Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven

Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:02 AM

So for my English class I need to write a compare/contrast essay. I'm planning to do it on Mozart and Beethoven. Does anyone here have any good sources that they might remember where I can get a good start? I of course already have wikipedia and others like that on the individual composer which I can use for the whole essay, but I was wondering if there were any that already compared Beethoven's and Mozart's music so I could get more of a reference.
Posted by: Coolkid70

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:13 AM

Are you sure you want to do Mozart and Beethoven? To me, it would make a little more sense to compare Mozart and Haydn, since they were friends and favorable critics of each other.

But either way, maybe you should look at an analysis of, say, a piano sonata from each one and try to talk about the style. It might be a little more focused than just looking for general comparisons.
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:20 AM

Well I was thinking Mozart and Beethoven because both of them are very well known to people even not into classical music and are pretty much the two biggest names in the classical period although their styles are incredibly different. I want to do Beethoven because I love Beethoven and virtually everything he wrote, he's definitely in the top of my favorite/most influential composers list. I like the idea of analyzing a single sonata of each, or maybe even analyzing a symphony. That would be good. I'll of course need to spend some time doing a general comparison of the composers but getting specific with the sonata is a great idea, thanks!
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:20 AM

If this were to be a research paper then you would need to go to various sources about the musical styles of these two composers and base your paper on what you glean from those resources, citing them appropriately as you go.

However, since this is a paper for an English class it sounds to me that it is not a research paper but rather one in which you express your own opinions on the subject; it's the process rather than the product that is the more important. It further seems to me, again, since it's an English paper, that the technical specifics of these two composers' styles is less important than how you handle the exercise of comparing and contrasting their styles, generally.

If you describe the Classical style of writing and the early Romantic style of writing, then you should have material to make your own comparisons and contrasts. If you already have sources on the two composers - and their styles? - then you should have all you need to compare and contrast them.

Regards,
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:30 AM

Well, you are correct in saying that the main point of the paper is the technical exercise of writing a compare and contrast essay, no the research that goes into it. As a music major though I want to be as accurate and in depth as needed. I have sites on the individual composers, I just didn't know if anyone had anything that was specifically comparing the two already so I could read that. That's all I was asking.
Posted by: keyboardklutz

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:41 AM

Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
Does anyone here have any good sources that they might remember where I can get a good start?
Hmmm...made out of trees....available in libraries (only just!)....oh, I remember - books!
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:45 AM

Very funny KBK, I was hoping to check out my school's library tomorrow but I figured that internet sources are just as good for this class and easier to use, :P.
Posted by: David-G

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:46 AM

You need to decide if you are comparing and contrasting their lives, and/or their character, as well as their music. For the music, listening is your best source.
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:54 AM

It'll start with an intro paragraph of their lives, and then I'll go into their music. I feel that the best way to compare and contrast them is the passion in their music. I feel that Mozart composed beautiful, perfect, very free, light hearted music in general...where as Beethoven just poured himself into his music and the broad range of emotions is just huge.
Posted by: David-G

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 03:47 AM

With respect, I would disagree. There is as much Mozart in his music, as there is Beethoven in his. Mozart's operas, in particular, contain a huge range of emotions. And listen to the G minor string quintet, or the C minor or D minor piano concertos; light-hearted??? Mozart's understanding of humanity, as demonstrated by his operas, is supreme.
Posted by: pianoloverus

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 06:27 AM

Jim Hession, a terrific stride pianist, described it like this on one of his videos:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=934MWKYYQNc

Ragtime is to stride as Mozart is to Beethoven. This is somewhat simplistic but still a very interesting comparison.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 06:50 AM

Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
Very funny KBK, I was hoping to check out my school's library tomorrow but I figured that internet sources are just as good for this class and easier to use, :P.


Internet sources for classical music are far inferior to books, especially where major composers are concerned. You'll want to have a look at things like Charles Rosen's book on sonata form, "Performance Practices in Classical Piano Music" by Sandra Rosenblum, William Kinderman's book on Beethoven, and Maynard Solomon's biography of Mozart. Also of interest would be Leonard Meyer's "Emotion and Meaning in Music" and Leonard Ratner's "Classic Music: Expression, Form, and Style."

Plus, use the scores as primary sources themselves, especially in cases where two pieces might invite comparison. (For example, Mozart's d minor concerto and Beethoven's C minor concerto - Beethoven admitted to liking the Mozart, and both are each composer's only minor key concerto.)

