Is Mozart Concerto Necessary?

January 21, 2017 at 06:51 AM · Here's the thing: I absolutely hate Mozart.

Okay, that's probably putting it much too strongly. I can appreciate and enjoy Mozart, but I get sick of the predictability quite quickly.

I expressed my feelings to my first teacher, and she never made me touch Mozart, but now that I have progressed in my studies, I am starting to see gaps in my repertoire.

I have recently picked up the second partita and Bruch Concerto, and now I'm thinking: maybe Mozart needs to be a part of my repertoire.

There must be something unique you can learn from playing his concerti that it is regarded so highly among teachers and treated with such sternness, so my question is this:

What can you learn from Mozart Concerti?

Also,

Would you recommend that I study them, looking past my dislike toward it?

Thanks!

C

Replies (24)

January 21, 2017 at 11:47 AM · One learns the traditional ways of interpreting concertos from the classical period, by playing them. Also, in this style, it is very difficult to hide poor intonation, and extra noise created by the bow. The question of choosing to Mozart specifically, has more to do with the masterpiece syndrome which plagues the classical genre more than any other. You will notice, if you haven't already, that there is immense pressure to think that Mozart is one of the only composers of his era worth listening to, and that you should enjoy listening to him in general. You will also be encouraged to find less well-known classical composers as less "great." This might be even be the hesitation you have subconsciously (or consciously ) to learn these concertos, but I urge you to at least give it a little time to grow on you. If you have professional aspirations, then these concertos are well established in the standard repertoire, and you would be at a disadvantage in certain auditions without them. Perhaps later on, you can champion a different set of concertos that speak to you more, if you still hold this opinion by then.

January 21, 2017 at 12:20 PM · Hi there,

I may still be a budding musician, but I would like to share my thoughts with you.

Just how Lieschen stated, "it is very difficult to hide poor intonation, and extra noise created by the bow." completely agree.

I think it is vital to understand the style of Mozart, because you can't play it like Bach, you can't play Mozart like Sarasate, (although I would like to see that happen hahahahaha) you need to learn how to play Mozart, in his own style, as Mozart violin concertos are like the foundation of bigger concertos, like the Mendelsohhn.

Also, I give you a final thought- notice how that in almost every conservatorium or major violin competition usually feature a Mozart concerto? The audition/ judging panel is looking for the applicants who are able to discerningly able to display their exemplary grounded technique.

Hope I helped!

January 21, 2017 at 02:17 PM · What will you learn? On the musical side there is grace, elegance, refinement, subtlety, singing tone. Once you discover those opportunities I think your impression of these pieces will change. Can you bring those aspects to your audience? That's the challenge!

One the technical side there is precision, precision, and more precision. I feel the best preparation I ever had for Mozart was the Haydn G Major Concerto and the Handel Sonatas. My Mozart is a little weak and I find myself wishing I had done more polishing work on those previous pieces!! Mozart is all about polishing.

January 21, 2017 at 02:29 PM · Perhaps a more useful approach is to ask yourself about the real source of hatred and avoidance.

"sick of predictability" sound like a nice rationalization to me... Mozart's genius is exactly in the opposite of predictable - although he lived and composed in a certain era (classicsm) he did miracles within the proposed boundaries. Also, listen to more than just violin concertos... you may wake up one day in new emotional state.

January 21, 2017 at 03:28 PM · Hating Mozart is a bit of an overreaction by some. It's OK not to enjoy his music in general, but his music IS quite excellent and is a good bemchmark for a violinist's musicianship (much like Solo Bach as well.)

There ARE good classical composers that are also well-known, like Haydn, most of Beethoven's output, etc.

When I was younger, I always found Viotti 22nd Vln Cto more appealing than all Mozart Concerti. My thoughts have shifted due to experience and maturity, but I still consider it a classical era violin repertoire masterpiece, and saddened it has been relegated to "student concerto" status, which it really isn't (though the same has happened to a lesser extent to some other pieces, including mamy from the romantic era-the "modern" concert hall recitals tend to be rather predictable nowadays, especially for the violin.)

