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date: 21 October 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores how skilled performers use topical analysis in their interpretative decision-making, presenting material from lesson-interviews conducted with fortepianists Robert Levin and Bart van Oort. Drawing on treatises by Türk, Quantz, Kirnberger, Koch, and Leopold Mozart, it examines some historical foundations of Leonard Ratner’s topics, their connections with eighteenth-century concepts of musical character and expression, and topics’ limitations as tools in the process of analysis and interpretation. The chapter takes the Allegro movements of Mozart’s Sonata K. 333 as two case studies. It concludes that awareness of topical references in this repertoire aids performers in systematically identifying and executing contrasts, enabling more expressive and communicative performance. It suggests that a sensitive understanding of historically informed performance practices benefits topic theorists, as analyses may be undermined by anachronistic assumptions about how the music sounds in performance.

Keywords: performance practice, fortepiano, topic theory, Robert Levin, Bart van Oort, K. 333, Mozart, lesson-interview

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