How to Interpret Mozart

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart lived from January 27, 1756, to December 5, 1791.

Born in the middle of the Classical period, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was one of the greatest composers of that time. Through his father’s tutelage, he quickly became one of the most famous child prodigies in Europe. His musical mind absorbed what was occurring around him and quickly made sense of it. Joseph Haydn is responsible for starting the Classical period of music, but Mozart is credited for both refining and defining it.

Choose an autograph score to analyze. Editors often will create different versions than the original music manuscript. This practice of "simplifying" the music tends to add confusion for the performer.

Pay attention to the way in which slurs appear in the score. Historically, slurs indicate that the notes under the slur use a legato style. When the slur breaks, use a stronger articulation to create emphasis on non-slurred notes. Slurs indicate phrases. If there are a series of short slurs and strings will play the part, interpret the slurs as bowing marks. If there is an extended slur, play legato and with a complete phrase.

Identify the places in the music where dynamics change. In Classical music, there often will be piano sections and forte sections. It is rare to find Classical music that has mezzo-piano and mezzo-forte sections. Dynamics indicate not only a change in volume but a change of section and mood.

Discern whether any articulations appear in the score. If the notes are staccato, play them with a round and full sound and with separation between the notes. If there is a tenuto mark, play the notes heavily, as if pushed into the ground. If there is an accent, play the pitch forcefully but with restraint.

Avoid exaggerating anything in Mozart's music, which aimed for balance, clarity, and evenness. Do not overemphasize any single note. Look at each note in relation to the entire piece. For example, if the piece is energetic, then even the softer sections should maintain the same level of energy.


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