A Mozart Player Gives Himself Advice
Unmistakably, Mozart takes singing as his starting-point, and from this issues the uninterrupted melodiousness which shimmers through his compositions like the lovely forms of a woman through the folds of a thin dress.
― Ferruccio Busoni
Let this be the first warning to the Mozart performer: piano playing, be it ever so faultless, must not be considered sufficient. Mozart’s piano works should be for the player a receptacle full of latent musical possibilities which often go far beyond the purely pianistic. It is not the limitations of Mozart’s pianoforte (which I refuse to accept) that point the way, but rather Mozart’s dynamism, colourfulness and expressiveness in operatic singing, in the orchestra, in ensembles of all kinds. For example, the first movement of Mozart’s Sonata in A minor K. 310 is to me a piece for symphony orchestra; the second movement resembles a vocal scene with a dramatic middle section, and the finale could be transcribed into a wind divertimento with no trouble at all.
In Mozart’s piano concertos, the sound of the piano is set off more sharply against that of the orchestra. Here the human voice and the orchestral solo instrument will be the main setters of standards for the pianist. From the Mozart singer he will learn not only to sing but also to ‘speak’ clearly and with meaning, to characterize, to act and react; from the string player to think in terms of up-bow and down-bow; and from the flautist or oboist to shape fast passages in a variety of articulations, instead of delivering them up to an automatic non-legato or, worse still, to an undeviating legato such as the old complete edition prescribed time and again without a shred of authenticity.
What is it that marks out Mozart’s music? An attempt to draw a dividing-line between Haydn and Mozart could perhaps help to answer the question. Mozart sometimes comes astonishingly close to Haydn, and Haydn to Mozart, and they shared their musical accomplishments in brotherly fashion; but they were fundamentally different in nature. I see in Haydn and Mozart the antithesis between the instrumental and vocal, motif and melody, C.P.E. and J. C. Bach, adagio and andante, caesuras (amusing and startling)and connections (seamless), daring and balance, the surprise of the unexpected and the surprise of the expected. From tranquillity, Haydn plunges deep into agitation, while Mozart does the reverse, aiming at tranquillity from nervousness.
Mozart is made neither of porcelain, nor of marble, nor of sugar. The cute Mozart, the perfumed Mozart, the permanently ecstatic Mozart, the ‘touch-me-not’ Mozart, the sentimentally bloated Mozart must all be avoided. There should be some slight doubt, too, about a Mozart who is incessantly ‘poetic’. ‘Poetic’ players may find themselves sitting in a hothouse in which no fresh air can enter; you want to come and open the windows. Let poetry be the spice, not the main course. It is significant that there are only ‘poets of the keyboard’; a relatively prosaic instrument needs to be transformed, bewitched. Violinists, conductors, even Lieder singers―so usage would suggest―stem to survive without ‘poetry’.