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Review of Simon P. Keefe. Mozart's Piano Concertos: Dramatic Dialogue in the Age of Enlightenment. Woodbridge, Suffolk (U.K): The Boydell Press, 2001. x, 205 pp.

Will, Richard

As Simon P. Keefe's book begins, the German pedagogue Heinrich
Christoph Koch is defending the concerto from his usual authority on
aesthetic values, the Allgemeine Theorie der schönen Künste (1771-74) of Johann
Georg Sulzer. The Theorie complained that "the concerto appears to have
more the purpose of giving a skillful player the opportunity to be heard
... than to be used for the rendering of passions," a stern judgment given
Sulzer's conviction that expressing emotion was tantamount to a moral
responsibility in the arts (quoted in Koch 1983:209). Koch countered by
imagining soloist and accompaniment as partners in a "passionate dialogue,"
in which the soloist "expresses his feelings to the orchestra, and it signals
him through short interspersed phrases sometimes approval, sometimes
acceptance of his expression ... by a concerto I imagine something similar
to the tragedy of the ancients, where the actor expressed his feelings not
towards the pit, but to the chorus" (quoted in Keefe, 17-18). While not
always agreeing that what soloist and orchestra share are feelings, many
subsequent writers would echo Koch's description of the concerto as
conversation or drama. No works have been more affected than his ideal,
the concertos of Mozart.



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November 16, 2014