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Advice to WA Mozart from his father (1778)

April 17, 2008

This is an extract from a letter by Leopold Mozart to WA Mozart written on August 13, 1778.

My additions are in square brackets.

If you have not got any pupils, well then compose something more…..But let it be something short, easy and popular…..Do you imagine that you would be doing work unworthy of you? If so, you are very much mistaken. Did [JC] Bach, when he was in London, ever publish anything but such-like trifles? What is slight can still be great, if it is written in a natural, flowing and easy style – and at the same time bears the mark of sound composition. Such works are more difficult to compose than all those harmonic progressions, which the majority of people cannot fathom, or pieces which have pleasing melodies but are difficult to perform. Did Bach lower himself by such work? Not at all. Good composition, sound construction, il filo – these distinguish the master from the bungler – even in trifles.

As trans. in Anderson/Mozart II 888-889; cf., also, Einsten/Mozart 116-121. [Newman’s footnote.]
Quoted in: Newman, William S, The Sonata in the Classic Era, Third Edition, W W Norton & Company Inc., New York & London, 1983, ISBN 0-393-95286, p.499.

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