Review Summary: From the most critically acclaimed composer in history, you’d expect a little less filler…
My Music teacher said this to me once about Mozart’s piano style: ‘It’s very light and easy to listen to. It always does exactly what you expect it to’. After listening to this sonata, I couldn't agree more. Having a particular style is by no means a bad thing, but when it comes to the point whereby your audience can tell exactly what note will proceed before having heard it; can so accurately guess when a change of dynamic will occur; can foretell a key change because of the repetitive use of certain harmonic sequences, it might just mean you’re a tad predictable. Some people find this aspect of Mozart’s piano style comforting, but when looking for a musical experience, it leaves a lot to be desired.
The first movement, Andante Grazioso – a Theme with six Variations, begins the sonata with a relaxing, lullaby-like theme that could easily send the unsuspecting listener to sleep with seemingly unnecessary repeats of tedious passages. Mozart allows the listener to be cocooned in this hypnotically mind-numbing state of dreariness until five minutes in, in which he introduces a variation in a minor key. The occasional dissonances that Mozart allows himself to use in this section are just about the most interesting thing in the entire movement. It seems that Mozart’s only ever just doing enough to keep your attention – throwing in a dynamics change every now and then to barely compensate for the utterly predictable use of phrasing and lack of any textural ingenuity. What’s most worrying about this movement is that it’s based entirely on one theme supposedly worthy of six variations, yet I cannot recall a fraction of melody used in the entire movement. Go back to ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’… you may not have written the original melody but at least it’s memorable.
Showing improvment on the first movement, the Menuetto demonstrates much better use of texture, juxtaposition of contrasting dynamics and decorative melody. It packs more ideas than found in the entirety of the arduous 14 minutes that is the first movement into six minutes worth of pleasant, above-average piano exploration. Whilst at times interesting, this movement collapses on itself by trying to be everything at once. Soft sections perfectly balanced with the boisterous; major sections slightly outweighing the minor; frills and trills placed right next to block chords etc… this movement goes to too many places leaving nothing to be appreciated. When there’s nothing remotely special by which the listener can remember it by. It feels almost as though 6 minutes of nothing had just been listened to.
Movement No. 3 is probably Mozart’s most famous piano piece: Rondo Alla Turca… and with good reason. We are finally reintroduced to the classy, ornamented melodies that made Mozart famous. This, combined with the humour and pompousness of the major sections, creates not a balance, but a stark contrast that Mozart uses to show his fun side. In just over three minutes, Mozart captures striking character and wit that is still often remembered today, and closes the sonata with both style and substance.
Whilst the ending movement is undeniably classic, it doesn’t stop five sixths of the sonata being unreasonably drawn out, devoid of any character and simply forgettable – mostly because of the predictability of Mozart’s piano style, but also because it’s simply not as entertaining as his other works. A poor effort overall.