I consider all 5 Mozart Concerti to be perfect pieces, giving ample opportunity for the violinist to express himself/herself within the usual constraints. They sing well, and are extremely difficult to perform perfectly and stylistically in public-wasn't Heifetz who said that they are among the most difficult works, and that he MEANT from a technical standpoint? One should learn no less than the last 3, and at least know one of them very, very well, whether you are a professional, teacher, freelancer, or advanced amateur.

Knowing more music won't make you a worse musician. I suggest for you to learn many different styles, and even find music to appreciate in genres you may not enjoy as much. And yes, while you can learn the classical style "without Mozart", I see no logical or strong reason to avoid him, just because you do not prefer him-rejecting Mozart will only be detrimental to one's musical growth.

January 21, 2017 at 03:31 PM · Mozart is predictable?

Rocky gives you very good advice. Specifically I would recommend listening to the Sinfonia Concertante for violin, viola and orchestra, and to the opera overtures.

There is a reason why many if not most professional orchestras specify a Mozart violin concerto as part of the audition. You cannot hide in Mozart. Any deficiencies at all in intonation, bow control, sound, and musicianship will become painfully obvious when playing Mozart. It really bothers me that too many violin students are given Mozart concertos too soon in their development due to a mistaken idea that Mozart is "easy" because it is not as obviously difficult as Bruch or Lalo--in fact, it is harder to play Mozart well than to play many technically "more difficult" pieces.

In Texas, the organization that runs the high school solo & ensemble contest recently downgraded the G Major concerto from Class 1 to Class 2, which only goes to show the level of ignorance sometimes involved in making decisions. (By comparison, the D minor Allemande from Bach Partita #2 is still a Class 1. I weep for Texas.)

January 21, 2017 at 03:35 PM · With Mozart, a lot of the genius is in the details. Instead of thinking of it as predictable, try approaching it from a different angle. Think of the type of person Mozart was - from what we know, he was a complete prankster, loved playing jokes on people, never really grew out of a sort of adolescent sense of humor. Listen to his operas - look at the farcical mis-identifications, how people seem incapable of recognizing their loved ones in the dark, and then the sudden unexpected moments of vulnerability and softness. Then, when you approach playing Mozart, look for those different moments. Is he playing a joke? On the audience? On the performer? If this were his opera, who would be singing your line? What would they be doing? Is this Papageno, who gets his mouth locked up for lying too much? Is it Cherubino, who is suddenly awash with hormones and puppy love and being a teenage boy? Is it Barbarina, who manages to mess up the one important job she has in the entire opera by losing the pin?

Playing Mozart exposes all your technical flaws, in part because on the surface it seems so simple. Turns out that doing something simply convincingly well is extremely hard. Mozart concerti are a good way to refine your technique, but they're also just great pieces and finding a way to bring out their beauty and spunk will do a lot for you as a musician.

January 21, 2017 at 04:20 PM · It's only predictable because you know it.

There's a good reason Mozart is required on almost every orchestra audition, so if you have any professional aspirations you better get practicing.

January 21, 2017 at 06:14 PM · Irene has the right advice. Think of these pieces as being mini operas. For instance the beginning violin solo of the A major concerto is like a little aria in which the gist of the piece is introduced. Then the action begins. The heroine in the story announces defiantly and passionately how she is going to lead the protest march which will change the direction of her country which is ruled by a dictatorial tyrant. Then all the characters run around the stage to gather up their signs and gas masks. And so on....

January 21, 2017 at 06:18 PM · Thanks everyone for your input, although some of you do seem to be genuinely offended--and I apologize.

