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#1898825 - 05/17/12 07:03 PM Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music
jackbirdy412 Offline
Full Member

Registered: 10/20/09
Posts: 46
I just thought I'd bring this up, seeing as I'd found it rather interesting. I've a few recordings of Mozart's Piano Sonatas, one of which is on fortepiano. What seems to be the case is that especially during the repeat of the exposition the pianist in this particular set of recordings adds to the pieces, in that there are extra embellishments, turns, trills, etc. that are not in the printed score. Interestingly these are not present in any of the recordings on modern pianos.
So, what is the general consensus as regards to doing this to Mozart? I personally wouldn't, and I wouldn't do it to any other composer post-Baroque either, really - particularly not from the Classical period.

Just wondering what people thought about it smile


Edited by jackbirdy412 (05/17/12 07:03 PM)
Recent repertoire:
Albeniz - Triana
Schubert - Sonata D664
Bach - Prelude and Fugue no.12, Book II

Working on:
Debussy - L'isle joyeuse
Chopin - Scherzo No.3
Haydn - Sonata Hob.XVI:52
Scarlatti - K426 and K427

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#1898831 - 05/17/12 07:18 PM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
boo1234 Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/06/09
Posts: 579
well as long as it is in good taste and fits the music, I think it can be interesting.

#1898835 - 05/17/12 07:33 PM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
MarkH Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/16/08
Posts: 919
Loc: Seattle, WA
I think Gulda made some Mozart sonata recordings on a modern piano in which he did this. I don't have the set, but I'm interested. Honestly, repeats generally bore me, so I like the idea of elaboration with repetition.

#1898856 - 05/17/12 08:35 PM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
Kreisler Offline

Registered: 11/27/02
Posts: 13837
Loc: Iowa City, IA
Originally Posted By: jackbirdy412
So, what is the general consensus as regards to doing this to Mozart?

It's appropriate and historically accurate. In fact, *not* doing any embellishment would be pretty much the opposite of what would've been the expected practice in Mozart's day. (He even wrote figured bass in his piano parts that pianists were expected to realize as they conducted from the piano.)
"If we continually try to force a child to do what he is afraid to do, he will become more timid, and will use his brains and energy, not to explore the unknown, but to find ways to avoid the pressures we put on him." (John Holt)


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#1898882 - 05/17/12 10:26 PM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: Kreisler]
Minnesota Marty Offline

Platinum Supporter until October 5 2014

Registered: 05/15/12
Posts: 7439
Loc: Rochester MN
I agree with Kreisler. It is totally appropriate in the performance practice of the time, especially in a first movement composed in strict sonata form. Embellishment and ornamentation was expected in the repeat of the "A" section. The development, "B" section, was without additional ornamentation other than as composed. The reprise of the "A" might have or not have any additional embellishment. Performers had the choice.

Most music historians and musicologists suggest that this practice was not one of improvisation. Most performers did not have the same mastery of improvisation as Mozart and would perform a practiced rendition.

In theory, it was assumed that all cadenzas were improvised in concert. Again, historians speculate that this practice was only employed by only the most accomplished improvisers. Others added well rehearsed cadenzas.
Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.

#1899053 - 05/18/12 07:17 AM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
bennevis Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 10/14/10
Posts: 8979
Mozart expected performers of his music to add embellishments (as he did so himself), and even mini-cadenzas at appropriate moments (there's actually a written-out one in the finale of one of his sonatas - I think it's K333). Many pianists playing on modern pianos add them - more so in the piano concertos, but also in the sonatas.
"I don't play accurately - anyone can play accurately - but I play with wonderful expression. As far as the piano is concerned, sentiment is my forte. I keep science for Life."

#1899071 - 05/18/12 08:03 AM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
DottedNotes Offline
Full Member

Registered: 05/16/12
Posts: 59
Loc: New York
I am definitely not an expert, but in the reading I've done in preparing for my own recitals that included Mozart, the point was often made that, during Mozart's time, the ability to embellish/improvise, especially during repeats, was expected. My thought is that it was a natural extension of the realization of figured bass and the extensive ornamentation in Baroque-era keyboard works, particularly dance suites. And, since "good taste" and a high degree of polish were also highly prized during the Classical era, this would be another criteria--i.e., does the added embellishment draw attention toward the beauty of the original or away from it.

On another note, the fortepiano--especially in its earliest constructions--did not have the sustaining, ringing capacity that we have grown accustomed to. So ornamentation was a way to carry a melodic line forward (see especially Mozart's Sonata in B Flat Major, K. 281, which begins with a trill in the right hand!

#1899493 - 05/18/12 08:27 PM Re: Improvised Embellishments in Mozart's Piano Music [Re: jackbirdy412]
ChopinAddict Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/09
Posts: 6451
Loc: Land of the never-ending music
Yes, I agree with Kreisler too. I think this had already been mentioned here at PW? Or maybe I read it in the book I am reading about interpreting Mozart.

Music is my best friend.


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