Mozart's Music Receives Zesty Performance -- It's About Damn Time

If I've said it once, I've said it a thousand times...let's leave musicology to the professionals. Professionals like Paul Hyde of the Greenville News.

Review: Mozart's personality shines through in Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra concert
Paul Hyde, GreenvilleOnline.com (The Greenville News), November 20, 2010

Mozart, it’s often said, kept his personal emotions out of his musical works.

Really? I've never heard this before.

But you know, his music did always strike me as strangely formulaic... 4 bars--half cadence, another 4 bars--authentic cadence. Hard to cram emotion (especially personal ones) into that.

Good call.

figure personal emotion: If Mozart really wanted to add emotion to his music, he really should have just used emoticons like a normal person.

Maintaining an Olympian detachment, Mozart the classicist never revealed his inner self as did many a Romantic composer, Tchaikovsky most notably.

Money troubles don't rival the creative gold-standard of repressed homosexuality.

But clearly the difference between the two couldn't be the increased used of chromaticism, larger, more opulent orchestrations, and the use of superliminal narratives.

And if the Detritus has taught me anything, it's that with this kind of set up surely something will challenge this more than well-established premise (I mean, it is printed in a newspaper so it must be true).

Yet Friday night’s all-Mozart concert by the Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra seemed to belie that notion.

Ah, I see. Until now, it had been the performers (which have included the New York Philharmonic, the Berlin Philharmonic, and musicians who actually knew Mozart) who failed to decipher Mozart's hidden message of personal emotion deep inside his music...that is, until the Greenville Symphony took a crack at the task.

The works had a strongly autobiographical flavor.

Who knew? I'm very excited to discover what deep meaning has been previously unheard in these mystery Mozart works.

A listener could sense the man behind the music.

This is very exciting.

figure man behind the music: Why, the masons were responsible for the economic collapse, behind the JFK assassination, faked the moon-landing, and (from what I've read) are made up of humoid reptilians who run the world by replacing world leaders.

Take, for instance,...

Ooh. A "for instance". I guess an example would be nice. But really, Paul, we would have taken your word for it.

...the first piece on the concert, which took place at the Peace Center’s Gunter Auditorium.

Is the location important our cryptographic discovery, or were you just throwing that in to satisfy those pesky 5 w's?

Mozart wrote the three-movement Symphony No. 27 when he was only 17 years old.

Excellent. We'll start with insights into the mind of the young genius. Just think of how different he must have felt, an isolated genius still under the shadow of his famous father and constantly performing in the courts of royalty. Nope, not just your typical youth full of hope and gumption.

The sprightly work is clearly the work of a young man, a little superficial...

A little superficial...wait, the young man or the work?

...but full of youthful hope and gumption.

This is quite the penetrating analysis. I'm not sure how you were able to ascertain these kinds of insights. I mean, hearing an upbeat, major mode symphony primarily in triple meter written by a teenager...how ever could you discern this image of a young man full of hope?

But never mind, this was the clearly the product of the playing by the Greenville Symphony.

What kind of account did they offer?

Conductor Edvard Tchivzhel and the orchestra offered a spirited account of the appealing symphony.

You'd have to think that a performance that yielded answers to 237-year old mysteries would have to be at least a "spirited" account, if not an effervescent one.

Likewise, “A Musical Joke” spotlighted the playful adult Mozart in full-throated guffaw, parodying some of the inept composers of his day.

See now, I knew about this one.

figure musical joke: Har har har.

A listener got a vivid sense of Mozart the notorious prankster in this odd but amusing work, with its ditsy themes, meandering phrases and intentional wrong notes.

figure another musical joke: I'm laughing on the inside.

A vivid sense of a notorious prankster?

I guess there's no arguing with how significant an insight this is into the hidden personal emotions of Mozart. He was young, and had a sense of humor...breakthroughs for sure, but there must be more.

I mean, these first two works are obscure Mozart, what about his greatest hits?

In the second half of the concert, the Overture to “The Marriage of Figaro”...

Interesting. This is indeed full-on super-famous Mozart. I wonder what personal emotions Mozart managed to squirrel away in a piece about meant to precede and introduce a fictional story.

...showed a less antic but more effervescent side of the composer.

I see. So, it was Mozart's personal effervescence that made this piece what it is, and not the fact that he stole the opening melody from the combination to Willy Wonka's musical lock. At least that's what I've always taken from this work...Mozart's compulsive kleptomania.

