The passage at the recapitulation of the overture is an extended version of the opening melody; remember, it is the melody, so don’t neglect the musical inflections!1 As for choosing an appropriate tempo for auditions, McGill provides some very useful insight:

[…] in an audition, time seems compressed and we tend to feel that our tempos are not fast enough, so we rush. But those listening are not worked up as you may be. They hear everything as its real speed. To be safe, and to avoid being your own worst enemy, take each quick excerpt one or two metronome markings slower than you feel it should be played. Clarity adds a sense of speed. Fast and sloppy versus a little less fast and clean—you be the judge.2

This can be applied to all fast technical excerpts, but it is especially applicable to the somewhat deceptive Figaro passages. In the case of the two eighth-note excerpts, if you begin them too quickly then you may very well find yourself reaching the tongued notes and not being able to articulate them at that speed. A solid audition tempo to shoot for is about ♩= 138-144, the same range as most of the other technical excerpts discussed here.

Note Groupings
McGill uses this excerpt from Figaro as a textbook example for what he calls “mentally eliminating” difficult intervals like the C♯ – A interval in bar 6. Realizing that the two notes do not actually belong together will lessen the tendency to rush the notes, and make the interval much easier.3 McGill also discusses his recommended note groupings, shown below in Example 11.1.

Example 11.1. Mozart, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro – mm. 1 to 7, David McGill’s note groupings

While there is certainly nothing wrong with these groupings, I prefer instead to group the notes based on their scalar motion instead of their neighboring motion (Example 11.2). There are a number of reasons for this decision:

  • The groupings are consistent throughout the entire passage
  • The notes lead to and away from the main notes on the beats, following the hairpins we should give to show the rising and falling musical gesture (Example 11.3)
  • These groupings alleviate rushing tendencies during the three-note neighboring figures (such as D – C♯ – D and F♯ – E – F♯ in the second bar) by separating the first note from the following notes
  • The pick-up motion of the groupings also helps keep the air moving forward, reducing the chances that the reed will stop vibrating during resistant intervals like E – F♯

Example 11.2. Mozart, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro – mm. 1 to 7, author’s note groupings4

Example 11.3. Mozart, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro – mm. 1 to 7, practice fermatas and hairpins

Moving the air forward is especially important in fast technical excerpts, as Weait explains:

In addition to using faster air when we play higher notes, we should also use faster air when playing fast notes. I speculate that air speed reduces because the player subconsciously thinks, “I am playing fast notes, my fingers must do the work.” In fact, while the fingers are working faster the notes need as much or more fuel (air!) to function properly.5

To practice these groupings, add fermatas and very obvious hairpins (which should eventually be scaled back to fit into a piano dynamic) as shown in Example 11.3. Once this motion is comfortable, try thinking of the larger groupings and musical gestures shown in Example 11.4.

Example 11.4. Mozart, Overture to The Marriage of Figaro – mm. 1 to 7, author’s note groupings (simplified)

To practice these passages effectively, apply the same methods of rhythmic variations and additive practice described for Beethoven’s Fourth Symphony and Ravel’s Piano Concerto.

1 Also see the two excerpts from Symphonie fantastique.

2 McGill, 277-78.

3 See the Scheherazade cadenzas for another example of an interval that benefits from “mentally eliminating” it through note groupings.

4 These same groupings are also applicable to the second half of this excerpt.

5 Weait, 118.