As we've recently discovered with the thread on Chopin Op. 25#12 and fugues, some internet sources are laughably bad.
Posted by: rrb

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 07:49 AM

Originally Posted By: David-G
With respect, I would disagree. There is as much Mozart in his music, as there is Beethoven in his.... Mozart's understanding of humanity, as demonstrated by his operas, is supreme.


I have some difficulty believing that anyone, even as monumentally gifted an individual as Mozart, who dies in his mid-thirties can have a 'supreme understanding of humanity'.

In regard to choosing Mozart and Beethoven as a suitable subject for a compare/contrast study, I agree with other posters who have pointed out that this is a rather ambitious undertaking. I'm all for 'aiming high', but this is higher than I would myself aim.

Maybe that's, in a nutshell, the wisdom and the curse of relative decrepitude tired
Posted by: Music Major

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 08:09 AM

I would agree with "coolkid70" and others here. You may want to consider another comparison. I would also suggest Mozart and Haydn. They lived in about the same time, but their lives were very different. Haydn was very small town country type, and Mozart was big city because of much traveling. I think you will get a better comparison paper from these two.
Posted by: Kreisler

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 08:23 AM

I think a Beethoven/Mozart comparison is fine. Biographically, there's much to be said about the role of their fathers, and each had a career that was a bit less stable than Haydn's.

Both Mozart and Beethoven were concertizing pianists (Haydn not so much), and Mozart and Beethoven found important audiences in Vienna (as opposed to Haydn's stable Esterhazy gig.)

Musically, Beethoven and Mozart represent the "First Viennese School" - to which Schoenberg and his disciples would be compared a hundred years later.

Of course, there are major differences - Mozart excelled in an area which Beethoven did not, and Beethoven's motivic construction is more allied with Haydn's style than Mozart's penchant for "singing allegro" melodies.

Sorry, I better stop before I write his paper for him. (I often shudder to think how much of Piano World has been plagiarized in Music Appreciation courses across the US.) laugh
Posted by: Piano*Dad

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 10:13 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
(I often shudder to think how much of Piano World has been plagiarized in Music Appreciation courses across the US.) laugh


Probably true!


Oh, and to spice the comparison, xx....xx should listen (and read through) some late Mozart piano work, and some of the early Beethoven sonatas. Then he can see the similarities and differences at just about the same moment in time. He can also witness Beethoven poaching a few things from Mozart!
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 10:51 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Plus, use the scores as primary sources themselves, especially in cases where two pieces might invite comparison. (For example, Mozart's d minor concerto and Beethoven's C minor concerto - Beethoven admitted to liking the Mozart, and both are each composer's only minor key concerto.)

This might be misread as stating that Mozart only wrote one minor-key concerto. Just to clarify, there are two (as David-G mentioned earlier): c minor (K. 491) and d minor (K. 466).

Also, while I wouldn't underestimate the need for doing the requisite research or the need for accuracy in making a sound comparison, Bruce's observation that this is a paper for an English class is worth repeating. The exercise of comparing and contrasting within the form of a skillfully structured essay is a more important consideration than the musicology that drives the content.

Steven
Posted by: Phlebas

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 11:35 AM

Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
Very funny KBK, I was hoping to check out my school's library tomorrow but I figured that internet sources are just as good for this class and easier to use, :P.


Internet sources for classical music are far inferior to books, especially where major composers are concerned.


That is very true.
If you want to be a serious musician. Let me rephrase that: if you want to be taken seriously at all, you need become familiar with more authoritative sources.
When I use online sources like "wiki," I tend to use them as a starting point - never as something I footnote or otherwise reference.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 12:00 PM

Originally Posted By: rrb
I have some difficulty believing that anyone, even as monumentally gifted an individual as Mozart, who dies in his mid-thirties can have a 'supreme understanding of humanity'.

I'm guessing you have not studied Mozart's operas (especially from Idomeneo onwards) in any kind of depth. A pity.
Posted by: Otis S

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 12:25 PM

This is a great topic. However, it would be difficult to treat it with proper depth in an essay for an English class. A proper treatment of the subject could easily consume an entire book. Therefore, it is important to pick out a few things to focus on with the understanding that you will have to leave out detailed information.

A very comprehensive biography of Mozart is “W. A. Mozart” by Hermann Abert (English tranlation by Stewart Spencer). Wolfgang Hildesheimer and Alfred Einstein have also written highly regarded biographies of Mozart which are shorter. Maynard Solomon has written accessible biographies of both Mozart and Beethoven.

