Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time

Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time
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After achieving pan-European fame as a child prodigy, Mozart became perhaps the greatest keyboard player and composer of his time. A wealth of sources survives concerning the instruments, playing techniques, and social circumstances that gave rise to his music and the music of his contemporaries. "Mozart and the Keyboard Culture of His Time" presents a collection of documents and objects that illuminate how this music was performed and understood in Mozart's time and in the two hundred fifty years since.

The composition of a piece of music, from the sketch of an idea through its development into a finished work, is only the beginning of the process. Performers in each era come to the music with time- and place-bound understandings about what a musical text means. In each period, performers, music theorists, editors, and writers of didactic texts codify currently understood meanings, helping later performers and scholars trace how musical tastes and practices change over time. Modern performers interested in historically informed performance practice study these texts in the hope of better understanding how to approach a work.

Although a number of authentic portraits of Mozart next to a keyboard instrument exist, there are almost none showing him in the act of playing. Over the years these portraits have been reproduced and modified. Mozart at the piano becomes a “missing” image in the 19th-century imagination, creating a void that well-meaning fantasists and outright forgers fill by mislabeling older art works and creating new ones. The image of Mozart has come to symbolize excellence, but has also degenerated into kitsch. The marriage of these two extremes can be seen in the wide assortment of items bearing his name or picture.

This exhibition is a joint production of Cornell’s Department of Music, the Sidney Cox Library of Music and Dance, and Cornell Library’s Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections. It is organized in conjunction with the Second Biennial Conference of the Mozart Society of America, to be held at Cornell University March 27-30, 2003.

Exhibition Curators: Augustus Arnone, Lenore Coral, Emily Dolan, Wiebke Thormählen, and Neal Zaslaw.

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Watercolor of Leopold Mozart and his two children. Paris, November 1763, by Louis de Carmontelle.
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continue to
From Sketch to Completed Work

From Sketch to Completed Work
From Print to CD
How did Mozart Compose?
The Mozart Myth: Tales of a Forgery
Mozart's Images
Mozart's Images Imagined
What the Score Doesn't Tell Us
The Piano Lesson
The Cult of Mozart
Commodification & Kitsch
Cornell University Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections Cornell University Library

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