Tag Archives: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Catalogue arias

The catalogue arias of late eighteenth-century Italian opere buffe focus on lists; subjects may include enjoyable activities, foods, things for sale, or types of people (by nationality, social rank, occupation, personal qualities, and so on).

Their progress often involves shorter and shorter syntactic units: Sentences give way to phrases, then to one- or two-word groups, accelerating the rate of accumulated information—the comic frenzy is actually built into the text itself. This textual compression often involves two rhetorical devices: asyndeton (omitting conjunctions) and anaphora (beginning successive lines or phrases with the same word).

This according to “Catalogue arias and the ‘catalogue aria’” by John Platoff, an essay included in Wolfgang Amadé Mozart: Essays on his life and his music (New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, pp. 296–311).

Above, Lorenzo da Ponte, author of the celebrated catalogue aria Madamina, il catalogo è questo, from Mozart’s Don Giovanni; below, Luca Pisaroni does the honors.

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Mozart’s starling

 

On 27 May 1784 Mozart purchased a European starling (Sturnus vulgaris, above). The pleasure he expressed at hearing the bird’s song—“Das war schon!”—is all the more understandable when one compares his notation of it with the beginning of the last movement of his Piano Concerto in G major, K.453, which was written around the same time.

Three years later the bird died, and he buried it with much ceremony. Heavily veiled mourners marched in a procession, sang hymns, and listened to a graveside recitation of a poem Mozart had composed for the occasion.

Although many questions remain about starlings’ vocal capacities, a recent study supports a definite link between their mimicry and their lively social interactions, illuminating Mozart’s response to his beloved pet’s death.

This according to “Mozart’s starling” by Meredith J. West and Andrew P. King (American scientist LXXVIII/2 [May–August 1990] pp. 106–114).

Below, the concerto movement sung by Mozart’s starling.

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Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking

In 2016 Peter Lang launched the series Medieval interventions: New light on traditional thinking with The power and value of music: Its effect and ethos in classical authors and contemporary music theory by Andreas Kramarz.

The series publishes innovative studies on medieval culture broadly conceived—works espousing, for example, new research protocols, especially those involving digitized resources; revisionist approaches to codicology and paleography; reflections on medieval ideologies; fresh pedagogical practices; digital humanities; advances in gender studies; and fresh thinking on animal, environmental, geospatial, and nature studies. In short, the series will seek to set rather than follow agendas in the study of medieval culture.

Since medieval intellectual and artistic practices were naturally interdisciplinary, the series welcomes studies from across the humanities and social sciences. Recognizing also the vigor that marks the field worldwide, the series endeavors to publish work in translation from non-Anglophone medievalists.

Below, Dr. Kramarz engagingly introduces himself and his subject matter.

BONUS: In an example of Apollonian aesthetics cited in the book, Tamino controls the elements with his magic flute in Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte.

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A new Mozart facsimile edition

mozart-requiem-1

In 2015 Bärenreiter issued Requiem KV 626: Faksimile der autographen Partitur in der Österreichischen Nationalbibliothek, a complete autograph edition of Mozart’s Requiem.

mozart-requiem-2

The surviving manuscript reflects its dramatic history: Mozart’s handwriting and the supplementary entries by Süßmayr and others often appear on the same page. The corner of a page where Mozart wrote down one of his last musical ideas was later stolen; it is still visible in an old photograph. Each page is individually cut to match the manuscript, conveying a vivid impression of the original. A foreword discussing the genesis of the Requiem and a detailed description of the manuscript complement the facsimile score.

Below, an excerpt from the work.

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“The Antons” redux. II

Emanuel Schikaneder

The stunning success of Der dumme Gärtner aus dem Gebürge, oder, Die zween Anton at Vienna’s Theater auf der Wieden (12 July 1789) led quickly to a sequel in the same year, Die verdeckten Sachen (26 September). Like its predecessor, the music was a collaborative composition by Franz Xaver Gerl, Benedikt Schack, Johann Baptist Henneberg, and probably Emanuel Schikaneder, the librettist.

Mozart had high praise for what he called The Antons, and he composed his final set of piano variations on one of the most celebrated arias in Die verdeckten Sachen, “Ein Weib ist das herrlichste Ding auf der Welt”. This edition presents this aria for the first time in its original orchestration. With the recent identification of performing materials for Die verdeckten Sachen in Rudolstadt, Thuringia, we can now investigate this opera in detail.

A new critical edition, drawing on this new source, has recently been issued as Two operas from the series Die zween Anton. Part 2: Die verdeckten Sachen (Middleton: A-R Editions, 2016).

Above, a portrait of Schikaneder (click to enlarge); below, Mozart’s K.613, performed by Gerhard Puchelt.