Regarding Beethoven,"Thayer's Life of Beethoven" is a classic biography in two parts. H. C. Robbins Landon has written a good biography entitled "Beethoven: His Life, Work and World".
Posted by: John Citron

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 01:34 PM

Originally Posted By: Phlebas
Originally Posted By: Kreisler
Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
Very funny KBK, I was hoping to check out my school's library tomorrow but I figured that internet sources are just as good for this class and easier to use, :P.


Internet sources for classical music are far inferior to books, especially where major composers are concerned.


That is very true.
If you want to be a serious musician. Let me rephrase that: if you want to be taken seriously at all, you need become familiar with more authoritative sources.
When I use online sources like "wiki," I tend to use them as a starting point - never as something I footnote or otherwise reference.


Very true. I use the sources sited in the Wiki as a starting point for my research when needed. As a current college student, I'm not allowed to use the good old Wiki as a source for anything. If it is used, the instructors remove points from the paper.

John
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 01:43 PM

As others have observed and which, I believe, bears repeating, this is not to be a paper on the analysis of musical styles. Therefore I would suggest that the OP decide on a few pertinent features to compare both in the lives and in the compositions of the two composers in question, that he clearly delineate those limitations in the introduction to the paper, and that he get on with the exercise in comparing and contrasting.

Regards,
Posted by: Horowitzian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:28 PM

Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
So for my English class I need to write a compare/contrast essay. I'm planning to do it on Mozart and Beethoven. Does anyone here have any good sources that they might remember where I can get a good start? I of course already have wikipedia and others like that on the individual composer which I can use for the whole essay, but I was wondering if there were any that already compared Beethoven's and Mozart's music so I could get more of a reference.


Do not, I repeat, do not use Wikipedia as a source for any kind of class paper. As much as I like Wikipedia for casual browsing, it is not appropriate for this use.

As BruceD pointed out, you basically need to describe the Classical and Early Romantic styles of composition. I recommend you use a Venn diagram to help you visualize the comparisons and contrasts while you do your preliminary work. (some might call it invention)

Good luck! smile
Posted by: David-G

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 02:46 PM

Originally Posted By: rrb
Originally Posted By: David-G
With respect, I would disagree. There is as much Mozart in his music, as there is Beethoven in his.... Mozart's understanding of humanity, as demonstrated by his operas, is supreme.


I have some difficulty believing that anyone, even as monumentally gifted an individual as Mozart, who dies in his mid-thirties can have a 'supreme understanding of humanity'.

Shakespeare had written several of his most famous plays by his mid-thirties.

But as for Mozart, you only have to listen to the operas.

"Mozart ... was the first composer to perceive clearly the vast possibilities of the operatic form as a means of creating characters, great and small, who moved, thought and breathed musically like human beings." (Spike Hughes)

"Mozart is a great dramatist because the atmosphere, the action, and the character of the drama are all expressed by the orchestra. If the performers listen to the orchestra, know the orchestration, they will know what their characters are doing. The score of Figaro for instance, contains a continuous commentary on the failings, the weaknesses and the anguish of the characters." (Peter Hall)
Posted by: Otis S

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 03:39 PM

Here are 3 suggestions for writing an academic essay of this nature:

1. Pick a subject of appropriate scope. A full comparison of Mozart and Beethoven is far too broad for a short to medium length essay. Narrowing the scope is essential. For example, one could write an entire essay on how Mozart's C Minor piano concerto 24, k. 491, influenced Beethoven. If one wanted to broaden the topic, an alternative could be how Mozart's minor key works for piano (e.g. K. 491, piano sonata and fantasy, K. 457 and 475, piano sonata in A minor, k. 310, piano concerto #20 in D minor, k. 466, Rondo in A Minor , K. 511 (this work may have influenced Chopin as well), etc.) influenced Beethoven.

The title and introductory paragraphs should properly delineate the scope of what is in the essay. The essay should not claim to be an overall comparison of Mozart and Beethoven if only a small number of their works (or a small number of incidents in their lives) are discussed.

2. Stick as much as possible to factual information which can be substantiated (e.g. the larger scale that Beethoven introduced for his symphonies, Mozart's greater facility in writing operas, his faster rate of composing pieces, Beethoven's expansion of the development and coda sections in his sonata form movements). Subjective statements such as the one earlier in this thread that "Mozart composed beautiful, perfect, very free, light hearted music in general...where as Beethoven just poured himself into his music and the broad range of emotions is just huge." detract from the essay and (as this thread indicates) are likely to cause disagreement.

