by Lowell Greer
14 February 2004

I did indeed improvise all of the Mozart cadenzas on the CD; not that the CD contains exactly what I played. It seems that, on at least one occasion, probably two by my reckoning, that the editors used the cadenza as a splicing point, uniting phrases from two separate cadenzas. Finding a point where a clean
splice can be made, even with digital technology, can be difficult without resorting to algorythms. Cadenzas contain generally a point of silence or two! It all sounded just fine, but it did create some re-statements of material from the concerto movement.

Improvising a cadenza will take your worries off of playing the concerto, that is certain. Improvising in the classical style has become such a lost art, and it was a big part of one's musical profile in past eras.

To review, the function of a cadenza is to momentarily interrupt the cadence at the cadential 6/4 chord (also known as a tonic 6/4 or a dominant 6/4; these theory people are crazy!), and to resume the movement at the dominant 7th chord where a trill is played. Performing the cadence in this fashion allows a sublime lingering effect on those harmonies, intensifying the resolution (I know what you all are thinking about!). Cadenzas have grown and become an art-form in themselves, and many Romantic era piano concerti have a precomposed, written-out, cadenza with bells and whistles.

The advise of Leopold Mozart circa 1750 was to make the cadenza up from fantasy and not use material from the composer, unless one had no ideas of one's own, in which case borrowing material is all right. Everyone, commencing with his son, Wolfgang, has ignored this advise, quoting vast amounts of thematic
material to splendid effect; doing so integrates the cadenza with the body of the movement thematically and stylistically, one would hope. Leopold further advises that the cadenza not be overlong; that it remain in proportion with the movement proper. This also gets ignored frequently, mostly to a bad effect, IMHO.

Quantz gives the best advise. He says that a cadenza should be playable in one or two breaths of air at the most. This advise takes the heat off!