Aveneu Park, Starling, Australia

An sonata form in many ways. The

An Austrian composer,
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote a vast amount of music over the course of his
short life. He was writing at a time when the piano became an instrument of
choice, over time replacing both the harpsichord and clavichord. Mozart wrote
many works for the piano including 18 solo piano sonatas, 23 piano concertos,
and six sonatas for two pianists.

 

Composed in 1778, Piano
Sonata No.8 represents a departure from the traditional style found in Mozart’s
previous sonatas. This work is the composer’s first attempt in writing a large
piano work in a minor key, an aspect he only returned to once later in this
style of composition (Sonata No. 14 in C minor). Prior to the composition of
this work, Mozart’s mother passed away from an undiagnosed illness whilst
accompanying the composer on a keyboard tour of France. It has been suggested that
Mozart may have intentionally deviated away from traditional forms in this
sonata to display his own feelings of personal suffering.

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Written
in sonata form, the first movement alternates between sorrow and resignation. Beginning
with an acciaccatura, the work already gives the listener a feeling of
unsettledness as Mozart experiments with the melodic phrasing and tonality. The
obsessive pulsating left hand, which continues throughout the piece, adds to
the emotional instability. Instead of an expected cantabile secondary theme we
witness consistent semiquaver movement in C major, followed by a two-part
counterpoint passage in the left hand. The development section begins with a
repeat of the initial theme (this time in the relative major), which then
brings us to a series of chromatic sequences with constant semiquaver movement.
A chromatic figuration then leads to a return of the opening material. Characteristics
of this movement include: a strong emphasis on chromatic melodic embellishments,
a relentless motion of pulsating rhythmic figures and irregular phrase
structures.

 

Second Movement – Andante
cantabile con espressione

The tranquil second movement resembles sonata
form in many ways. The first subject establishes the home key and captures the
listener with its melancholic phrasing. Here we witness a variety of dynamics
and note values, from crochet movements to hemidemisemiquaver figurations with
added ornaments. The development starts with a sombre augmentation of the
opening theme and grows in intensity up to the climax at bars 43-49, one of the
most desolate passages in Mozart’s piano works. This recalls the expression
found in the middle section of the preceding first movement. The recapitulation
section returns to the sombre mood of the first subject.  

 

Third Movement – Presto

Written in Rondo form, the mood
of the opening continues the angst of the first movement. In a galant style the
A section displays a series of dynamics, which add to the intensity of the
piece. There are transient modulations to relative keys, before a contrasting
section (B) is evident in the dominant major. It is the strong E pedal (b.99),
which leads the music back to the haunting opening theme. A short section in A
major lightens the mood providing a release of tension before the final
statement.

 

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