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#1940783 - 08/11/12 10:36 AM avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart  
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A piano teacher that I know told me that Mozart's piano music should be played entirely without pedal (i.e. sustaining pedal). This applies to actual performances of the piece for an audience, not just for practicing the piece.

This seems like a radically extreme position to me. I understand why one would want to be careful to not use too much pedal in playing Mozart. In addition, it is often helpful to practice sections without using any pedal. However, it does not seem right to play complete works of Mozart in a polished performance for an audience without using any pedal. FWIW, historical accounts indicate that Mozart used pedaling when playing his works, although the pedaling mechanism and sound produced on the pianos of Mozart's time are different from those on modern pianos.

How common is it to avoid the use of all pedal when performing Mozart? I surmise that the vast majority of pianists would want to use at least some pedal. How would you feel about a teacher who strongly insisted that students play Mozart entirely without using any pedaling?

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#1940787 - 08/11/12 10:45 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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I'd disregard this idea, exactly because it's extremely radical.

Then again I sometimes don't mind using a tiny bit of pedal in Bach works (but when playing for my own pleasure)

#1940788 - 08/11/12 10:45 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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I don't think even you believe in any of what you have asked.
But just for the sake of answering, yes you can use sustain pedal when performing Mozart.

#1940795 - 08/11/12 11:05 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Try playing the beautiful slow movement of K330 with, and then without pedal, and draw your own conclusions......


"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."
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#1940796 - 08/11/12 11:07 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Hakki]  
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Originally Posted by Hakki
I don't think even you believe in any of what you have asked.
But just for the sake of answering, yes you can use sustain pedal when performing Mozart.


As I stated in my OP, I surmise that the vast majority of pianists would be in favor of using at least some pedal when playing Mozart. Your response is consistent with this. What is surprising to me is that a well respected teacher and pianist with good credentials would cling very strongly to the notion that sustain pedal should be avoided when playing Mozart. Is this just a special quirk of this one teacher, or is there a noticeable contingent of respected pianists that subscribes to this extreme view?

#1940803 - 08/11/12 11:19 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Maybe someone will correct me, but I believe that Glenn Gould is the only well-known pianist who refuses to use the sustain pedal in Mozart. And we all know what he thought of that composer....


"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."
#1940809 - 08/11/12 11:36 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Pages 24 - 33 of the excellent book Interpreting Mozart by Eva & Paul Badura-Skoda are devoted to an argument for the use of the pedal in specific instances - of which they give roughly 11-12 "obvious" (their chose of word) examples.

Get thee to a library if you can't afford the cover price.......

I would ask myself what I think my teacher would want me to gain by playing Mozart without the use of the pedal, before I questioned the advice. (Help! Grammar police.....Help!)

That was a strategy I used to use whenever I disagreed with a teacher.


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#1940814 - 08/11/12 11:54 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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I rarely use pedal while playing Mozart if any, the only reason being it sounds like mush. I would say using sustain in Mozart is acceptable, but it is still very important to be able to play legato without any use of the pedal.

Last edited by ScriabinAddict; 08/11/12 12:07 PM.
#1940835 - 08/11/12 12:48 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Maybe someone will correct me, but I believe that Glenn Gould is the only well-known pianist who refuses to use the sustain pedal in Mozart. And we all know what he thought of that composer....


All dead pianists refuse to use the sustain pedal in Mozart, and all other music.

(Most live pianists use way too much sustain pedal!)


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#1940865 - 08/11/12 02:00 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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i believe mozart played fortepianos with a damper pedal (deployed with the knee), so it should be okay.

#1940893 - 08/11/12 03:27 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Mozart requires special pedaling. You can rarely use whole pedal and even more rarely use it for whole phrases/passages (at least according to my experience).

My teacher has told me to use the pedal to accent single notes. In these cases I use the pedal just enough to give the notes a different tone.

In a nutshell: you use the pedal frequently for special effecet and sometimes (especially in slow movements) for legato.