Most people don't realize that the Haffner Symphony was really written as part of plea deal with the good people at Haffner's Discount Pantaloons and Wig Shoppe.

Tchivzhel and the orchestra presented a zesty reading of the piece.

The performances were spirited and zesty, just like my favorite salad dressing. And on such a historic evening...

figure zesty: "A spirited mixture of garlic, onion, sweet red bell pepper, carrots and Italian spices sure to help you grill like a gourmet."

Throughout this annual all-Mozart concert, Tchivzhel elicited crisp, clear-textured playing from the orchestra’s musicians.

Crisp, too?! This must have been one incredibly tasty salad...er, concert.

Closing the program was a familiar late work, the Symphony No. 40, a minor-key composition that has suggested to many listeners Mozart’s bleak state of mind at a time of depression and financial difficulties.

Good point. With also his highfalutin musicology, some music fundamentals could help reveal some important truths as well. And in case any of you have forgotten the basic rule of all music composition...minor-key equals sad and major-key equals happy. Really, all you'll ever need to know about music, at least in my experience.

figure sad mozart: Mozart composing a piece of somber, but not quite woebegone, music.

Though, I wonder which part of the 40th symphony specifically suggested financial difficulties?

Personally, I think it must have been the 11-tone row used in the powerful development of the 4th movement. The decentralized key center clearly represented his general economic malaise, in which the 11 used tones represented everyone getting their money, with the 12th pitch, being Mozart, getting none. Brilliant.

And for you to have picked this up simply from a zesty performance. Bravo, sir!

Tchivzhel emphasized the work’s restless, turbulent spirit. The work ends on a note of darkness and irresolution,...

Yes, that 8-bar dominant pedal into strong beat tonic triads really does leave you feeling uneasy.

...as if it had much more to say — a perfect symbol of the composer himself.

Is that really symbol? Maybe more of a metaphor, wouldn't you say?


A mere three years after writing the Symphony No. 40, Mozart would be dead, probably of acute rheumatic fever,...

Is this a particularly important point, or were you just tossing this in for...I don't know, let's say, to show that you read Mozart's wiki page before you wrote this article.

...two months short of his 36th birthday.

Ah, so in addition to the 40th symphony revealing Mozart's personal emotions, it also foretold events to come?

A sad, untimely death it was for the composer, to be sure,...

Because there are those who would doubt this?

...but what a grand and poignant life’s legacy he left behind, as the Greenville Symphony Chamber Orchestra’s annual all-Mozart concerts graciously remind us.

Yes, but the point was about the personal emotions the symphony discovered embedded in pieces previously thought to be cold and barren.


Quodlibet said...

"The work ends on a note of darkness and irresolution, as if it had much more to say — a perfect symbol of the composer himself. A mere three years after writing the Symphony No. 40, Mozart would be dead...two months short of his 36th birthday."

I'm always amused at how many reviewers and program annotators say something like this, as if the work has some sort of prophetic or elegaic properties BECAUSE it was written shortly before a composer's death. Mozart's motet "Ave Verum Corpus" often gets this treatment. I suppose that in some cases, when the composer was ill or very old and perhaps KNEW that a work was his or her last, that might make sense. But for Mozart, who was young and active, this is meaningless. He became ill and died fairly quickly - his death was not anticipated.

Thanks for another neat dissection and pathology report.

Anonymous said...

Good point, Sarah.

I think I recall that "Ave Verum Corpus" was some type of audition piece for a job or position. Anyway, what's interesting about the AVC is that Mozart doesn't set the entire text. Or perhaps, his is an earlier version of the text that exists now. In either case, it is an interesting example of the creation of liturgy from the bottom up.

Good write-up, Gustav. I have to laugh at Hyde's use of "irresolution." I guess minor chords are so unstable you can't end pieces with them. Is this guy wanting to end pieces with perfect fifths still?


Gustav said...

@Sarah: Couldn't have said it better myself.

@CM: Interesting bit of trivia there. Didn't realize the Mozart AVC left off the last line and amen. FWIW, "in mortis examine" is a better ending. And talk about irresolution...I think the AVC ends on the tonic triad w/out the fifth of the chord!

Anonymous said...

The opening three bar phrase structure in K. 522 is funny, lol.

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