Mozart Style?

October 21, 2013 at 02:25 PM · My teacher says that all of Mozarts concertos are hard to play correctly because of the "Mozart Style" what does this mean and how can I master it

P.S at Suzuki book level 7 would Mozarts 2nd Concerto be a good piece to play

P.P.S what about the Lark ascending, too hard?

P.P.P.S what about Beethoven "Kreutzer" Sonata.


Replies (24)

October 21, 2013 at 07:02 PM · I discuss and demonstrate Mozart style in detail in my video series on the G major concerto. Here's a sample:

For the full 10 part series visit me at

October 21, 2013 at 08:25 PM · To start, here's a very basic principle of classical style:

Always taper phrase endings! This is what so often gets students--they give an accent to the end of a phrase or note. The key concept in classic style is


October 22, 2013 at 03:07 PM · There is just one problem with Mozare style, that differs it from the other ones :-) If you spoil Kreisler or Sarasate many people will be still willing (able) to listen to it. If you spoil Mozart, nobody will be able to listen it :-)

October 22, 2013 at 04:31 PM · In Mozart style you need to phrase off gracefully at the end of phrases, which are often short, but sometimes longer. Both my teacher and Sandor Vegh put it as "You need to let Mozart BREATHE". You actually need this style for other composers, too, some kinds of French, for instance, or Wolstenholme's Allegretto. The orchestral parts of La Traviata require it. So does some light music. Strangely enough I heard Oscar Shumsky playing a HAYDN concerto without a trace of it, but you couldn't get away without it in something like Stamitz, for instance.

October 24, 2013 at 12:50 AM · Thanks for the style help but could you answer my rep questions

October 24, 2013 at 07:19 AM · style is very personal. the key is to be convincing as an artist and to show something about the music. I think in this video, Krylov does both superbly with mozart.

October 24, 2013 at 02:34 PM · Repertoire: The Beethoven Kreutzer Sonata has the reputation of being his most difficult, and also requires tremendous musical subtlety and maturity to play well. I recommend the A-major Opus 12 No 2. The slow movement is particularly moving (Only the slow movement of the piano sonata Opus 10 No 3 is anything like it). I don't like Heifetz's interpretation of the last movement, I prefer a much more graceful approach, more "Mozart style", in fact.

October 24, 2013 at 10:52 PM · People talk about the "style of playing Mozart","style of playing Beethoven" etc. A conductor I was playing for put forward the point of view that there's only one - a style of playing music

October 25, 2013 at 02:02 AM · Yes! Krylov"s style is exquisite! A great model and inspritation! Thanks for introducing him to us.

October 25, 2013 at 12:43 PM · Have you ever heard Paganini played by Sergey Krylov?

October 25, 2013 at 01:42 PM · There is a danger in attempt to solidify or "standardize" any composer, including the great ones. The result is what we hear today; cookie cutter violin players, good, with correct pitch and rhythm, but one just like the other, with a few exceptions.

Perhaps instead of talking about "style", you can ask yourself how to (uniquely) interpret music written by Mozart within the context of classical era. In other words, you need to get informed about the history in order to give your take on this music.

Musicians often forget that Mozart was a great opera composer; lots of his instrumental music is still about singing, so the natural way of studying would be to listen to great singers or even try to sing it. Second, the violin at Mozart's time was still strung with pure gut strings and violinist used a Baroque bow. This, low tension violin, provides a more natural instrument for interpreting this music and is worth studying.

Lastly, and I know that some will disagree, if you haven't mastered Baroque, don't bother with Mozart - you do not have a historic foundation for it.

October 27, 2013 at 02:42 PM · There are certain stylistic techniques common to early classical music (the Mozart, early Beethoven era) that tended to be ignored by violinists in the 1st half f the 20th century. I was introduced to these 50 years ago in a "master class" ordered up for us by our then conductor Michael Zearott, when he was still a grad student at UCLA. Even though our concert master was a pro (from one of the "all-girl" orchestras of the WW-II era) it was a lesson new to her as well. We had to hire the coach up to our desert community from LA where he was a flutist and music coach.

Perhaps the most important things he emphasized for this genre of music were tapering phrases and developing a good "brush stroke."

Our concertmaster was so impressed that she drove the 160 miles to LA (several times) for additional coaching sessions.

Whether you blow it or stroke it, it's the sound you make that counts. A really professional teacher would know these things and be able to help you learn the best techniques. Personally, I think there is very much to be gained by studying Roy Sonne's videos.


October 31, 2013 at 05:49 PM · You asked about Lark Ascending at Suzuki Book 7 level. Forget it. And I agree with Rocky, the best way to prepare for Mozart is to conquer Handel.

October 31, 2013 at 10:47 PM · Greetings,

thought I'd bumble around on YouTube and see if I could find this elusive Mozart thingy,, especially after the claim that earlier 20c players don't seem to know stuff.

first stop: Menuhin/Karajan no.5. 'Bingo!' I thought. the kind of sound , phrasing and singing Karajan elicits from this small group is absolute Mozart to me. Then Menuhin enters and ruins it. one of my favorite players on so many ocassions does note in my opinion have a genuine sense of Mozart for me. Distorted and irritating. Probably just me though...

2nd round: Grumiaux, LSO Davies. Grumiaux is much closer to my mind but still not quite that elusive 'Mozart ' I am looking for. Strange because there are no other recordings of his which I don't adore. For me the orchestra is too brisk, choppy and business like as though looking for an antidote to 'too romantic Mozart.'

