how to listen to music if you don’t know your Beethoven from your Bach, Vll (cont.)

by richibi

The Music Lesson, c.1769 - Jean-Honore Fragonard


          The Music Lesson” (c.1769)


              Jean-Honoré Fragonard




having spent too much time, perhaps,

giving context, from Classicism to

Romanticismin my last communication

brought on by the worlds that open up

to me when l Iisten to this kind of music,

rather than imparting specific information

about how to sharpen one’s aesthetic

sensitivity, about listening rather than

just hearing, this time I’ll get technical,

if you’ll allow, with the help of the same

two pieces, Mozart’s 16th piano sonata,

Chopin’s 3rd, how are they different,

how are they similar, how do they



first, similarities, they are both sonatas,

pieces of music consisting of more than

one segment of music, traditionally, three

or four, Mozart here has three, Chopin



Chopin doesn’t diverge from the trinity

of imperatives that Mozart set up

during the Classical period, tempo,

tonality, and repetition, the pace of

the music remains constant within

the parameters established by the

directions at the top of the page,

an adagio doesn’t change its beat

throughout the movement for either,

nor would an andante, a presto, an



this will change


neither does any element of the

music produce discords, tonality

remains mellifluous throughout

for both, lilting, harmonious ever,

even often, in either, enchanting


this will also change


and everywhere, a flight of musical

invention will eventually return to

its original source, and you find 

that you’ve come back from a sonic

adventure to home base, where the

whole thing starts all over again,

repetition, a condition considered

essential, until relatively recently,

to  the definition of music


this will also change


but how are they different


listen to the decoration, Mozart

applies trills to individual notes,

a flutter of adjacent tonalities 

to set the central one off, like

glitter, the twitter of birds

punctuating, here and there, 

the stillness of a forest


Chopin colours his entire

keyboard with arpeggios rather,

runs up and down the scales,

turning melodies into not only

delights, but stepping stones to

entirely other dimensions,

extrapolations from the original

tune, seemingly spontaneous

evolutions, the first burgeonings,

incidentally, of jazz, before returning,

notably, to his original air, much as

Mozart does, to his core statement,

fulfilling the Classical requirement

of repetition


here’s Mozart, trilling


here’s Chopin, arpeggiating


how to tell your Chopin from your

Mozart, how to sharpen your

aesthetic sensibility, listenlisten



R ! chard