Piano Sonata D major K. 576
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
available free-of-charge: Download
Pages: 18, Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 603 · ISMN M-2018-0603-7
Level of difficulty (Piano): difficult (Level 7)
Less other-worldly in character is the last of Mozart’s piano sonatas in D major. It has often been called the Jagd-Sonate (Hunt Sonata); its key and six-eight time signature set the mood vividly. In a letter of 1789 Mozart told his creditor Puchberg that he intended to write six simple sonatas for Princess Frederica of Prussia in order to raise some money. This is apparently the only he completed and, far from being easy, it demands a high standard of finger technique.
FIRST MOVEMENT As in so many works of his last years in Vienna, this Sonata features subtle contrapuntal interplay of deceptively simple material. In the development, the theme enters in new canonic imitations, first a measure apart (measures 63 64), later only half a measure (m. 70), leading to an impressive climax with a modulation to F sharp major (m. 77 f.), and a return through the minor keys (F sharp minor, bar 83; B and E minor). The recapitulation starts in a measure 99 after a brief transition; it rearranges and modifies the exposition material in a true Mozartian fashion.
SECOND MOVEMENT The A major Adagio movement is in a straightforward ternary form with a middle section of sweet melancholy in the relative minor. Mozart may originally have devised this as a four movement sonata, in line with his string quartets and symphonies, in which case the fragmentary Minuet K 355 (594a), the chromaticism and polyphony of which is closely related to this Sonata, was probably intended as the third movement.
THIRD MOVEMENT The rondo finale is more contrapuntually conceived than a superficial impression would suggest. Particularly impressive are a canon using the rondo and its inversion (measures 34 ff.), and a canon in the fifth in the development section (m. 103).
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Friedrich Gulda, 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