Mozart’s third violin concerto is widely considered to be one of the greatest violin pieces in classical music. It is one of the five concerti that Mozart wrote for the violin in 1775. The concerto consists of three movements: Allegro, Adagio, and Rondeau Allegro, with short pauses in between them. Although the third concert is not the one most frequently performed, it is a significant work, full of intricate details and charm, and often present in contemporary performances (Locke, 2015). Considerable amount of practice is needed to be able to attain the complexity of sounds and rhythms of Mozart’s third violin concert. Therefore, the main purpose of this study is to identify different types and aspects of performance skills involved in recreating the spirit of Mozart’s third violin concert.
Mozart’s G-major violin concerto is one of the five violin concertos by Mozart composed in 1775 at the age of 19 years old. According to Rosen (1976), the motive behind the composition is not clear. However, there is a general consensus regarding the motivation of Mozart’s father in the composition based on a descriptive letter addressed to the father about the concerto. Mozart was a good violinist as portrayed in the unpredictable character consistent across different music composition. Besides, the composition of the third movement was highly skillful, beginning with a dominant minor and ending with a surprising new idea of dance steps and change of meter for the solo violin (Rushton and Downs, 1992). Ultimately, the influence of the third violin concerto is evidenced through subsequent influences on composers as well as on popularity of the composition in contemporary performances.
The performance skills in the composition are consistent with the classical period. Indeed, Mozart was one of the most popular, prolific and influential composers of the classical period. The artist displayed major interest and talent in music from an early age. According to Bitka (2021), Mozart would entertain people with their musical talents as well as reading and writing music at the age of five. At the age of six years, Mozart wrote his first compositions thus warranting his consideration as a music genius. Despite the seemingly overarching influence of Mozart’s childhood, they associated their prowess to the initial study of great composers like Bach and Haydn.
Despite recycling previous musical formulations rather than innovating new musical forms, the compositions attained revolutionary status. The artist mastered and perfected sonata, opera and symphony to new heights in the classical period. The Violin Concerto No.3 composition showcases the artist’s versatility and ability to show feelings through music. As noted in Schachter (2001), Mozart was a unique composer who, unlike other composers in musical history, wrote music in all the conceivable musical genres and was excellent in all. The artist’s wide range of expression in the composition, coupled with excellent command of form makes Mozart the most universal composer in history.
Still, the influence of the composition on both classical and contemporary compositions is based on its universality. The composition features dramatic pacing, humanistic themes and lifelike characters that seem fresh and maintain relevance even in the modern period. Consequently, modern composers have found major influence from Mozart’s work by incorporating a sense of drama that increases the pacing in their performances (Moskovitz, 1974). Similarly, modern composers are adopting the ability of Mozart to vary their melodies in a short time. Specifically, musical composer Beethoven travelled to Vienna seeking composition lessons from Mozart in 1787. Similarly, Russian composer Tchaikovsky portrayed similar adulation of Mozart. Tchaikovsky references Mozart in some of his pieces but mostly in the Suite No. 4, Mozartiana.
The influence of Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 is evidenced through its popularity among different composers, scholars, and students of music. Although the performance of this particular concerto in its classical form is marked progression of the preceding two concertos, its modern performance is strikingly different. In the classical performance, the movement is rather slow thus giving in to the entry and participation of the flutes (Schachter, 2001). However, modern performances of the third concerto employ a seemingly faster movement that oscillates from the G major to the g minor. Besides, modern versions of the third concerto performance do not have the brief pauses between the various movements and do not therefore accentuate the virtuosity and skills of the performers. In contrast, Mozart’s classical performance of the third concerto highlighted the primary role of the orchestra in performing art (Moskovitz,1974).
The classical performance of the Violin Concerto No.3 further used an efficient left hand articulation and right-arm bow distribution for effectiveness. Similarly, modern performances have retained this performance skills as a critical technical feat. While the bow arm in classical performance espoused vertical motion to facilitate the string crossing technique, modern performances largely accentuate horizontal bow movement. In this performance skill, the bow moves up and down to facilitate the striking of the G string on the violin (Bitka, 2021). Besides, the performance of both classical and modern Violin Concerto No.3 is based on the limited spread between the middle and the index finger supported by a flatter wrist. Ultimately, both classical and modern performances affirm the need for fingering positioning to ease vertical and horizontal hand movements.
The Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 is in three movements that allows a performer to play. The three movements: “the first movement, Allegro, is in sonata form with a G major theme played by the accompanying orchestra. The second movement, Adagio, is in ternary form in the key of D major with another orchestral introduction. The third and final movement is a Rondeau Allegro (Stowell, 1985). Violin literature emphasizes primarily on the performance practice of the compositions. Stowell (1985) provides the history of violin performance and the role of Mozart who demonstrated development of various violin techniques. He proposes that virtuosic performance of “left-hand vibrato and right arm bowing” made the Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 special (. Similarly, Bitka (2021) suggest that the melody of No.3 Concerto is genuine even it is simple to perform. She also points out that Mozart obtained inspiration from Antonio Lucio Vivaldi (1678-1741) who developed the concerto style during the Baroque period. This may explain the performance of solo that accompanied with orchestra, which plays crucial element of the concerto, as it enhances and supports the soloist.
