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Wolfgang Amadé Mozart

Undeserved Gift to Humanity

Constantin Floros

Mozart’s ambivalent personality offers a key to a deeper understanding of his music. He could be merry, even boisterous, but from many of his works speaks a deep seriousness. Both mirth and melancholy stamp his being. His operatic music includes both the comic and the tragic. The present study treats the special character of his musical language and the relations between his personality and his multiform oeuvre. Its mission is to grasp the peculiarities of his operatic work, his opere serie, opere buffe and singspiels. The chapter "The Program in the Master Overtures" initiates the series of semantic analyses the author has pursued in other books. In the 19th century, it was fashionable to compare Mozart to Raffael. But the comparison is askew, as the graceful is only one side of his personality.

About the German edition

Chapter II "presents new and even surprising insights into the ‘program’ in Mozart’s master overtures. The connection between overture and drama is viewed from both compositional and semantic points of view. The studies, written with great stylistic and literary knowledge, enter deep into Mozart’s way of working. For both amateurs and cognoscenti, Floros achieves ad better understanding, above all, of the musical interconnections." (Rudolf Angermüller, Mitteilungen des Mozarteums)

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IV Mozart’s Musical Language. The Phenomenon of Cantability.


“But Mozart as a creator soon begins to think quite independently of the piano, and cantability becomes his law, first for vocal and then also for instrumental music.” Alfred Einstein1

In many of his instrumental works, and by no means only in the concertos, Mozart’s music impresses by its pairing of virtuosity and cantability. To an astonishing extent, the instrumental is often shot through with vocal elements, Mozart’s famous “singing allegro” is thus no euphemism. Significantly, Leopold Mozart, in his Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule, published in 1756 in Augsburg, stated that the cantabile was “the most beautiful in music” and remarked that “one should take pains to achieve a singable recitation, one should play naturally, and not too artificially, but in such manner that with the instrument one imitates as much as possible the art of singing.”2 Wolfgang took this principle fully to heart. The affinity of his instrumental music to the vocal is obvious above all in those pieces that bear the telling label Andante cantabile.

1. Musico-rhetorical Figures

In the 18th, as already in the 17th century, music was widely perceived as a language. The subject of musical rhetoric formed an integral part of music theory. Johann Mattheson called music “sound speech,”3 and Leopold Mozart thought that the sciences of rhetoric and poetics were indispensable to an “honest” composer.4 If a speech capacity was conceded to music, it was only logical that in time artistic devices, in...

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