Now, many of you might be wondering, “He skipped No. 37. Why did he do that?” That is because, technically, “his” Symphony No. 37 is not his. He took it from a composer friend named Michael Haydn, and all Mozart did with the piece was add an introduction to the first movement. So, we are going to skip that and venture a few years later, when Mozart’s career was still at its height. Mozart premiered this symphony in Prague, which is where people absolutely loved Mozart. In fact, it was his opera, “Le Nozze di Figaro,” or “The Marriage of Figaro,” that received the most praise out of all his works. He claimed that people in the streets would only be talking about or even singing tunes from his critically acclaimed opera. That is why the main motif of the last movement is probably the most interesting out of everything in this symphony; Mozart cleverly adds an easter egg that relates to Figaro. There is a very frantic duet (“Aprite, presto, aprite”) between the characters, Susanna and Cherubino, where Cherubino ends up jumping out of a window to escape Count Almaviva (Don’t worry. This opera is a comedy, so he survives!). These scurrying, syncopated motifs that are throughout this short duet appear in the Prague Symphony’s final movement and are actually the central motifs of the whole movement. It is really cool that Mozart left that hidden detail for the people of Prague, as it must have brought them so much joy when they recognized the familiar theme. The top image is the beginning of the frantic duet from my Dad’s score of “Le Nozze di Figaro,” and the second image is the beginning of the Finale from my score of the Prague Symphony. Listen to both of these pieces, even if it is just the beginning of each, and one can hear the motivic similarities.
Symphony No. 38 (“Prague”)
I have now really started to delve deep into the textbook, which now has gone over all the basic techniques for conducting, such as what each hand is used for, how to conduct in different meters, and how to balance the different techniques all at once. I did not realize before that there are many ways to beat patterns that have more than four beats. I have also been working a lot on one of Mozart’s most famous works, Symphony No. 40. I will soon be making a post on the Prague Symphony (No. 38), which shows a more contrapuntal side to Mozart. Hopefully, I can meet with the Jordan High School’s theater teacher, Mrs. Bellido, about their musical. I wish I can say that my work was more extensive, but instead, it was very focused on those things. Let’s see what this week has in store!
Symphony No. 36 (“Linz”)
This second of the late symphonies was composed in 1783, when he was traveling back home to Vienna from Salzburg and made a quick stop at Linz. In my opinion, this is an underrated piece of music, and actually, it is my favorite of all of Mozart’s symphonies. There is so much in this symphony one could talk about: its gripping introduction and energetic, march-like first movement, the wonderful and graceful slow movement, the aristocratic minuet, and the fun finale full of counterpoint. My favorite movement of this symphony is the Poco Adagio movement. It is in the form of a Siciliano, which was a dance that was in the compound meter (6/8 in this case) and evoked a natural or pastoral quality. However, the movement I will focus on for this time is the finale, where I got to connect two pieces that I know and love. I have played and loved his Piano Sonata No. 13 for years now. Coincidently, this piece was also given the name the “Linz” Sonata, as they were both written on his short stop when returning home to Vienna. Both of these pieces are not only connected by name, but also by the actual music too. There is one specific quotation of his sonata that he makes in the finale of his symphony, which is actually a specific motif used throughout the sonata. The first image below is the sonata, and the second image is the symphony. Look at how similar the notes’ patterns are. I encourage everyone to listen to these two pieces (the First Movement of Sonata No. 13 in B Flat Major and the Fourth Movement of Symphony No. 36 in C Major), and look out for these passages. I have not figured out how to make recordings of certain pieces yet to put them on the blog, but I’ll try to get that figured out for next time.
Unfortunately, there were a lot of things that I could not get to this week. For example, I couldn’t see Mr. Meyer’s rehearsal with Instrumental Ensemble, and I didn’t get to go to my father’s rehearsal. Therefore, it was a slower week. However, I made immense progress on my studies of Mozart’s Symphony No. 39. I still have to make posts about No. 36 and No. 38, but this has been a good week to work on intense score studying. Also, I had my second big meeting with Mr. Meyer yesterday about the progress I have made so far, and about the questions I had throughout watching him rehearse both the In The Pocket Advanced Ensemble and the Instrumental Ensemble from last week. I talked to him about a comment that he made about non-wind instruments, where he said that the breaths that wind instruments take should match up with breaths (in this case, breaks or silences) for non-wind instruments because the ensemble can make more of a cohesive sound through this. He explained to me that even though the ensemble was just going through scales and warmups, they could still play as musically as they would if they were playing an actual piece of music. Overall, this has been a good week, but it could have been better. My next post will probably be about Mozart’s Symphony No. 36, so stay in tune for that!
