By EMIL LIEBLING
Mozart was one of those darlings of fortune to whom everything came easy. At a very early age he astounded the world by his precocity in piano-playing, solved most intricate musical problems with perfect ease, and continued through life to produce masterworks which will always maintain for him an enviable and honored place among the greatest giants of musical art. He emancipated himself successfully from the then prevailing Italian mode of thought, and created in every branch of composition a new and thoroughly German era. To discuss his works in their entirety is not within the confines of this article; hence I will content myself with a practical presentation of his piano-works and their actual availability for the studio and concert-use.
Character of his work as composer and player.
In spite of the remarkable readiness, facility, and wonderful ease with which Mozart conceived and composed his works, they never seem incomplete, sketchy, or slipshod. Everything is in perfect proportion, definite form, and euphonious. In his Sonatas and Variations, while evidently laboring under the limitations and restrictions imposed by his surroundings and the instruments of his period, he yet scores a decided advance over his predecessors, Emanuel Bach, Kirnberger, et al. He also excelled in improvisation, and utilized the variation form largely in these public productions. We owe to Mozart more warmth in expression, and the development of light and brilliant passage-work, which finds its highest effect at present in the so-called “jeu perlé” of the French.
The lesser lights of his time, who came under his active influence, and derived benefit thereby, are totally obsolete, and no one cares to play the works of Kozeluch, Gelinek, Wanhal, Haessler, or Steibelt. The pianoforte sonata for four hands gained new importance under Mozart’s masterly treatment, as he gave the accompanying bass part quite a meaning of its own. We owe to his example a number of later works, such as the sonatas in duet form by Onslow, Hummel, and Moscheles. As for the piano-concerto, he may be considered the real creator of that form, as he invested it with importance, sentiment, and brilliancy of display, presenting technic and also the more musical side of piano-work in expressive melody-playing.
His own performances were distinguished by rare taste: he avoided undue liberties with time or rhythm. It is amusing to note that contemporaneous accounts extol the fact that he played his own compositions without the score. How things have changed! When Pugno consulted his music in the Grieg “Concerto” during his late visit to this country, every school-girl in the audience shrugged her shoulders with disapproval. He detested the undue use of the pedal, and, unlike our modern virtuosi, who often play like angels with their hands and like devils with their feet, never offended against the laws of the beautiful. In many of his works he is far ahead of his times in the boldness of his harmonies, but generally conforms to the unwritten rules of tonal fitness, which our modern writers love to disregard in their effort to write something absolutely new. Pupils, in the accepted meaning of the term, he had none, if we except Hummel, who enjoyed his counsel and influence.
There is also a fine sonata in D for two pianos, in which both players have much work to do, and I would commend investigation of Mozart’s chamber-music, the piano and violin sonatas, the trios and quartets.
Arrangements and Transcriptions.
The great masters have been much sinned against by so-called modernized versions, arrangements, and paraphrases of the original text, and Mozart has not escaped the prevailing epidemic entirely. I have not yet heard any of his works played in octaves or double thirds, but should not be surprised at any time to see such publications announced. Many crimes are nowadays committed in the name of technic, and fearful and wonderful things come to the surface; it will soon be a novelty to hear Chopin performed “as he wrote it” in public. Hummel has arranged a number of Mozart’s concertos with consummate skill for piano alone, combining the orchestral part with the solo portion; some of the adagios from the concertos have been similarly done by Reinecke, Schulhoff has written a popular reduction of the “E-flat Menuet” from one of the symphonies, Diemer furnishes a brilliant arrangement of the “Magic Flute Overture,” Liszt one of the “Ave Verum” from the “Requiem”; I would also mention the “Romanza” from “Figaro,” arranged by Papendieck, the “Alla Turca” as transcribed by Tedesco, and some very adequate arrangements of the songs: “The Violet” and “Zufriedenheit,” by my old master, Theodore Kullak, who had a peculiar knack in furnishing a correct background for melodies. The Grieg additions of a second piano part to four of the sonatas are of questionable value, and appeal to curiosity rather than to genuine musical taste.
Works available for use.
The available material constitutes itself about as follows: “Sonatas for Piano Solo,” Cotta edition. Sonatas Nos. 1, 2, and 6 use entire; from No. 8 only the first movement; omit the fifth variation and “Menuet” and “Trio” from No. 9; dispense with the middle part of No. 10, but use the complete Sonata No. 14 in D; the second movement of No. 16 is also inconvenient and unnecessary; the “Fantasie in C-minor,” preceding the sonata No. 17, is a splendid work and merits attention; the other fantasies I do not care for, but I like the “Rondo” in A-minor and a “Gigue” in G.
To play Mozart well requires clear scale- and arpeggio- work, fluent touch, and considerable taste in melody-playing. All exaggerations of sentiment and tempo are entirely out of place; among living authorities Reinecke and Seiss have excelled in presenting the Mozart works to best advantage and with perfect fidelity of reproduction. I will conclude by suggesting a few programs for practical use:
Program No. 1.
“Sonata,” No. 1 in C (Cotta).
“Menuet in E-flat,” arranged by Schulhoff.
“Sonata for Four Hands,” No. 1 in D (Cotta).
“Rondo in A-minor.”
First movement from “D-minor Concerto,” arranged by Hummel.
Program No. 2.
“Sonata,” No. 2 in G (Cotta).
“Theme and Variations” from “Sonata” No. 9 (Cotta), omitting the fifth variation.
“Alla Turca,” from the same sonata.
“Sonata for Four Hands,” No. 2 in B-flat (Cotta).
“Adagio” and “Gigue.”
“The Violet,” arranged by Kullak.
Program No. 3.
“Fantasie,” in C-minor, from “Fantasie and Sonata” (Cotta).
“Sonata,” No. 14 in D (Cotta).
“Die Zufriedenheit,” arranged by Kullak.
“Romanza” from “Figaro,” arranged by Papendieck.
“Sonata in D for Two Pianos” (Peters’ Edition).