Piano Sonata F major K. 280 (189e)
Urtext Edition, paperbound
Detailed critical commentary
(not available in the printed editions)
available free-of-charge: Download
Pages: 17 (V, 12), Size 23,5 x 31,0 cm
Order no. HN 1040 · ISMN M-2018-1040-9
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 5)
The Six Sonatas K. 279–284 were probably written around the beginning of 1775. Mozart refers to them in letters that he sent to his father from his trip to Paris (1777–79). In these letters he often refers to them as the “difficult sonatas” – probably alluding to the special interpretative demands. He thus provided these works with rich dynamic and articulative markings, advising a reserved tempo for their performance. The Sonata K. 280, which has a special place amongst the early sonatas due to ist melancholy middle movement in f minor, is now also available as a practical and reasonable single edition, which has been taken from our edition of the complete Mozart sonatas.
FIRST MOVEMENT All the movement of this second sonata are in triple meter, which was rather unusual in Mozart’s time. The first movement has the character of a lively menuet, despite the marking Allegro assai. It anticipates a certain mood of two other first movements in F major in three-four, those of the Sonatas K 332 and K 547 (the latter written originally for piano and violin). Thus key as well as metre characteristics inspired Mozart’s imagination in apparently similar ways. The first subject group of K 280/I, the eight- and sixteenth (quaver and semiquaver) – movement of the first 12 measures, contrasts especially nicely with the triplets of the following 14 measures.
SECOND MOVEMENT The second movement of this Sonata, and Adagio, is in F minor and in siciliano rhythm. It is one of the finest creations of the whole cycle. Perhaps it was written only shortly after the composition of the early G minor Symphony K 183, in which we find a similar mood reflected; but more obviously there is a certain affinity to the slow siciliano movement in the same key in Haydn’s F major Sonata Hob. XVI/23, and further similarities between the two composers’ sonatas emerge as the movement proceeds. In both pieces, the original lament of the siciliano resolves into a warm A flat major melody with a gently moving accompaniment. However, the Adagio marking classes this movement as the slower, more serious type of siciliano, an earlier model of which can be found in Bach’s harpsichord Concerto in E major. It also has an affinity with the immensely sad slow movement of the A major Concerto K 488, which is likewise marked adagio instead of andante.
THIRD MOVEMENT The finale of the Sonata, a Presto in three-eight metre, restores the joyful mood of the opening. It is Haydnesque, too, but more pianistic and longer, as well as richer in contrast than its precedent.
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Karl Engel, 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