Working on
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Chopin: op. 47, op. 10 no. 3
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#1940897 - 08/11/12 03:39 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Well it does make sense for a couple of reasons but it doesn't make sense for other reasons...

First of all Mozart's keyboard technique and phrasing, as well as the entire conception of playing keyboard music was BASED on the harpsichord, since apart from the clavichord which was a solitary practice instrument, the bulk of technique was based on the centuries before (harpsichord)

the harpsichord has no damper pedal and it has no dynamics.. this means that when you interpret a piece you give accents or bring-out voices by ALTERING the written rhythm

the harpsichord, had a very light damping mechanism, meaning that the notes faded away gradually, unlike a modern piano which aims to cut the sound off sharply.

pianos of mozart's time had dampers which were quite inefficient by today's standards, but because the tradition was based on harpsichord music and technique the damper (right) pedal was almost NEVER used...

Mozart's piano didn't even have pedals, it had knee levers which were seldom used.

Dussek I think was the one that really began to use the pedal in the modern way, changing on chords etc. but constant use of the pedal was frowned upon and unnecessary at the time because of the pianos they had which had small dampers and also because of the style of phrasing which created legato with rhythm. If the phrasing is rhythmically very strong and together you can get a legato effect.

the different tradition considered written music only an indication of the rhythm. You can read-up on this by downloading Saint-Saens article on interpreting ancient music on your iPhone for free.. he talks about how ancient music was much different than even the music of the late 1800's and radically different from today's conceptions


so you cannot fully reproduce Mozart's music as it was conceived with a modern piano and drawn-out, slurred phrasing. His phrasing, as was the tradition of the time, was more choppy and conversational as opposed to legato and full-voiced singing

by not using the pedal and playing lightly and not too hard, not relying on power and dynamic accents but on an articulated phrasing approach then you can get closer

but if you really want to understand any old composer you cannot rely JUST on your teacher IMO.. you need to look-up as many books written in the past which describe the musical approach of the time

Last edited by acortot; 08/11/12 03:48 PM.

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An Article on the unusual makeup of original Pleyel hammers, during Chopin's lifetime:

http://acortot.blogspot.it/2012/07/pleyel-hammers-in-chopin-era-i-martelli.html

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#1940903 - 08/11/12 03:53 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: acortot]  
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Originally Posted by acortot
[...]if you really want to understand any old composer you cannot rely JUST on your teacher IMO.. you need to look-up as many books written in the past which describe the musical approach of the time


Unless, of course, that teacher is a recognized "specialist" in the interpretation of 17/18 century music on modern instruments and has done all the reading and research that such a designation would require.

Regards,


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#1940905 - 08/11/12 03:59 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Maybe someone will correct me, but I believe that Glenn Gould is the only well-known pianist who refuses to use the sustain pedal in Mozart. And we all know what he thought of that composer....


I can see him using it here ....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tkhwK5YEksI

#1940906 - 08/11/12 04:00 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Knee levers were an option in Mozart's time, one which Mozart wanted. Standard was a hand operated lever that raised the dampers, so you could not change the dampers while using both hands to play. However, those pianos did not have much sustain to begin with.


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#1940926 - 08/11/12 05:04 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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I use my ears to determine whether or not to use a sustain pedal ... and different pianos will respond differently. Some pianos are very much alive and others are on life support.

As with most discussions in music, you ears should be the final arbitrator.



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#1940928 - 08/11/12 05:11 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by Otis S
FWIW, historical accounts indicate that Mozart used pedaling when playing his works


Is that right? Interesting.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

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#1940932 - 08/11/12 05:20 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Here, as opposed to there
One should avoid the use of pedal with Mozart when possible. There will, of course, be occasions when a bit of pedal here and there are necessary, but it should be used sparingly. The pedal does not, by the way, create legato. Your teacher's position is not a radical one at all.



