The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtag

The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtag

by William Kinderman

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The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtag by William Kinderman

In this intriguing study, William Kinderman opens the door to the composer's workshop, investigating not just the final outcome but the process of creative endeavor in music. Focusing on the stages of composition, Kinderman maintains that the most rigorous basis for the study of artistic creativity comes not from anecdotal or autobiographical reports, but from original handwritten sketches, drafts, revised manuscripts, and corrected proof sheets. He explores works of major composers from the eighteenth century to the present, from Mozart's piano music and Beethoven's Piano Trio in F to Kurtág's Kafka Fragments and Hommage à R. Sch. Other chapters examine Robert Schumann's Fantasie in C, Mahler's Fifth Symphony, and Bartók's Dance Suite. Revealing the diversity of sources, rejected passages and movements, fragmentary unfinished works, and aborted projects that were absorbed into finished compositions, The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtág illustrates the wealth of insight that can be gained through studying the creative process.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780252094286
Publisher: University of Illinois Press
Publication date: 09/16/2012
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 256
File size: 14 MB
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About the Author

William Kinderman is a professor of music at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author or editor of a dozen books, including The String Quartets of Beethoven and the three-volume study Artaria 195: Beethoven's Sketchbook for the Missa solemnis and the Piano Sonata in E Major, Opus 109. He is General Editor of the Beethoven Sketchbook Series published by the University of Illinois Press.

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The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtág


University of Illinois Press

Copyright © 2012 Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-252-03716-0

Chapter One

Mozart's Second Thoughts

The popular image of Mozart's music as having sprung into existence fully formed as the miraculous product of genius, as is conveyed in Peter Shaffer's play Amadeus and in Milos Forman's film of the same title, is seriously misleading. While Mozart did not make nearly as many sketches and drafts for his works in progress as did Beethoven, he nevertheless invested much labor in the compositional process, and he was by no means always satisfied with his initial attempts to work out compositions. Mozart not only composed in his head but tried out ideas at the keyboard and made written sketches and drafts, some of which have survived.

Some scholars have long recognized that the notion of Mozart's having composed his important works rapidly and without much effort is inaccurate. The debate reaches back to early published writings on Mozart. In the first monograph devoted to Mozart, the book W. A. Mozarts Leben, first published in 1798, Franz Niemetschek wrote concerning Mozart's creativity of the "incomprehensible ease with which he composed most of his works." On the other hand, Georg Nikolaus Nissen, in his Biographie W. A. Mozarts of 1828, claimed that "one doesn't believe the gossip at all, according to which he [Mozart] tossed off his significant works swiftly and hurriedly. He carried the main ideas with him for a long time, wrote these down briefly, and worked out the principal matters fully in his head. Only then did he write out the whole, and even then, not as quickly as one has imagined: he carefully improved his work and was extremely strict with himself regarding those compositions that he himself valued."

The surviving manuscript sources offer confirmation of Nissen's statement. Mozart often made revealing changes after having devised an initial version of a work. Some glimpses into Mozart's compositional process are provided by four concerto fragments written on a type of paper also found in the autograph score of his Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488. Of particular interest is a fragmentary draft that was presumably intended for the finale of K. 488, a manuscript that is cataloged as K. 488c (Anh. 64). Instead of the duple meter of the finale in the finished work, this music is written in 6/8 time; the opening rondo theme shifts between the piano and clarinets in four-measure phrases. Remarkably, this theme has a siciliano rhythm, clearly reminiscent of the slow movement as we know it. In the end, Mozart confined the siciliano idiom to the slow middle movement while devising thematic connections of a rather different kind between the two last movements of the concerto.

New insight into Mozart's revision process emerged as well from the rediscovery of the autograph manuscripts of the Sonata in C Minor, K. 457, from 1784 and the Fantasia in C Minor, K. 475, from 1785. In the catalog he kept of his own works, Mozart dated the sonata as "14 October [1784]" and the fantasia as "20 [May 1785]." Although the fantasia was composed seven months after the sonata, and the two works were written at separate times on different paper types, Mozart decided in 1785 to join these two pieces in a single publication, and they are also bound together in a manuscript that was long presumed lost but that resurfaced in 1990 at Philadelphia and is now housed at the Mozarteum in Salzburg.

The fantasia and sonata rank among the greatest achievements in Mozart's piano music. The dissonant chromaticism of both pieces looks back to J. S. Bach's Musikalisches Opfer (Musical offering), while in their dramatic concentration they strongly prefigure Beethoven's famous "C minor mood." An impressive feature of the fantasia is the way Mozart unifies the form of the whole, with its several sharply contrasting episodes, through a varied return of the opening Adagio at the conclusion. The bare unison octaves of this opening seem to embody an inevitably objective, immovable, even alien reality confronting the player and listener, a sense heightened here by Mozart's motivic chromaticism, the descent by semitone governing the initial phrases, and his effective use of silence as a rapport of sound with the void. The mysterious opening phrase in unison octaves rises from C and falls back to that pitch, preceding the semitone descent at the outset of m. 2, while the following harmonized phrases and echoes in the upper register convey a quality of bleak melancholy (Ex. 1.1).

