The Evolution of Mozart's Pianistic Style

The Evolution of Mozart's Pianistic Style

The Evolution of Mozart's Pianistic Style

The Evolution of Mozart's Pianistic Style


Mario R. Mercado explains Mozart's pivotal involvement in the profound transformation of keyboard practice in the late eighteenth century as the piano supplanted the harpsichord and the keyboard instrument exchanged its former continuo role for a new solo role.

After an intriguing look at Mozart's extraordinary childhood filled with the singular experiences and opportunities that helped form his early career, Mercado examines Mozart's early piano works and the new pianistic idioms that shaped their style. Paying particular attention to the Concerto in E-flat Major K. 271, written in 1777, which in its new level of keyboard virtuosity represents a decisive advance in pianistic style, Mercado then scrutinizes the piano genres the composer cultivated during his early maturity- the solo sonata and ensemble sonata as well as smaller solo works and the concerto.

With his last two piano concertos and a group of small solo works from the final decade of his life, Mozart took the forms of his era to their limit, creating a musical transition to the nineteenth century.


In the immense picture of Mozart's work, a special perspective arises through the evolution of his keyboard music. As the documents of his life attest, Mozart was an eminent performer on the organ, harpsichord, and clavichord, but it was the piano that became his favorite, his "personal" instrument in settings ranging from the classical orchestral texture of the piano concerto to the most intimate solo literature seemingly addressed to no other audience than the composer himself. Mozart's short life coincided with the rise of the piano, and a shift in musical taste produced new ideals of instrumental sound as well as new instrumental genres specifically linked to these ideals. The development of keyboard practice in the eighteenth century is complex and marked by subtly varying trends, and in Mozart's work, many of these trends characteristically merge. Certain pieces reflect keyboard traditions rooted in the late Baroque. Others, particularly the sonatas, outline the road through a midcentury style to Viennese Classicism, while isolated ones from his last years point to a style beyond his time.

In the vast and ever-growing literature devoted to Mozart, one book, published in 1955 in anticipation of the two-hundredth anniversary of the composer's birth, was to assume a special place, Hanns Dennerlein Der unbekannte Mozart: Die Welt seiner Klavierwerke. It was the first monograph dealing with Mozart's entire keyboard oeuvre. Set within a chronological frame, it provided a stylistic overview of Mozart's music from the perspective of keyboard composition.

The title of Dennerlein's work presented two specific challenges. It reminded the reader that the world of Mozart's keyboard music had remained to some extent that of the unbekannte Mozart (the unknown Mozart). Dennerlein's principal aim was to move to the forefront a segment of Mozart's work . . .

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