Learning to hear – Mozart 40 & Beethoven 7

I was exposed to classical music as a teenager through the records my father got from a record club (like a book club only round). Something, maybe puberty, pushed me towards the fire of Brahms Symphonies, the romantic grandiosity of Beethoven’s Emperor Concerto and Ninth Symphony. I was not as interested in Mozart, but when his Symphony #40 came I was struck by the second movement. It was simple enough that, after listening a few times, I could follow the individual strands of music — something I found difficult in other works I loved. Then I found that listening to the Mozart this way also helped me see the strands of other classical music.

Maybe listening to it that way will reward you, too.

Try this:

Below, I try to illustrate what’s going on in the first four bars (about sixteen seconds) of the music. Try to follow the music as depicted in the illustration.

In each bar, a new group of instruments joins in. By the fourth bar things are getting complicated and maybe a little difficult to follow. Don’t worry about that. Follow the music and the illustration as many times as you enjoy doing it.

After you’ve done that a bit, you might listen to the whole thing. You’re already primed with a picture of what’s going on at the beginning. It gets easier to follow for a while, then richer and richer. Keep attending to the strands of music.

Here’s a performance with Karl Böhm directing the Vienna Philharmonic:

Another piece I discovered around the same time that did similar things for me was Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, also the second movement, Allegretto. Try hearing it the same way you did the Mozart.

This version has an interesting graphic with it (generated and posted by Stephen Malinowski – http://www.musanim.com), something like what I tried to do above but much more extensive. It should help separate the strands.

So, waddaya think? Was that fun?

(BTW, if you’re interested, you can find the Mozart score here and the Beethoven score here.)


About charles thiesen

I live in Dorchester, MA with five housemates and a cat named Chat Cousteau. I write novels and ride a recumbent bike, among other things.
This entry was posted in Classical, pulleys + levers and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Learning to hear – Mozart 40 & Beethoven 7

  1. Nate Eckstrom says:

    Very cool. The illustration helps a lot – much more helpful than the usual florid prose I’ve read regarding classical music. Nice work!

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