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1941032 - 08/11/12 08:05 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Dave Horne]  
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Originally Posted by Dave Horne
I use my ears to determine whether or not to use a sustain pedal ... and different pianos will respond differently. Some pianos are very much alive and others are on life support.

As with most discussions in music, you ears should be the final arbitrator.


I am taught that the ear is the dictator of everything physical that the pianist does... and keeping Mozart pure will require pedaling that is quite slight and deliberate in only the most selective of moments...and can emphasize dissonance or promote some excitement here and there!

#1941040 - 08/11/12 08:29 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: P I A N O piano]  
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Here, as opposed to there
Originally Posted by P I A N O piano
Originally Posted by Dave Horne
I use my ears to determine whether or not to use a sustain pedal ... and different pianos will respond differently. Some pianos are very much alive and others are on life support.

As with most discussions in music, you ears should be the final arbitrator.


I am taught that the ear is the dictator of everything physical that the pianist does... and keeping Mozart pure will require pedaling that is quite slight and deliberate in only the most selective of moments...and can emphasize dissonance or promote some excitement here and there!


+1 Excellent



"And if we look at the works of J.S. Bach — a benevolent god to which all musicians should offer a prayer to defend themselves against mediocrity... -Debussy

"It's ok if you disagree with me. I can't force you to be right."

♪ ≠ $

#1941056 - 08/11/12 09:33 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: acortot]  
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Originally Posted by acortot

First of all Mozart's keyboard technique and phrasing, as well as the entire conception of playing keyboard music was BASED on the harpsichord, since apart from the clavichord which was a solitary practice instrument, the bulk of technique was based on the centuries before (harpsichord)



Not only that, I have read that Mozart played his music on the harpsichord throughout his life, as well as on the piano. I'm assuming that was because a harpsichord may have been the best or only choice of keyboard on which to perform in a given situation. So, FWIW, Mozart himself did at least sometimes play his music completely without pedal, when he played it on the harpsichord.

#1941058 - 08/11/12 09:37 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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Not to be avoided entirely (one of Mozart's letters raves about the precision of the sustain/damper mechanism of Stein's pianos), but certainly kept within bounds (half-pedal, etc). The sustain of pianos of the time was slight compared to modern pianos. Even in the pianos of Beethoven's time, it was possible to keep the sustain pedal down through changes of harmony without the blurring of modern pianos (Beethoven took advatage of this in Op. 33 and Op. 53).

But back to Mozart. Period instrument Mozart recordings by Brautigam, Lubimov, and Staier all use the sustain mechanism effectively and tastefully. One should aim to at least suggest that sound world when playing a modern instrument.

BTW, I love the magical timbre of period soft pedals -- impossible to simulate on modern instruments.


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#1941060 - 08/11/12 09:39 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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I don't recall seeing any professional pianist perform Mozart sans pedal on a modern piano, though some certainly do perform Bach in that manner, at least for some pieces. Anyone?

#1941065 - 08/11/12 09:49 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Otis S]  
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The first chapter of "Interpreting Mozart" by Badura-Skoda deals with the pedal. I will try to write more later or tomorrow (I am just going out right now...) It is pretty interesting!



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#1941247 - 08/12/12 08:06 AM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Janus K. Sachs]  
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Originally Posted by Janus K. Sachs
Not to be avoided entirely (one of Mozart's letters raves about the precision of the sustain/damper mechanism of Stein's pianos), but certainly kept within bounds (half-pedal, etc). The sustain of pianos of the time was slight compared to modern pianos. Even in the pianos of Beethoven's time, it was possible to keep the sustain pedal down through changes of harmony without the blurring of modern pianos (Beethoven took advatage of this in Op. 33 and Op. 53).


yes, and in an edition of chopin preludes that i have the editor notes chopin's sustain pedal markings (very long) and then his own, much more frequent, markings. one must be careful when comparing apples to oranges wrt the capabilities of the instruments of the times.

btw, some years ago i was at an alfred brendel concert at chicago orchestra hall, and he played mozart's fantasia in d minor, and i was quite surprised at the extent of sustain pedal that he used. i would go so far as to say that it's quite impossible to play this piece tastefully on a modern piano without using it.

for example, with sustain:



primarily without sustain:



although the latter may well be more in keeping with the period of the piece, i find it to be too choppy & disjointed (lacking in the necessary flow) for my (modern) ear. others may surely disagree...


