Piano Sonata D major K. 284 (205b)
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
available free-of-charge: Download
Pages: 31 (V, 26), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 1063 · ISMN M-2018-1063-8
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 6)
The Sonata in D major is the last of the Six Sonatas K. 279–284 that Mozart had in his luggage when he set off for Paris in September 1777. He had already successfully performed this music in Munich, Augsburg and Mannheim, a fact he proudly told his father back at home. He gave the works particularly rich dynamic markings and also found unusual solutions concerning their formal aspect, for instance having a slow Rondeau en Polonaise as the middle movement of the Sonata in D major. The six sonatas, which were previously only published together in the complete volumes (HN 1 and 3), are now all available as single editions with new prefaces.
Mozart dedicated this Sonata to a Freiherr Thaddäus von Dürnitz – which is why it has often been called the Dürnitz-Sonata. It is undoubtedly the best, the most brilliant and the most technically demanding of these six early Sonatas. Understandably, Mozart retained a special affection for it and continued to perform it himself. It was this Sonata of which he said that it sounded incomparable on Stein’s new fortepianos.
FIRST MOVEMENT A first version of the beginning of the first movement, written on one and a half pages, was cancelled by Mozart. On the same page, he started anew to write the final version underneath. The thematic material of this opening movement (and to a lesser degree also that of the following movements) is laid out on a more ample, nearly orchestral scale, a departure from the intimacy of the early sonatas. The tremolo effect in measures 13-16 and the unison announcements of the first subject read very much like a piano reduction of an orchestral tutti. The second subject, a supple melodic line, unaccompanied in its opening bar, incorporates a descending chain of first inversions a favourite harmonic formula of the baroque and classical periods. (There are analogous passages in the subsidiary themes in Gluck’s overture Iphigénie en Tauride and the first movements of J. S. Bach’s Italian Concert). This functions as a solo passage in contrast to the ensuing tutti entries in m.30. The development moves through a circle of minor keys before the recapitulation begins in measure 72.
SECOND MOVEMENT Mozart called the second movement a Rondeau en Polonaise, so it is a dance. The opening four measures from a kind of dialogue (like the theme of the first movement of the preceding G major Sonata), and Mozart subjects them to felicitous counter-statement is heightened by Mozart’s meticulous dynamic markings.
THIRD MOVEMENT The last movement of the Sonata is a pianistically rewarding, cheerful set of variations, which, up to the adagio variation, has the character of a gavotte. It shows Mozart’s special gift for writing variations at its most brilliant. The superficial impression of a diffuse form does not stand up to a closer inspection: it would not be at all easy to omit one of the twelve variations, or to add an extra one. The adagio variation is on special interest to Mozart scholars, for it gives us some insights into his concept of impromptu ornamentation. The autograph is only modestly ornamented, and Mozart presumably embellished it in performance as his fancy dictated. But a richly ornamented version survived in the first edition, published during Mozart’s lifetime, and undoubtedly this embellished version is Mozart’s own work. Who else could embellish in such an ingenious way? It illuminates Mozart’s ideas on ornamentation in general and in particular.
Paul and Eva-Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Klára Würtz, 3rd movement
Thema – Var. VI
Var. VII – Finis
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