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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the harpsichord. By Dr. Wolfram Syré

2018-10-30 - Playing and Pieces

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and the harpsichord.


It is unusual to play Mozart on the harpsichord today. But Mozart itself played very often on the harpsichord. Ludwig van Beethoven called Mozart a "hacker" because of this: it means Mozart played very detached. The tradional harpsichord was so popular as well as the "modern" Pianoforte in his time. And the construction of the harpsichord and of the Pianoforte have much more common than of the Pianoforte and of our Grand Piano.
It was absolutely normal to play the music of Mozart on the harpsichord in the 18th century. The front page of the first edtion of Beethoven's Sonatas Nr. 1 - Nr. 3 says "for harpsichord or Pianoforte" (in this follow). The tradition of public harpsichord recitals ended in Great Britain in the later 19th century with an old harpsichordist. I think his name was Thomas Young if I remember right.
Let me make some personal remarks now. To play Mozart on the harpsichord is very different from playing Bach on this instrument. One has here to administrate many different elements of the "empfindsamer und galanter Stil". And so it is important that the sound of harpsichord here never becomes empty or hard.
Many people say: "O my god, Mozart". But Mozart was not a mysterium. He got from childness as very young keyboard-"star" a social defect. He was a kind of social renenegate and lost much money with the billard game. But his music was very popular, and Mozart earned much as composer and teacher for keyboard instruments. His high skilled technique of composition was one of a puzzle: He combined very popular short musical patterns. So was he - in a way - the Johann Strauss of the 18th century. The music of Mozart is always popular and pleasant. It is far away from the intellectual Joseph Haydn who composed marvelous Sonata movements about a theme of only three notes.


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