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Ornamentation in Mozart’s concert arias for Aloysia Weber: the traditions of singing and embellishment Dorenfeld, Joanne Williamson

Abstract

The concert arias of Mozart actually include not only arias written specifically for concert but also interpolations which subsequently assumed the character of concert arias. Those in the following study were written for Aloysia Weber, Mozart's first love and, later, his sister-in-law. These arias are interesting for a number of reasons: First, the fact that they are seldom performed today raises questions about singing technique in the late eighteenth century. Second, the musical requirements which fostered this technique must have been grounded in a tradition of embellishment--a subject worthy of investigation. Third, the concert arias are an example of the close connection between melody and instrument in this period; what was the nature of the voice for which they were written? Fourth, these arias were fully notated at a time when the singer was generally expected to improvise. They are a written record of Classical ornamentation and are therefore a good choice for the study. The method used is as follows: The singing tradition according to which Weber and Mozart were trained is examined. After this discussion follows a chapter on the tradition of ornamentation, which influenced Mozart's melodic writing. Mozart's approach to composition and notation is then described. Finally, the melodies are analyzed through the process of de-ornamentation. A per-formable edition of a concert aria from which all ornamentation has been removed is included. The thesis yields the following conclusions: First, tastes in singing style change from century to century, and these preferences affect the aspects of pedagogy which are emphasized in any given age. Second, the pieces reflect a preference for bright, florid melodies and high, flexible voices. Third, Mozart was complete in his notation for a number of reasons: 1) orchestral accompaniment is necessary in the sections of free ornamentation; 2) Mozart wrote the arias for Aloysia Weber and for particular performances in most instances; 3) by creating a fine composition Mozart showed himself to best advantage over the Italian musicians with whom he felt an intense rivalry. Fourth, late eighteenth-century ornamentation can be divided into two groups--specific ornaments and free ornamentation. Classical ornamentation differs from Baroque in two important respects: 1) in Baroque melodies ornaments are mere frills, but Classical ornaments are so organic to the style that most Mozart melodies would be unthinkable without them; 2) whereas Baroque free ornamentation usually fills in spaces between chord tones, Classical embellishment reinforces structural points. The performable edition mentioned above resembles a simple nineteenth-century cantabile aria, illustrating the basic difference between the later style and that of Mozart.

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