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Thread: Mozart Symphonies and the Harpsichord?

  1. #1
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    Default Mozart Symphonies and the Harpsichord?

    Hi,

    Being new here I don't know what topics have been talked about in depth. If there are other postings relating to my question, I'd be glad to be directed there.

    I've tried to find out if Mozart's symphonies are supposed to have a harpsichord in them. I have the Karl Bohm set (no harpsichord) as well as the Pinnock set (with harpsichord). I like them both but I lean towards the Pinnock. I've also had the Mackerras set, but no longer.

    I've always wondered about the inclusion of the Harpsichord. In my searching this out there seems to be some ambiguity concerning the use of the harpsichord??

    Any insights would be appreciated.

    Thanks.

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    Harpsichord is certainly an option Mozart had available to him for continuo (the backing line of the music). I'm not sure what Bohm used for that part, but it was probably something in the modern instrument family. Pinnock tends to use correct HIP practices and period instruments to my knowledge.

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    Quote Originally Posted by bharbeke View Post
    Harpsichord is certainly an option Mozart had available to him for continuo (the backing line of the music). I'm not sure what Bohm used for that part, but it was probably something in the modern instrument family. Pinnock tends to use correct HIP practices and period instruments to my knowledge.
    Am I correct in assuming the continuo wasn't written as part of the original score and therefore, Pinnock for example, would determine what the continuo was? Meaning in this case, Mozart didn't write it but Pinnock came up with an educated guess as to what it would be? And with that, would Mozart have written it out? Or would have, more or less, improvised as he conducted from the harpsichord?

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    Senior Member eugeneonagain's Avatar
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    Mozart often wrote out his parts including any chords used as a 'continuo' underpinning, so it isn't even continuo in the manner of the baroque period with the chords improvised over a given bass. I'm talking mainly about the concertos. I don't believe Mozart's symphonies require or ever required actual continuo.

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    Quote Originally Posted by eugeneonagain View Post
    Mozart often wrote out his parts including any chords used as a 'continuo' underpinning, so it isn't even continuo in the manner of the baroque period with the chords improvised over a given bass. I'm talking mainly about the concertos. I don't believe Mozart's symphonies require or ever required actual continuo.
    Does that mean no harpsichord was used in the original performances by Mozart himself. I guess what I'm wanting to determine is whether or not the use of harpsichord in his symphonies is correct.

    Maybe we don't know one way or the other for sure??

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    Senior Member stomanek's Avatar
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    For symphones pre K200 harpsichord kind of fits in

    but not with the weightier symphonies

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    Wikipedia has specifications for each symphony, some calling for continuo or keyboard in the score, such as nos. 6 & 15:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._6_(Mozart)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._15_(Mozart)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...Amadeus_Mozart

    Edit: This recording of no.6 employs one.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGb0j-xUd-Q
    Last edited by joen_cph; May-17-2018 at 14:09.

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    Wikipedia has specifications for each symphony, some calling for continuo or keyboard in the score, such as nos. 6 & 15:

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._6_(Mozart)
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony_No._15_(Mozart)

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_o...Amadeus_Mozart

    Edit: This recording of no.6 employs one.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wGb0j-xUd-Q
    Thank you. That is helpful.

    To settle this harpsichord issue for me (why I need to know this, not sure) I would like to see the score having parts for the harpsichord just like all the other instruments. Is harpsichord written for the works of other composer?

    Hate to plead such ignorance, but I've tried to come to some sort of definitive conclusion for some time. It seems to be alluding me.

    Thanks for the links and the time you put into this for me.

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    Senior Member Ras's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by RevAvery View Post
    Thank you. That is helpful.

    To settle this harpsichord issue for me (why I need to know this, not sure) I would like to see the score having parts for the harpsichord just like all the other instruments. Is harpsichord written for the works of other composer?

    Hate to plead such ignorance, but I've tried to come to some sort of definitive conclusion for some time. It seems to be alluding me.

