Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

A historical technique from a modern perspective: The transcription scordatura in Mozart's Sinfonia Concertante for Violin, Viola and Orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364
by Chiang, I-Chun, D.M.A., University of Cincinnati, 2010, 70; 3426182
Abstract (Summary)

In 1779, Mozart fused the complex orchestral writing of the Mannheim School with a popular Parisian genre in his sinfonia concertante for violin, viola and orchestra in E-flat major, K. 364. In accordance with the trends of his era, he cast the solo viola part in the friendly key of D major and he directed the strings tuned a semi-tone higher to brighten the sound, a technique known as scordatura. In the 19 th century, however, the rise of the conservatory system increased and standardized playing ability, and by the dawn of the 20th century, many violists preferred to play the sinfonia concertante in the key of E-flat major rather than follow Mozart’s scordatura request. But if times change once, they can also change again. In the 1950s, the emergence of the historical performance practice movement shed new light on Mozart’s original instruction and today, the contemporary violist faces important questions. How should they regard Mozart’s tuning directive? Is scordatura simply a historical elective that fits best with period instruments? Do violists who ignore scordatura requests attribute their decision to personal artistic viewpoint or to a lack of knowledge about scordatura? Does scordatura make a difference in how the piece comes across to an audience?

The purpose of this paper is to investigate scordatura in the standard viola literature, to compare its effects and its advantages, and to re-examine Mozart’s scordatura request in his sinfonia concertante. The methodology will include a survey with audio examples to assess the impact of scordatura on a concert-going audience and will interview with a wide variety of performers, young professional violists, and luthiers to determine current attitudes toward scordatura. The document will culminate in a performance guide of Mozart’s sinfonia concertante based on conducted field tests and modern viewpoints on what is now considered an “old” technique.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Carroll, Catharine
Commitee: Fiser, Lee, Kawasaki, Masao
School: University of Cincinnati
Department: Viola
School Location: United States -- Ohio
Source: DAI-A 71/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Music
Keywords: Austria, Historical technique, Mozart Sinfonia Concertante K.364, Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus, Orchestra, Perfect pitch, Scordatura, Sinfonia Concertante, Transcription scordatura, Viola, Viola concerto, Violin
Publication Number: 3426182
ISBN: 978-1-124-26371-7
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