Symphony No. 35 (“Haffner”)
The first of Mozart’s late symphonies was written for a commission from his childhood friend, Sigmund Haffner, who was going through a process of ennoblement. This symphony does not shy back from its monarch-like and aristocratic nature, as all the movements have some sort of royal aspect to them; the first movement has the great boldness of a monarch, the second movement has a gentle and rich atmosphere to it, the third movement is an almost imperial and forceful form, and the fourth movement is full of celebration and triumph. This symphony took me almost a full year to annotate it, since I wanted every one of my notes to be perfect. Through this process, I have learned more about how to mark up a score, and how those skills will help me become better prepared when I’m studying for my performances. To show you what I spend a lot of my time doing, I will post the first page of my score to the “Haffner” Symphony. Now, with this score, there are probably an excessive amount of notes because of this being my first time to actually mark up a score. Many of the notes on the bottom of the staff lines are music theory notes, which a conductor doesn’t always need to use. (However, it is important for any musician to have a basic knowledge of music theory.) In this category, I will end the post with one thing in each score I have studied that really sticks out and makes the music interesting and cool. I’ve circled a lot of the dotted rhythms because of their relevance to nobility. It was common back then that when a dotted rhythm was used, it signified royalty or triumph, which always was associated with the person in power. Since this symphony was dedicated to a nobleman, the dotted rhythms can be found everywhere, as it certainly fits the occasion.
Mozart’s Late Symphonies
What would my life be without Mozart? He has given me so much: my first opera, my favorite opera, and these wonderful symphonies that have been the first scores I have annotated. I have marked up three of his symphonies now! There is a huge difference between just reading a score and actually studying a score. I love reading scores, but I really love studying them. Note-taking or annotating can be a boring process for some in different subjects, but for me, drenching my scores in notes has been one of the most challenging things I have ever done, and it never bores me. Even though my head can hurt really badly and it is a lot of work, this will help me become better prepared for when I may conduct these pieces. I would certainly hope to do the later symphonies of Mozart because they are so fundamental in the symphony repertoire. They may not be as big as Beethoven’s Nine Symphonies, but they are surely important in how they strengthened the Classical Era as a whole. These will be the first scores that I will talk about on this blog, and hopefully, we can move on to the Beethoven Symphonies after! My next post, which will come out soon, will be on the very first score I ever marked up, the “Haffner” Symphony (No. 35).
More of the interactive parts have been coming into place! I have started to read “The Grammar of Conducting” textbook, which has been going over many of the basic techniques that is common knowledge to many conductors (how to beat four, keeping time, etc). I also got the opportunity to watch one of my father’s rehearsals at Duke. However, there might be a break from seeing Maestro Davidson conduct, since he is currently ill right now; hopefully, he’ll be back in no time! Yesterday, I had my first meeting with Mr. Nabors from Vox Virorum. We talked about the future plans for this choir, as this group is having a delayed start because of Covid. He even told me that he might let me lead rehearsals, depending on how far the choir can reach as a group this year. Finally, I got in contact with the theater teacher at Jordan, Mrs. Olivia Bellido, to check in on how the musical production at Jordan High School will work this year, as I might help lead some of the music there. I will soon be making posts on my score studies that I do by myself. Look out for that in the weeks ahead!
Duke Rehearsal #1
I am so glad and honored that I got the chance to watch a symphony rehearsal done by Maestro Harry Davidson. To fully study my father’s conducting techniques for rehearsal in detail made me feel so happy. There is one particular section of a piece that he rehearsed that I would like to share some observations about. Firstly, the piece which he was rehearsing last night was the Fifth Symphony of Felix Mendelssohn, also known as the “Reformation” Symphony. The specific section I will be focusing on is the coda of the first movement. Just for clarification, a coda is the ending passage of a piece, typically that is used after completing the basic parts of the most common structure in the Classical Era, sonata form. The technique that I looked into the most that my dad used was when he was conducting was how much clearer he made his beats when the coda reached its fast tempo. To keep the strings together, who were playing rapid scales, he made his beats much more strict and direct. When Maestro Davidson made this instinctive choice, the strings could much better follow a stricter tempo and play more together. It was exciting when they got it right, and all because of that little difference in the manner of conducting technique. I want to leave this post with a quote from my father, which was for the students to play with more musicality: “We want to play music, not notes.”
This week was more of getting everything ready for many of the processes and studies I will start for the weeks ahead. I wrote an email to Mr. Nabors, who leads a men’s choir called Vox Virorum. I’m going to try to see if I can get into rehearsals with him to study how he conducts his choir, as choir conducting can have its own style. Also, I obtained my conducting textbook called, “The Grammar of Conducting” by Max Rudolf. For the future weeks ahead, I will start going to rehearsals with the Duke Symphony Orchestra, which is where my father, Harry Davidson, conducts, and I will be regularly attending Instrumental Ensemble with Mr. Meyer and afterwards have a discussion about what I have been taking note of. Everything is coming into place, and it’s so exciting!!
Hello Music Lovers!! My name is Avery Davidson, and I am aspiring to be a conductor. This blog will be used for describing what I do for my Independent Study, which is on the subject of conducting. Through this study, I will be looking at what makes a great conductor and how does a conductor do their job. I am hoping that this study in the end will not only make my ambitions stronger, but also make me a better musician all around. Can’t wait to get started!!!