Aktualisiert: 22. Feb.

Traditions in the musical education in Vienna

How the German language has influenced the musical language and which criterias are significant in our pianistic education in Vienna.

o.Univ.-Prof. Manfred Wagner-Artzt

Universität für Musik und darstellende Kunst Wien



About music

and language


In German we have a lot of words which are accentuated on the first syllabis as, "Friede, Liebe, Leben", but also verbs like "reden, laufen", or adjectives as "glücklich, friedvoll, einsam", etc.

So it is not surprising, that especially in the Viennese Classic we often find an articulation which derives obvously from the language.

e.g. let’s have a look to the beginning of Beethoven's sonata op.110. We can see that the first two notes are bound together with a bow from c to a flat.

When we listen to recordings unfortunately we rarely will hear this motive played that way. Many pianists are playing the a flat as an upbeat.

Here you can listen to two versions. The second one is played by Paul Badura-Skoda, the first one by another famous pianist.

Even in the volume curves it can be seen, that Badura-Skoda plays the second chord much softer than it is played in the first recording.

It may sometimes help to invent a text as e.g.: „Lieb – ste, lass uns fort – gehen“

This would not be possible in French: The same phrase in French sounds: Chérie, laisse nous quit­ter

We realize that it is a complete different kind of prosody, which does not fit at all with the written music.

Let’s stay at Beethoven. We have a wonderful example, where Beethoven himself has added a word: The beginning of the sonata op.81a „Les Adieux“

The word „Le – be – wohl“ what means „farewell“ shows us exactly, how these first three elements should be played:

This junction of text and music of course is not an invention of the Viennese Classic, it derives from the music of the Renaissance and the Baroque. Bach used this also in many instrumental works. Here an example:

In the E Major Fugue of the 2nd part of the Welltempered Piano he uses two choral melodies for the main theme and for the counter subject.

The main theme comes from the Gregorian Choral „Pange lingua“ which exists in many different variations throughout the centuries. Here the version of Thomas von Aquin, composed in the 13th century:

The second theme is from a choral which is mentioned for the first time in 1675. This theme and variations of it Bach has used about 15 times in his compository creations.

When we speak this text we know immediately how we have to articulate.

In Bach’s Fugue it looks like this:

Now to some other examples in which the knowledge of the connection between word and music is of elemantary importance, as at the beginning of the sonata in F-major K 332 by Mozart.

Mozart wrote very detailed bows. Why? Certainly not therefore that we shall ignore them.

Again we can help us for understanding by inventing a text e.g.:

And in the second themes group we can e.g. invent "Was für ein schönes Bild"