National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

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barney
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National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Thu Jun 20, 2019 5:57 pm

I went to the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra's Mozart Requiem last night - what a glorious work it is. Very fine performance.
Because I usually go to concerts by myself, I often chat to the people either side of me. Last night, the man beside me looked serious so I opened with: Do you know that violins and violas are the same size; it's just that violinists' heads are bigger. He fixed me with a steady gaze, and said, in a German accent, "No, actually, violas are a little bigger." I said, "it's a joke."
At this his wife on the further side leaned forward and said "oh a joke!" Not a flicker of a smile by either, though happy to converse a little longer.
I have to confess that inside I was delighted - so much more enjoyable than the faint smile this weak joke usually elicits. (Not that I've told it to strangers before.) And how delightful to have my English stereotype of Germans validated. (Actually I walk my dogs most mornings with a German man who has a strong sense of humour, but we'll ignore the counterfactuals for now.)

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:45 pm

Yes, Germans do have a sense of humor, but they don't necessarily laugh at the same things we do and vice versa. And Austrians are especially quick-witted. Back in the CompuServe Music Forum we had a Vienna-born member who knew the Tom Lehrer songs and told us of a popular Viennese cabaret performer who had stolen the words of "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" (in German) with his own music, meaning that he and his audience got it too.

(Maybe I'm the one without what you'd call a sense of humor. I'm afraid I didn't find your bit of disinformation very funny, just odd. Sorry!)
John Francis

Belle
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by Belle » Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:55 am

I've struck up many a conversation with the person/s sitting beside me at concerts, particularly in Vienna - but I wouldn't say these were humorous discussions. I try not to venture down that road until I really know somebody well; the Viennese are very polite but somewhat reserved. The funniest 'conversation' I ever had was with a Russian woman I met at the Musikverein. She tooks pictures of me and trying to ask me for my email address when neither of us could communicate really was funny to watch; an elaborate game of charades ensued but I got the pictures about a week later!! I'm sure she was very warm and friendly, if only I could have worked out what she was saying!!

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Fri Jun 21, 2019 1:41 am

Also, different parts of Germany have different kinds and degrees of humor. Berliners are often not just humorous but witty, like the Viennese; Swabians not so much.

By the way, which version of the Mozart Requiem was performed? The standard one as completed by Süssmayr and others, or one of the modern completions such as Robert Levin's? Probably the former which of course is familiar and in the public domain, but Levin's completion is an ear-opener.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tijOIC8p71U

Among other things, Levin composed an Amen chorus for the end of the Dies Irae, based on a sketch by Mozart, and extended the Osanna fugue. No one alive has a better practical knowledge of Mozart's compositional style, and while here and there he may have gone a bit beyond what is actually required, you have to know the Requiem pretty well to spot most of the changes.
John Francis

barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:50 am

I didn't claim the joke was very funny, but it ought to raise a wry smile. If it didn't, it's a matter for you, but I suggest a bit of urgent psychotherapy. (That's another joke, John, and also not especially good. My speciality.)
Yes, it was the Sussmayr. I agree with you about Robert Levin, and have heard his version, but I am not scholarly enough to pick up most of the changes unless I have a score. I do, however, have the highest regard for Levin. On several occasions I have enjoyed his party trick of getting audience members to jot down themes, picking three and weaving them into an improvisation. Deeply entertaining and quite brilliant. Imagine what it would have been like to hear Mozart improvising.

barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:53 am

Belle wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:55 am
I've struck up many a conversation with the person/s sitting beside me at concerts, particularly in Vienna - but I wouldn't say these were humorous discussions. I try not to venture down that road until I really know somebody well; the Viennese are very polite but somewhat reserved. The funniest 'conversation' I ever had was with a Russian woman I met at the Musikverein. She tooks pictures of me and trying to ask me for my email address when neither of us could communicate really was funny to watch; an elaborate game of charades ensued but I got the pictures about a week later!! I'm sure she was very warm and friendly, if only I could have worked out what she was saying!!
I took a risk, and it didn't work. Probably had nothing to do with nationality, but I'm not apologising for really enjoying the way my interlocutor missed the joke and came back straight over the top. I've missed jokes before in my time, and of course you are not expecting a perfect stranger to open an encounter with a joke. My wife, who is very serious-minded, rebuked me strongly when I told her. To quote a pop singer, I've no idea who but I heard her on the car radio, "I don't care. I love it."

barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:57 am

John F wrote:
Thu Jun 20, 2019 11:45 pm
Yes, Germans do have a sense of humor, but they don't necessarily laugh at the same things we do and vice versa. And Austrians are especially quick-witted. Back in the CompuServe Music Forum we had a Vienna-born member who knew the Tom Lehrer songs and told us of a popular Viennese cabaret performer who had stolen the words of "Poisoning Pigeons in the Park" (in German) with his own music, meaning that he and his audience got it too.

(Maybe I'm the one without what you'd call a sense of humor. I'm afraid I didn't find your bit of disinformation very funny, just odd. Sorry!)
True, humour is to some extent cultural. I just love the story Paul Johnson told in the Spectator in 2008, which I reproduce in full
Colonel-Count Von Rausching, the officer commanding the famous Prussian cavalry regiment, the Death’s Head Hussars, became worried, about the year 1900, by the way his subalterns were laughing. He summoned a meeting in the mess and told them: ‘There is a right and a wrong way to laugh. I do not want my young officers sniggering, or tittering, or yelping or guffawing, like tradesmen or Jews or Poles. There is only one admissible way for a military gentleman to laugh, and that is by a short, sharp ejaculation. Thus: “Ha!” Understand? Now, let us see if you can do it properly. Ready? One, two, three, Ha! One, two, three, Ha! Very gut! Now once more: Ha! And again, Ha! So now you know how to laugh. Never let me hear any of you snigger again.’

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:57 am

barney wrote:I have enjoyed his party trick of getting audience members to jot down themes, picking three and weaving them into an improvisation.
An improvisation in the style of Mozart - as Mozart typically did in his concerts. He also improvises cadenzas to the Mozart and Beethoven concertos, and some of these are preserved in the recordings he made with Hogwood for Oiseau Lyre. Not only are the cadenzas not previously composed, they are unpremeditated. He says he would improvise several for a concerto and leave it to the record company to choose which one to publish. If it were me, I would have published them all as supplementary tracks, so listeners could hear for themselves. This was to have been a series of the complete Mozart concertos but the record company dropped it halfway through.

Here's the Coronation Concerto in a Salzburg concert performance. I chose it because besides leaving no cadenza or Eingänge for it, Mozart left the solo piano part in very sketchy form, with nothing for the left hand in the slow movement and often in the other movements. The standard editions have these gaps filled in by someone else, possibly the first publisher Johann André, but it's not very good. Levin provides a more convincing completion as well as a terrific cadenza for the first movement. I don't know whether his version has been published; it should be.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4M8wVilgUTM

The first movement cadenza in their studio recording is different - it's at 12:10.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V7D0ubQY7gk

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piano_Con ... board_part
John Francis

maestrob
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by maestrob » Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:31 pm

Murray Perahia also improvised his own cadenzas, as well as gentle additions to the text, especially in the middle movements of the Mozart Concerti. I don't have scores, so can't point to specifics, but the videos I have of rehearsals that came with his Sony complete box set are fascinating to watch. Perahia was very mature as a musician at a very young age: he prepared the ECO for those recordings with fine attention to detail and conducted from the keyboard, even though he had no ambition to become a conductor and stopped conducting after those recordings were made.

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:14 pm

Did Perahia actually improvise the cadenzas or did he compose them? Quite a few pianists have written their own cadenzas for Mozart's concertos, but of course that's an entirely different creative process from making up a 2-3 minute cadenza on the spur of the moment, which is what Levin does.

