The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music: What does it feel like to hold, play and hear Mozart’s own violin and viola? America just had its first chance ever to find out. Here’s a report. | June 22, 2013

By Jacob Stockinger

If you want some idea of what a prodigious talent the composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791, below) was, you might recall not only his enormous amount of music in 35 years with such a high percentage of masterpieces, or his astonishing virtuosity as a keyboard player (he composed all and premiered most of his 27 piano concertos).

You might also recall that he was an outstanding violinist — his oppressively ambitious father Leopold said that his son could have become the best violinist in Europe with some more effort and work – and also a violist who loved to pay the viola in the same string quartet where fellow composer Franz Joseph Haydn played the violin.

mozart big

Anyway, for more than 200 years Mozart’s instruments have been stored in a museum in Mozart’s hometown of Salzburg, Austria.

But the instruments were recently brought to the United State for the first time in history and appeared at the Boston Early Music Festival. (That is also where the University of Wisconsin-Madison duo Ensemble SDG, featuring keyboard John Chappell Stowe and baroque violinist Edith Hines, performed an all-Heinrich Bieber concert.)

Hearing about the unusual security measures taken for the trip to guarantee their security – including separate airplane flights — is fascinating.

But most fascinating of all is a first-person account of what it feels like to hold and play and listen Mozart’s own string instruments, which generally featured mellowness rather than brilliance.

You can hear about it all on NPR’s great classical music blog “Deceptive Cadence” and through writer Anastasias Tsioulcas’ experience with Mozart’s own string instruments. (Below is a photo by Kathy Wittman of Amandine Beyer holding the violin backstage in Boston during the festival.)

amandine_beyer_violin

Here is a link. Do yourself a favor listen to it — don’t just read the transcript. I hope that you enjoy it and that it enhance even further (deeper?) your opinion of Wolfie:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2013/06/14/190975113/playing-mozart-on-mozarts-violin

And here is a link to a live performance on Mozart’s own:

http://www.npr.org/event/music/191709140/mozarts-violin-comes-to-boston-live-in-concert

Of course, possessing a fine instrument doesn’t guarantee being a great composer. But Mozart could play his own works, including the Violin Concerto No. 3, which you can hear below with Hilary Hahn in a YouTube video that has had more than a million hits:


2 Comments »

  1. […] Classical music: What does it feel like to hold, play and hear Mozart’s own violin and viola? … […]

    Pingback by make music part of youor life series: Mozart – Violin Sonata No. 27 in G, K. 379 | euzicasa — June 3, 2014 @ 1:20 pm

  2. On a recent trip to Austria, I had the chance to tour Mozart’s birthplace. It was quite inspiring for me, to see all the rooms he resided in although most rooms are now museum-like. I saw his performance piano (which he took constantly out and in of the house for performances) as well as several other pianos played by Mozart, and his first violin (between a 1/4 and 1/2 size). The whole experience of being able to see where he had been, what instruments he played, and certain facsimiles and personal objects allowed me to develop more of an insight on what Mozart saw and lived in daily life. Unfortunately, I was not able to play any of the instruments.

    Comment by Isabella Wu — July 6, 2013 @ 5:31 pm


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