BONUS: The imaginary Schikaneder production from Amadeus.

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Figaro and Freud

figaro

In the opening duet of Mozart’s Le nozze di Figaro, Figaro makes Freudian errors in counting and in singing. Susanna, needing emotional support and sensitive to Figaro’s psychology, directs his therapy in a manner both manipulative and helpful.

The brief scene is paradigmatic for the opera as a whole, and the duet’s dramatic action is projected by the music at every level, from small details to aspects of global structure.

This according to “Figaro’s mistakes” by David Lewin (Current musicology 57 [spring 1995] pp. 45–60).

Le nozze di Figaro is 230 years old this year! Above, Lydia Teuscher and Vito Priante as Susanna and Figaro; below, the scene in question.

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The first Mozart monument

Rovereto claims the distinction of being both the first stop in the series of trips that Mozart undertook in Italy—he arrived with his father on Christmas Eve in 1769—and the first city to erect a monument in Mozart’s honor.

The monument was designed by Giuseppe Antonio Bridi (1763–1836), a banker who had befriended Mozart and was passionate about music. Bridi’s relationship with Mozart and his family continued until his death, including a regular correspondence with Constanze that was carried out until 1833. The monument was erected in 1825 at Bridi’s villa in the suburbs of Rovereto.

This according to “Sulla via del ritorno: Il primo monumento alla gloria di Mozart” by Renato Lunelli, an essay included in Mozart in Italia: I viaggi, le lettere (Milano: Ricordi, 1956); the volume was issued to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the composer’s birth.

Today is Mozart’s 260th birthday! Below, the symphony K.112, composed during his first Italian sojurn.

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Mozart: New documents

mozartnewdocs

 

Mozart: New documents is a collaborative project for the digital publication of new Mozart documents discovered since 1997, the date of the second supplement (the Neue Folge) to Otto Erich Deutsch’s  Mozart: Die Dokumente seines Lebens (Kassel: Bärenreiter, 1961). This website is intended as an open working draft, and the editors welcome contributions and feedback from readers, who will receive explicit credit and acknowledgment.

Digital publication allows rolling out the content of the site over a period of months; it initially included 37 documents with commentaries, and at least 70 were scheduled to be added over the ensuing months. By the time the site is completed, it will include well over 100 new documents and addenda, and research is still ongoing.

When the site has reached a point of relative stability, it will be moved to a more permanent home with an institutional base; options for the print publication of some or all of the documents and commentaries on this site are under consideration.

Below, a recent contribution to Mozart documentation.

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W.A. Mozart, cartoonist

mozart sketch1

Mozart’s wittiness is famously illuminated through many of his letters. Less known are his small humorous sketches, which appear here and there throughout his correspondence.

The sketches range from mysterious stick figures to bizarre caricatures; some are still riddles to scholars.

This according to “Mozart, der Zeichner” by Gabriele Ramsauer, an essay included in Mozart-Bilder–Bilder Mozarts: Ein Porträt zwischen Wunsch und Wirklichkeit (Salzburg: Pustet, 2013, pp. 25–28).

Above, a drawing at the top of a letter from Mozart to his cousin Maria Anna Thekla Mozart, known as Bäsle, dated 10 May 1780, titled Engel (Angel), with labels fig. I Kopf (head), fig. II Frißur (hairdo), fig. III Nasn (nose), fig. IV Brust (breast), fig. V Hals (throat), fig. VI Aug (eye); inscribed below VI: Hier ißt leer (Here is empty).

The full text of the letter (untranslated) is here; below, the finale of Mozart’s Ein musikalischer Spaß, which ends with his celebrated foray into polytonality.

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If it’s Mozart, it’s a masterpiece!

mozart-shades

Since the mid–19th-century discovery of the sinfonia concertante for winds, sometimes labeled K.297b, the work has been considered authentic by some and dubious by others, and its reception in the concert hall has paralleled these critical vicissitudes. An examination of 168 texts discussing this composition reveals that the authors’ reactions to the work are closely bound to their opinions on who wrote it.

For example, authors who believed that the work was by Mozart described it as strong, sturdy, and solid, while those that did not called it flimsy, arbitrary, illogical, and incomprehensible; those crediting Mozart rated the work highest level and a masterpiece, while those who considered it spurious rated it not first class; and the Mozart designators considered it delightful, celestial, and enchanting, while the non-Mozart camp described it as tasteless, inept, and cheap.

This according to “Musical attribution and critical judgment: The rise and fall of the sinfonia concertante for winds, K.297b” by John Spitzer (The journal of musicology V/3 [summer 1987] pp. 319–56). Below, we invite you to form your own opinion.

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