With regards to other characteristics and special elements of the Mozart Violin concerto in G major, each movement should be performed in different speed or tempo, showing virtuosity and skills of the performer. At the end of each movement, there are complicated cadenzas or ending solos by the violinist. Adagio (second movement) has a slow tempo and quiet strings to emphasize the strength the solo violin performance (Lawson & Stowell, 1999, 122). Rondeau Allegro or the final movement is more dynamic and accompanied with simple orchestration featuring.
Other scholars, Todd and Williams (2006) write the information related to violin performance with regards to stylistic markings and period performance. Their work consists of various musicians’ and performers’ analysis of the works of Mozart, providing a comprehensive examination. Specifically, their book includes essays examining the virtuosity of Mozart performance: ornamentation (Paul Badura-Skoda and Frederick Neumann), improvisation (Katalin Komlos), cadenzas (Eduard Melkus and Christoph Wolff), tempo (Jean-Pierre Marty), the nature of Mozart’s string writing (Jaap Schr6der), and the influence of Leopold Mozart’s Violinschule (Robin Stowell). It also provides an insight that the antipathy of Mozart towards Muzio Clementi is dismissed as Mozart borrowed a theme from a Clementi sonata for Die Zauberfli (125). The work also looks for pan-European perspective to the compositions of Mozart. As such, the work by Todd and Williams is a great source in analyzing the Mozart Violin Concerto No.3.
Specifically, Dalmazzo (2019) illustrates that the right-hand bowing along with proper understanding of the tonal color are crucial to compose a high-quality sound. Bitka also highlight that bowing is important but left-hand vibrato should be mastered too. It is agreed by Bitka and Dalmazzo that the bow is used for drawing a wide range of colors driven from the emotional spectrum. For example, there can be dramatic and stark or any other tones. As such, the special attention should be paid for the bow-related studies and its effects.
Moreover, when the performing skills of violin include three crucial aspects that are mechanical, physiological, and conceptual (Dalmazzo, 2019). With taking this into consideration, there are also three are main elements that affect the mechanics of sound production bow speed, bow pressure, and the distance from the bridge (Todd & Williams, 2006). It should be also pointed out that not only left hand vibrato and right hand bow are influencing the sound production but also the whole body. In the bow arm, the forearm and upper-arm muscles plays the most important and direct role in controlling the sound (Todd & Williams, 2006). In addition, there are other muscles that equally crucial, such as the right chest muscle and the back muscles. Todd and Williams help to demonstrate that for the improved performance skills, there is a need for controlling the body and specific parts of muscles. Yet, muscles are a part of the virtuosity as there is also a need to feel the music and the support of orchestra while performing the Mozart Violin Concerto No.3.
Stowell also describes the development of the bow, bow holds and strokes, so heling to understand how the performance is affected by the bow. Along with the history and development of bow, the work of Stowell contains the physics of the violin, the violinists during the period of the Baroque as well as Classical times. It also includes several highlights of 19th century. Stowell’s work helps to identify the origins of performance skills and their application in the music composition. Moreover, it can be seen how skills needed to perform the classical music were altered with regards to the time.
Revising exiting literature on performance and Mozart’s works is a critical aspect to explore performance skills needed to perform the concertos. The Mozart Violin Concerto No.3 is simple to perform but requires efficient left-hand vibrato and right hand bowing that are practiced to the expertise level. Some scholars focus on the history and development of violin performance, while other examine specific parts of the performance, arguing the effectiveness of each movement and technique. Moreover, the scholars provide various insights on how the Concerto was written, how Mozart imitated famous musicians and how his work contributed to the overall art of music.
Type of Research
The type of research I have conducted was a qualitative review using Mozart violin concerto in G major. The aim of this study was to analyse performance skills of this composition. I tried to systematically observe and describe the characteristics of this particular piece, and implemented a number of methods to do that. I used qualitative data to conduct this research, which mainly included information about the specific features of this piece. Since I was analyzing the performance skills of this concerto, an important part of my research was being involved in the act of performing itself, as well as listening to the composition (Winter & Haines, 2019). Therefore, I used autoethnography and the study of performance practice as my two main research methods.
The methods that I used at the stage of data collection were content analysis and thematic analysis. Performing the piece helped me to view different parts of it and the development within it from different perspectives. Having studied performance practice of this concert, I was able to compare it to my previous experiences of performing music compositions. I further used autoehnography to analyze the information gathered.
