19-02-2019

Tuesday 19. February 2019 18.30 Uhr — Bern, Mittelstrasse 43, Raum 120

Cliff Eisen (London)
Mozart‘s ‚late‘ chamber music and the idea of late ‚style‘

SMG Sektion Bern

In his essay ‘Timeliness and Lateness’, Edward Said describes two types of ‘late style’ as formulated by Adorno: one that is harmonious and crowns a lifetime of artistic endeavour, and another characterized by ‘intransigence, difficulty and unresolved contradiction’. Yet Mozart, while widely seen as having had a ‘late style’, or ‘late period’, fits neither of these models. Instead, Mozart seems – biographically and musically speaking – to have ‘crowned’ his artistic life with the works of the mid-1780s and what followed was a terminal decline interrupted by only two transcendental works, the Requiem and Die Zauberflöte. This decline from 1788-1791 is integral to the traditional biographical narrative of Mozart’s life: plagued by illness, poverty and unpopularity, his music – so the story goes – remained technically perfect but spiritually enfeebled. But there is another way to think about this period in Mozart’s life (even leaving aside the inaccuracy of the traditional biographical narrative): that the works he composed, and the chamber music in particular, represent not a decline but a changing aesthetic. Accordingly, they are not enfeebled but something new, and what has been construed as ‘late’ – and by implication ‘final’ – was in fact in media res. I examine this notion with respect to Mozart’s late chamber music in particular.

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