A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos

A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos

A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos

A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos

Synopsis

This classic study of Mozart's piano concertos is, in the words of Alfred Einstein, 'full of penetrating remarks not ony about the piano concerto but about Mozart's art in general'. It is here reissued with a new introduction by noted Mozart scholar Cliff Eisen, who, as well as drawing the reader's attention to the virtues of the volume, also examines at the developments in Mozart scholarship since the volume's original publication.

Excerpt

Arthur Hutchings Mozart's Piano Concertos, together withCuthbert Girdlestone's Mozart et ses concertos pour piano (Paris, 1939) andDonald Francis Tovey's Essays in Musical Analysis (London, 1936), is one of a handful of books that virtually every Mozart-lover reads at one time or another. The reason for this is not hard to find: the concertos have rarely been described so eloquently or with such obvious affection.

To be sure, some of Hutchings's history is dated: it is not the case, for example, that K.107, Mozart's concerto arrangements of three sonatas by his London friend J. C. Bach, date from 1765; as the handwriting of the autographs shows, these transcriptions date from 1771 or 1772. By the same token, none of Mozart's early concertos was written for a Salzburg 'audience' in the modern sense--musical life in the archidocese was under the control of the court and the nobility attached to it; at best these works were by intention 'salon' music. (The only exceptions may be K. 175, which Mozart played at public concerts while away from Salzburg, and K. 271, the so-called 'Jeunehomme' concerto, supposed to have been written at the request of a touring French virtuosa whose identity remains a mystery even to this day.) But then, Hutchings's volume is not a history book. On the contrary, it is an appreciation of the concertos and their musical contexts: the six quartets dedicated to Haydn, the late symphonies, the operas, and the Requiem all come in for discussion here.

If there is one chapter that is a surprise it is the short but pithy conclusion, 'Mozart and the Modern Performance'. At the timeHutchings wrote A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos, 'performance', or what we now call 'performance practice', was not fashionable, especially for music after Bach. Yet many of Hutchings's observations are distinctly 'modern', among them that the keyboard and orchestra are partners, not antagonists, and that it makes little sense to employ period instruments and performing conventions but to play from anachronistic nineteenth-century editions. In Hutchings's elegant formulation, this 'is to give ourselves an interesting and jolly evening's entertainment, no more to be confused with accurate Mozart-playing than a recent and interesting reading of Twelfth Night by phoneticians was to be confused with "Shakespeare as he wrote it".' Whether any account can recapture the concertos as the composer himself might have played them is another matter altogether, although I suspect . . .

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