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.

There are 7 responses to “Cooking up a cadenza”

  1. It’s amazing Deborah! Congratulations!

  2. The site is so beautiful! Love the pics, my favorite is the one with you laughing in the “MEET” section. I had a gorgeous time sampling the music with a cup of white tea. Congrats, you have finally joined the mass www and it will open up so much for you….look out! Much love, Jennifer.

  3. What a gorgeous website! I love your pictures and prose. I’m only sorry I won’t be able to hear you play your cadenza for the Mozart Concerto. I’m assuming (and hoping) you’ll post it on the website.

    Keep up the great work…I’ll forward this site to all the music afficionados in my life.

  4. Your website is beautiful, Debra. Stunning design and photos — I love that you are incorporating a blog. The first post is terrific–beautifully written and informative. I look forward to checking back in to read more, and to listen.

  5. tThank you for sharing this fascinating description on your involvement in the revival of this historical opera house, the people who made it happen and your performance there. I loved hearing about how you approached the writing of your cadenzas. How good it is of you to let us, listeners and admirers, explore the mind of a very dedicated, creative, productive person who brings so much pleasure and color to our lives.

  6. The way you have described this is very thorough. I will link your blog page to mine.

  7. Hi, Debbie! You know that I love all of your work: the music, the teaching, your novels. I hopw that this comment reaches you, as I am new to blogging.