3. The essay should be properly researched with good bibliographic references and citations.
Posted by: Schubertian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/11/09 09:19 PM

OtisS' suggestions are very good - as are many others here.

I think it might be interesting to focus on the political and social upheavals witnessed during these 2 lives - Mozart was not only the consummate musician from an early age but was comfortable with royalty - music had a certain role in aristocratic society in Paris and Vienna - how did this change after the revolution?

Beethoven - also a great virtuoso - was clearly uneasy in society - he represents a new type of artist with a new message - closer to romanticism - closer to the artist of the 18th century such as Beaudelaire - what was the role of music after the revolution?
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 12:14 AM

Originally Posted By: Schubertian
[...]Beethoven - also a great virtuoso - was clearly uneasy in society - he represents a new type of artist with a new message - closer to romanticism - closer to the artist of the 18th century such as Beaudelaire - what was the role of music after the revolution?


If you mean Charles Baudelaire (1821-1867), he was a 19th century poet, not 18th century. Even Beethoven lived into the 19th century.

Regards,
Posted by: lisztonian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 01:37 AM

If I had a project like this, I would find it quite interesting to compare and contrast a composer from the baroque era with one from the romantic. Leaves much material open to write about.
Posted by: eweiss

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 01:47 AM

I've heard it said that Mozart is "spirit" while Beethoven is "heart."

That could be a starting point for you.
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 02:09 AM

I was originally thinking of doing Bach to Beethoven or Chopin, but seeing as how I've put this off till last minute, it doesn't need to be to long in length, and I am already somewhat familiar with the lives of Mozart and Beethoven, this one is the most accessible comparison to me. If I were writing this for a music history or theory class I would probably choose Bach to Chopin or something like that.

And thanks for the comment Eweiss. Seems like something I could look into.
Posted by: Gary D.

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 02:32 AM

I don't think that Mozart was comfortable in society at all. As a child, it looked as though he would be part of it, or probably seemed that way to him. But in his time anyone who was not born an aristocrat could never hope to be on the same level with the "ruling class".

Beethoven, for the same reason, could never be part of the aristocracy, but he appeared to think himself above it. smile

But to the music: I find some of Mozart's late works shockingly powerful, so if we compare Mozart at 35 with Beethoven at the same age, the results can be quite surprising.
Posted by: AZNpiano

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 05:24 AM

Is this essay written for a lower-division writing class?

You can't really "prove" any of the "sound like" or "feeling" stuff on paper, and not at the length of a short essay. For the scope of a typical short essay, you REALLY need to narrow down your focus. But if you choose to write on a more technical topic (more to do with theory), then you can actually cite measure numbers to "prove" your point. I'm thinking about analyzing two piano sonata movements.

Here's an idea for a thesis:

As seen in the first movement of his Piano Sonata in C Major, K. 545, Mozart's melodic themes flow seamlessly from one to the next; in contrast, as seen in the first movement of his Piano Sonata in E Minor, Op. 90, Beethoven juxtaposes musical themes clumsily, with minimal attempt at smooth transitions.

And for your support paragraphs you can follow this outline:

I. Transition from Theme A to Theme B in the Exposition
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

II. Transition from Theme B to Theme C (or Codetta)
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

III. Transitions in the Development or Recapitulation
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

IV. Conclusion

In your introduction, you probably need to define what a "smooth transition" is vs. "non-smooth transition." And go on from there.
Posted by: Schubertian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 08:15 AM

Did I say 18th C, I meant 19th C of course.

I was only thinking of a parallel between Baud. and Beeth. since Baud. is often thought of as the first modern poet - the artist standing by himself outside of society and social norms looking in without feeling obligations toward church or state but only toward his muse - Beethoven saw himself more as a Prometheus I think than Baudelaire, whose art was always more inward turning - doesnt he say something in the famous introduction to FdM where he wants, through his verses, to feel superior to his contemporaries whom he despises? That would be an impossible sentiment for Mozart.

In that sense Beethoven represent something new in European culture- the bohemian artist who places artistic truth over social norms.
Posted by: landorrano

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 08:43 AM

It's Harnoncourt, isn't it, who says that the playing of Mozart is so heavily influenced by the musical thinking of the romantic period, that we have completely lost the spirit of it and cannot appreciate how strong an impact it would have had in it's day.
Posted by: landorrano

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 08:45 AM

Originally Posted By: Schubertian


Beethoven represent something new in European culture- the bohemian artist who places artistic truth over social norms.


