Society Essay: Concept of Dialogue in Mozart's Music

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Mozart's Piano Concertos represent the dynamic relationship 'between the individual expressive voice of the soloist and the wider 'community' of the orchestra…both ultimately uniting in joyous unanimity' (Till). The extent to which Mozart succeeded in achieving this 'dialogue', is easily determined by the way piano concertos were valued and understood by audiences of the time. Mozart's greatest concertos, written in Vienna– offer an attractive source for investigating this topic. will be analysed. To understand how dialogue was created and gained awareness, this essay will begin with a concise review of primary literature – via differing claims of significant figures such as Tia DeNora, Simon p. Keefe, Leonard G. Ratner, Heinrich Christoph Koch, Cuthbert Girdlestone and Mozart himself – discussing as to what makes a Mozart Concerto 'sing'. The topic of how Mozart’s Piano Concertos was appreciated and understood by the audiences of the time will also be explored, once again with relevant scholarly literature. This research will rely on the nature of the audience's response at the time, as well as through an in-depth analysis of a Mozart Piano Concerto, specially No. 23, in A Major, for Piano and Orchestra, K.488. Evidently, throughout this essay, it is clear that Mozart’s Piano Concertos did form a sense of dialogue. Various music analysts and critics were able to actually understand the dialogue, however not so much the individual audience member. Yet, both could truly appreciate the communication and relationship within the orchestra.

Written at the height of Mozart's career in the 1780s, the classic keyboard concerto, provides an intriguing backdrop for investigating piano/concerto relations (Keefe & Sisman). As represented by those of Mozart, the concerto achieved a magnificent synthesis of late eighteenth-century elements of style and structure – various aspects formed within the enlightenment (Ratner, 1980).

In Josephinian Vienna, c.1784, the 'new musical ideas’ of the concerto connected with the new 'enlightened' ideas and practices. This included liberalism, toleration, the suppression of aristocratic powers, the lifting of censorship, and to some degree, economic resurgence (DeNora). It is in Mozart's Vienna concerto's that we can observe a prime example of what has been termed the emergence of the public sphere (DeNora). The concerto was, therefore, much more than a metaphor, whether for Mozart's audiences or the readings provided by today's music analysts and critics.

The concerto also provided a useful case in point for socio-economic exploration. Meaning not only could the wealthy, high-status aristocracy enjoy and attend live musical performances, but also those of a lower-status class. Following this transformation, it was revealed that music had a role as a medium of social values and one which enabled but was also constrained by practical, conventional, material and organisational factors (DeNora). Given that dialogue has a high social, artistic and creative standing, it is not surprising that in music, too, the conversation would be regarded in a positive light (Keefe & Sisman) . To replace the self-absorption of the piano and orchestra, the act of engaging in dialogue is achieved with a kind of openness. The social exchange replaces individualism and isolationism (Keefe, 2001).

Most soloists' merely aim at displaying technical skill with no expression and 'far from applying this acquired skill to arouse in their listener's beautiful feelings and to gratify them in a noble way...seek only to draw attention to the mechanics of their art' (Sulzer et al.). However, the truly skilled concerto composer will write a 'passionate dialogue' for soloist and orchestra such that the latter will 'stimulate...noble feelings' in the former (Koch). Thus, Mozart has gradually introduced emotion into the world of classical music with such relationships between the orchestra and solo. It is dialogue that directly draws upon and brings about the 'noble feelings' expressed in the soloist by the orchestra.

When a solo instrument breaks away from the mass of the orchestra and asserts its independence, either temporarily or, as in the concerto, for a whole work, it can form other relationships within the music and different forms. (Girdlestone, 2012). The polyphonic style of the earliest concerto had diverse combinations of solo and tutti but abandoned polyphony. Nevertheless, Mozart went against this and returned to polyphonic writing, and obtained thus once again the collaboration of solo and orchestra by using, not counterpoint, but the new symphonic style. This allowed the musical composition texture to once again combine and shape the overall sound and quality of the work.

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As stated above, Mozart composed numerous concertos – all great examples of how he formed dialogue. The Concerto No. 23, in A Major, for Piano and Orchestra, K.488 is a significant example of how this connection is formed. Within bars 67-81, the soloist opens with the first subject, played in the tonic key (A major). The first four bars of the theme are reproduced exactly. However, in bars 71-78, scales and broken chord-type figures outline the theme. Bars 79- 81 replace the original bars 13-17 but remain in the key of A major. To end this first entry, the soloist ends with a brief, scalic passage, submitting on a perfect cadence. In the soloist piano part, Mozart has used melodic decoration and scalic melodies from the outset. This makes it evidently clear to the listener that this movement is for the soloist's virtuosity, yet it still tells a story with the complete orchestra as they add to the story underneath the piano.

