Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756–1791) Symphony [No. 39] in Eb major K. 543
Urtext edited by Cliff Eisen [orch] duration: 29'
126.96.36.199. – 188.8.131.52. – timp – str
Urtext braves negligently notated autograph
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Mozart's late E flat major Symphony was written in 1788, presumably for subscription concerts that ultimately did not take place. The new edition is based on the sole extant authentic source, the autograph from the Biblioteka Jagiellónska in Krakow. Unfortunately, the manuscript was notated negligently and faultily, which forced the editor to make frequent decisions about whether Mozart did or did not intend different articulations at many passages. Cliff Eisen's editorial competence was a major asset here.
The symphony K. 543 is the first of a trilogy of symphonies composed by Mozart in the late spring and summer of 1788 and entered in his thematic catalogue with the following dates: K. 543 on 26 June 1788, K. 550 on 25 July 1788 and K. 551 on 10 August 1788. Taken as a whole, these three works, together with Haydn’s contemporaneous and slightly later symphonies, represent a high point in the history of the genre.
Mozart’s reasons for composing this trilogy of symphonies are unknown. It was traditionally thought that they were written out of an inner compositional compulsion and never performed by the composer during his lifetime. As such they reinforced the biographical notion that Mozart had withdrawn from Viennese musical life, either by choice or because he had been abandoned by the fickle Viennese public, and that, musically, he pursued a higher abstract ideal. More recently, this romantic idea has given way to more mundane explanations. David Wyn Jones argues that the trilogy may have been written in response to Haydn’s recently-published “Paris” symphonies and that Mozart similarly hoped to publish his own works.1 More commonly, it is also thought that Mozart planned a series of subscription concerts in the summer (or possibly the autumn) of 1788 and that the symphonies were intended for them. The evidence for this assertion derives chiefly from an undated letter, usually assigned to June 1788, to Mozart’s Masonic brother Michael Puchberg: “I still owe you 8 ducats – but although at the moment I’m not in a position to pay you back, I nevertheless trust in you so much that I dare ask for your help with 100 florins until next week (when my Casino academies begin) – by then I will absolutely have my subscription money in hand and easily be able to pay you 136 florins with my warmest thanks.”2 It seems likely, in any case, that Mozart intended to perform the works, as a manuscript copy of the symphony K. 550, now in the Landeskonservatorium, Graz, shows.3 Mozart later had opportunities to perform the works as well, on his trips in 1789 or in Vienna after his return.4 Whether he did so or not is unknown, but it seems likely.
Edition and Performing Practice
The present edition is based on the sole surviving authentic source for K. 543, Mozart’s autograph score, and the conviction that Mozart’s scores represent not only the “substance” of his works but also – in a very real sense – actual performances. A Fassung letzter Hand is scarcely possible: as his autographs (and, where they survive, performing copies), show, more often than not, Mozart revised a work when playing it again. For this reason, sources – including even those deriving from him – do not necessarily document the successive deterioration of a “fixed” text (even if they include copying errors) but, rather, successive moments in a work’s performance history. Seen in this light, many traditional editorial “problems’, among them non-uniformity of slurring and dynamics, can be understood as representing either deliberate differences and variations (an essential element of Mozart’s style) or various performing options. In those instances where sources can be accurately dated, or the various chronological layers of an autograph unravelled, a “performance history” emerges. This history shows that Mozart expected variety in performance: the imperative to interpret is both explicit and implicit in his notation.
In order to give as clear an indication as possible of Mozartian practice, the characteristic notation of the autograph – closer to the essence of the work than the normative limitations of modernized notation – has as a rule been preserved. This is especially the case in those instances where the peculiarities of Mozart’s notation carry performance implications:
- dual-stemming to indicate not only divisi but also the polyphonic basis of some of the writing;
- Mozart’s beaming, which frequently separates individual notes or groups of notes from larger groups to articulate phrase structure and accentuation; and
- combinations of ties and slurs in succession, rather than ties subsumed under lengthy slurs.
Slurs have not been added automatically to connect appoggiaturas to main notes and trills to passing notes. Although Leopold Mozart prescribed the universal application of slurs from appoggiaturas to main notes,5 the evidence of Wolfgang’s autographs and performing parts, as well as the musical contexts, suggests that for him this may not always have been the case, at least from the 1770s on. Similarly, articulation has not been transferred as a matter of course from strings, or strings and woodwinds, to other wind parts when they are not notated in the autograph. This affects the horn parts in particular, which in many modern editions are assigned articulations from the oboes or other parts that they double (or nearly double). Yet the horn parts are rarely articulated in Mozart’s autographs or his performing parts and there is little reason to assume that Mozart always intended them to follow the norms of woodwind articulation. For similar reasons, I have also refrained from adding articulations at parallel passages, except where there is autograph evidence that such articulation was expected.
As a general rule, Mozart notates dynamics to the left of the notes to which they apply, using the common 18th-century forms pia: (p:) and for: ( f:), in which the colon denotes abbreviation. The simplified notation that invariably appears in standard printed editions occurs infrequently in his earlier manuscripts, often for later and sometimes hasty additions to the text; letter designations are more characteristic of the late Vienna years.
The placement and execution of Mozart’s dynamics often pose vexing problems: the normative use of simplified dynamics, uncontroversial though it may seem, often engenders difficulties when Mozart’s dynamics straddle several notes. In placing them where Mozart’s pia: or for: begin, rather than where they end, editors may prescribe a dynamic change up to several notes too early.
