Piano Sonata B flat major K. 333 (315c)
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
available free-of-charge: Download
Pages: 25 (V, 20), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 397 · ISMN M-2018-0397-5
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 6)
FIRST MOVEMENT This Sonata takes us into new realms of lyricism – we suppose that this is inherent in Mozart’s choice of key. The first movement opens with a cantabile theme which no one else could have written. It should be noted that measures 3 4 (with upbeat) are a variation of the initial phrase. A minor Italian composer might have repeated the opening statement one step lower; it still would sound well, but it would not be comparable in any way to the beauty of Mozart’s theme. The wealth of melodic and thematic inventions here and in the rest of the Sonata is simply staggering. How simple, in comparison, is Beethoven’s structure in his Sonata in the same key of B-flat, op. 22! In this Sonata Mozart anticipates in more than one way the “heavenly length” of some of Schubert’s Sonatas.
SECOND MOVEMENT According to Daniel Schubart’s aesthetic theory, E flat, the key of the middle movement, was the key “of love, prayer, intimate converse with the Almighty, signifying the Trinity with its three flats”- a characterization which does seem to apply, for once, to this rather solemn and profound Andante cantabile movement. It is in sonata form, and sometimes gives the impression of having been conceived as a string trio. One of the boldest moments is the beginning of the development with its biting dissonances, all the more telling after the preceding euphony.
THIRD MOVEMENT The somber ethos of E flat is dispelled by a concertante Rondo finale in B flat, although this good-humoured movement does retain a touch of seriousness – a sufficiently weighty conclusion to this fine Sonata. Several features – not least the tutti entry preceding the cadenza (m. 168) – suggest that this is a concerto movement in disguise. The insertion of a full-scale cadenza (m. 171) into a piano sonata movement is most striking, and this powerful one is only rivaled in Mozart’s Concertos. It far surpasses those in Haydn’s and C.P.E. Bach’s Sonatas.
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Vladimir Horowitz, 2nd movement
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