Saturday Concerts

Mozart: Complete piano sonatas

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Mozart’s piano sonatas occupy a prominent place in his output, forming a special microcosm. Covering an extensive period of his career, this series of the complete piano sonatas will allow listeners to discover the rich palette of compositional resources the composer explored, which is combined with performances at both the piano and fortepiano here.

The Mozart sonatas in their context

The piano is a central part of the extensive output of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), not only due to the 18 sonatas he composed for this instrument, but the approximately 100 works he composed for the keyboard: variations, fugues, miscellaneous pieces and all kinds of transcriptions, not to mention its use in chamber-music genres or as a soloist in concertos. However, the corpus of sonatas stands out as an exceptional group, which has constantly formed part of the repertoire of all pianists since the nineteenth century. The historical success of these works lies in the very nature of the music itself: they are pieces of an accessible difficulty for beginners, providing them with examples to develop their performing technique. But the sensation of easiness Mozart’s writing transmits does not correspond with the reality of a music that, as any professional pianist knows, demands large doses of delicacy and clarity in their performance.

Mozart essentially composed his piano sonatas for four purposes: a) for his concerts as a performer, an activity he carried out from his childhood until his late years; b) as teaching materials for his students, among whom were many daughters from the well-to-do class; c) as a present for a nobleman in exchange for a gratification; and d) to be sold to publishers, who quickly put them into circulation in an expanding musical market. As explained in the following program notes, the context and purpose for which each sonata was conceived may help in the understanding of the characteristics of a particular work.

Viewed as a whole, these sonatas can be grouped into four collections. The first group corresponds to the six Sonatas KV 279-284 composed in Munich in early 1775 when Mozart already enjoyed considerable fame. The second consists of the three Sonatas KV 309, KV 310 and KV 311 composed in Mannheim and Paris between late 1777 and early 1779, a trip that wasn’t as successful as he might have hoped at the end of the day. The third group forms part of his Viennese period, following his definitive break with Colloredo during the early 1780s (instead of during the 1770s, as had previously been thought), and consists of the four Sonatas KV 330-333. Following the Sonata KV 457 composed in 1785, the last group of sonatas dates from his last years, 1788-89, comprising those catalogued as KV 533, KV 545, KV 570 and KV 576, in which he summarises his brief but intense experience in the composition of keyboard sonatas.

Concerts in this series