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GG: Mozart

Sorry for the length of this post, but Andrew seemed to want comments on
this rather broad topic, the worth of Mozart's music (!)  I did try to tie
it in to Gould where possible.

Andrew wrote
>I really do hate
>most of his music (I'm not merely influenced by Gould's view, Mozart has
>never meant anything to me). Is there really something about Mozart's music
>which makes it stand out from Haydn and C.P.E. Bach, or are we just brought
>up to believe he was better? 

OK, I'll bite ...

   I think Mozart was a much more spiritual composer than his immediate
predecessors.  In many pieces, I feel he achieved a state of "purity" and
"naturalness" in music-making that very few composers have ever reached --
Lassus, in the 1500's, also had that beautiful flow.  Josquin, too.  Not
many others...
   Gould's inability to enjoy Mozart is somewhat puzzling, for he did have a
profound appreciation for the pure, the abstract -- for example, he once
wrote of a piece of music that it had "neither end nor beginning, music with
neither real climax nor real resolution, music which, like Baudelaire's
lovers, 'rests lightly on the wings of the unchecked winds.'"  This was the
young Gould writing of the Goldberg Variations, but you get that feeling
listening to Mozart too sometimes.

   I've never understood GG's repeated tirades about Mozart and Beethoven's
basing their music on dramatic and theatrical contrast between supposed
masculine/feminine first/second themes. I don't think that's what Mozart's
music is about at all.  I agree with the other posters that GG must have had
some poor education here, or only read early 20th century theory books.
Sonata form is not about dichotomies.  Read Schenker or Rosen...really

   GG also "missed the boat" in feeling a lack of contrapuntal interest in
Mozart.  While Mozart had less counterpoint than the renaissance or baroque
composers *at any given moment* (the small-scale), he added, as did Haydn
and Beethoven, interesting events - you might call them layers - of medium
and large-scale linear motion...so key notes in a melody or bass-line might
be resolved 30, 100, even 300 measures later, or resolved or transformed in
different ways in different sections of a piece. 
   Maybe this isn't exactly counterpoint, not sure what the right word is,
but the classical period composers really created some beautiful
architecture of this sort, connections between distant points in a piece,
and thereby managed to enlargen musical form, and even more importantly (as
relates to GG's ideas), changed the way we listen to music.  Mozart was a
central figure in these developments.

   Mozart also did a lot of subtle things compositionally that were pure
genius.  I'm thinking particularly of some of the detail-work he did with
phrase structure, chromaticism, proportions and sequencing of different
events in a piece, his attention to tone-color, how he ended pieces of music
to create a feeling of closure and resolution, and most of all, how he could
get all the different elements of music working together - rhythm, motivic
development, melody, harmony, register, orchestration ... to create
important formal moments and thereby give the music some long-range shape.

   This is getting away from Gould, so I'll try to wrap up by giving you
just one example of some of the ideas I've been talking about in this post;
I'll use the beginning of Beethoven's Eroica symphony for familiarity, but
he learned this stuff from Mozart and Haydn.

   The cello melody on the first page begins:

   Eb-G-Eb-Bb-Eb-G-Bb-Eb-D-  C# .....which resolves up to D and back to Eb.

   The composer underlines the key moment of C# using all the elements of music:
   chromaticism:  it's the first note in the piece you hear that's not in
the key of Eb.
   orchestration:  the first violins enter right after the C#, after resting
for some time.
   rhythm:  the first violins enter with an unusual syncopated rhythm;
again, the first syncopated rhythm you hear in the piece
   phrase structure:  the C# is the first bar of a new phrase, so you feel a
slight accent internally
   dynamics:  it's the start of a crescendo.
   melodically:  the melody has been hop, skip, and jumping up and down an
Eb arpeggio, then goes linearly Eb-D-C#.  C# is the end-note of this
mini-scale run, so it is emphasized to the ear.

   Why is Beethoven emphasizing this note C#?  Because in the
recapitulation, I don't know probably some 300 measures later, you'll hear
the same melody up to the C# ...

   Eb-G-Eb-Bb-Eb-G-Bb-Eb-D-   C# ... this time resolving down to C-natural
and the music modulates to a new key.

   The composer created a link between two points of music many minutes and
thousands of notes apart...this key point of intersection C#...the first
time resolving up back to your home note, the second time descending,
opening a door to a new key.  It's totally amazing!  I think it's
fascinating how the great composers like Mozart and Beethoven do these
subtle detail-things to underline these moments, just as a great novelist
would do.  (A Mozart example might be, say, the beginning of the G minor
string quintet.)

   Finally, Mozart succeeded more than any other composer at, as he said,
"writing music for the amateur and the connoisseur" - to create compositions
that were so successfully layered that they could be listened to by people
of many different levels of music education, and still enjoyed.  That's a
fantastic accomplishment, and one I don't think has been rivaled since.