Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections??

Posted by: JBiegel

Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 08:29 AM

Hi everyone! Been a while since I have been regularly 'attending' the forums. Times have proven very busy, not only in concerts, but in editing the 'repeats' of all of the Mozart Sonatas. I am recording the 17-sonata cycle for Koch, and pencil drafted the written-in repeat variants for the sonatas where repeat signs are indicated. At my Facebook group, 'Jeffrey Biegel--Pianist, Composer', I have posted the 'Discussion Board' topic of whether or not it is 'correct' and/or tasteful to add improvisational embellishments and variants--rhythmically and notes in some cases--to these repeat sections. I have completed the first book of the Peters edition, and into the second, and recorded 5 of the sonatas last week. My question is two-fold:
1: Does aybody know if there are recordings already existing with variants in the repeat sections;
2: How do you feel about a new recording which will be 'urtext' with slight variation in the repeats?
I have been impressed with the wide-ranging knowledge in these forums, and welcome your thoughts with sincere appreciation. Robert Levin is a Mozart 'specialist' and has done this for the concerti.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 09:19 AM

Check out CPE's Sonatas with Varied Reprises. Leopold tried to flog some early Mozart to a publisher as similar. Mozart would have obviously studied them. Instead of a repeat sign CPE carries on with embellishments written in.
Posted by: pianovirus

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 09:42 AM

I would personally love to hear some variants in the repeats, Jeffrey. It would add to more diversity in Mozart recordings. However, I guess purists would not call it an Urtext performance anymore (but I don't think that should matter too much). Please, if you have a sample recording snippet of your variants to get an impression, let us know. As an aside, many people unfortunately play the repeats not only with identical notes (which is the standard), but also with identical dynamics, phrasing etc (which is boring)...

I don't know about recordings with variants in the repeats, but I recently heard a pianoforte recording of Andreas Staier of the Rondo alla turca with really substantial alterations throughout. I would not be surprised (but don't know for sure) if he takes some liberties in other Mozart movements.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 09:47 AM

Great replies--thanks!! I will check out the Staier performance. Mine will be the complete cycle, so I wonder if that makes it a first cycle with such variants. I am being extremely careful in this process, to enhance and not take away from the original composer's intentions. There's a delicate fine line to contend with, obviously.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 11:40 AM

Did Mozart improvise when performing his sonatas?
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 11:43 AM

Curious if anyone here ever came across an answer to this question in Mozart's letters etc? Seems the little genius 'showed-off' and improvised whenever he can. You can tell from some of the variants in the sonatas that he wrote out, thus eliminating the need to repeat--love those!
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 12:12 PM

I'm pretty sure the original composer's intentions were for people to improvise all they wanted to.

The problem is more a question of what kind of authenticity you want. Do you want a recording that recaptures what it might have been like to hear Mozart himself play? Do you want a recording that recaptures how a contemporary performer may have rendered the sonatas? Or do you want a recording that captures the real spirit of improvisation, where the performer puts his or her personal stamp on the works?

I'm guessing, of course, but I think those would be three very different recordings.

The other question is a matter of what improvisation really means. For some, it means *adding* things to the score - ornaments or little scales, eingangs and nachschlags, etc..

I've always had a different philosophy - that improvisation can mean adding, subtracting, or changing things in the score.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 12:15 PM

I think all I am doing is gentle variants of the original text. Perhaps to 'imagine' what Mozart might have done, without going wild, with the way it would sound on the modern piano without trying to imitate his instruments, but certainly not the third option you mention, which would render it too personal and without regard for the urtext (which I hope I am not doing~~)
Thanks for your input--great questions!
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 01:09 PM

The question that seems to be coming out of these interesting exchanges is : where does one draw the relatively fine line between "gentle variants of the original text" and "going wild"?

No matter which way you go, the purist is going to say it's not Urtext and the "other" purist is going to say "Mozart would have done more than that!"

It's an informed artistic decision, I think, and one that the editor has to make with conviction.

Regards,
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 02:41 PM

That is the plan--

Having done editing, arranging, composing etc, I feel rather comfortable in doing this, otherwise, I would never suggest it to anyone. I also believe the way to do this comfortably, is to play all 17 sonatas and most of the concerti. All of these variants which I am doing, would normally appear in various guises in any one of the other works. Purists will always say it's not pure, and those who know that Mozart always played things differently, as evidenced in his own varying treatments throughout his works, will have their curiousity spiked with the new recordings. I am forever altering things, but I hear it all in my head first, as though it were written, and then transfer this to paper, fixing it until it sounds organic and natural, not as though I did it 'to' the music, but rather, 'with' the music.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/06/08 11:45 PM

The embellishments done by Brautigam and Lubimov in their complete Mozart sonata cycles are certainly worth checking out.

