Mozart 3 1st Note: Upbow or Downtown?

Edited: April 10, 2018, 7:49 PM · I know this has been asked before, but I would like your guy's personal opinions on how this note should be played. I have been playing it downtown, but I have recently been experimenting and now I'm kinda stuck and undecided. Upbow is lighter and more "Mozart-like", but downtown is more strong and crunchy, showing th inportance of the note and going with the forte dynamic level.

Replies (29)

April 10, 2018, 8:34 PM · I play it down.
April 10, 2018, 8:35 PM · I prefer downbow. It is a kind of a statement for me, this very first chord folloewd by this next delicate g. And all this comes after a strong introduction which by the way has a distinct and bold line in the double bass. So I cannot approach it in a "light" way. Nothing exaggerated but a simple, bold g major chord. Downwards for me. When I watch or listen to an obvious upbow in this occasion I get a feeling of something being uncertain
April 10, 2018, 8:49 PM · I have a long-standing argument, er, discussion, with a colleague about this. I play and teach it upbow; she prefers downbow. It's always validating to find people who share one's opinion:
Edited: April 10, 2018, 9:01 PM · I learned it downbow. My teacher plays and teaches it upbow, which I think is better.
Edited: April 10, 2018, 9:26 PM · Mary got me going and I looked at a few YouTube videos of well known soloists. This is what I got so far:

Down bow: Mutter, Perlman, Kremer

Up bow: Hahn, Oistrakh, Zimmermann

To be continued...

April 10, 2018, 9:23 PM · In 1989 my teacher taught me downbow. Last year I saw one of her current students play it upbow. The world turned upside down...
April 10, 2018, 10:01 PM · Down bow, my teacher taught. For many, up bow will not produce strong note as that of down bow.
April 10, 2018, 10:45 PM · Thanks for the video, Mary. I actally watched this recording with Hahn today before you showed me the link. The 2nd movement is bliss! Seems like lots of people change their minds on this sort of thing. I guess it all come down to personal preference at the end.
April 10, 2018, 10:47 PM · And David, adding to your's, Stern and Gitlis play Upbow.
Edited: April 10, 2018, 11:08 PM · I think Mozart's intentions are clear, the solo part wasn't provided with dynamic markings here, but when the orchestra states the theme, at the very beginning of the piece, the first quarter note is marked forte, the second quarter is marked piano. Since Leopold Mozart spent a long (and pedantic) chapter in his Violinschule detailing how to make sure to play downbow on strong beats and upbow on weak beats and his son studied violin with him, I'm sure downbow on the first note is what Wolfgang Mozart wanted. That said, to modern ears the off-beat accent of up-down gives it a kind of swing and buoyancy.... it's a question of whether historical accuracy or modern taste should take precedence. I play down-up.
April 10, 2018, 11:27 PM · Interesting! Gidon Kremer also plays down-up.
April 11, 2018, 4:23 AM · When considering (guessing?) what bowing effect Mozart wanted, other factors that should be be taken into account are that the bow of his day was pre-Tourte with a behaviour closer to that of the Baroque bow, and the strings were all-gut.
April 11, 2018, 6:08 AM · First of all, the same down bow weight can come equally well from an up bow. It's a question of bowing technique.

I used to do it down bow, but nowI've changed to up bow.

April 11, 2018, 6:29 AM · I don't think there is a definitive right or wrong way in this case. In fact, I might change the bowing here depending upon the musical statement I wish to make at that moment in time.
April 11, 2018, 6:47 AM · Whichever bowing you do, make sure to count all of the rests leading up to it.
April 11, 2018, 7:36 AM · Ooh, down-up is interesting. I'm away from my instrument right now, otherwise I'd be playing around with different options and recording them I do love the G Major...possibly more than the other two, though less than the Sinfonia Concertante.
April 11, 2018, 7:54 AM · I think Katherine Dunham nailed it.
Edited: April 11, 2018, 1:50 PM · Doesn't make any difference at all. The syncopated rhythmic motive is a pretty typical one for Mozart and can be found in many other of his compositions.

You just have to make one decision:

1. First note is stronger, meaning it's not really syncopated.
2. Second beat is stronger.
3. First and second beats are equal.

Frankly, I can hear all three, although in my opinion adding too much emphasis to the 2nd beat would make it sound a little hokey. Way too obvious.
I'd go for whatever sounds the most graceful, and that would be choices 1 or 3.

Here is an argument for #1: both measures 1 and 2 (of the solo) use what is essentially the same rhythm, right? However, in the 2nd bar, we have an appoggiatura. And an appoggiatura naturally leads to more weight on the first beat, not the second. We generally lean into an appoggiatura--or there would't be one in the first place.

So would Mozart want the first bar with an obvious syncopation--more weight on second beat, yet the second, which seems like a reinforcement of the first, to have a different beat emphasized? I don't think so. It doesn't seem consistent for what is the pinnacle of Viennese Classicism. And keep in mind the orchestral tutti: it's the same, sans appoggiatura. I wouldn't have the orchestra accent the second beat in the first bar yet the first beat in the 2nd. They should be the same.

Whichever you choose, I really don't think it matters whether it's up or down. Just pick one. The important thing is that there is a lift after the 1st beat, and either bowing will allow for this.

You should be able to easily do both. If you lack that kind of basic bow control, then this will only be the first of your problems...

April 11, 2018, 2:18 PM · watching videos of the great, I am often surprised by bow directions.
I wonder if they/we don't invert "orthodox" strokes to avoid crude, bumpy over-obvioous phrasing?
April 11, 2018, 2:18 PM · Katherine's response <— [thumbs up]
April 12, 2018, 5:08 AM · Just to clarify, that's the one with the 3-note chord?

I'd say the obvious choice is an up bow. It's lighter, more Mozart-like, and less awkward.

Edited: April 12, 2018, 5:38 AM · [i]Gemma K
April 12, 2018, 5:08 AM · Just to clarify, that's the one with the 3-note chord?
I'd say the obvious choice is an up bow. It's lighter, more Mozart-like, and less awkward. [/i]

Yes, good points.

April 12, 2018, 10:26 AM · Whatever works best for the intended interpretation I would say.

Personally I use a very slightly arpeggiated downbow on the beat imitating the German word 'Freude' (as in 'Freude schöner Götterfunken') on the first two beats in order to emphasizes the sparkling character of the piece.

April 12, 2018, 7:15 PM · I'm not in favor of first note *louder* so much as I am first note *brighter*. Up or down are both playable. I find down-retake-down to be awkward however.
April 13, 2018, 11:01 AM · Expanding on my previous post concerning bow behaviour, the pointy (light) end of the baroque bow plays quiet, whereas the heavier frog end plays loud. Therefore, playing a long note from point to frog on such a bow will bring about a natural crescendo unless it is otherwise compensated for by altering the bow speed or pressure, or by moving the bow contact point; and vice versa when bowing from frog to point. Perhaps this can throw some light on how music of Mozart's period may have been bowed.
April 13, 2018, 4:44 PM · Oh my God did I really write "downtown"in the title?! Oops.
April 13, 2018, 5:24 PM · I thought it was a good joke!
April 17, 2018, 12:00 PM · Down, why? I comes after the orchestra ends its part with a soft spicatto, so the violin should have a "dramatic" to make a kind of surprise. Yet, the sound should be very is not Beethoven.
May 3, 2018, 4:09 PM · Interesting to read so many different opinions.

For me it will always be down down. I can't imagine it any other way.

And who says a down bow chord has to be crunchy?

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