Piano Sonata C major K. 309 (284b)
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 1065 · ISMN M-2018-1065-2
Level of difficulty (Piano): medium (Level 5)
“I wish to do it to reflect the character of Mad:selle Rose,” Mozart replied when asked how he intended to set out the Andante of his Sonata in C major. In autumn 1777 he had got to know Rosina Cannabich in Mannheim and during her lessons immediately introduced her to the Sonata K. 309 that he had composed for her. Indeed, in December 1777 according to her teacher she was already able to perform it “excellently”. So that a great many other pupils might follow in her footsteps, we are now publishing this small gem that shows Mozart‘s great skill in composing for the piano as a single edition with a new preface by the editor; it was previously only available in the complete volumes (HN 1 and 3).
FIRST MOVEMENT The first movement of the C major Sonata K 309 is a model teaching sonata form structure. With sonata forms, as with Bach fugues, no formal dogmas underlie the process of composition, but each sonata varies anew a basic principle. For Mozart, this entailed strict adherence to certain fundamental patterns without his creative freedom. In his sonata movements in major keys, for example he favoured a distinct second subject in the dominant as most contemporary composers did. Haydn, on the other hand, reveled in experiment at this point.
A brief analysis may help to demonstrate Mozart’s standard sonata allegro form and the first movement of it is an ideal example for such an investigation. The first subject is a distinctive, marcato opening followed by a five-bar response. The falling fourth and rising sixth of the opening is one of Mozart’s favourite motifs, his common melodic device. He often uses it in the minor as well as the major, and many of his themes start with this motif (e.g. the second movement of the A major Sonata K 331, the Adagio in B minor K 540, and subjects in the Symphonies K 114, 124, 319/II and 551/II). The seven measures of the main theme are repeated, slightly varied. Measures 15 to 21 conclude the first subject group with an answering phrase (3+3 bars). The transition consists of new material and then, in measure 35 (after two measures of preparation comes a second cantabile theme, in the dominant (G major) comprising 2x4 bars, which is also repeated and proceeds to a spirited closing theme (concluding group) using passage-work (m. 43) and incorporating a delightful diminuation of measures 35 36 in measure 45. The exposition ends with a codetta of five bars. The development presents the opening motif first in g minor, and then the various ideas of the first subject are worked out. With this procedure Mozart is keeping much more closely to textbook principles than he usually does. Two further statements of the opening motif lead back to the recapitulation in measure 94. The second subject, now in the tonic, has surprisingly changed place with its accompaniment. The opening is recalled again in an effectively assertive coda.
SECOND MOVEMENT The second movement of this sonata is an introspective Andante un poco adagio. In a letter Mozart stated his desire to make this Andante match the character of the young pianist Rosa Cannabich for whom he wrote it: “…she is a sweet, pretty girl, just like the andante. For her age she is sensible and level-headed; she is serious, and doesn’t talk too much, though what she says is pleasing and sympathetic”.
THIRD MOVEMENT An elegant and smoothly flowing Rondo of unusually large proportions concludes this Sonata.
Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda
Suggested viewing on YouTube: Claudio Arrau, 3rd movement
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