Jon Kimura Paker liked to work in themes from "Star Wars," and other pianists have done that kind of thing too. The ultimate exercise in that line would be Alfred Schnittke's cadenza for the Beethoven violin concerto, which includes bits of violin concertos not only by Beethoven but by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Schoenberg, and Berg, and doubtless others as well.
John Francis

Belle
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by Belle » Fri Jun 21, 2019 5:10 pm

barney wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 7:53 am
Belle wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:55 am
I've struck up many a conversation with the person/s sitting beside me at concerts, particularly in Vienna - but I wouldn't say these were humorous discussions. I try not to venture down that road until I really know somebody well; the Viennese are very polite but somewhat reserved. The funniest 'conversation' I ever had was with a Russian woman I met at the Musikverein. She tooks pictures of me and trying to ask me for my email address when neither of us could communicate really was funny to watch; an elaborate game of charades ensued but I got the pictures about a week later!! I'm sure she was very warm and friendly, if only I could have worked out what she was saying!!
I took a risk, and it didn't work. Probably had nothing to do with nationality, but I'm not apologising for really enjoying the way my interlocutor missed the joke and came back straight over the top. I've missed jokes before in my time, and of course you are not expecting a perfect stranger to open an encounter with a joke. My wife, who is very serious-minded, rebuked me strongly when I told her. To quote a pop singer, I've no idea who but I heard her on the car radio, "I don't care. I love it."
That wonderful film, 'Ninotchka", where the 3 Russian envoys feel guilty about staying at a fancy hotel in Paris....they all try to work out an acceptable alternative; perhaps some little hotel down the road where they could share the room? Comrades Buljanoff, Kopalski and Iranoff look longingly at the fabulous hotel. Finally Kopalski says, "yes, that's an idea; but who said we have to have an idea?".

Humour is often funny no matter where you live!! At the moment I'm reading the diaries of Charles Brackett which are largely about his collaboration with Billy Wilder. These are contained in the book, "It's the Pictures That Got Small". Plenty of anecdotes, funny and serious.

barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:08 pm

maestrob wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 12:31 pm
Murray Perahia also improvised his own cadenzas, as well as gentle additions to the text, especially in the middle movements of the Mozart Concerti. I don't have scores, so can't point to specifics, but the videos I have of rehearsals that came with his Sony complete box set are fascinating to watch. Perahia was very mature as a musician at a very young age: he prepared the ECO for those recordings with fine attention to detail and conducted from the keyboard, even though he had no ambition to become a conductor and stopped conducting after those recordings were made.
I didn't know that Perahia improvised cadenzas. I've got the Perahia set, but haven't got round to the DVDs yet. Thanks for that.

barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:10 pm

John F wrote:
Fri Jun 21, 2019 3:14 pm
Did Perahia actually improvise the cadenzas or did he compose them? Quite a few pianists have written their own cadenzas for Mozart's concertos, but of course that's an entirely different creative process from making up a 2-3 minute cadenza on the spur of the moment, which is what Levin does.

Jon Kimura Paker liked to work in themes from "Star Wars," and other pianists have done that kind of thing too. The ultimate exercise in that line would be Alfred Schnittke's cadenza for the Beethoven violin concerto, which includes bits of violin concertos not only by Beethoven but by Bach, Mozart, Brahms, Schoenberg, and Berg, and doubtless others as well.
I've never heard the Schnittke cadenza. Are you aware of any violinists using it on recordings?

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Fri Jun 21, 2019 9:28 pm

You asked for it. Here's the cadenza for the first movement:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yGRKUl4TrJU

And for the third:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdMgTt4D-C8
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barney
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by barney » Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:31 pm

Thanks for that, John.
Beautiful playing - I see by Gidon Kremer.
Fascinating and very witty, but I think I would be disturbed by it in concert. It strays a long way from Beethoven! Still, maybe the odd musical shock inside one's comfort zone is not a bad thing.

maestrob
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by maestrob » Sun Jun 23, 2019 11:32 am

barney wrote:
Sat Jun 22, 2019 6:31 pm
Thanks for that, John.
Beautiful playing - I see by Gidon Kremer.
Fascinating and very witty, but I think I would be disturbed by it in concert. It strays a long way from Beethoven! Still, maybe the odd musical shock inside one's comfort zone is not a bad thing.
Actually, that's my reaction to anything by Schnittke that I've heard. :mrgreen:

John F
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Re: National stereotype at the Mozart Requiem

Post by John F » Sun Jun 23, 2019 11:36 am

What Robert Levin says about improvised cadenzas also applies to Schnittke's: you have no idea what's going to happen next.
John Francis

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