27. November 2008 · Comments Off on Mozart and Keys · Categories: Links, Other People's Words

Levin: Mozart – Mark, you can probably put the lie on this -is one of the only, if not the only, composer that I know who in every single one of his mature operas ends in the same key in which it began. Wagner doesn’t do that. Verdi doesn’t do that. How many cases are there of such a thing in other great operatic composers such as Wagner or Verdi?

DeVoto: Meistersinger.

Levin: Excellent. But it is the only Wagner that does it. You could almost call it a coincidence, because it’s obviously not that important to him. Maybe C major in Meistersinger is an important sound…

DeVoto: If you start Das Rheingold in the second scene, D flat major, then it works.

Laughter by all.

Levin: But that’s cheating! In Mozart, The Magic Flute begins and ends in E-flat major, The Abduction from the Seraglio, Così fan tutte and La Clemenza di Tito start and end in C, and The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni begin and end in D. … It’s the Aristotelian unities of time, place and action, but writ large.

DeVoto: All right.

Levin: The sense of continuation between the arias, the key schemes that he uses, how they work, are done in a way that you need not notice, but there is something absolutely ineffable and ultimately inevitable about when they are obvious, like going from C major to G major, or when they’re slightly coloristic, like G major to E-flat major, but they will never go from G major to F major, for instance. Things like that won’t do it, because they don’t mix well.

DeVoto: Falstaff.

Levin: Yes, you will find individual operas by composer that do this, but you will find no composer other than Mozart who is systematic about it. And so there he is, he’s counting bars, he’s looking at proportions, he is observing certain kinds of unities. I mean, does anybody care, after four hours, whether the opera ends in the same key it began? Does anybody remember?

Eiseman: Anna Russell.

Mimicry by Levin: “… we’re right back where we started from!”, followed by general laughter.

“Levin” here is Robert Levin. Back when I played in Midsummer Mozart (so long ago now!) he played with us on occasion, and created his own cadenzas. I always got a kick out of what he would do.

Anyway … fun read, and interesting thing to think about. I’m currently reading Mozart’s Women by Jane Glover (she will be conducting us later this season), so it’s even more fun for me to read this at the moment.

I read it here.

Now back to Thanksgiving preparations!

I am thankful for so much. Faith, family, friends. Music. Art. Words. Health. House. Warmth. Rain. … and a cleaned up yard. 😉

Mostly I’m just going to be thankful and leave it at that.

I wish everyone a very wonderful Thanksgiving. (And yeah, I’ll probably be back later with some silly post, but you never know!)