Mozart and the Keyboard Culture
of His Time
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.
© 2002 Division of Rare & Manuscript