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8.550447 - MOZART: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 3 (Piano Sonatas Nos. 1, 4, 5 and 6)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Sonatas Vol. 3
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the youngest child of Leopold Mozart, author of a well known treatise on violin-playing and a musician in the service of the ruling Archbishop. Leopold Mozart was to sacrifice his own career in order to foster the God-given genius he soon perceived in his son. A childhood spent in successful tours throughout Europe, in which the young Mozart demonstrated his skill on the violin, and on the keyboard in improvisation and in performance with his sister Nannerl was followed by a less satisfactory adolescence at home in Salzburg. Mozart's talent was none the less, but there seemed little opportunity at home, particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a less indulgent patron. In 1777 Mozart and his father, now Vice-Kapellmeister, were refused leave to travel, and Mozart himself resigned his position as Konzertmeister of the court orchestra and set out, accompanied only by his mother, to seek his fortune elsewhere. The journey took him to Augsburg, to Munich and eventually to Paris, but only after a prolonged stay in Mannheim, the seat of the Elector of Bavaria, famous for its musical establishment.
In Mannheim Mozart made many friends among the musicians at court, but neither here nor in any of the other places he visited was there a suitable position for him. The following year, after the death of his mother in Paris, he made his way slowly back to Salzburg, where his father had found him another position at court that he retained until 1781, when he found final precarious independence in Vienna. The following year he married the penniless younger sister of a singer on whom he had first set his heart in Mannheim and won initial success with his German opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail. There were pupils and subscription concerts, and chances to arouse the admiration of fashionable audiences by his skill as composer and keyboard-player in a new series of piano concertos. By the end of the decade, however, his popularity had waned, although there were signs of a change of fortune in the success of a new German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), which was still running at the time of his sudden death in December 1791.
Early in December 1774 Mozart and his father travelled to Munich, where the new opera, La finta giardiniera, was to be staged in the carnival season for the Elector Maximilian III Joseph, an enthusiastic patron and amateur, composer. The opera was eventually performed on 13th January, after more extensive rehearsals than were usual with a repertory company, and was well received. Mozart seems to have written the six sonatas, later listed in the Köchel index as K. 279 - 284, early in 1775. They are the first surviving piano sonatas by the composer. The Sonata in C major, K. 279, has a cheerful first movement in the usual tripartite classical sonata form, its two themes providing material for the central development section of the movement. The slow movement again follows common custom in its use of the subdominant key of F major, while in the third and final movement the subsidiary theme gives scope for contrapuntal imitation. The fourth of the set, the Sonata in E flat major, K. 282, opens with an expressive Adagio, followed, unusually, by a pair of Minuets, the first, in B flat, repeated, to frame the second, in E flat. The sonata ends with an Allegro in the spirit of Haydn.
The Sonata in G major, K. 283, has a charming enough principal subject, contrasted with a syncopated secondary theme and a brief central development section. The C major slow movement provides a foretaste of piano concertos to come in its occasional poignancy and leads to a final Presto, with the necessary touch of brilliance demanded in any conclusion.
The set of six sonatas ends with the Sonata in D major, K. 284, written for Baron von Dürnitz, an amateur bassoonist and keyboard-player, who failed to pay Mozart for the work, as Leopold Mozart had to point out to his son on future occasions, in an attempt to induce in him some practical sense of business. Mozart played this sonata and others of the set in Mannheim, when he visited the city in 1777, creating a most favourable impression. He had already amazed the instrument-maker Andreas Stein and others earlier in his journey, in Augsburg by his performance, in particular of the so-called Dürnitz Sonata in D major. This work starts with an opening declaration in octaves, with an element of display in the passage that links the first subject to the more lyrical second. The A major second movement is in the form of a rondo, with a principal theme in Polish rhythm. This is followed by a theme and twelve variations, the first with right-hand triplets and the second with triplets for the left hand. The sixth variation allows crossing of hands, while the seventh moves into the key of D minor, the original key restored in the octaves of the eighth. The decorative octaves of the tenth variation lead to an embellished Adagio and the panache of the twelfth and last variation of the movement.
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