Posts for:  October 2009

Cooking up a cadenza

scribblings with pumpkin

scribblings with pumpkin

I’m performing Mozart’s inimitably effervescent Concerto Nr. 21 in C Major, K. 467, in a couple weeks’ time. Although Mozart performed this concerto at its premier in 1787, he did not write down the five cadenzas that he no doubt improvised on the spot during the performance. Hence, modern pianists are left to use some other composer’s cadenzas or write their own. I enjoy writing my own. However, when I dug out what I’d written for my last performance of this piece, I realized that the long cadenza I’d penned (or — more accurately –penciled) for the first movement sounded rather confused. I decided I’d like to write a new one.

A cadenza has to fulfill certain structural parameters while allowing the composer/performer a chance to indulge in some individual musical fun. Like any creative endeavor, sometimes it flows easily, like it did for four out of five of the cadenzas I’d already written, and sometimes it is a struggle, like for this first movement problem child.

Seeking inspiration, I discovered among my shelves Beethoven’s cadenza for Mozart’s concerto in D Minor. It is quintessentially Beethovian – dramatic and virile, while not out of line with Mozart’s own style. I also found a book of Mozart cadenzas I’d bought after browsing in the late Joseph Patelson Music House behind Carnegie Hall (whose closing I will discuss in a future post.)

Ah, Mozart. Those cadenzas. Upon examining them, I found that Mozart keeps his framework rather simple: the key modulations are never crazy, the technical parts are not wildly boastful, he doesn’t throw in a kitchen sink full of re-worked themes. The cadenzas aren’t very long. But within a logical structure of chord progressions, he creates unexpected, fresh moments that are simply gorgeous. He probably didn’t have to slave over them, either!

It’s taken me several days, but I think I have a cadenza I really like. I do foray into a few more modern chord progressions than is strictly Kosher for classical style, but that’s all part of the fun. We’ll see if the audience likes it.