Mozart bleg

by Chris Bertram on February 1, 2006

Blegging time, though I’m giving too. I’ve got to give a talk about Mozart to my German class tomorrow (learning lots of new words like Pokeninfektion!) and I’d like to play them some musical clips. It ups the entertainment value and it gives me time to think about what I’m going to say next. So I’m open to suggestions for representative short extracts. Currently I have in mind the opening to the C-major string quartet (K465), the Adagio from the C-minor piano sonata, the overture to Figaro, der Hölle Rache from Zauberflöte and maybe the Dies Irae from the Requiem. But that’s all off the top of my head. Oh, and I said I’m giving. Well I’ve been trawling the net for German-language 250th anniversary podcasts and the most entertaining I’ve found is this “30-minute interview with biographer Dorothea Leonhart”: on Südwestrundfunk. Enjoy.



fyreflye 02.01.06 at 5:38 pm

The string quintets are the capstone of Mozart’s chamber works and I’d suggest the opening of the first movement of his K.516
to illustrate the less-than-lighthearted Mozart.
IMO none of the quartets are a match for it.


Bro. Bartleby 02.01.06 at 5:49 pm

I suggest you hurry to a music store and purchase a plaster cast of Mozart’s head (most likely it will be plastic, made in China), but nevertheless, then to an Ikea for some sort of pedestal. Then place Mozart atop the pedestal, front and center. I’m sure the students will love the setup — lighthearted and tacky, yet with a hint of irony.


eudoxis 02.01.06 at 5:58 pm

Isn’t it Pockeninfektion?

Thanks for the interview link. Fun.


nnyhav 02.01.06 at 5:58 pm

Echoing fyreflye, per Einstein (even if he disagreed with the number system …)


paul 02.01.06 at 7:09 pm

For many years, my favorite piece of music was K.515, largely on the strength of the opening cello arpeggio in the first movement. It’s not light-hearted – restrained exuberance is how I would characterize it. Anyway, that’s my suggestion.


fyreflye 02.01.06 at 8:33 pm

And in fact K.515 and K.516 can be found together in a recent release on Praga by the Prazak Quartet (+1); the finest recording of these masterpieces I’ve yet heard.


Chris Brody 02.01.06 at 9:32 pm

You absolutely have to include something from a piano concerto. Opera, string quintet, and piano concerto are the pinnacles of his output. There are easily 15 concertos of extremely high quality you could pick, but K. 466 or 467 would be well-known choices, depending on your mood. K. 453 and 488 are also extremely wonderful, just to name a couple of my other personal favorites.

By the way, as great as the overture to Figaro is, I’ve always found that its greatness is accentuated when you hear the splendid duet between Figaro and Susanna (you know, the one where Figaro is measuring the room for their marriage bed, and keeps screwing up) that immediately follows. Good performances of the opera make it clear that the overture and first number were conceived as a pair.


grackel 02.01.06 at 10:31 pm

One of the horn Concerti is prototypical Motzartian stuff _ K412, 417 etc, The classic Dennis Brain edition hasn’t been surpassed – still in print 40 odd years later.


Delicious Pundit 02.01.06 at 11:26 pm

“Rundfunk” is also an awesome word. Ditto “Orgel.” Orgel orgel orgel. It sounds like a cartoon character’s laugh.

Does that help?


dearieme 02.01.06 at 11:57 pm

An excerpt from the Clarinet Concerto? And even a wee bit of nightmusic? Nothing wrong with lollipops, say I.


Pablo Stafforini 02.02.06 at 12:04 am

Piano Concerto No.21, K 467.


Kieran Healy 02.02.06 at 12:41 am

I like that one that starts “da-da-da-dummmm.”


abb1 02.02.06 at 3:17 am

The one that starts “da-da-da-dummmm” – isn’t it Beethoven’s fifth symphony?


abb1 02.02.06 at 3:28 am

Oh, and a suggestion: the Turkish March (whatever the official alpha-numeric name of it is).


bad Jim 02.02.06 at 4:19 am

The Rondo a la Turca from the Piano Sonata Nr. 11?

