Mozart Concertos

July 1, 2020, 4:35 PM · I noticed that many people learn Mozart violin concertos early on in their musical career, before learning romantic concertos (like Bruch and Mendelssohn), then go back and learn another Mozart Concerto afterwards. If Mozart Concertos are easier technically than romantic concertos, why do so many people go back to do more Mozart afterwards?

Replies (21)

July 1, 2020, 4:46 PM · One reason is that Mozart demands maturity in technique and interpretation, because in his music, although perhaps superficially straightforward and relatively "easy", lack of an absolute command of technique and thought will be only too obvious in performance.
July 1, 2020, 5:14 PM · You don't learn pieces of increasing difficulty and go forward in time chronologically - that's not how it works. I choose pieces to learn that I want to play!
July 1, 2020, 5:16 PM · Mozart concertos are much harder than they are thought to be by many students *and* teachers, unfortunately, so they are frequently assigned before the student is really ready. The issue is that, other than the cadenzas, much of the difficulty in Mozart comes from the right hand, not the left, and so isn't recognized as difficult by the less experienced. They also demand a level of musical sophistication that is not always respected.
July 1, 2020, 5:18 PM · "why do so many people go back to do more Mozart afterwards?"
Because they are beautiful?
July 1, 2020, 6:09 PM · They are not easy at all, no matter if it's No. 1 or No. 5. A teacher can assign them, but with the understanding that the student will eventually come back them it as a more complete and technically capable musician. I agree with Ms. Mary Ellen that they are generally underestimated and much harder than "they look"-also, it may be easier to play some romantic repertoire in comparison, as the style requires utmost precision and little to no room for error.

I would suggest to students, their parents, and some teachers to respect many pieces of music as more than mere technical stepping stones towards the Brahms Concerto. Many student works are nothing of the sort!

July 1, 2020, 6:38 PM · No. 3 in G major is easier than 4 (D) or 5 (A). So it's common to do 3 earlier on, for pedagogical reasons, and then to learn 4 or 5 later on, to be played in a much more polished way.
July 1, 2020, 7:39 PM · If a teacher were to assign a Mozart concerto too early, #1 or 2 would be a better choice. They are not easier, but are less familiar, and an audition panel would appreciate not hearing another mediocre version of #3,4,5.
July 1, 2020, 11:02 PM · I concur with everyone above. However with the common belief that Mozart concerti are “easy” when they are in fact quite difficult musically why don’t more people use Mozart for college auditions? Surely an impeccable Mozart 4 or 5 would be more impressive than a shoddy Bruch or Mendelssohn right?
July 1, 2020, 11:10 PM · As someone who's hopped back and forth between Mozart concerti and various other works, Mozart is definitely not an easy piece by any means as compared to a romantic concerto. His work commands a sense of control and execution that seems much simpler on the sheet music.

It is also interesting to note that in the growth of the artist, even coming back to the same Mozart concerto later on will make for a more mature, different interpretation perhaps than when the person initially played it. :)

July 2, 2020, 3:16 AM · The A major is not easy!
July 2, 2020, 8:47 AM · Kids need to learn repertoire from all periods of music. In my experience, most kids have learned a ton of Baroque and a sampling of the easier Romantic concertos (including student concertos like Seitz and Accolay).

It is critical for kids to learn classical style, and at least in the Suzuki books there is almost nothing in that style. Most kids start with the Haydn G major, which is very easy technically, allowing them to start learning the right hand gestures and strokes and ornaments typical of the classical period. But after that there is kind of a gap -- everything else is significantly harder (especially cadenza-wise).

Many of the teachers I know here give Mozart 3 (and occasionally Mozart 2) pretty early -- definitely before Bruch or Mendelssohn -- for entirely pedagogical purposes. The point is to start learning the style, not to master it entirely. Most kids here are given their first Mozart between age 9-12. Does it sound amazing? No, but it is part of the process. Then they return to Mozart 4 and 5 later on to refine the stylistic technique.

My son always says the more you play Mozart, the more you realize how hard it is!

Edited: July 2, 2020, 10:56 AM · Another reason you’ll find people working on Mozart is that it’s required for major competitions and professional orchestra auditions - for the reasons everyone has mentioned above.

“Surely an impeccable Mozart 4 or 5 would be more impressive than a shoddy Bruch or Mendelssohn right?”

Agree, with an emphasis on “impeccable." In my experience, classical music aficionados (especially non-string players) will judge a slightly marred but beautiful Mozart more harshly than an all-around mediocre Bruch.

Years ago, I knew a new high school orchestra conductor who was instantly impressed by a freshman’s intermediate-level (but well-prepared) rendition of a de Beriot piece. He made the freshman concertmaster. Months later, the conductor was surprised to learn that a senior in the back of his violin section was headed to a top conservatory and would be performing Sibelius with a local professional orchestra. That student had auditioned for him with Mozart 5 and didn’t make an impression.

July 2, 2020, 12:01 PM · Non-string-playing conductors at the youth and community level are much less likely to recognize how hard a Mozart concerto is to play well. And other than the cadenza (which often won't be heard in an audition), there's basically no opportunity for virtuosity, little ability to demonstrate the ability to play up in the stratosphere or to handle difficult chromatic passages, etc.

In a pro orchestra audition, or in a conservatory audition, the candidate plays what is effectively a varied sampler of their skills, so the Mozart concerto serves as a window into classical style as well as the overall cleanliness of the candidate's control.

July 2, 2020, 1:06 PM · Along Frieda's lines: I won my high school's senior concerto competition with Kabalevsky whereas our concertmaster presented Mozart (don't recall which). Regardless of our respective abilities, there was also the matter of the orchestra being able to play - I mean not butcher - the piece. (At some point in the last 5-10 years, the concert CD surfaced and I found our Kabalevsky to be...pretty terrible.) To Lydia's point, if memory serves, the judging panel (for that and pit orchestra and other collaborative things) would have been the orchestra conductor and other music/drama/arts teachers, none of whom were violinists.
July 3, 2020, 11:55 AM · I did Mozart 3 and 4 a few years ago, then played a few romantic concertos, and now my teacher gave me a few options for my next concerto and I think I want to learn Mozart 5! This thread convinced me that it was the right piece to pick, thank you.
July 3, 2020, 12:38 PM · I remember that my childhood teacher used to always send me to competitions with flashy-seeming repertoire. But he sent me to a youth symphony audition with a violinist conductor with (an extremely clean and polished) Mozart 4. :-)

July 3, 2020, 4:15 PM · Wow, that is so cool! How did that youth symphony audition go, Lydia?
July 3, 2020, 4:58 PM · Mozart 5 is the best Mozart concerto, I may be biased because that is the one that I learnt tho.
Edited: July 3, 2020, 6:11 PM · I "grew up" with Mozart 3 & 5 (M3 & M5) because that was the music my father had in his collection - so those were what I played first right after middle school.

I heard M4 later but did not find the music until I was almost 40 and browsing a music store in Redlands, CA during an afternoon break from a Master Class with Claire Hodgkins.

I was about 80 when chatting with my violinist piano-trio partner on our drive home from our pianist's and he talked about having studied M2 in his youth - so I bought the music for that. I must say I really like Mozart Violin Concerto No. 2. Just something about it!

July 3, 2020, 9:51 PM · I got into the youth symphony with Mozart 4 despite most of the other kids playing Sibelius, so that worked out well. (The seating audition was separate and excerpt-based, so it was a reasonably safe choice to choose a non-virtuosic concerto.)
July 4, 2020, 2:29 AM · The third movement of M2 is very odd. There are so many theme changes it sounds like an opera's overture.

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