Playing Mozart

March 1, 2019, 11:32 AM · This might be a really broad question that cannot really be answered online. But, I've been working on my ABRSM grade 3 and am really enjoying the pieces, especially the Mozart I am doing.
I was hoping to get some general tips for playing Mozart? Again I don't really know if this is something that can be answered online but thank you in advance.

Replies (14)

Edited: March 1, 2019, 12:29 PM · 1. Listen to some Mozart violin solos and watch some small-ensemble Mozart on YouTube. Especially watch the players' right hands and bows at the strings.

2. Read about "violin brush strokes" on line or in some books.

3. Get a teacher or coach to help you.

4. Beware of a lot of the stuff on line, because it is too much talk and to much "what not to do." This one isn't bad:
https://www.dummies.com/art-center/music/violin/off-the-string-bowings-on-the-violin/

My exposure to something called brush stroke didn't happen until our community orchestra hired its first "real" (professional) conductor, Michael Zearott**. After his first rehearsal with us he told us to hire string coach - which was no easy task because we were really out in the California desert "boonies" 160 miles northeast of Los Angeles, but things were cheaper back then in 1964 and we each pitched in $7.50 and brought up Zearott's recommended coach, who was a professional flutist from LA. And he was good and he got the right sound from us; SO GOOD - in fact that our concertmaster, who had spent WW-II as a violinist in a professional All-Girls orchestra, made several later trips to LA to work with him.

**https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Zearott

March 1, 2019, 12:24 PM · Long phrases, and restrain your off-the-string bow technique.
March 1, 2019, 12:29 PM · Play clean, play in tune, and take good care of the phrase endings.

March 4, 2019, 1:58 PM · There used to be a very good video on Youtube by Nate Cole - making it look incredibly easy, as always. But it seems to have disappeared, unless I've missed it. I think Alice may have summed it up - I remember him demonstrating phrase endings.
March 5, 2019, 1:02 AM · One of my teachers put it this way: "Don't interpret Mozart's music. Just play it beautifully." Then he added: "That is the problem".
March 5, 2019, 10:59 PM · Mozart shouod be free of affectation. Alice put it well.
March 5, 2019, 11:43 PM · I remember Mozart being fun to play (on another instrument), and would speculate that if you find it to be fun, then you're probably not missing it entirely.
Edited: March 6, 2019, 5:10 AM · There's another thread on the Mozart concertos. I wonder if attempting to emulate is productive or not (beyond the very basic approach of listening to a Grumiaux or an Oistrakh to see roughly what it can sound like)? Are we implying that if we listen to 10 maestri, we can synthesise the best of each of them? You'd have to be pretty good to do that, to put it mildly!

I wonder if a better suggestion for a beginner would be to listen to any Mozart except for his violin music then go your own sweet way on the violin? Alternatively, if you are really good, you'll mainly be listening to the Maestri in order not to be a carbon copy of any of them. But then if you were that good, you could still go your own sweet way and rely on everyone being unique anyway. I add, I diffuse. I must stop editing.

Further to the fun aspect, the third movement of a classical concerto is pertinent. If it is marked allegretto, then it should be "cheeky". This is even true of Paganini. But you hear these third movements played too fast. You can probably ignore such interpreters, although even the best sometimes make mistakes: I heard Holliger play the oboe concerto live and he did the third movement much faster than he does on recordings. (all this is above grade 3, I know, but it's food for thought).

"Play it beautifully". Yes. "Sublime" is another word that has been used.

Listen to some operatic arias and emulate them.

March 6, 2019, 10:12 AM · Found the Nate Cole video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nXVyrkYLe8A
He emphasises sound quality - especially for melodic semiquavers. Noting some of the comments above, it might be worth listening to some of the piano concerti, which are full of fast melodic passages, and where producing a good sound is much less problematic. I particularly like Perahiah and Schiff in this respect.
Edited: March 6, 2019, 11:28 AM · I personally think emulating the sounds of great players is a reasonable objective for a young student. So long as it's not always the same great player. In one of the blog posts, someone wrote that Ricci emulated Heifetz and Kreisler! Two very different players! Ricci turned out okay in spite of having done so.

Vocalists are often cautioned against going too far trying to emulate another singer. I read somewhere that a famous soloist (maybe Pavarotti) said that anyone can sing like Caruso for an hour. After that your voice will be shot and your career will be over. But I don't think that really applies to violin playing.

March 6, 2019, 11:39 AM · It is often written that Mozart 'thought' in sung phrases. Its a wonderful way to interpret his work - you hear the soprano sing the phrase and then the loving suitor replies - or the angry father! Indeed, one can get quite carried away with this interpretative method.
March 6, 2019, 2:45 PM · I was going to recommend listening to Midori play some Mozart, based on my attendance at a Midori masterclass a couple of years ago and being just a few feet away from her incredibly sensitive playing of only a few phrases. But she has not recorded much Mozart that I could find - violin/piano sonatas and this wonderful Sinfonia Concertante (with Nobuko Imai on the viola) - listen to all 3 movements: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9cEI65EFXWo .
March 6, 2019, 3:09 PM · Agree with Elise S. Also listen to the good sopranos in the Mozart operas, how they sculpt the melodic line and the fast coloratura passages. Of the four biggest composers (Bach,Mozart, Beethoven, Brahms), Mozart was the only one to excel at both Opera and Instrumental works. The vocal lines of Bach, Beethoven are awkward, non-ideomatic by comparison, like transcribed instrumental parts.-just my opinion.
Edited: March 8, 2019, 6:18 AM · Yeah, my first two paras aren't well worded, as I was trying to answer both OPs at once. Sure, listen to one master play Mozart, but there's no need to go OTT. For general tips, jut go for beauty and sublimity.

However, specifically, I see you're doing the Polonaise, which is a dance. It's "allegretto" and it looks to me pretty much like a standard concerto third movement in some ways. There's a lot going on in there with the slurs and the staccato and the dynamics. Keep it cheeky. The con spirito is in the staccato and phrasing, not in the speed. (had second thoughts about the speed. 80 seems fast enough)
Then bar 8 with its specific diminuendo followed by the middle section is very graceful, so it is a dance of contrasts too. Think of a stately home's ballroom in 1780.

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