Piano Sonata F major K. 533/494
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 1041 · ISMN M-2018-1041-6
Level of difficulty (Piano): difficult (Level 7)
ABRSM: Grade 8
Mozart assembled this sonata from two parts that had been composed at different times. The Rondo K. 494 is from 1786. It was only in January 1788 that Mozart composed the two pieces K. 533, and had Hoffmeister in Vienna publish the three movements as a sonata. To this end he did, however, thoroughly rework the Rondo, incorporating a small fugue-like passage - perhaps to bring the finale closer to the other two movements. In its final version the work shows how intensively Mozart had looked into the style of Bach and Handel at the time. We are now offering this sonata, included in the complete volume, as an attractive single edition with a new preface by the editor.
After the composition of the great C minor Sonata there is a turning point in Mozart’s sonata output. His writing assumes more subtlety, and a more pronounced inclination to contrapuntal writing – as in the first two movements of the F major Sonata K 533. (Mozart himself later added the F major Rondo K 494 as a third movement for this sonata).
FIRST MOVEMENT The first movement opens rather conventionally; however, it then builds up a tension in the development from the simplest raw material. The recapitulation brings a further surprise by turning towards remote minor keys and adding another short contrapuntal development of the opening theme.
SECOND MOVEMENT The second movement, an Andante, is all resignation and melancholy – undoubtedly the greatest movement in the Sonata. Unlike the more short-winded first movement, it spans a long melodic arch which never sags throughout the first subject group, right down to the half-close at measure 22. The anguished dissonance in measure 2 of the theme is quickly resolved, giving way to a sublime cadence on B flat with a hint of resignation. The polyphonic writing is meticulous, and the themes are fundamentally related as well as being contrapuntally viable (see the beginning of the development). The cumulative dissonant suspension towards the end of the development (measures 60 72) still perplexed musicians in the nineteenth century, and even today we can only marvel at the dramatic suspense of this linear part-writing.
THIRD MOVEMENT After this Andante Mozart did not write a finale but chose the F major Rondo, composed in 1786, to round up the Sonata. It affords a point of repose; but despite Mozart’s extension of the rondo form by a contrapuntal cadenza-like section, and despite a wonderful episode in F minor, this piece lacks the tension which distinguished the previous movements, particularly the second.
Paul and Eva-Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Emil Gilels
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