[I improvise embellishments all the time when playing Mozart. It's such great fun!]
Posted by: timbo77

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 08:51 AM

Jeffrey, one thing that has always interested me about reports of Mozart's playing is how it was often described in virtuosic terms. When I look at the concertos, I can't help feeling that the scores don't reflect what Mozart would have played. I'm not saying these are technically easy works, but you can see how they might have been a point of departure for virtuosity. In the context of performance practice of the day, when composers very often wrote pieces that they themselves would showcase, perhaps Mozart deliberately didn't transcribe his keyboard skills for fear of imitation.

This may or may not be a fair way to interpret the scores of some of the concertos, but I think it reflects a different attitude to the printed note. It is only really in more recent times that we have come to seek an urtext in an attempt to return to the composer's true intentions. Sometimes I feel people hold too much store by the printed note of an urtext edition, as if it is an unimpeachable document.

An 'urtext' is not derived purely from textual criticism; the process has to be informed by contemporaneous performance practice, attitudes to publishing and musicianship. The urtext may reflect, as closely as possible, the notes as the composer wished them to be set down, but it does not follow from that the composer did not expect or intend for the performer to deviate from the printed note.

So, turning to recording improvisational embellishments variations of repeated sections of an urtext edition of the sonatas, I would say that if such embellishments are consistent with contemporaneous performance practice then they are also consistent with the urtext. The fact that the variations may not be written out note for note seems to me to be irrelevant. People do not cry 'inauthentic' when a singer embellishes the repeat of a da capo aria, unless perhaps the performance is insensitive to the musical period or inconsistent with our understanding of performance practice. The position is no different here.

There are plenty of recordings of Mozart's sonatas in the catalogue that adhere strictly to the score -- one that adopts contemporaneous practice of improvisation or embellishment is going to be no less authentic because the notes played are not on the page. Your approach may in fact be more authentic and that is, surely, consistent with the aims of recording an urtext.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:01 AM

Thanks, Timbo77. I agree with you, which is why my gut instinct dictate what I need to do--and want to do. Take the Bach Toccatas, for example--there are variants in all of the editions, and performers have taken many liberties. How far off was the great Mozart? We need an urtext to work from, though what is the point in having repeats unless we vary the performance? Hearing the same thing twice just makes a case fo architecture and proportion. The music is not a mueseum piece, but something that needs to be re-created, and breathe with freshness and spontaneity. That being said, it is the responsibility of the performers to be judicious in the liberties taken, and that is my prmary goal. Mozart first, me last. All in the service of the master composer.

Janus--in your experience of listening to the Brautigam and Lubimov recordings, do they play actual variants of rhythms, notes, etc other than the dynamic changes and an occasional ornamental alteration?
Posted by: Thracozaag

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:14 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JBiegel:
We need an urtext to work from, though what is the point in having repeats unless we vary the performance? Hearing the same thing twice just makes a case fo architecture and proportion. The music is not a mueseum piece, but something that needs to be re-created, and breathe with freshness and spontaneity.
[/b]
Couldn't agree more.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:21 AM

I think you are all missing the point of urtext. It exists to make perfectly clear what is edited and what is composed. It's not, in that sense, directly related to performance practice.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:24 AM

My teacher, who studied with Schnabel and Josef Lhevinne used to say to her students, 'How "Ur" is urtext, dear??' Hen'es 'urtext' is a clean, basic, skeletal score. I think Mr. Mozart wanted to provide a playable and clean understanding of his music, and occasionally, in the sonatas without repeats, he writes in his own improv. That gave me the signal that there is room for more, however judicious as I reiterate constantly. The 'urtext' becomes a point of departure.
Posted by: Thracozaag

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:24 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by keyboardklutz:
I think you are all missing the point of urtext. It exists to make perfectly clear what is edited and what is composed. It's not, in that sense, directly related to performance practice. [/b]
Unless I see the hand-written score from the composer directly, I don't consider it "urtext" (a misnomer if there ever was one). And of course, considering that these composers were actually human beings, the "urtext" certainly doesn't mean "definitive".
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:27 AM

The assumption is always that the composer saw and proof-read the plates of the first edition. That's the difference between urtext and manuscript.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:41 AM

I agree with Thracozaag and keyboardklutz. Closer to home, if you saw the original drafts of Gershwin's 'Rhapsody in Blue' and compare it to what is published, you'd be quite surprised!
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:43 AM

And different "urtexts" take different approaches.

We need to remember that all "urtext" means is "original." It could be the original text of the first edition, composer's fair copy, or the composer's manuscript/autograph.

