Alice in Texas

Not writing here anymore- see top post for details of my new blogs.

Sunday, July 03, 2005


One sure sign of getting old is deciding you prefer Mozart to Beethoven. Young people always prefer Romantic music to Classical music, because they are so full of emotions swirling all around inside themselves and appreciate the discovery that they are not the only person who ever felt that way. But when you get on a bit, calm down and start involuntarily noticing mundane things like the beauty of everyday plants, all that emoting becomes rather exhausting. Even worse, you begin wondering suspiciously if it isn't occasionally a little bit... sentimental? Not that I would say Beethoven is sentimental at all, but when one is having a nice life appreciating the sunshine and discovering beef hot-dogs, wallowing around in feelings of death, doom, depression and (alright, I'll say it) deafness, does seem somewhat inapropriate.

Anyway, I am finding that whereas I only feel like playing Beethoven sonatas once or twice a day, the Mozart one I am learning (in C, k306) is completely addictive and impossible to put down. It is both very very catchy, almost in a pop-song sort of a way, and at the same time constantly surprising so you never get bored of it. (Well, I never get bored of it, but I don't know whether the next-door neighbours feel the same way. They can definitely hear, the houses round here are just little wooden boxes).

The other uncanny thing about this sonata is, there are many many bits which are exactly like the Beethoven I've been playing (number 17). I don't know if the Mozart one is quite late, but it has suddenly loud, dramatic, quite chromatic passages, chromatic broken chords in octaves in left and right hands, happy-tunes that are slightly less innocent than they sound, and lots of other very Beethovenish characteristics. So I suppose Beethoven really does follow on from Mozart in a smooth kind of a way. The only problem is, after getting so into the Mozart it can seem like Beethoven is less good, really milking the ideas rather than keeping them concise, clever and under control. (And that's enough alliteration for one day.)

On the other hand, I played through the super-famous first movement of the Moonlight sonata today, and it is definitely nothing like Mozart at all. Beethoven's pianistic genius really produces a completely different sound from the instrument than anything Mozart probably even imagined was possible on one of the more basic pianos they had when he was writing. Apparently, crescendos were only invented in the middle of Mozart's time, when they became possible on a keyboard. Before then, you had to pull out stops to make definite dynamic changes. My piano teacher, Miss Kitchin, once told me that when Mozart first played one of his compositions with this newfangled crescendo thingie in it, people were so scared they ran out of the room. I expect they thought if the piano got any louder it might explode, or something. These days it is practically impossible for any kind of artist to frighten anybody. We are scared of nothing except death, and our own phobias. Or so we say, but I am not entirely convinced that we are telling ourselves the truth.


At 5:14 PM, Blogger Kim du Toit said...

One word: Rachmaninoff.

At 9:27 PM, Blogger Stephanie said...

Hi Alice,

A delightful post! Thank you.


At 2:17 AM, Blogger emma said...

So what stage of life are you at when only the Bach 48 will hit the spot? Mmmm, f sharp minor, book 2...

I only started appreciating Beethoven at all when I'd analysed lots of it and - surprise - western 20th century music analysis (tovey, schenker, everyone) was based on middle period beethoven, so of course it's good for helping you understand how those op 31 sonatas work...


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