Piano Sonata A major K. 331 (300i) (with Alla Turca)
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
available free-of-charge: Download
Pages: 23 (V, 18), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 50 · ISMN 979-0-2018-0050-9
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 5/6)
The A major Sonata has always been one of Mozart’s best-loved works. It begins with an intimate and elegant theme and variations movement marked Andante grazioso. Thus this composition differs from a usual sonata, as it has not a single movement in sonata form but is more akin to the divertimento form. Yet even here the movements are bound together by strong melodic and formal affinities. It is no accident that the end of the variation theme is repeated note by note at the end of the minuet, that the crossing of hands in the trio of the minuet is anticipated in variation IV, that the key of the finale (A minor) is prefigured in variation III, and that the ritornello of this famous Turkish march finale in A major is alluded to in measures 5 and 6 of the allegro variation. The irregular phrase-structure of the minuet is typically Mozartian. The double octaves in measures 20 24 of the minuet trio make pianistic demands unusual for Mozart’s time; this is the only occasion Mozart prescribes them in his piano sonatas. The delightful Rondo alla turca, with its limitation of Turkish music in the A major section, is justly famous. Here Mozart anticipated the “Turkish pedal”, an inbuilt percussion stop frequently found in Viennese pianos after 1800. An early fortepiano with a percussion stop is an ideal instrument for the interpretation of this sonata.
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Wilhelm Backhaus, movements 1-3
Audio example: Maria João Pires
Deutsche Grammophon 028947752004GB6
The levels of difficulty of the
piano music published by G. Henle Publishers
The levels of difficulty of the piano music published by G. Henle Publishers
|1||easy||Bach, Notebook for Anna Magdalena Bach, nos. 4 and 5|
|2||Bach, Well-Tempered Clavier I, no. 1 Prelude C major|
|3||Beethoven, Piano Sonatas op. 49,1 and 2|
|4||medium||Grieg, Lyric Pieces op. 12, no. 4|
|5||Schumann, Fantasy Pieces op. 12, no. 1|
|6||Chopin, Nocturnes op. 27, nos. 1 and 2|
|7||difficult||Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 10, no. 3|
|8||Beethoven, Piano Sonata op. 81a|
|9||Schumann, Toccata op. 7|
Guide to the levels of difficulty
"I don't know what 'difficult' means. Either you can play or you can't" – this was the rather terse comment by the great violinist Nathan Milstein, on being asked about the unbelievable difficulty of Niccolo Paganini's Caprice no. 1.
The relativity of the evaluation of difficulty in music immediately becomes clear. Yet I gladly take up this great challenge, presented to me by G. Henle Publishers. For I am aware of how useful a guide like this can be, both from my own experience as well as that of many colleagues. In particular so as to be able to identify "appropriate" works. For example for music teachers, who teach at very different levels, from beginners to those preparing for music conservatories, but also for all those interested amateurs for whom this guide is intended.
After careful deliberation I have settled on nine levels of difficulty, which I have divided into three groups: 1–3 (easy), 4–6 (medium), 7–9 (difficult). A number of parameters have been considered when assessing the level of difficulty. I have not just looked at the number of fast or slow notes to be played, or the chord sequences; of central importance are also the complexity of the piece's composition, its rhythmic complexities, the difficulty of reading the text for the first time, and last but not least, how easy or difficult it is to understand its musical structure. I have defined "piece" as being the musical unit of a sonata, or a single piece in a cycle, which is why Bach's "Well-Tempered Clavier" Part I comprises a total of 48 levels of difficulty (each prelude and fugue is considered separately), Schumann's Sonata in f sharp minor op.11 only has a single number. My assessment is measured by the ability to prepare a piece for performance.
While assessing the pieces, it became clear that the medium level of difficulty (4–6) is the trickiest. Now and again this means that a piece is judged as a "3/4", even if it only deserved a "3" as far as piano technique is concerned. An example of such a "borderline" case (easy/medium) is Schumann's "Scenes from Childhood" op. 15 Von fremden Ländern und Menschen or at the other end "6/7" part of Bach's "English Suites". And of course within a main category there are also "from-to" evaluations (e.g. 7/8).
Any evaluation of art or music will always be subjective, even if the aim was to be objective. Despite the fact that I have endeavoured to be as careful as possible, I am all too aware that the results of my work can be called into question, and am therefore grateful for any suggestions you might have.
Prof. Rolf Koenen © 2010