Last edited by Entheo; 08/12/12 08:48 AM.
#1942062 - 08/13/12 04:20 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: BruceD]  
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Originally Posted by BruceD
Originally Posted by acortot
[...]if you really want to understand any old composer you cannot rely JUST on your teacher IMO.. you need to look-up as many books written in the past which describe the musical approach of the time


Unless, of course, that teacher is a recognized "specialist" in the interpretation of 17/18 century music on modern instruments and has done all the reading and research that such a designation would require.

Regards,


Ideally yes, but in my opinion it is more fruitful to go and research the matter yourself, as well as talking to experts.

Often experts have learned from other experts who have learned from other experts but they are far-removed from what actually was performance practice of the day because they haven't dug-up the old books etc.

This applies to any field IMO. If you are serious about your work you need to be responsible and check things for yourself IMO


rhythm must be inborn - Alfred Cortot

An Article on the unusual makeup of original Pleyel hammers, during Chopin's lifetime:

http://acortot.blogspot.it/2012/07/pleyel-hammers-in-chopin-era-i-martelli.html

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#1942065 - 08/13/12 04:26 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: acortot]  
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Thank you for all of the responses to this topic received so far. The consensus seems to be that judicious use of pedaling in Mozart is appropriate. Strongly advocating that no sustain pedal should be used when playing Mozart is an extreme position that most other pianists would not agree with. Indeed, we are hard pressed to come up with a famous pianist known for playing Mozart who adheres to this position.

While it is useful to study performance practices used at the time of Mozart, such information is insufficient for providing definitive guidelines for use of the sustain pedal on modern pianos. Historical accounts indicate that Mozart used mechanisms for producing sustain when he played keyboard instruments of his time with such mechanisms. However, we don't know for sure how Mozart would use the sustain pedal when playing his pieces on modern pianos as no such instruments existed in his lifetime.

#1942080 - 08/13/12 04:44 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: Entheo]  
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Originally Posted by Entheo

primarily without sustain:



although the latter may well be more in keeping with the period of the piece, i find it to be too choppy & disjointed (lacking in the necessary flow) for my (modern) ear. others may surely disagree...
I think Gould's eccentric articulation and crazy pauses(like at .42)are at least as respnsible for the strange sound of that performance.

#1942142 - 08/13/12 06:30 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: pianoloverus]  
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Originally Posted by pianoloverus
I think Gould's eccentric articulation and crazy pauses(like at .42)are at least as respnsible for the strange sound of that performance.


agreed. i quite fancy his brahms, but his mozart...

#1942205 - 08/13/12 08:34 PM Re: avoiding use of sustaining pedal when playing Mozart [Re: bennevis]  
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Originally Posted by bennevis
Maybe someone will correct me, but I believe that Glenn Gould is the only well-known pianist who refuses to use the sustain pedal in Mozart. And we all know what he thought of that composer....


Disagree. Consult the many recordings by early music specialists on fortepianos. They have done the research and usually offer the most accurate interpretation. The literature would seem to indicate that 1) Mozart's pianos had much less sustain than the modern grand to begin with, so pedaling the modern grand is overkill, and 2) Mozart indicated pedaling where necessary, and 3) according to Beethoven, Mozart's playing was more detache than he would have expected, much like the standard harpsichord practice, thus Mozart was probably not one who liked a lot of sustain.

Listening to Badura-Skoda, who recorded all the Mozart sonatas on both the modern grand and a period piano, is very revealing.

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