There are so many ravishing moments it’s impossible to pick just one. At a family dinner on Sunday night we listened to the Divertimento in F Major, K 138. Fun stuff. Also the last movement of the string quartet Nr. 16 in E flat major, K 428. It rocks, as do the last movements of Symphonies 29, 38 and 39.

If you suspect your students may not be familiar with it, though, it would be pedagogical malpractice not to introduce them to Eine kleine Nachtmusik. If you’re uncertain, you could be confident of entertaining them with the version sung by Frederica von Stade on Songs of the Cat, words presumably by Garrison Keillor:

Love your shoes,
and love your coat and hat,
But, you know, you really need a cat.
Cats lend a stylish ambience
of graceful nonchalance
That trés jeunesse romance a person wants.


Andrew 02.02.06 at 4:25 am

Can’t go past the finale of the Jupiter symph, surely?


bad Jim 02.02.06 at 4:38 am

The N-part counterpoint of that finale might not be as accesible to the untutored ear as the serenades and divertimenti. I know I didn’t appreciate it nearly as much when I first heard it as I do now, and the same goes for finale to 39.

There is probably no prettier song than Voi che sapete from Le nozze di Figaro, but opera sounds strange to modern ears.


jacob 02.02.06 at 9:17 am

Seems to me that Kieran’s post should have its vowells removed, since he is clearly trolling.


Jimmy Doyle 02.02.06 at 9:58 am

For piano concertos it’s hard to choose between Kk 466, 467, 488 and 491. Other suggestions: the opening Kyrie or the Qui tollis or Et incarnatus est from the Mass in C minor; Porgi amor from Figaro; opening of “dissonance” quartet K 465 (highly unusual); Sinfonia Concertante K 364; overtures to any of Idomeneo, Don Giovanni or the Magic Flute as well as/instead of Figaro. In the interest of combatting the ‘sweetness and light’ conception, the slow movements of Kk 488 and 364, and “Ach! ich fuhl’s” from the Magic Flute are especially tragic.


Gary 02.02.06 at 10:32 am

“The one that starts “da-da-da-dummmm” – isn’t it Beethoven’s fifth symphony?”

Joke told to me by a ten-year-old:

Q: What was Beethoven’s favorite fruit?
A: Banana-naaaa


fred 02.02.06 at 1:10 pm

How about the “Lachrymosa” from the requiem? Extremely moving, especially as used near the end of the movie “Amadeus”.


David S. 02.02.06 at 3:05 pm

Try to make room for the Divertimento in D major (K.136, if I remember right). I know nothing about it, it’s just one of my personal favorites – a small perfection.


dearieme 02.02.06 at 5:36 pm

“The Rondo a la Turca from the Piano Sonata Nr. 11?” Aha, then you could get them to compare it with Dave Brubeck’s version “Blue Rondo a la Turk”.


Chris Bertram 02.03.06 at 6:34 am

Many thanks for all the suggestions. Just to report back, here’s what I ended up with …

I played

The overture to Figaro
The opening room-measuring scene
Der Hölle Rache
The opening of the Dissonance Quartet
and the Lachrymosa from the Requiem.

I would have played a bit of the Andante from K467 but the class didn’t work out like that, and I couldn’t get hold of a recording of K515 or 516 in time (not in Borders yesterday).

Also had to endure “Amadeus” by Falco from another class member … Austrian pseudo-rap!


paul 02.03.06 at 9:27 am

Did you think to repeat 2 of the most famous comments about Mozart? To wit:

Tom Lehrer – “When Mozart was my age, he had been dead for 2 years.”

Glenn Gould – “Mozart died too late.” (This seems to be commonly explained as an expression of Gould’s disdain for Mozart, though I read once that he meant it as his disdain for Mozart’s late oeuvre rather than all of it.)


Jimmy Doyle 02.03.06 at 9:41 am

I think Gould disliked all Mozart, and indeed classical music in general, as lacking rhythmic and harmonic variety, or something. He once said he didn’t like anything between Bach and Tristan.


fyreflye 02.03.06 at 10:17 pm

Listen to Gould’s second traversal of the Mozart piano sonatas and you’ll know he hated them.

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