Although sharp contrasts of dynamics are integral to Mozart’s style, the content and character of his music sometimes suggest the possibility of mediation between dynamics, even where no crescendo or decrescendo is marked. In such cases, the dynamics may serve to denote the moment at which a new level is reached, or to indicate phrase shape, rather than an abrupt shift. A case in point can be seen in the first movement at mm. 97 and 254. At m. 97 Mozart writes sfp for the horns, trumpets and strings except the violoncellos and double basses, which have sf on the downbeat and p at the second beat. At the parallel passage, m. 254, Mozart omits the p for the trumpets, violins and violas, reproduces the previous notation in the violoncellos and double basses, and writes sfp for the horns while the latter p unlike the violoncellos and double basses is not separated though stretching to the second beat as well. The notation appears to suggest a diminuendo among all the parts, rather than a sharp accent followed by a change in dynamic. A similar situation can be found in the Andante con moto at m. 38, where, in the violins, Mozart’s pia: ends only with the second beat (and is placed there in this edition). The suggestion that this represents a diminuendo seems to be confirmed by the horns where Mozart writes f on the downbeat but attached to an elongated pia that stretches to the middle of the measure.
Clarity of articulation is a central attribute of Mozart’s style, borne out through details of his slurs and staccato markings. There is still controversy over the question whether Mozart used two signs, the dot and the stroke, for his staccati, as well as the intended meaning of the two.6 Furthermore, a short, light articulation is only one meaning of the notation: it can also indicate a more weighty articulation akin to the later accent sign (>), which does not appear in Mozart’s manuscripts. His father’s violin treatise mentions only the stroke. Given my belief that Mozart wrote strokes almost exclusively (even if through haste in writing these sometimes approximate dots; the one consistent exception is dots under slurs, indicating portato), and in order to avoid drawing distinctions between dots and strokes that can easily become arbitrary, the sign is rendered as a stroke in the present edition. It is left to the performer to determine which type of execution is appropriate given the character and context.
Among all Mozart symphony autographs, K. 543 is the sloppiest: the consistency of articulation is problematic in numerous places, Mozart often writes incorrect pitches, or notates instrumental lines on the wrong staves. Indeed, the autograph of the symphony gives the distinct impression of haste or inattentiveness, though why that should be – the autograph of the “Jupiter” symphony K. 551, composed at nearly the same time – is clean, despite the complexity of the material – remains unclear. Nevertheless, two passages in K. 543 require special notice. In the Andante con moto, the articulation of the “main theme” is consistent between mm. 1–3 and 20–22. But the notation is not consistent with other occurrence of the thematic material, especially at mm. 87–89, 144–146 and 168–170. It may be that the differences are intentional, representing different performing options. Given the general disorder of the autograph, however, the differences may be accidental. Second, the question of strokes for the fifth and sixth notes of the main theme of the final Allegro is problematic. Although generally added in editions, they are entirely lacking throughout the movement except for the first violin at m. 153. Again, the haste with which the autograph was apparently written may suggest that Mozart’s simply failed to enter the articulation here as completely as he does in other late symphony autographs. Accordingly, the decision to add articulation here and through the Finale, or to standardize or not the articulation in the second movement, is up to the performer.
More detailed information concerning the autograph and editorial decisions is contained in the Critical Report, which the reader is encouraged to consult.
New York, Spring 2011
1) David Wyn Jones, Why did Mozart compose his last three symphonies? in: The Music Review 51 (1990), pp. 280–289.
2) Wilhelm Bauer, Otto Erich Deutsch, Joseph Heinz Eibl and Ulrich Konrad, ed., Mozart. Briefe und Aufzeichnungen, Kassel, 1962–2005, vol. IV, p. 65.
3) It not only includes autograph corrections in the parts, but also both versions of the symphony and must have been copied sometime between the summer of 1788 and the spring of 1789. See Cliff Eisen, Another look at the “corrupt passage“ in Mozart’s g minor symphony, K. 550, in: Early Music 25 (August 1997), pp. 373–381. Further evidence can be found in the autographs of the symphonies K. 543 and 551, where Mozart marks the number of measures at longer rests in the trumpets and timpani parts. Presumably, these marks were meant for the copyist as an orientation when copying the parts.
4) Dresden, 30 March 1789; Leipzig, 12 May 1789; Frankfurt, 15 October 1789; Mainz, 20 October 1790; and Vienna, 16 and 17 April 1791. See Mozart. Die Dokumente seines Lebens, collected and annotated by O. E. Deutsch, Kassel etc., 1961, NMA X/34, pp. 300, 305, 329, 331 und 344f.
5) Leopold Mozart, A Treatise on the Fundamental Principles of Violin Playing, transl. by Editha Knocker, Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, 1948, p. 166. It is worth noting, however, that the examples in Leopold Mozart’s Violinschule frequently dispense with slurs from grace notes to main notes.
6) See Frederick Neumann, Dots and strokes in Mozart, in: Early Music 21 (August 1993), pp. 429–435; Clive Brown, Dots and strokes in late 18th- and early 19th-century music, in: Early Music 21 (November 1993), pp. 593–610; Wolf-Dieter Seiffert, Punkt und Strich bei Mozart, in: Musik als Text. Bericht über den internationalen Kongreß der Gesellschaft für Musikforschung Freiburg i. Br. 1993, ed. by Hermann Danuser and Tobias Plebuch, vol. 2: Freie Referate, Kassel etc., 1999, pp. 133–143.