The general consensus seems to be that I should go back and learn it, so I will probably change gears in my though process toward finding reasons to learn it. At the very least since it seems to be sort of a bandwagon--at the VERY least (because I'm sure there is more than just "oh everyone plays it" and it is because everyone plays it I think that way).

I'm seeing a lot of: you can't hide in Mozart, but I must ask; how is that different from what you learn in Bach? My teacher suggested that playing Bach is like playing naked because there are no fancy ornaments and you have to make it sound good as it is (of course, she phrased it way better than I am doing it now). If Mozart is also like playing naked, why not play Bach? What is unique that I will learn by playing Mozart?

The suggestion that I will learn Mozart's style is actually taken quite lightly by me because that can be said for any composer.... It seems a bit silly to me that I should be obligated to learn pieces specifically so that I can learn the style of the composer. Or maybe there is something more to his style that goes a long way, and I'm missing it. If you could, please point them out!

Ah, and then there's something else I see, which is the point that Mozart will bring out my technical flaws simply because it is less technically demanding, which makes total sense to me--thank you for pointing this out!

When I say "predictable", I mean it is predictable like it's a pop-song (which might be a borderline sacrilegious thing to say, but I said it!) The chordal progression, the cadences, and the way he delays the cadences may have been novel at the time, but since we do live in the 21st century, I don't perceive it to be particularly unique or fresh. But maybe I'm still missing something, and I would love to hear what else am I missing.

I think I do have to clarify: I don't really "hate" Mozart, that word was more like "ugh, I hate *eye roll* Mozart." When I played one of his symphonies in college, I did see his genius shining through while the conductor explained to us the subtleties in phrasing and what he was doing with the music structurally. I can genuinely appreciate and enjoy Mozart, but having to listen to it over and over is a bit different, I would say (which is what inevitably happens in practices because I would be the one playing). It's not because I have heard it a million times, I don't think, because I remember not liking Mozart even as a child; I always preferred something that came a bit later, like Tchaikovsky or Grieg (and Beethoven; I do like Beethoven although it's come to the point where I realise Beethoven does have his own "template" so to speak in writing his music, but I digress). I have heard Mendelssohn and Bruch a lot more than I have Mozart, but whenever I hear Mendelssohn and Bruch, they always speak newly to me; I always find something to marvel at, but it's just not the same with Mozart.

But then again, I felt similarly to Bach, though it wasn't really because of his "predictability" but rather because I felt like I was suffocating (Italian Concerto for Keyboard? I instantly loved playing it as soon as I learned about cadences and saw what Bach was doing!). As I understood Bach on a deeper level, I came to enjoy playing his music, so I can see the same happening with me and Mozart.

Thank you all for your kind inputs, and I would appreciate more if you please!

- C

January 21, 2017 at 06:27 PM · P.S. I wish there was a like button because I really want to press it as I go down the list of replies one by one. Thank you all!!

January 21, 2017 at 07:06 PM · I will also make sure to listen to his operas! I like finding jokes in Scherzos so maybe I will get a kick out of playing Mozart after all.

January 21, 2017 at 07:15 PM · Just open up the No. 3 concerto to the second movement. Play the first 8 bars of the solo part. If you're not in tears, then try it "once more, with feeling." I feel this concerto is Mozart's "answer" to Bach's A Minor concerto, which I consider an absolutely brilliant and perfect composition for the violin.

The parts of Mozart concertos that always seemed the most "predictable" to me are the cadenzas. Hmmm .. those are the bits he didn't write.

January 21, 2017 at 07:40 PM · OP,

Have you watched the movie "Amadeus"? If you haven't, I strongly recommend it. Then listen to his violin concertos.

January 21, 2017 at 08:07 PM · Mozart 3-5 have VERY "unpredictable" subtleties to some of the movements that were likely novel in their day, or just Mozart habing fun following convention in his own way. Just listen to other Classical Concertos, and compare. Yes you may like others better, but listen to the differences.