The harmonic structure of bars 114-128 is fundamentally the same as bars 46-60 (transposed), although the texture is different; the piano's right hand is full of sparkling semiquaver runs. Subtle changes to the orchestration make the passage more interesting and inviting, evoking a dialogue between the instruments than a mere repeat and copy of the original orchestration. For example, in bars, 47- 48, the winds imitate the strings an octave higher, but in bars 115-116 it is reversed, with the strings now imitating the wind section. Mozart has cleverly composed this 'copycat', or perhaps even call and response, to establish the relationship between not only the orchestra and solo but the relationships within the orchestra itself. During bar 129 the music further takes a brief melodic diversion to allow for the extended virtuoso passage work by the soloist. Both tutti and solo, are of an equal importance here combining and conversing with dialogue, without one controlling over the other or claiming a larger share than the other of the public's attention – which has been a clear motivation within many other Concertos by other composers of the time.

On the paper, Mozart created a dialogue between instruments, but what truly mattered to him was if the audience learnt to or how to appreciate the music. Frequent music analysts and critics have expressed their positivity and appreciation for Mozart’s works. François-Jean de Chastellux, exclaims Mozart's concerto's as one where, 'the instruments shine in turn, in which they provoke each other and respond; they dispute and reconcile among themselves.' It is a lively and sustained conversation' (Chastellux, 1765). From this sentiment, it is evident that patrons of Mozart enjoyed his musical abilities and awarded the concerto's 'dialogue' – which Mozart wholeheartedly composed – with the recognition it deserved. Even Mozart himself wrote to his father saying, 'The first concert…went off very well. The hall was overflowing; and the new concerto I played won extraordinary applause. Everywhere I go, I hear praises of that concert' (Anderson, 1985. Trans). This clearly expresses that Mozart himself heard the applause and the comments throughout his travels of praise and excitement.

Mozart's concerto performances and the instruments, all received the highest praise. The admiration for one aspect fed directly into an appreciation for another, and everything was esteemed. (Keefe, 2009). For example, in Mozart: A Documentary Biography, it states '…mastery in the thoughts, mastery in the performance, and mastery in the instruments, all combined' (Deutsch et al.) Mozart carefully integrated intimate grandeur manifested within the dialogue between the piano and the orchestra (Boydell & Brewer), allowing for the audience to appreciate the music and the discussion formed within indeed. Such praise and appreciation for works which held expressive dialogue were not widely recognise until Mozart wrote these concertos in Vienna.

Once audiences learnt to appreciate the music, the next step was to know if they understood the piece that was being performed or if it just went through one ear and out the next. When listening or attending a Mozart orchestral performance, it was essential for audiences to grasp the full significance of how the state of co-operation between ensemble members, and further yet the solo and accompanying orchestra, were formed and attained. They would have to understand, for example, the complicated ways in which dialogue functions as a pivot between competitive and the family relations within the orchestration. Only in this way would an audience have comprehended the full dramatic impact of the composition (Keefe, 2001). Keefe further suggests that Mozart’s concertos might have conveyed meaning or related in a similar way to the style of contemporary dramatic works – which most audience members were familiar with at this time. This would have allowed the audience to relate such music to something which they are already affiliated with. Mozart was therefore able to express that he intended on harnessing particular musical events (sounds, timbres, instrumental and solo effects) to a more general end. Ultimately, this encouraged listeners to perceive performance and composition as mutually reinforcing feature of a complete musical experience (Keefe, 2009). This left the audience with not only appreciating the music and dialogue, but also to understand it.

From 1773-1791, Mozart's Vienna concertos for piano exhibited dynamic relationships between the solo piano and tutti orchestra, forming an artistic dialogue. A key example of this was the Concerto No. 23, in A Major, for Piano and Orchestra, K.488 composed in 1786. Throughout his career, Mozart took an interest in knowing whether his concertos were appreciated and understood by his audience. Overtime, from patrons and music analysts and critics, he did receive constant praise for his works preformed and composed in Vienna. These concertos grew within the enlightenment, allowing for unleashed creativity. During the enlightenment, Mozart went against the compositional norms of the time and went back to polyphonic writing creating the new symphonic style. Mozart’s concertos also conveyed meaning or related to similar dramatic works of the time, allowing for the audience to appreciate and understand the orchestration more. Mozart's Piano Concerto's established that 'during the solo, the accompanying voices were not merely there to sounds this or that missing interval of the chord between the soprano and bass. There is a passionate dialogue between the concerto player and the accompanying orchestra.' (H.C. Koch). Mozart’s work is to this day constantly praised by many consumers of classical music, and many music analysts and critics who can even now still hear the dialogue within his wide compositional range of works.

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