You have to be from Dallas Texas to think that.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 11:40 AM

Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Is this essay written for a lower-division writing class?

[...]Here's an idea for a thesis:

[etc., etc.]

And for your support paragraphs you can follow this outline:

I. Transition from Theme A to Theme B in the Exposition
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

II. Transition from Theme B to Theme C (or Codetta)
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

III. Transitions in the Development or Recapitulation
A. Mozart
B. Beethoven
C. How they are similar/different

IV. Conclusion

In your introduction, you probably need to define what a "smooth transition" is vs. "non-smooth transition." And go on from there.


How do you think that giving the kid a thesis and an outline is really helpful? While you're at it, why don't you just write the paper for him! frown

Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 03:21 PM

Don't worry, I didn't use that one at all. I already finished most of the paper doing just a general overview. I start with early life, then move on to composition careers, and then their late life/death. I honestly didn't have time to spend analyzing whole sonata's...the paper was due today....:P. And besides, doing a sonata analysis would've gone over my teachers head. What I wrote on is stuff she can understand and relate to.
Posted by: BruceD

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 03:33 PM

Originally Posted By: xxmynameisjohnxx
[...] I honestly didn't have time to spend analyzing whole sonata's...the paper was due today....:P. And besides, doing a sonata analysis would've gone over my teachers head. [...]


[Grammar alert!]

... and I honestly hope that you, as a student in an English class, didn't form any plurals of nouns in your paper by adding apostrophe - s! The plural of sonata is sonatas, not sonata's!

Regards,
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 05:06 PM

Haha I did it once by accident but caught it and fixed it. I do that by accident sometimes when typing fast and not paying attention, thanks Bruce!
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 05:53 PM

Originally Posted By: BruceD
Originally Posted By: AZNpiano
Is this essay written for a lower-division writing class?

[...]Here's an idea for a thesis:

[etc., etc.]

How do you think that giving the kid a thesis and an outline is really helpful? While you're at it, why don't you just write the paper for him! frown

+1 thumb

I'm so glad I wasn't the only one who immediately had the same reaction.

Steven
Posted by: xxmynameisjohnxx

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 06:01 PM

Again, Steven, don't worry. My paper was already finished by the time I read that. I did all the outlining, organizing, and a lot of the editing myself [my mom did a lot of editing too because she's an english teacher so she'll spot things I'd normally miss]
Posted by: sotto voce

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/12/09 06:22 PM

Just to clarify, John, my comment wasn't related to your ability to write your paper. It sounds like the process went smoothly, and I'm glad. smile

Steven
Posted by: Schubertian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/23/09 08:15 PM

John - did you ever get you essay finished? What did you end up writing about?
Posted by: rrb

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/24/09 01:40 PM

Originally Posted By: David-G
Originally Posted By: rrb
Originally Posted By: David-G
With respect, I would disagree. There is as much Mozart in his music, as there is Beethoven in his.... Mozart's understanding of humanity, as demonstrated by his operas, is supreme.

I have some difficulty believing that anyone, even as monumentally gifted an individual as Mozart, who dies in his mid-thirties can have a 'supreme understanding of humanity'.

Shakespeare had written several of his most famous plays by his mid-thirties.

But as for Mozart, you only have to listen to the operas.

"Mozart ... was the first composer to perceive clearly the vast possibilities of the operatic form as a means of creating characters, great and small, who moved, thought and breathed musically like human beings." (Spike Hughes)

"Mozart is a great dramatist because the atmosphere, the action, and the character of the drama are all expressed by the orchestra. If the performers listen to the orchestra, know the orchestration, they will know what their characters are doing. The score of Figaro for instance, contains a continuous commentary on the failings, the weaknesses and the anguish of the characters." (Peter Hall)


Not making a big deal out of this. Just some comments on your post.

As far as I'm aware Shakespeare's date of birth is not known. A reasonable guess would be that he was around 40 when he wrote the great tragedies. A bit nit-picking, perhaps.

I think a better literary analogy is Thomas Mann, who at the age of 25 wrote 'Buddenbrooks', a portrait of social life in Luebeck that got him banned from the city! His 'great novels', though, were written when he was around 50.

The reason I bring this up is because 'Buddenbrooks' is not so much based on a 'command of humanity', but on minute observation. The goodly burghers of Luebeck were incensed because they saw themselves portrayed in the novel, with stunning accuracy, warts and all.

