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Mozart and the Pianist: A Guide for Performers and Teachers to Mozart's Major Works for Solo Piano. (Books).

Mozart and the Pianist: A Guide for Performers and Teachers to Mozart's Major Works for Solo Piano, by Michael Davidson. Kahn & Averill (IPG, 814 N. Franklin St., Chicago IL 60610), 2001. 363 pp., $32.

Unlike the Badura-Skodas' Interpreting Mozart on the Keyboard, organized by interpretive issues, the present volume considers each of Mozart's major keyboard solo works separately. Hence, the two volumes complement each other nicely. Michael Davidson offers ample commentary on matters of form, expression, articulation, dynamics and tempo in all the sonatas, rondos, several variation sets and assorted individual pieces--sometimes, alas, to the extent that creativity, exploration and discussion may be squelched.

No one doubts the value of precise interpretive suggestions ("no pedal here," "more ornamentation is hardly needed" and the like). But too many times the author uses phrases like "more correct" (as if matters of ornamentation were not endlessly debatable) and tends to impart too much significance to the musical text (in the spirit of our age, which tends to overemphasize the role of the Urtext), interpreting every nonexistence of a slur as prima facie evidence that the passage in question could not possibly be played legato. Almost every page yields debatable theses--as in, for example, his contention that the eighth notes of the fugue subject of K. 394 should be played non legato or his avoidance of a D-natural/D-sharp clash between the upper voices of beat three in measure twenty-one of K. 283/ii--but that doesn't mean the book is worthless!

Far from it. The author's words exude erudition and passion. But my recommendation is to study his commentary on discrete pieces one at a time (Don't read this book cover to cover, for heaven's sake.), identify the issues he addresses and then not fear debating or coming to different conclusions, especially if you're already familiar with other scholarly texts such as Mario Mercado's The Evolution of Mozart Pianistic Style. To his credit, Davidson admires the fortepianists, especially Malcolm Bilson, and is eager to incorporate their revelations about Mozart's musical language into the discussion. His other major pianistic influence is Lili Kraus, strange bedfellow indeed of Bilson's, but a healthy sign the author has broad tastes. Especially valuable are the suggested listening ideas, as, for example, to listen to Le nozze di Figaro when studying K. 332. Reviewed by John Salmon, Greensboro, North Carolina.
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Author:Salmon, John
Publication:American Music Teacher
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Feb 1, 2002
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