Improvising Mozart

29 October 2012, 20:00 - 21:30

West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

The lecture-recitals and Open Rehearsal are free and open to all; no registration is required.

Pianist and conductor Robert Levin will give a series of public lecture-recitals on Encountering Mozart at the Faculty of Music in addition to participating in an Open Rehearsal with performers from the Academy of Ancient Music. This will be followed by a public performance in the West Road Concert Hall on the evening of Wednesday 31 October 2012.

Lecture-recital 1: Improvising Mozart

In his first lecture-recital, Professor Levin will consider idiomatic embellishment and cadenzas in Mozart, making extensive use of facsimiles of autograph manuscripts as well as free fantasies.

Mozart’s musical language synthesises a complex hierarchy of thematic material, consistency of structural proportions, intense characterisation, a powerful narrative sense, and remarkable rhythmic and gestural fluidity, creating a sense of perfect equilibrium between content and form. Notwithstanding the creative challenge represented by the co-ordination of these elements, Mozart was considered the foremost improviser of his day. Evidently the control he exerted as a composer could be deployed spontaneously in extempore performance. These elements will be demonstrated with live musical examples.  Mozart improvised the cadenzas in his piano concertos, variations on popular melodies of his time, and free fantasies. We shall consider aspects of these genres and their content in turn. A crucial piece of evidence is provided by Mozart’s pseudo-improvisations, written down for his sister. She was unable to improvise and requested such pieces, so that she could memorise them and thereby deceive her listeners into thinking she had made them up on the spur of the moment.  These frequently non-metrical modulating preludes are directly derived from procedures advocated by Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach in the final chapter of his Essay on the True Manner of Playing Keyboard Instruments. The lecture will conclude with a free fantasy improvised on Classical period themes suggested by the audience.

Events in this series: 

Humanitas
Improvising Mozart
29 October 2012, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music 2012: Robert Levin

Composing Mozart
30 October 2012, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music 2012: Robert Levin

Open Rehearsal with Robert Levin and AAM
31 October 2012, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music 2012 Robert Levin rehearses works by Mozart and Beethoven with the Academy of Ancient Music.

Robert Levin and the AAM perform works by Mozart and Beethoven
31 October 2012, West Road Concert Hall, Faculty of Music

Humanitas Visiting Professor in Chamber Music 2012 Robert Levin performs works by Mozart and Beethoven with the Academy of Ancient Music.

The Humanitas Chair in Chamber Music has been made possible by the generous support of Mr Lawrence Saper.

The Humanitas Chair in Chamber Music will bring world-renowned performers to Cambridge to share insights into the character as well as the challenges of musical performance, explaining not only their own approach to a range of musical masterpieces but also the consequences for listeners of their interpretative choices. These 'behind the scene' observations will be complemented by actual performances, whether in masterclasses, open rehearsals, lecture-recitals or concerts.

Previous Humanitas Visiting Professors in Chamber Music

2010-11: Alfred Brendel (pianist, music critic, poet and painter)

Standing Committee

John Rink (Music; AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice)
Nicholas Cook (Music)   
Iain Fenlon (Music)
Martin Ennis (Music)
Edward Wickham (St Catharine’s College; Music)    
David Mawson (AHRC Research Centre for Musical Performance as Creative Practice)
George Unsworth (West Road Concert Hall)

Hosting College

Peterhouse