It's also worth remembering that, at least in Artaria/Mozart's case, the publisher was trying to sell music and make money, not provide future piano nerds with a window into the composer's mind. \:D
Posted by: Thracozaag

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:45 AM

Case in point:

The autograph manuscript for Scriabin's 7th Sonata (the so-called "White Mass") was auctioned off several years ago. Aside for the utterly gorgeous calligraphy, a marking at the top of the 1st page caught my eye. In every edition, the "tempo" marking is "Allegro" which always struck me as very odd, considering all the crazy markings strewn throughout the piece. Turns out there is no "Allegro" marking in the autograph, but instead in true Scriabin fashion, he proudly writes the "tempo" marking of "Prophetique".
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 09:57 AM

Kreisler-I had this same situation with the various 'available' editions of Clementi Sonatinas as I was editing and recording my edition of the Sonatina Album for Hal Leonard. Equally, Gershwin's publishers at Harms wanted to make money, as did Gershwin, and the differences from the manuscript to the published edition is different. Piano nerds like Alicia Zizzo and Jeffrey Biegel (LOL) play the original, which Warner Bros. published as the Annotated Rhapsody in Blue in the solo version arranged by Zizzo.
Posted by: Cherub Rocker

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 10:18 AM

Have you listened to Malcolm Bilson's recordings? I haven't listened to his recordings a whole lot but I think I do recall him adding some improvisation in some of the sonatas. I'm sure Andrew Willis and John Salmon, from the UNCG faculty, would have much to say regarding improvisation/performance practice in classical sonatas.

Personally I don't have a problem with adding variants when repeating a section and I know Salmon approves of this practice.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/07/08 10:27 AM

On a side note, I have a photocopy of Artaria's first edition of K533. Close study will reveal to you that Mozart gave the copyist the exposition, most of the development and only the changes in the recap. Mozart must have asked for the articulation from the exposition to be copied throughout. The copyist really messed up - he obviously didn't understand it.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 04:19 AM

Is it possible to scan and post some of the things that we would be surprised to see?
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 06:21 AM

a) I shan't be at home for a few weeks b) you'll encounter the same 'surprises' in the urtext, it's just clearer what has happened in the original edition.

I checked out the Mozart Ausgabe. Anybody got a different articulation to this? I'm sure my first edition is different.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 09:56 AM

Yes--I have in the Peters edition some slight differences. Those quarter note pick-ups do not have accent marks (which we typically see in other classical works of Haydn, Dussek and the Beethoven editions), and Peters offers a slur for beats 1 and 2 in the RH of measure 104 (your first measure--it's not 108, is it? Peters does not have measure numbers). Peters also indicates a crescendo in measures 105-106. On the repeats, I do apply this, or the first time through, depending on what comes before.
Posted by: Wood-demon

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 10:53 AM

"How do you feel about a new recording which will be 'urtext' with slight variation in the repeats?"

To hear once, interesting maybe, (as would be a live performance) but for repeated listening I'd rather do without the "slight variation" as Mozart's music works perfectly well without it.
Furthermore, I believe that the small, "tasteful" embellishments which some pianists add to these scores might well be wide of the mark as regards authenticity.
The piano solo versions which Hummel made of a number of the Mozart Piano concertos contain some highly elaborate decoration of the "solo" parts especially in the slow movements. It might be argued that Hummel did this in order to throw the solo sections into relief in his two-hand adaptations, but there is other evidence in the form of written down elaborations of the slow movements of several Mozart concertos by P K Hoffmann, who had heard Mozart play, which suggest that the composer improvised very elaborate embellishments when he performed.
Of course Hummel,being a highly creative personality in his own right, might have provided variants which reflected his own tastes and habits just as much as Mozart's but, personally, I would be very interested in hearing recordings (or live performances)of those Mozart concertos which Hummel edited with the solo part re-constructed to incorporate his additions.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 11:28 AM

Good point--I am doing these variants, not just mordents and a few trills, yet nothing overtly virtuosic that is personal on my end. I simply hear the music as though it was written before, in my head, and then write it down. I have composed a cappella double choir music this way, and as I am listening to these sonatas in my head, I hear through the music as written, and then go back to the repeat and listen inside to what else the music is saying to me in a slightly altered way. I wonder if Mozart would have said to us, 'Please, when you repeat this section, don't play it the same way you just did--I never would'. Food for thought. Naturally, when one does this, there is room for many possibilities--yet only one will end up on the recording. I would like to do the entire cycle again in 25 years, if I am still around, with a fresh approach.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 11:33 AM

 Quote:
Originally posted by JBiegel:
Yes--I have in the Peters edition some slight differences. Those quarter note pick-ups do not have accent marks [/b]
Yes, that's what I thought. I'm sure in my Artaria bar 104 has NO accent while bar 105 does. Play it that way (what Mozart is indicating is have the usual beat 1 accent on bar 105 but not on beat 1 106 - instead accent beat 4 105) and you'll see the phrase has more integrity.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 11:42 AM

To make it clearer here's what Artaria is (I think):
If that's so then the Ausgabe editor has done a pretty poor job.
Posted by: JBiegel

Re: Written improv in Mozart sonatas repeat sections?? - 08/08/08 01:52 PM

That is better. At some point, everything we study in manuscripts and various editions just open our own mind to the style and possibilities. What we do with that becomes something organic--hopefully!