Autoethnography is a qualitative research method that involves active participation in the process being observed and analyzed (Bartleet, 2021). In my case, that involvement occurred through playing and listening to the piece. During my practice, I tried to identify common themes and contours present throughout the concert, its counterpoints and textures, as well as contrasting ideas and rhythms. I managed to observe the development of all three movements, identify the cadence points, as well as rhythmic patterns and the motive. Moreover, I was able to specify the roles that various instruments might play in the performance.
These sessions of self-reflection included different practices before, during, and after performing. My “before” reflection was focused on asking different questions that I expect to get answers to afterwards. During practice, I tried to focus my attention entirely on performing the piece and how it affects my emotional, as well as physical, state (Curreri, 2016). After the practice I reflected on those feelings and sensations, and described them in writing. I analyzed the questions asked before performing and reflected on the comprehensiveness of my responses. Therefore, these practices allowed me to not only analyze the composition from the outside, but to go through the most direct engagement with it. As a result, I was also able to compare the way this concert was performed in Mozart’s own day with how it is performed now.
Tools and Materials
I used my instrument to engage in the study of performance skills of this concert. In addition, I used audio recordings and note-taking to record data for my autoethnography practice.
Rationale and Limitations
I chose to use the study of performance skills and autoethnography as my primary research methods because they allow exploring my personal experiences and perceptions as a musician and a researcher. In terms of limitations, it can be suggested that being one of the primary research methods I used, autoethnography can present a number of risks. For example, it is sometimes accused of not using an academic approach, relying instead on a diarist style, which is considered to be self-indulgent and extremely subjective (Tamas, 2021). I believe, however, that autoehnographies are supposed to be subjective, as they present personal views and perceptions of certain experiences.
The dramaturgy of Mozart’s concertos is based on the contrasting opposition of three parts: a dramatic or lyrical sonata allegro, a slow, melodious, lyrical middle part and a rondo-like finale, often embodying genre elements. The contrast can also be made within the parts: between the main the side parts of the first movement, between the refrain and the episodes in the finale. In his violin concertos, Mozart establishes the form of a classical concerto: a composition that usually consists of three parts and employs one solo instrument accompanied by an orchestra. This genre originated in Italy on the verge of the 18th century (first the violin, and then piano).
At the heart of the form of an instrumental concert lies the principle of contrast, a competition between soloist and orchestra. Mozart’s violin concerto No. 3 represents a combination of styles classical and modern for its time. Mozart employs cadenzas of the soloist not only in the first movement, but also in the second and third movements (Schroeder, 2003). At his time, the performer responsible for improvising the cadenzas was the soloist. Contemporary violinists perform Mozart’s concertos with cadenza written by outstanding interpreters of his music – David, Joachim, Kreisler, Oistrakh (Sloboda, 2005). Some general characteristics of this work include dramatic pacing and different tempos in each of the movements, which is supposed to express the skills of a virtuoso violin soloist. The classical and modern performances of the concert, however, differ significantly, as the classical ones use slower movement. Modern performances, on the other hand, are much faster and often do not have pauses following the end of the first and second movements.
There is a number of other ways in which modern performances are different from the classical ones and, therefore, require more advances performance skills. For example, left-hand articulation and right-bow distribution in the classical performance focused on effectiveness. While modern performances still use these performance skills as a technical feature, they implement a more complex approach in relation to many other techniques used in the third concert.
Mozart’s third concerto exceeds his previous violin concertos in terms of the significance of the musical content and the width of its forms. It has a carefully designed orchestral accompaniment part and the score is built on the principle of dialogues between the orchestra and the soloist. Before beginning to practice the necessary skills, performers need to feel the depth of the special energy of this concert and practice certain performance skills. For example, if the eighth notes are followed by a quarter that has the same height, then the second eighth must be separated from the quarter by playing it with a dot (Shaw, 2003). The endings of phrases should be soft, beautifully formed, and the resolutions should be played quieter.
To achieve a more beautiful timbre and melodious sound in the second sentence of the main theme, it can be played in the fourth position on the D string, and it is important not to lose the pace. In the next theme, the soloist creates an ascending movement along the sounds of a triad in the first measure. In order to get to a crescendo here, the performer needs to properly distribute the bow, not starting at the frog itself, and during pauses the tension has to be kept, leading a phrase. In the next fragment, there may be two options for strokes. The upper stroke has a deep musical connotation: the return to the frog at the beginning of the melodious legato eighths emphasizes the opposition of the two images so characteristic of Mozart (Neumann,1993). The lower strokes, on the other hand, can contribute to combining these phrases into two integral structures.
Mozart’s Third Concerto requires a fairly diverse arsenal of performing skills: mastery of stroke techniques, cantilena, and understanding of the stylistic features of the piece. It may seem as a “simple” concert, but is full of challenging details and nuances: a slightest mistake or inaccuracy can become unforgivable. In addition to well-developed performance skills discussed above, a feeling of great inner conviction is essential to be able to perform this concert and make a desired impression on the listener. The insights into the history of how the concerto was written and Mozart’s creative processes can provide a basis and motivation for musicians to excel at performing this piece.
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