    Thanks for the links and the time you put into this for me.
    Here is another link you may find interesting:

    goo.gl/3qufGc

    If the link works it should take you to an overview of the basso continuo used in Mozart's time from the book : "Performance Practice: A Dictionary-Guide for Musicians" by Roland Jackson.
    "I only have a hunch in what I've become expert." - Leonard Cohen

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    Senior Member joen_cph's Avatar
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    In the wiki article for symphony 6, there´s an indicated source for the presence of the harpsichord that one would have to read/consult. Details are not in the score, which is likewise provided on the page. Since the articles have been fairly coordinated, I doubt it´s just one creative writer on that sole symphony article who´s been telling of his opinion.

    Maybe it´s a reference to a contemporary performance, or maybe it however is a general assumption. In the case of symphony K19a, it seems to be just a general assumption, but it is also stated as that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony,_K._19a_(Mozart)

    One ould have to work through all the articles & a lot of further material to get the full picture here, but I doubt one will find written-out, complete harpsichord notes for a Mozart symphony anywhere.
    Last edited by joen_cph; May-17-2018 at 14:39.

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    Senior Member Eschbeg's Avatar
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    The musicologist Richard Maunder reports that the earliest documented evidence of Mozart even playing a fortepiano, let alone writing for it, is late 1774, by which point the first two dozen or so symphonies had already been written. Granted, there is scattered evidence that he might have heard the fortepiano during various travels in the 1760s, and of course we can't assume that the earliest documented instances are the same as the earliest instances. On the other end, the fortepiano seems to have been Mozart's default keyboard instrument from the 1780s onward. So it's mainly the five-year period between 1775 and 1780 where it's anyone's guess what instrument to use for Mozart's keyboard works; prior to that period the harpsichord seems the most plausible, and after it the fortepiano seems most plausible.

    More generally, it's worth noting that what Mozart "originally intended" is not always a useful concept, since all throughout the 17th and 18th centuries composers wrote with the full knowledge that their works would be performed on whatever instruments were available at the venue and performance in question. Even works that were conceived with specific instruments in mind were freely adapted to other instruments when necessary, so what Mozart intended was not necessarily what he expected or desired in specific performances.
    Last edited by Eschbeg; May-17-2018 at 14:47.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Ras View Post
    Here is another link you may find interesting:

    goo.gl/3qufGc

    If the link works it should take you to an overview of the basso continuo used in Mozart's time from the book : "Performance Practice: A Dictionary-Guide for Musicians" by Roland Jackson.
    That's a great link/source. Thank you

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    Quote Originally Posted by joen_cph View Post
    In the wiki article for symphony 6, there´s an indicated source for the presence of the harpsichord that one would have to read/consult. Details are not in the score, which is likewise provided on the page. Since the articles have been fairly coordinated, I doubt it´s just one creative writer on that sole symphony article who´s been telling of his opinion.

    Maybe it´s a reference to a contemporary performance, or maybe it however is a general assumption. In the case of symphony K19a, it seems to be just a general assumption, but it is also stated as that https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Symphony,_K._19a_(Mozart)

    One would have to work through all the articles & a lot of further material to get the full picture here, but I doubt one will find written-out, complete harpsichord notes for a Mozart symphony anywhere.
    Thanks so much for pointing that out. I hadn't noticed/missed the indicated source for the presence of the harpsichord.

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    Eschbeg wrote:
    "More generally, it's worth noting that what Mozart "originally intended" is not always a useful concept, since all throughout the 17th and 18th centuries composers wrote with the full knowledge that their works would be performed on whatever instruments were available at the venue and performance in question. Even works that were conceived with specific instruments in mind were freely adapted to other instruments when necessary, so what Mozart intended was not necessarily what he expected or desired in specific performances."

    That was such a helpful insight for me. I hadn't realized/thought at all about that. That makes sense and gives latitude to the performers.

    So, for Pinnock to "add" harpsichord is justified. That's a question too.

    I love all this input. This is pointing me in directions for which I've been searching for insight.

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