Leo Samama.

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Mozart and the 20th century

a paper by Leo Samama
from the book:
Mozart and the Netherlands (p. 159)

This is certainly one of the most intriguing papers of the whole book. The idea of tracking down the series of all the direct quotes and/or stylistic features-adaptations of Mozart's works throughout the whole music production by all the composers from the 1900s to the 21th century is already, by itself, an intriguing idea. If then you are going to see and explain how the major composers of the 19th and the 20th century operated on Mozart's works, in order to re-create their own system of music reference to Mozart, the music historians, the musicologists and the composers well know that this article is a real treasure-trove of technical details about the various forms of music quotation and borrowing and of style re-working.

Samama moves the first steps of his journey by establishing the definition of the four main methods of Music Referencing:
      1. tradition;
      2. style;
      3. antefacta (meaning the use of pre-existing music and sounds);
      4. non musical influences.
While the habit of Mozart (and of other composers of his Era) of borrowing music and style ideas is rather well documented (see, for example, the article of this book written by Flothuis on Mozart and the Haydns), it is a fact that it is not always really perspicuous when, where and how the most modern composers operated on Mozart and on his music and also why: and here does the work by Samama begin.

After a preamble on the borrowing/model relationship between Mozart and a group of composers such as Beethoven, Spohr, Mendelssohn, Schubert and Chopin, Samama starts analyzing the Mozart influenced production of Tchaikovsky and the various aesthetical discussions which led the composers of the 20th century to see Mozart and his music under various different lights: now Mozart is a Romantic author, now a Classical author, now a naive melancholic author, now a light-hearted author, now even an angelic author etc.
      In this very peculiar aesthetical context, where the strictly historical and philological approach has not reached his well deserved status yet, we see the technical analysis of Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari's music and his own idea of Mozartianism in music.
      Then Samama treats Richard Strauss and his complex and highly sophisticated world of music writing and his totally peculiar method of inserting the Mozart elements in his own music, as also revealed by an accurate reading of Strauss's writings on Mozart and Melody. So Strauss's target is now to build an apparent utterly diverse music, which has, in reality, well disguised and even subliminal Mozartian roots.
      But Busoni certainly managed to reach a central position in this process of Mozart reference treatment. The theoretical and aesthetical analysis of the music of the Divine Master (i.e. Mozart) will lead Busoni to various experiments which see the use of transparent instrumentations, musical figures directly derived from Don Giovanni, the use of the Mozartian sixte ajouté but in a general context that is technical modern.

The French school of composers is also strongly attracted by Mozart and his music and so we see Camille Saint-Saens, Ravel and Poulenc re-working, in a personal manner, elements intentionally derived from Mozart.

Stravinsky himself feels the necessity of a direct confrontation with the old master, in particular, for his Rake's Progress inspired by the cycle by Hogarth.

The idea of Mozart as a music model or music reference well survives in the 1950s, when his music remains a fundamental model of style more than of technique before the heavy experimentation on dodecaphony.

From here the technical journey of Samama moves towards the contemporary music, by operating a necessary selection of cases of study: John Cage (and his HPSCHD 1967-1969), the controversial operation of Rochberg (1965: i.e. is adaptation art creation?) up to the most controversial political exploitation of Mozart's Don Giovanni as a whole carried on by a group of Dutch students of the Royal Conservatory in The Hague (1968/1969).
S. & L.M. Jennarelli