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Mozart’s Early Trumpets

In response to:

Freedom and Art from the May 10, 2012 issue

To the Editors:

Charles Rosen’s thought-provoking essay “Freedom and Art” [NYR, May 10] contains a small error of fact. He writes, “Mozart sets this [the passage in Don Giovanni’s first-act finale in which the title character greets his guests with “Viva la libertà!”] as a call to arms, with trumpets and drums unheard in the work since the overture.” These instruments, however, have already been heard some 350 measures earlier, near the beginning of the finale.

Trumpets enter during the disagreement between Zerlina and Masetto (“Presto, presto, pria che venga”), trumpets and timpani at Don Giovanni’s entrance a moment later (“Su, svegliatevi, da bravi!”). Rosen’s larger point, however, that the instruments underscore dual messages of liberty and libertinage, stands: in the latter passage Don Giovanni calls upon his peasants to awake and prepare themselves for the festivities to come (“su, corraggio, o buona gente!/vogliam stare allegramente/vogliam rider e scherzar”).

Robert R. Holzer
Yale School of Music
New Haven, Connecticut

Charles Rosen replies:

I am sorry not to have noticed the trumpets and drums a few minutes before, but they are certainly much louder and more martial with “Viva la liberta!

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