Piano Sonata B flat major K. 570
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
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Pages: 16 (III, 13), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 398
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 5/6)
Many of Mozart’s works in B flat major, among them are the Concerto K 595 and this Piano Sonata K 570, are characterized by gentle, sometimes somber resignation.
FIRST MOVEMENT Compared with the rhythmically similar opening of the F major Sonata, K 332, this B flat major Sonata is lacking in energy and drive, and the beginning of the melody of the first-subject swings like a pendulum around the tonic. As in many late works, Mozart makes ample use of counterpoint in a gallant manner. The movement has no well-defined contrasting theme, but approaches the monothematicism of many Haydn sonatas. When the opening them appears in the function of a secondary subject, it is enriched by a counterpoint in repeated notes which anticipates the fugal subject of the overture and Papageno scenes of The Magic Flute. Nor is Mozart the dramatist is totally absent in this movement: the development plunges us abruptly – and with great effect – into D flat major. Tension mounts as the second part of the theme rises in pitch and volume (measures 84 94), leading to a soft G major bass entry of the first subject.
SECOND MOVEMENT The thematic economy of the first movement and the skillful exchange of material between the hands are somewhat reminiscent of Haydn. This is not so in the introspective Adagio in E flat major. It expresses resignation but without bitterness: a sublimated farewell, music free from earthly trammels. This movement is in rondo form and its first episode in C minor is closely related to the C minor passage in the central movement of the Piano Concerto K 491, measure 14 being an almost direct quotation.
THIRD MOVEMENT The final rondo, in the so-called French rondo form with a “missing” ritornello in the middle of the movement, relates to The Magic Flute motif in its second episode.
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Walter Gieseking
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