Talk:Mozart's compositional method

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One composer's testimony[edit]

I am a professional composer myself,having studied composition and music under world wide known authorities./Peter Van Grob,Zdenek Bilek,ao/

Some of topics discussed here are showing misunderstanding of common composition principles and issues.

Anybody familiar with compostional process and process of developing ideas ( especially in means of counterpoint and instrumentation,which are topics that require vertical compositional thinking ) understands,that :

Mozart coudnt "need piano to compose" ,and that writing such type of music indeed requires memoral capabilites of ordinarily unparalleled extent

The existing letters do not show his need to compose by sitting in front of keyboard,they show what we know as need for sort of "musizieren" /german word for making music on the spot,but not improvising / By the very nature of his works ,one could easily see ,that basically this type of music cannot be written sitting by the piano,when one takes into consideration the inner flow and very specific logic of his music. If hed try to composer behind the piano,it would cause considerable amount of limitations.

One can to some extent determine if a composer was working on piano while composing.This is possible especcialy in realm of tonal music.For example,Betthovens music is easilly readable in these terms.His instrumentation and harmonization proportions are into large extent influenced by piano,which inst observable in any of Mozarts works,possibly with exceptions in early age. Mozarts music is " ready" from beginning to end,which is easilly observable on nature of his decisions in concrete compositional situations.

There are two things to support this claim : if records about his improvising on fugues and fugato styles are relevant,then this makes "romantic " claims on his memory absolutely valid.Such an improvisation ( that relies on perfect,realtime manipulation with two,three and more voices in total harmony) requires several times greater memory and logic capabiliteis than composing sonata or symphony from begging to end completely in head.There are some other hsitorical records about him improvising fugas with high number of voices.We also know about his pleasure in mathematic and logic riddles and games ,that undoubtly points to his capabilities in areas of memory and logic.

Adam Kuruc

-- (talk) 10:11, 29 August 2008 (UTC)Adam Kuruc-- (talk) 10:11, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Hello, Adam, and thank you for your comments. Here at Wikipedia we try (at least in principle) to limit ourselves to transferring information from published reference sources to our articles. So if you think the article is unbalanced or inaccurate, then I have two suggestions: (1) check to see if it is accurately reflecting the sources already cited; (2) find new reference sources that give a diversity of opinion. Yours very truly, Opus33 (talk) 16:06, 29 August 2008 (UTC)

Hello , Well the only reference source that I can give as source of opinion diversty is that of mine,and Im ready to stand behind it anytime and cover it with necessary scholar and scientific facts,in terms of composition psychology /and large composing practical experience /. As I already wrote,it is not matter of interpretation of these facts,because they point very clearly to the conclusion I have made - first of all,as I wrote ,if one is capable improvising fugues for some amount of time,it really takes absolutely unparalleled memory ,and composing tonal and mainly non-counterpoint based music in head from start to end ,isnt such a problem as it may seem.I know it very accurately,because it is also composing method of mine,and I am willing anytime to take it to the test or demonstration ,under defined conditions /if needed to support my claims/. Cheers,

Adam Kuruc

 —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 06:19, 30 August 2008 (UTC) 

Hi Adam-

I am a fellow composer and I would have to disagree with you. The article pretty accurately describes the basic human compositional method and provides evidence to show this is indeed how Mozart composed (at least part of the time). It is a very common thing for non musical people to embellish or set apart composers like Mozart as 'genius' and to give him certain qualities, almost deify him to the point where he seems truly different from other composers and therefore must have composed in a very "divinely inspired" method. Truth be told, no one composes like this. Inspiration strikes at any time, yes, but it takes very hard work and dedication to coax development from a kernel of an idea and to turn that into a piece of music. It is almost certain that although Mozart could hear the notes in his head (as most composers can) he did need a piano to work them out (as most composers do). It kind of seems like you are taking this "Divine Genius" view of Mozart and trying to apply it to yourself, basically saying "I am a genius too and compose in this way and therefore I believe Mozart did as well". Mozart's music is beautiful and above all has an inevitability which is a hallmark of "classical music". From a listeners stand point it is easy to hear a piece that sounds 'inevitable' and think "wow these parts must have been composed all at once and what a genius it would take to hear all these parts" but the truth is, he worked out each part, each melody the same way everyone else does- one part at time over a period of time. -Simon Cleveland. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:35, 15 April 2009 (UTC) The observation of Adam has to do with a partial view about the process of composition. I learned "traditionally" harmony and counterpoint "at the table". I also can do it and wrote indeed many arrangements on the go, before the rehearsal. But after studying in France, I went to Germany and studied church music. And enlarged my views studying for me historical pedagogy of music. There in german church music and more typically before 1850, the composition was direved from improvisation, generally at the organ. There are many advantages to know compose on the spot at the keyboard, and generally speaking composers before this date learnedd composing at the harpsichord then the organ. (talk) 16:04, 24 January 2017 (UTC)


Hi everyone.

I'll take issue with Adam's statements because I think they are out of context. The subject for debate isn't the question of "how can one compose music?", but rather, "how did Mozart prefer to compose?" Adam has stated that he doesn't need a keyboard but this isn't relevant to whether Mozart needed (or preferred to have) one. If it is indeed true that the letter Rochlitz presented is in fact a forgery, then we have no evidence as to how Mozart composed other than the fact that hundreds of his sketches survive and that he mentioned in multiple letters that he wasn't writing music at his own apartment for lack of a keyboard there. Unless these letters referred specifically to keyboard music, which he may have preferred to write while having an instrument at hand to check the difficulty of performing the passages, then we have to conclude that he used the keyboard while composing music in general. Since it is known that he improvised very fluently and creatively at the keyboard, perhaps it can be inferred that he began his general composition process by doing that.

