MOZART AND BEETHOVEN COMPARED
Above all else, I wish people would have the courage to say what they
really think about music, and not be so eternally worried over what
somebody else may think and say."
- - - Sigmund Spaeth 1933
The partisan comparisons of the relative merits of Mozart and Beethoven have continued
for over a Century. There are the fervent Mozartians, who become enraged at the suggestion that Beethoven's music has more substance than Mozart's, and insist that Mozart's
music has an altogether more lofty quality than Beethoven's crudities. But there are just
as fervent Beethovians, who dismiss the Mozart piano sonatas as mere nger exercises,
suitable only for warming up before playing Beethoven. Indeed, there is a very di erent
quality to their music, which cannot be explained merely by supposing that Beethoven used
greater dynamic and rhythmic excursions; both used the full range of dynamics, tempo,
and pitch that was possible on the pianos available to them. In this Chapter we shall try
to describe and explain the di erence in other terms, and make some comments on the
performance of their piano music.
Today Mozart seems to be winning this, at least as judged by mass communications output;
in the late 20'th Century we have seen an explosive increase in Mozartiana , from Mozart
festivals, to mostly Mozart" concerts, to the TV documentary The Mozart Mystique "
narrated by Peter Ustinov, another by Andr
Previn, the movie Amadeus", . All of
this is presumably intended to inform the general public about Mozart and his music, by
almost hysterical e usions about the marvelous music he wrote. There is even a science
ction episode in which, many Centuries from now, the rediscovery of Mozart's music
changes the course of civilization. We do not seem to have any comparable attention to
But we feel that this Mozart hype has been overdone to the point where it has defeated
its own purpose,...