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‘What's my Line?’ Performing Meaning in Mozart's Chamber Music

  • John Irving


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1 Nicholas Cook, Beyond the Score: Music as Performance (New York: Oxford University Press, 2014).

2 Nicholas Cook, ‘Between Process and Product: Music and/as Performance’, Music Theory Online, 7/2 (April 2001), <>, ¶ [15].

3 Ibid., ¶ [29].

4 Mozart: A Documentary Biography, ed. Otto Erich Deutsch (London: Adam & Charles Black, 1965), 530.

5 Mozart ‘Kegelstatt’ Trio, K.498: An Eighteenth-Century Conversation, Ensemble DeNOTE (Optic Nerve films, 2012). Also viewable on iTunes U through the Institute of Musical Research, University of London: <>.

6 I understand that Klorman became aware of my ‘Kegelstatt’ DVD only at a very late stage in the production of his book; while it is referenced there, his exploration of multiple agency and my own similar explorations on film are independent. Our physical disposition in the DVD closely resembles, however, the picture represented in Klorman's Fig. 1.3 (on p. 8), as we are facing inwards and conversing with each other, rather than declaiming into a concert hall.

7 Plato, Phaedrus, trans. Alexander Nehamas and Paul Woodruff (Indianapolis, IN, and Cambridge: Hackett, 1995), 274e–275b. The most influential of modern philosophical treatments of phármakon's ambiguous boundaries is of course Jacques Derrida, ‘Plato's Pharmacy’, Dissemination, trans. Barbara Johnson (Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press, 1981), 63–171.

8 For instance, his musical examples do not deal with variant readings of dynamics and articulations between different early sources (which might suggest to performers contrasting ways of imagining and subsequently creating a conversational narrative in rehearsal or performance), but takes a single authoritative source (for example, from the Neue Mozart Ausgabe) as a single conceptual reference.

9 This is especially the case if the parts have no rehearsal letters or bar numbers, in which case musically sensible reference points (cadences, a change of key, the recapitulation of a significant theme and so on) become the only usable landmarks.

10 Reported in Dika Newlin, Schoenberg Remembered: Diaries and Recollections (1938–76) (New York: Pendragon Press, 1980), 164. Nicholas Cook, Music, Imagination and Culture (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1990), 226–7, contextualizes Schoenberg's statement against some of his earlier writings.

11 Ironically, perhaps, the notion that a piece of music exists absolutely, intrinsically, is encountered routinely in programme notes and CD sleeve notes – two circumstances in which the sound of the music, created by performers performing meaning in real time, is paramount.

12 Arnold Schoenberg, Fundamentals of Musical Composition, ed. Gerald Strang and Leonard Stein (London: Faber & Faber, 1967).

13 Ibid., Exx. 116 and 117 (on pp. 146–8), with supporting prose commentary on p. 142.

14 Schoenberg's example connects the phrase through to the first crotchet of bar 8, probably following the text of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Werke: Kritisch durchgesehene Gesammtausgabe, series 14: Quartette für Streichinstrumente (Leipzig: Breitkopf & Härtel, 1881–2), 168–85 (p. 173); in the autograph, Mozart connects the three dotted minims, and separates the final crotchet in the violin 2 part, but connects through to the end of the phrase in the viola.

15 Christopher Small, Musicking: The Meanings of Performing and Listening (Middletown, CT: Wesleyan University Press, 1998), 11.

16 Ibid., 51.

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‘What's my Line?’ Performing Meaning in Mozart's Chamber Music

  • John Irving


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