The recovery of the autograph manuscript proved most revelatory in relation to the finale of the sonata. As the manuscript shows, the last nineteen measures of the work as we know it were an afterthought. The original final cadence at m. 301 was turned into a deceptive cadence, leading to an astonishing gapped thematic presentation that soars to high C and E[??] before plunging five octaves to F# in the lowest possible register. In the first edition of the sonata, the low F# and the five following notes were raised an octave; there are other divergences as well, as are shown in Ex. 1.2. The deep, coiling line played three octaves under the accompaniment reaches a tonic cadence five measures later, and another eight measures of cadential flourishes across all these pitch registers prepare the final framing chords.

Mozart sought a culminating gesture here, and the added passage takes on the character of a decisive breakthrough. Furthermore, as Siegbert Rampe has observed, the concluding extension offers evidence of Mozart's attitude toward the pairing of fantasia and sonata. The melody of the added passage—C–E[??]–F#–G–A[??]—reshapes the crucial chromatic motive from the beginning and end of the fantasia and then grounds it in the strongest possible way in C minor. The five-octave plunge from high E[??] to low F# splits the motive through drastic registral opposition, with its aspiring beginning contradicted and completed in the dark continuation. Robert Hatten writes that "gesturally, although the same hand performs the 'line,' the extravagant cross-hand move marks another voice—fateful in response to the more pleading high register, and implacable as it takes over for an inexorable cadence in the lowest register." One original voice is virtually bifurcated in this majestic and radical reassertion of the motive that had begun the fantasia. Even the understated close of the first movement—tonic chords in the low register set off by rests—seems to be recalled and resolved here in the powerful conclusion of K. 457.

It is unlikely that these close correspondences could be accidental. Since the sonata was composed before the fantasia, it seems probable that the expansion of the coda to the finale of K. 457 occurred in response to Mozart's subsequent pairing of these remarkable pieces; his addition begins precisely at the recall of the seminal motive from the fantasia. The sequence of events in the compositional process underscores the distinctive aesthetic features of the added passage in the coda. We catch Mozart's musical mind in action here, casting audible connecting threads across one of his most imaginative and innovative works.

The present chapter concerns two further instances in which Mozart returned to a work in progress to make substantial revisions. The Sonata in D Major, K. 284, is the last of the set of six sonatas completed by early 1775 at Munich. The reworking of its first movement offers insights into Mozart's evolving stylistic language at a pivotal point in his career. Our second example dates from more than a decade later, in 1786, when Mozart reshaped the piano entrance in the first movement of one of his most imposing works for piano, the Concerto in C Major, K. 503.

The Sonata in D Major, K. 284/205b ("Dürnitz"), First Movement

Much of the first movement of the Sonata in D Major, K. 284, composed for Freiherr Thaddäus von Dürnitz at Munich, survives in an original version that was later thoroughly reshaped by Mozart. This canceled first version is preserved as part of the autograph score that contains the final version of K. 284 as well as the other five sonatas of the set dating from 1774–75; this manuscript was formerly part of the collection at the Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin preussischer Kulturbesitz, and it is currently held in Cracow at the Biblioteka Jagiellonska. The rejected draft for K. 284 contains no fewer than seventy-one measures, and it is fully realized, with dynamics and articulation markings. The draft is shown in Ex. 1.3, together with the final version of the passage. When Mozart broke off work on his draft, he was well into the development section. In the revision, the development section was completely reconceived, and extended passages in the first and last sections of the exposition were rewritten as well.

Originally, Mozart employed the opening unison fanfare twice, with an ascent in register and filling out of harmony when the gesture is repeated in m. 6. Against an accompaniment in staccato eighth notes, the right hand is given phrases highlighting two-note sigh figures. These single-voice lines marked piano contrast with the more robust texture of the forte passages, which suggest the texture of orchestral tutti passages.

In this draft version, short motives tend to be strung together in typical style for the time, and a literal repetition of phrases is more conspicuous, whereas in the revised passage Mozart offers a progression in which each change in the texture seems motivated by what happens before it. However, scholars have not agreed about the relative merits of the two versions. In a study comparing the canceled draft and the final version, László Somfai describes the fragment as "already a masterpiece, probably the best among the six sonatas of the set." He finds a "high level of organic elaboration in the discarded fragment" and regards the early version in this respect as surpassing the finished work.

Let us examine the fragment in detail. It begins with a twofold statement of a six-measure unit, which itself consists of two parts: a unison fanfare leading to a pedal point on the dominant, played forte, paired with a rhetorical continuation employing two-note sigh figures, performed piano. In his article, Somfai describes the second statement of this dialogical phrase as a "variation" of the first, but that term seems questionable, since apart from new voicing of the initial unison D as a full-voiced chord in m. 6 and a trill on the leading tone in m. 5, there are no other changes; the second phrase is otherwise a literal repetition of the first. The tonic cadence of the two six-measure units overlaps with the ensuing phrase, so that the full-voiced D major chord in m. 6 serves both as the end of the first phrase and as the beginning of the second.