Take 3: a really crackly old version with Oistrakh. I think there has been so much rabbiting on about the Mozart concertos being 'chamber music' (which in a sense they are) that modern performances go out of their way to be beautifully integrated instead of the old in your face soloist style. This feature of older performances is perhaps exaggerated by the miking as well? this together with the fact that Oistrakhs sound is just sooooooo huge it wipes out orchestras without blinking and one does not have a great set of ingredients for chamber music mozart. So I had to make a real effort to get past this imbalance while listening. however, put this aside and finally, I get the Mozart I am looking for. Forget the quasi Eurpean tradition of cutting the first note of the opening short and calling it rubato, of pulling the Adagio around so the orchestra is walking on ice. Oistrakh plays with extreme rhythmic discipline. So when he does use rubato is tells, it really means something. Everything about his phrasing is balanced , proportional and relevant. And yes, he breathes as well as any pseudo intellectual Mozart specialist who can't play a scale in tune.

A bit loud, but if you want to know how to play Mozart then study this. It's about integrity, simplicty, complexity and passion.

idle thoughts,


November 1, 2013 at 02:36 AM · It's been said that Mozart's heart was really in the opera and that if you want to understand his instrumental music you have to imagine characters on the stage -- colorful, strong, zany, passionate characters, within the society that Mozart knew, and wrote about, the 18th century aristocratic society, with its complex maze of social rules and traditions, where each person has his/her own little drama and all the characters are pushing and pulling in their own different ways. Here is one of my favorite arias, Non piu andrai, from the Marriage of Figaro in a stellar performance by Ruggiero Raimondi.

November 1, 2013 at 03:23 AM · Hi Roy,

that's the absolute heart of it I think. Intereting that two unparalleled Mozart interpreters, Oistrakh and Milstein spent a Greta deal of their early life being exposed to opera rather than just specialized violin training. Milstein has actually spelled out the characters that he thinks define mozarts concertos. there are just four our five (I forgets given the time of day) which any given passage corresponds to.



November 1, 2013 at 10:33 AM · Buri, your spelling is Garbo-ld!

November 1, 2013 at 11:20 AM · For performances closer to the 18th century style I'd seriously consider Simon Standage's performances of all the Mozart concertos with The Academy of Ancient Music conducted by Christopher Hogwood. I'd also recommend Standage's recordings of the Haydn violin concertos, on the grounds that it is equally important to study Mozart's contemporaries and immediate predecessors for comparison and contrast.

All the above are immediately available from Amazon, on CD or MP3 download.

November 1, 2013 at 11:49 AM · Dear Jo Jhon,

I used to have to work hard to keep it that way, but now the ipad spell checker screws the pooch without me even trying. truly a greta technologcal break threw


November 1, 2013 at 01:00 PM · When I think of the Mozart style, I think of Szymon Goldberg or Szeryng as representing it in its purest form. But I am not that familiar with some of the more modern, period performance versions.

November 1, 2013 at 01:41 PM · Stephen, try disabling the iPad's spell-checker, as I have done. Over on this East side of The Pond it seems to have problems coping with the orthography of the Queen's English. Life is more fun without spell-checkers.

November 1, 2013 at 01:55 PM · Hi Winston, from a technical perspective, I'd suggest mastering the first half of Sevcik Op. 3 (also learn Op. 2 if you need some prep. work for Op. 3.) You'll find all the bowing technique you need for Mozart and Beethoven summarized in these charming variations.

Some skills you'll need to develop: control over bow speeds and sudden changes in bow speeds, and bow distribution (the 'classical taper' to phrase endings must be done with a slowing bow speed, rather than a lightening of bow pressure; sudden changes in dynamics, accents and articulations begins with control over bow speeds and distribution); colle; steady, smoothly alternating detache; a detached sounding detache; mixed bowings; controlled spiccato; smooth transitions between detache and spiccato; mastery of all these various strokes at all (or various) parts of the bow at various speeds and dynamics. In short, to master the Classical Masters, you must master the art of bowing. Daunting! But a worthwhile endeavour.

P.S. No. 2 is good, but No. 1 in Bb is better for the 'style' if you can handle the left hand work. It might be good to play some earlier sonatas (and/or quartets/trios) before or concurrently with a concerto.

P.P.S. Vaughan Williams will not teach you the classical style (which consists mostly in the bow arm) but may help with left hand speed and flow.

P.P.P.S. Kreutzer is not the Beethoven sonata you want to start with. Better to study Mozart/Haydn before Beethoven.

P.P.P.P.S. You'll also want to internalize 4/4 and 3/4 beat patterns, feeling strong down beats, and upbeats which lead to those down beats, and study period structure (both metrically and harmonically--see here) and phrase elongation, and contraction by truncation or elision.

November 2, 2013 at 08:12 AM · First af all you need to develop a very good right arm technique, with absolute control in off the string strokes, and of course great rythm and intonation. Then read his father's -Leopold Mozart- book "The violin school" and listen to his operas. It's a process that takes time and both technical and musical maturity, good luck!

November 2, 2013 at 08:43 PM · And of course, do a lot of listening. And at least some of your listening should be very analytic and detail oriented. "What is he doing that gives this performance a strong Mozart style?" And then try to isolate one feature that you can imitate or borrow. Don't be afraid to imitate. It's part of the learning process.

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