Mozart is essential, not optional, to learn. I am the least "do things because others do them" individual in the world, and in fact, resent that sentiment as being unfair, personally stifling, and unnecessarily rigid. That said, BOTH Mozart and Bach, among some others, are "musts", and not even for violinists alone (most orchestra instruments, pianists, etc.) Mozart's relevance is inevitable, never avoidable-not studying his repertoire means depriving yourself of a huge chunk of your musical training and development.

Find one of the Concertos to love, and make it your own. The 5th is very "unpredictable", and easy to love. But the 3rd and 4th also have their unique devices to keep you engaged.

Mozart's many other works also have "unpredictable" elements. Classical form is not the enemy of invention, charm, musical wit, and surprise. One can learn to like all styles, even if you naturally lean towards, for instance, the Romantic or 20th Century repertoire. I don't mean to offend, of course, but I must say that "predictability" is the least I think about when listening to Mozart.

January 21, 2017 at 08:38 PM · re predictable: pretty sure most people know how the Titanic ends (or Romeo and Juliet, or Hamilton, or), and yet for some reason they still want to watch it.

January 21, 2017 at 09:19 PM · This thread is absolutely wonderful to read!

January 21, 2017 at 09:29 PM · Hello again!

Thank you once again for your wonderful replies.

Yes! I have seen the movie and thoroughly enjoyed it, although my Music teacher didn't like the way Salieri was portrayed. It was funny and awesome nonetheless.

I have taken a slight liking (more like a favour over the others) to his first concerto--the one in Bb--and I am thinking about tackling it as soon as I finish Bruch (because I'm probably never gonna be done with Bach.) I think I can have some fun with it when I study it. I'm probably not going to touch the third concerto until I have forgotten about it because just playing the first page of the first movement makes me want to stop. (THIS is probably because I have heard it a million times, curse you Hilary and your wonderful playing!)

Thank you everyone for your amazing thoughts, and I will keep you updated!

- C

January 22, 2017 at 01:13 AM · Cassio, how much music theory have you absorbrd? I ask b/c Mozart (& JSB,too, for that matter) are more satisfying the more you know and appreciate about their technique. And, if you try memorizing either, you may find how unpredictable they are. It is easier to appreciate Mozart w/ the orchestral accompaniment because the solo line integrates a lot. I learned more about Mozart-ness from his symphonies, operas, & piano sonatas, all of which helped enormously when I worked on the violin works (I adore the later sonatas).

January 22, 2017 at 04:28 AM · How about Haydn C Major? It's not Mozart.

January 22, 2017 at 04:41 AM · Marjory,

I have done a year of AP + basic theory throughout elementary school. My friends are also music theory nuts so I'm often caught in the middle of music analyses.

I do agree the JSB only gets better, so I'm hoping it's the same for Mozart!

I'm part excited and part not-so-excited to start it. Maybe my ambivalence will (hopefully and from what I hear, probably) be resolved soon!

I will try listening to operas, because I really like operas to begin with (well, not Operas particularly, but more musical theatre, which includes operas. I haven't watch enough to sufficiently say I "really like" operas).

Thank you!

January 22, 2017 at 04:42 AM · Jason,

I see remnants of Haydn whenever I hear Mozart, and Haydn G was actually my first "big" concerto I tackled. I haven't listened to Haydn C, but I'll check it out. I enjoy Haydn because I see him as a musical satirist and I end up bursting into laughter whenever I hear his music.

Thanks!

January 22, 2017 at 07:20 AM · I just heard (without actively seeking to listen to Mozart) Nicola Benedetti play Mozart 5--at least the first couple measures of the Allegro--and dear God, I really want to play that now.

Safe to say, I think I am coming around.

January 22, 2017 at 07:50 AM · Realtime update:

I am charmed by the fifth concerto and I can't stop listening to it!

I've gotten to the point where I don't want to return to my super decadently minor Bruch concerto.

Thank you everyone!

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