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ClassicsOnline Home » MOZART: Piano Sonatas, Vol. 4 (Piano Sonatas Nos. 3, 7, 11 and 18)
"fresh, sometimes dashing, always meticulously executed"
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in Salzburg in 1756, the youngest child of Leopold Mozart, author of a well known treatise on violin-playing and a musician in the service of the ruling Archbishop. Leopold Mozart was to sacrifice his own career in order to foster the God-given genius he soon perceived in his son. A childhood spent in successful tours throughout Europe, in which the young Mozart demonstrated his skill on the violin, and on the keyboard in improvisation and in performance with his sister Nannerl, was followed by a less satisfactory adolescence at home in Salzburg. Mozart's talent was none the less, but there seemed little opportunity at home, particularly after the death of the old Archbishop and the succession of a less indulgent patron. In 1777 Mozart and his father, now Vice-Kapellmeister, were refused leave to travel, and Mozart himself resigned his position as Konzertmeister of the court orchestra and set out, accompanied only by his mother, to seek his fortune elsewhere. The journey took him to Augsburg, to Munich and eventually to Paris, but only after a prolonged stay in Mannheim, the seat of the Elector Palatine, famous for its musical establishment.
In Mannheim Mozart made many friends among the musicians at court, but neither here nor in any of the other places he visited was there a suitable position for him. The following year, after the death of his mother in Paris, he made his way slowly back to Salzburg, where his father had found him another position at court that he retained until 1781, when he found final precarious independence in Vienna. The following year he married the penniless younger sister of a singer on whom he had first set his heart in Mannheim and won initial success with his German opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail. There were pupils and subscription concerts, and chances to arouse the admiration of fashionable audiences by his skill as composer and keyboard-player in a new series of piano concertos. By the end of the decade, however, his popularity had waned, although there were signs of a change of fortune in the success of a new German opera, Die Zauberflöte (The Magic Flute), which was still running at the time of his sudden death in December 1791.
Mozart wrote his A major Sonata, K. 331, either in Vienna or perhaps in Salzburg, which he visited in August that year for the first time since his dismissal in 1781 and his subsequent marriage. Now he was to introduce his wife Constanze to her father-in-law, warning him that she is not pretty: he might well have added some criticism of his wife's epistolary style, displayed in a letter to her sister-in-law, Anna Maria Mozart, in terms that suggest the vulgarity and ignorance satirised in the novels of Mozart's English contemporaries Jane Austen and Fanny Burney. The A major Sonata opens with a theme and six variations, the third in A minor, the fifth an Adagio and the last a lively Allegro. The A major Minuet with its D major Trio is followed by the famous Alla turca movement, using a popular musical convention of the day that Mozart had already explored to great effect a year earlier in his Turkish opera, Die Entführung.
The last sonata that Mozart completed was the Sonata in D major, K. 576, dated July, 1789. In that year he had visited the Prussian court, in the company of Beethoven's later patron, Prince Karl Lichnowsky, and in a letter seeking to borrow money from his fellow-mason Michael Puchberg, he claims to be occupied in writing a set of six string quartets for King Friedrich Wilhelm II, nephew of Frederick the Great, and an amateur cellist, and a set of six easy clavier sonatas for the king's eldest daughter, Princess Friederike. Three quartets were written and one piano sonata, if it is accepted that the D major Sonata is the first of a proposed half dozen Prussian sonatas, an identification that some have doubted. The sonata starts with a fanfare motif, repeated in sequence and forming a useful element in the central development section of the movement. The A major slow movement calls for delicate agility in its embellished melody, while the final Allegretto might well have overtaxed Princess Friederike's skill, had it been intended for her use.
The Sonata in C major, K. 309, was written in Mannheim in October and November 1777, during the course of Mozart's extended visit in that year to the capital of the Elector Palatine, Carl Theodor. Mozart made friends there with Cannabich, director of instrumental music at the court, and undertook to give lessons to his daughter Rosa, for whom the sonata was composed. In a letter home he suggested that the slow movement was a character sketch of Rosa Cannabich. The first movement was written soon after Mozart's arrival in Mannheim, with a strongly marked first theme that serves, in transposition, to open the central development section of the movement. Mozart insisted that the F major second movement should not be too fast and that exact attention should be paid to the sudden contrasts in dynamics, which may be supposed to throw some light on the character of Rosa Cannabich. The final rondo, composed a little after the other two movements, seems designed to allow his pupil to display her dexterity with the right hand, without exposing the deficiencies Mozart detected in her left, ruined, he thought, by bad teaching.
The Sonata in B flat major, K. 281, belongs to the set of six that Mozart wrote in Munich early in 1775, during a visit to the city for the composition and staging of his opera La finta giardiniera, commissioned by the Intendant Count Seeau for the Elector Maximilian III Joseph. The first movement opens with a principal subject containing a subtle variety of rhythms, followed by a subsidiary theme that leads to a final brief element of display, continued in the central development section. The E flat major slow movement, marked Andante amoroso, is of loving delicacy. The final rondo has a first theme, reaffirmed with greater emphasis in its second phrase, while the second theme has a contrasted triplet accompaniment, and there is drama at the heart of a movement that reintroduces the principal theme on its penultimate appearance with accompanying trills, in the right hand and then in the left.
Jeno Jandó was born at Pécs, in south Hungary, in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and later studied at the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and Pál Kadosa, becoming assistant to the latter on his graduation in 1974. Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. In addition to his many appearances in Hungary, he has played widely abroad in Eastern and Western Europe, in Canada and in Japan. He is currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart's piano concertos and sonatas for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and the complete piano sonatas of Beethoven.
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