The libretti for Mozart's Operas were not written by him and the characters in the Opera's were no more invented by Mozart than the characters in Buddenbrooks were invented by Mann. Your quotes refer to Mozart's astonishing ability to bring the librettist's characters to life in music. This is, truly, an amazing gift, but as with early Thomas Mann, I do not think it constitutes evidence for a 'supreme command of humanity'.
Posted by: Schubertian

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/24/09 02:26 PM

I love Thomas Mann - Bud. is the only novel of his I have not read - now I want to run out and pick it up - what a genius he had for the transparent put-down - while appearing to praise something he does it is such a way as to skewer it unforgettably - he does this over and over in the Magic Mountain and in his short stories -

To get banned from his home town! Now that is a writer!
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/24/09 02:36 PM

Again, rrb, it shows that you don't know Mozart's operas very well. If you've read the libretti he set, you would know that the characters come across as only a little more interesting than, say, the typical one-dimensional figures that are all too common in Metastasio.

The most astounding thing about Mozart's operas (especially from Idomeneo onwards) is that the music actually makes the characters three-dimensional and human by revealing things about them that the words simply can't -- as if the words and characters were simply empty shells waiting to be filled by Mozart's music. This would not be possible if Mozart did not have a great deal of knowledge of human nature. Mozart had an instinct on when the words weren't enough -- for example, in that astounding moment in the finale of Figaro, where a single act of forgiveness is laughably less than nothing if one reads the words (they are just dead wood at this point and characterization is nowhere to be found), but becomes something else entirely when one listens to Mozart's music.

If you need non-operatic evidence of Mozart's understanding of human character, read Mozart's Letters, Mozart's Life, Robert Spaethling's recent scholarly translation of many of Mozart's letters. The letters really show how astonishingly Mozart reads and understands other people like a book -- even how, without the slightest hint of coercion, he makes others do things they would otherwise not do. Throughout his life he was incredibly interested in people and what made them tick -- and of course it shows in his operas.

But honestly, I don't know why I'm writing this (life is too short, after all) since you're just another one of the many people who underestimate Mozart and your ears are too soaked in 19th century goo. It's a great pity.

P.S.: It is recorded that Shakespeare was baptized on April 26, 1564. We can safely assume that he was born only shortly before, since it was a custom to baptize a child a few days after birth (unless you are one who believes in whacked-out quasi-conspiracy theories).
Posted by: rrb

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/25/09 11:53 AM

Originally Posted By: Janus K. Sachs

... since you're just another one of the many people who underestimate Mozart and your ears are too soaked in 19th century goo. It's a great pity.


The only issue I have addressed is whether or not one can reasonably claim Mozart possessed a 'sublime command of humanity'.

Mozart surely wrote music that deserves the description 'sublime' and I do not disagree with your remarks about his revolutionary contribution to, in particular, operatic composition. But 'humanity' is an extremely broad term and a 'sublime command of humanity' implies in my mind a deep, all-embracing knowledge of the full panoply of human behavior.

If a mere reluctance to ascribe this ultimate accolade to Mozart necessarily, in your eyes, 'underestimates him and implies one's ears are soaked in 19th century goo', then you are possibly right about the 'many'.
Posted by: David-G

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/25/09 12:59 PM

Originally Posted By: rrb
The libretti for Mozart's Operas were not written by him and the characters in the Opera's were no more invented by Mozart than the characters in Buddenbrooks were invented by Mann. Your quotes refer to Mozart's astonishing ability to bring the librettist's characters to life in music. This is, truly, an amazing gift, but as with early Thomas Mann, I do not think it constitutes evidence for a 'supreme command of humanity'.


I never said that Mozart had a "supreme command of humanity". What I said was: "Mozart's understanding of humanity, as demonstrated by his operas, is supreme." I stand by that. Janus K Sachs has given such an eloquent explanation that I shall not attempt to explain further.

And I think that my statement about Shakespeare (not that it is strictly relevant) is correct.
Posted by: Janus K. Sachs

Re: Comparing and contrasting Mozart and Beethoven - 05/25/09 03:18 PM

Many thanks for your kind words, David-G.

This all reminds me of the incident when Mozart was sitting next to an uncouth man during a performance of Die Zauberflöte. Mozart wrote, "Unfortunately I was there just when the second act began, that is, at the solemn scene. He ridiculed everything. At first I was patient enough to draw his attention to a few passages. But he laughed at everything. Well, I could stand it no longer. I called him a Papageno and left. But I do not think that the idiot understood my remark."

Delightful as Papageno can be, one sometimes forgets that he is not destined to enter the temple.