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QuizMaster's avatar

Need help with listening to Mozart.

Asked by QuizMaster (78 points ) November 27th, 2007

I mean it’s easy with Beethoven, he has symphonies 1–9. You can hear a sort of progression of his styles from first to last. But with Mozart, he has thousands of compositions. I don’t know where to start. What am I listening out for? Did he have certain periods? I’ve heard a lot of his music and it’s all good, but I can’t get a handle on his body of music as a whole.

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19 Answers

gailcalled's avatar

His three pieces for solo clarinet; the trio, the quintet and the Concerto…GORGEOUS

His 2nd concerto in Eflat for French Horn. If you love it, I can tell you about the hilarious parody written and performed by Donald Swann & Michael Flanders in the mid 60s (AT THE DROP OF A HAT and ANOTHER HAT.)

Symphony # 40 in g; a famous one and easily accessible.

Also Eine Kleine Nachtmusik and – for intermediates..the charming opera, THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO.

Then, if you are still with me, you can graduate to his great opera, DON GIOVANNI (or just listen to the funny aria (in a not-so-funny opera-)LARGO AL FACTOTUM.

And finally, for the advanced, his MISSA SOLEMNIS.

Or just see AMADEUS again.

Listen for the primary and secondary themes that introduce each movements and hear how they are manipulated – tonally, harmonically, and rhythmically. What fun for you!

cwilbur's avatar

If you want to understand him in context, you might try the books The Classical Style and Sonata Forms by Charles Rosen. You might also go to a good music library and look him up in the New Grove Dictionary (really, an encyclopedia)—the articles there tend to be a very good first take on any musical subject.

(My own music education focuesd on Haydn much more than Mozart, I think because Haydn was much easier to find discrete examples of what we were talking about in. When you look at any Mozart work, there are usually several interesting things going on, and picking apart what is happening because it’s a monothematic sonata and what is happening because Mozart is showing off invertible counterpoint in three parts and what is happening because Mozart is throwing in a submediant interruption can be a really hard thing, pedagogically. And I was more interested in Bach and earlier music, so I never got deeply into Mozart.)

gailcalled's avatar

My own sense is not to worry to much about the pedagogy initially. Listen and feel the goose bumps on yr arms. If you want to move on the the complexites of what Mozart was doing musically, you can at any time.

@cwilbur; interesting what you said. Are you a pro musician?

cwilbur's avatar

I have a lot of formal education in music, but I make my living writing web software.

The value of learning about the technical aspects of the music, for me, is that it’s another way into understanding the music. I don’t think you need to understand the music technically to appreciate it at all, but at some point, when you get beyond “that’s pretty, and it gives me goosebumps” to ”why does that give me goosebumps?” or “why does this piece remind me of that piece, but not give me goosebumps?” or “what is it about these pieces that gives me goosebumps, and how can I find other pieces that do too?”—then, you need to start looking at the music technically.

And with Mozart (and Schubert, even more so), knowing how complex it is under the surface and how many things are going on underneath that placid melody means I appreciate the music on multiple levels.

gailcalled's avatar

Shall we suggest to quizmaster that he also listen to DEATH AND THE MAIDEN* and the TROUT*, speaking of goose bumps?

I took piano lessons for 100 years (starting when I was 6) and also some music apprecation courses in college; and of course, you are right about multiple levels, but for a beginner, perhaps its best to take it slowly, as you suggest.

I wish now that someone had taught me how to improv or noodle on the piano. I can pick out any melody but would love to know how to add the chords and riffs..
*Schubert

cwilbur's avatar

The one that gives me goosebumps, speaking of Schubert, is the Sonata in B-flat. And there are some incredible moments in Winterreise and Die Schoene Muellerin, but they’re awfully subtle.

I think the Mozart works I like most are the operas, actually.

gailcalled's avatar

Pa-pa-pa-pa….When I hear Fischer-Dieskau sing Schubert—“Der Erlk├Ânig” in particular, if I am driving, I have to pull the car off the road and stop. I need to check out the Schubert sonata in b and the song cycles you mention.

@Quizmaster: I’d guess that you’d better quit yr day job and start listening.

breedmitch's avatar

Ok! Wanna talk goosebumps? Schubert’s Gretchen am Spinnrade. Pick your favorite German Mezzo and listen to her sing it. I die each time.

breedmitch's avatar

So this recording’s not a mezzo, but you get the idea. Her heart IS heavy. www.carolinaclassical.com/articles/gretchen.html

cwilbur's avatar

@gail: there are Fischer-Dieskau/Moore recordings of both Die Schoene Muellerin and Winterreise. Better park the car.

gailcalled's avatar

Thank you, @cwilbur. Unfortunately at present I have the lines of Emily Dickinson going thru my brain to the tune of THE YELLOW ROSE OF TEXAS (no thanks to Andrew).

And alternatively, Der Vogelfanger bin ich ja is stuck somewhere inside my brain in a repeating loop. Zu Hilfe!

stratman37's avatar

for comic relief, I just read a quote from Woody Allen: “I can’t listen to that much Wagner. I start getting the urge to conquer Poland.”

gailcalled's avatar

Woody gets a GA.

stratman37's avatar

What’s a GA?

gailcalled's avatar

Great Answer. See the stuff to the right of your user name. If you click on Great Answer for anyone but yourself, his/her score (aka lurve) goes up 5 points. If you click on Flag As….well, try it. It’s a device for “weeding out the bad apples.” (And you get to add a pithy comment of your choice.)

I’m going to give you a GA for the question so you can see your score change. Normally, my standards are higher, but we are happy to have you as part of the collective. Gail

gailcalled's avatar

I should have clicked on GA for the quote. That is truly funny.

stratman37's avatar

Thanx gail, and BTW, I loved your answer to my question about “are you happy, and why”!

I didn’t know we had a septagenarian in our midst.

gailcalled's avatar

@strat:Do you know about the private comments. Hold your breath: here it comes——->

stratman37's avatar

Oh yeah, I’m such a newb. I’ve only just begun my wonderful journey in this great forum!

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