-David Perry —Preceding unsigned comment added by Dperry9 (talkcontribs) 21:32, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Thank you. I agree completely with your two main points: we should focus on Mozart himself, and we should go with the documentary evidence. Opus33 (talk) 23:50, 6 November 2009 (UTC)

Constanze's strategic preservation of Mozart's unfinished manuscripts[edit]

The article states:

"Although many of these [sketches] have not survived, having been destroyed by Mozart's widow Constanze,[1] about 320 sketches and drafts are extant, covering about 10 percent of the composer's work.[1]"

Cornell University Library's Division of Rare & Manuscript Collections makes a distinction slighted by that "many" and by the subordinate mention of Constanze's activity:

"In the 1790s Constanze Mozart made a fateful decision about her late husband's musical manuscripts: those containing sketches or drafts of unrealized works would be kept for possible completion by others, while those containing sketches or drafts of completed works could be discarded."

This description is consistent with what the article on Constanze has to say, with due citation, about her role in promoting Mozart's work after his death (and for that matter with Mozart's own apparent view of unfinished works as assets to be completed only when an "occasion" [read: payment] presented itself). Without this context, Constanze's "destruction" seems simply stupid or wanton. I think the following could help avoid the mistaken inference (if not implication):

"Mozart's widow Constanze preserved manuscripts of his incomplete works, while discarding those of works already fully realized.[1] About 320 sketches and drafts survive, covering about 10 percent of the composer's work.[1]"

Assuming Solomon does not misstate the facts, I have left the citations undisturbed without checking whether the first one is apposite. I have done my best not to lengthen the sentence unduly, or make it argumentative, while adhering to verifiable assertions. Finally, I propose the alteration for review and discussion rather than making it myself because it is clear that the article is well edited and curated. As a nonspecialist, I did not wish to barge in and create distraction or controversy.

Best to all, Michael (talk) 23:34, 22 June 2012 (UTC)

Mention (allude to) the Rochlitz forgery in the lead?[edit]

"Nineteenth century views on this topic were often based on a romantic, mythologizing conception of the process of composition. More recent scholarly study has attempted to address the issue through systematic examination of the surviving letters and documents, and has arrived at rather different conclusions."

I am enough of a materialist to regret no reference to the Rochlitz forgery in the lead, e.g.:

Nineteenth century views on this topic were often based on a romantic, mythologizing conception of the process of composition. Such mythmaking included promulgation and acceptance of a letter, later found to be a forgery, purporting to represent Mozart's own description of his compositional process. More recent scholarship addresses this issue through systematic examination of authenticated letters and documents, and has arrived at rather different conclusions.

Just a reaction as a reader/user. Same disclaimers as above. Michael (talk) 00:15, 23 June 2012 (UTC)

Thanks, I put it in. Opus33 (talk) 06:36, 24 June 2012 (UTC)
Thanks, Opus 33! Michael (talk) 20:42, 24 June 2012 (UTC)

Use of a keyboard[edit]

Is the sentence "Mozart evidently needed a keyboard to work out his musical thoughts" something that can be sourced or is it an editor's own deduction based on the data given in that section? Contact Basemetal here 02:57, 30 May 2013 (UTC)

Misunderstanding sources[edit]

I think in this article sources were misunderstood, not properly used or are lacking. (1) "Mozart evidently needed a keyboard to work out his musical thought." No source is citated for such a serious sentence: I personally don't agree and I never read this in any Mozart biography I know, so I think a source is needed. The author of this article cannot make any "deduction" unless he has a publication to indicate. (2) "On one occasion, Mozart evidently used his improvisational ability to bolster his limitations in sight-reading." This seems absolutely wrong! The citated Grétry doesn't prove anything else than Mozart's improvisational ability. Playing different passages could have been deliberate. This source does not in any sense link improvisation to lack of memory. (3) "One may perhaps question whether in these instances Mozart retained the entire keyboard part note for note in his head; given the independent testimony (above) for his ability to fill in gaps through improvisation..." I'm afraid the author of this article doesn't know music at all. There's no possibility nor any need to retain by memory any piece of music "note for note", just as this is not the way human memory works. (I write "human" because I do not share the author's opinion that retaining a piece by memory would be something "quasi-miracolous" or "superhuman", nor I think this idea should be suggested in an encyclopedia. Retaining a piece by memory is not what scholars mean with "prodigious memory", just as it isn't anything special.) Retaining any piece of music, and most of all a classical one, involves schematic thought - not single-element-memory. (4) "In particular, the use of keyboards and sketches to compose, noted above, would not have been necessary for a composer who possessed superhuman memory. (...) Another instance of Mozart's powerful memory concerns his memorization and transcription of Gregorio Allegri's "Miserere" in the Sistine Chapel as a 14-year-old. Here again, various factors suggest great skill on Mozart's part, but not a superhuman miracle: the work in question is somewhat repetitive, and that Mozart was able to return to hear another performance, correcting his earlier errors. Maynard Solomon suggests that Mozart may have seen another copy earlier." Extremely superficial and narrow. I hope this article will be rewritten soon, as it's not in any sense a sufficient dissertation.

Armandotomin (talk) 20:55, 19 September 2014 (UTC)

  1. ^ a b c d Solomon 1995, 310