeson, Los Altos, California

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