Melodic continuity acts here as a primary agent of coherence. Hence the opening fanfare figure moves from the tonic note, D, to the dominant, A, and that pitch serves in turn as a repeated pedal point in the following three measures and also in a higher register as the initial pitch of the expressive four-note motive in mm. 2–3. A free inversion of that motive stresses the sigh figure on A–G in m. 4. Mozart then doubles up the two-note phrases in m. 5 as the music moves toward the tonic cadence at the downbeat of m. 6. A stepwise descent through F#–E and then D–C# is outlined in the first and third of the two-note sigh figures in m. 5. Hence the descending line as contained in the two rapid motivic figures of a falling fourth in the opening fanfare motto is outlined in larger note values in the melody as the music moves to the first cadence.

Once the cadence is reached in m. 11, the music of the first version unfolds in steady sixteenth-note figuration outlining turn figures, combined with octaves in the left hand. Beginning in m. 15, this figuration migrates to the left hand as melodic inflections featuring the two-note sigh figure unfold in the treble. This music already assumes a transitional function, and the ensuing mm. 20–24 present a pedal point on the dominant, A, preparing the beginning of the second subject group in A major. These five measures were taken over virtually unchanged into the final version of the sonata.

Let us now examine Mozart's revisions to this first section of the exposition. The change to the initial tonic chord is already arresting and significant. In place of a unison D in three octaves, Mozart now employs a full voicing in the right hand, with added emphasis supplied through an arpeggiation of the chord. At the same time, this initial sonority is curtailed to half its original length, with quarter rests placed on the second beat. Set off by silence, the opening sonority makes a more distinct impression without thereby losing its connection to the gestures that follow.

Another striking change is that the gesture in the second measure now moves to A–F#–B, creating a dissonance that needs to be resolved, with the second two-measure phrase balancing and resolving the first. When the music reaches the dominant in m. 4, the rhythmic texture in eighth notes—representing a diminution of the quarter notes of the second measure—is continued in the bass motion, while Mozart continues with the following phrases beginning on the D in the octave above middle C. In the second version he has anticipated this progression in the arpeggiation of the opening chord, which lays out the whole tonal space of the opening section.

There is now a gradually increasing rhythmic tension that integrates all of the thematic segments in the first subject group and transition up to m. 21. After the phrases over the dominant pedal point in mm. 4–6, two transitional measures in running sixteenths resolve to the tonic in m. 9. This sixteenth-note figuration employs turn figures similar to those contained in the first version of the movement beginning in m. 11. There, as we have seen, its function was already transitional. Here, by contrast, these two measures of sixteenths (mm. 7–8) have been integrated into the opening theme, which is far broader than before. The original version of the movement displays a relatively loose, blocklike construction, with a double statement of the main subject in mm. 1–6 and 6–11 followed by a transitional continuation in sixteenth notes. By contrast, the final version impressively enlarges the opening theme, which reaches the transition only with the resolution of the augmented-sixth chord to the dominant octave A in m. 17.

The new idea Mozart introduced in mm. 9–12 is connected to the opening measures in tangible ways. Particularly important is the rhythmic correspondence. A half note (or quarter note and quarter rest) followed by five quarter-note impulses and another rest is common to both thematic segments, notwithstanding the sixteenth-note motion in the second half of m. 1 (since each of these motivic groups is identical and is articulated within the space of one quarter beat). Mm. 9–10 can thus be regarded as a rhythmic variation of mm. 1–2, and Mozart carries over a prominent feature of his original mm. 2–5 into the new idea, namely, the steady movement in eighth notes. The newly articulated opening of the sonata, with rests marking off the motivic segments, allows Mozart to postpone the continuous rhythmic motion in eighths until mm. 9–12, when it seems motivated by the preceding acceleration to sixteenth notes in mm. 7–8.

The new subject introduced here has two voices heard above this steady eighth-note pulsation in the bass. In turn, the two-measure unit in mm. 9–10 is intensified as a rising sequence in mm. 11–12. In the ensuing passage, orchestral-style tremolo figures in sixteenth notes are combined with a continuation of eighth-note motion in the bass so that the composite texture is the most animated yet. However, starting at the arrival at the dominant pedal point in m. 17, the rapid sixteenths pass into the left hand while the right hand plays a pattern in eighth notes accelerating to sixteenths. Unlike most of the preceding passages, this music was retained from the original version. This idea represents a variant of the opening motive from m. 1, with the stepwise figure played first in rhythmic augmentation (in eighth notes) and then in sixteenth notes. Mozart thus recaptures the opening fanfare gesture just as the transition comes to an end.


Excerpted from The Creative Process in Music from Mozart to Kurtág by WILLIAM KINDERMAN Copyright © 2012 by Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois. Excerpted by permission of University of Illinois Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations ix

Introduction 1

1 Mozart's Second Thoughts 17

2 Beethoven's Unfinished Piano Trio in F Minor from 1816 42

3 Schumann, Beethoven, and the "Distant Beloved" 77

4 Aesthetics of Integration in Mahler's Fifth Symphony 102

5 Folklore Transformed in Bartók's Dance Suite 138

6 Kurtág's Kafka Fragments and Hommage à R. Sch. 163

Notes 197

Index 225

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