The Mannheim School

Mozart’s Flute Concerto in G (Click to view)

For this exercise I followed the performance of the Haydn Ensemble – Berlin with the solo part played by Emmanuel Pahud.

Although I’ve played music and been an avid listener all my life I’ve never devoted much time to following scores, believing it to be a superhuman task and beyond my comprehension if more than a couple of parts are playing together. This task has come as a bit of a revelation to me.

I chose to break the piece down into manageable chunks in the following order:

  1. Listen to the movement completely passively a couple of times, allowing the music to wash over me and paying no regard to the form or structure and trying not to concentrate on individual parts.
  2. Listen again a couple of times while ‘broadly’ following the bottom part (violoncello e contrabasso (sic)). The piece is in common (4/4) time and following the bottommost part allowed be to tap out a string of four beats while following the music. This in turn allowed me to catch up easily once I’d got lost in a complex or crowded bar.
  3. After a couple of tries at this I found that I could start to look around during the gaps in the bottom part to see what else was happening while tapping out my 4/4 (it’s surprisingly easy to count the bars quickly and calculate how much time one has) and I could see the shape of the notes in the bars, especially when octaves were being played by the first flute and when the ramp of the “Mannheim Rocket” (or what I assume is the rocket as I can’t find an explicit demonstration online).
  4. I then switched my attention to the principal flute part (Flauto principale) and did the same again. There are lots of gaps so I was able to catch up quite quickly when lost.

I initially thought that the exercise would detract from my enjoyment of the music as I wouldn’t be concentrating but quite the opposite was true. Being a guitarist I spend most of my time when listening singling out individual melody, harmony or bass parts for scrutiny and to see how they fit into the wider piece. I found that when following the shape of the music in this exercise that the part on question came to the fore more readily and was surprisingly easy to isolate among the greater mass of the orchestra.

As to characteristics of the Mannheim School (times in the video linked above (click times to view)):

• Dynamic contrasts: 3:25
• Solo passages for woodwind: 8:03
• Homophonic textures: Frequently throughout but shown nicely by the strings in bars 31 & 32: 1:49
• (What I believe to be) the “Mannheim Rocket”: Bar 59: 2:47