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This blog is about both scientific, societal/political, and yoga-related issues - individually and considered as different aspects of the same problem/solution. A longer description is found in the first blog entry, and all old posts are found in a structured way here. The blog is an extension of my main home pages and Twitter: @gunnarcedersund

The precious jewel hidden in the midst of each Mozart Sonata

music, dancing, creativityPosted by Feb 17, 2013 13:43

The Arkenstone, or the "Heart of the Mountain", is a precious stone appearing in the Hobbit. The stone was found hidden within the midst of the mountain, almost like if the whole mountain in a way was there to provide a protective layer around it. Picture from here.

I have just discovered some really good news: the Horowitz content on Spotify has greatly expanded!

Vladimir Horowitz has for a long time been my favourite pianist of all times. There are many reasons for that, but one of the most important things is the many colors of his playing. He has, like virtually none other, the capacity to lift out so many different layers - different instruments - from the piano. For that reason you can often be amazed by listening to e.g. just the base notes in his playing: it is like these individual notes - maybe just one note in each bar - are played by an individual cellist, who gives all his love and attention to those particular notes, and where those notes have a development of themselves in the piece, and stand in a perfectly fascinating interplay with all the other melodies in the tune. Apart from that, he of course also more generally speaking has a technique that is amazing. Sometimes this technique is so outrageously good that it just makes you laugh when you hear how he just plays around with even the most difficult piano pieces (the end of Chopins first Ballade comes to mind). Here it must be stressed, however, that this playing around never exerts itself negatively on the musicality. On the contrary, in these most difficult sections, where you hear that many of the best pianists are struggling to get around, he has usually found a way to put his personal touch on it, to lift out the musicality and character of the piece even more (again a Chopin piece comes to mind, his playing of the highly difficult 4th etude). Finally, and as always, the most important part of what makes his playing magic is simply his ability to make you - as a listener - completely absorbed by his playing. Somehow his focus his so strong, that you as a listener has no other option than to go into that absorption and concentration as well (here is an interesting anecdote by Barenboim, about when Horowitz himself talked to him about this crucial factor). And in the middle of deep concentration the Source is always found, no matter what you focus upon.

Well, now to what I really came here to talk to you about! :)

I have today listened to some of his Mozart recordings, several of which I hadn't heard earlier. (btw, I totally agree with the well tempered ear, who says that his Mozart interpretations often are forgotten) And there is a special feature of his sonatas that I always find really fascinating, almost to the point of witnessing something holy. This holy thing is, in my view, hidden in the middle (or timewise, perhaps closer to the golden mean) of his sonatas. In other words, you have heard the first movement, which usually is fast but still not show-off:y, which usually is structured in a sonata form, i.e. with its own golden moments located at its golden mean. At this point, you have also heard the exposition to the second movement (0-2:20 above) which have introduced something beautiful, and put you in a mode of being deeply focused on what the pianist has to say. All other distractions that you may still have had in your mind as you started to listen to the first movement are now completely dropped from your mind, and your mind is just open. Then the development starts and you can just feel how everything increases, how the beauty builds up (2:20-3:20) to a climax (3:20-4:10). A beauty-climax. A musical orgasm....which usually only lasts a few bars, until the development is over, and you go back (4:10-4:30) to the main theme of the second movement, to the recapitulation (4:30-end). Still holy, but now the peak has passed. Now the rest is more or less predictable. The recapitulation of the second movement is now over, and the third movement has started. It is fast and impressive, many notes, clear passages, and - since it often is shorter than the first movement - it ends pretty soon, and with some kind of climax leading up to it. So that you feel like applauding in the end.

But all the time listening there in the end you feel like all that is just a wrapping in of the precious jewel that you witnessed there in the middle of the second movement. So that this precious jewel should not be exposed to a mind that is not totally prepared, and so that you shouldn't have to go back to your life again too abrubtly after witnessing such beauty. And because too much beauty all the time often leads to cheesiness, because less is more, and because the memory of the beauty is often more beautiful, and an equally important part of the whole, as the actual experience in itself. Because some of the beauty also lies in the symmetry of the piece. Just as I have tried to immitate in this little blog post. Which will end with a little coda: again mostly focusing on showing off.

Coda: As many of you know, I am currently playing through all the Beethoven sonatas. These are in many ways more difficult than the Mozart sonatas. However, I find it quite likely that I, as did Horowitz and Rubinstein and many others, will end my life by returning to Mozart. By finding the perfect symmetry of his pieces, and the precious jewels hidden within them, simply too irresistable to not to play. And by finding that all other things you have done is simply a preparation for being able to at last do these pieces justice.

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