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3 Late Sonatas by Mozart (A. Einstein)

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Introduction: Whether we find Einstein’s descriptions of these works as entirely fitting, or at times a little overdrawn, the basic intention is still served: an invitation to visit or revisit certain late chamber works by Mozart, as offering exceptional examples of the great composer’s art.


Source: Mozart. Sein Charakter, sein Werk, by Alfred Einstein.

(Permalink: www.zeno.org. Lizenz: Verwaist.) From the section chamber music with piano.

… In the area of sonatas for piano and violin, three great sonatas are the last word Mozart provided. About the origin of the first, in B flat (K. 454), he gave his father (and us) certain details (24 April 1784): “…We have the famous violinist from Mantua here now, Mlle Strinasacchi, a very fine performer; who shows considerable taste and sensitivity in her playing. – I am writing a sonata now, which we will perform in her concert at the theatre, on Thursday [29 April] …” On the day before the concert, however, Mozart only had the violin part written down; so he played his part from memory.

The repertoire of Regina Strinasacchi, who in 1784 was about 20 years old, is known to us from Cramer’s Magazine (1, 344), where she is known also by the first name Catarina: “Giarnowick, St. George, Borra, Cambini.” Certainly Mozart added the best work to this repertoire. One can hardly imagine a more perfect “alternation” of the two instruments than in the first Allegro, to which one arrives through a noble Largo, like a triumphal arch; and in the Rondo, where the theme and the “divertissements” always return with new and increasingly pleasurable surprises. There is not a slow movement, rather an Andante, which shows an inner melding of feeling and concerto-like display.

The B flat work is followed, in December 1785, by a Sonata in E flat (K. 481). We do not know what brought it about – perhaps it was only composed to gain a small sum from Hoffmeister, who printed it. Nowhere is Mozart so near to Beethoven as in the finale, with six variations on a sturdy theme [“ein hemdärmeliges Thema”]; or in the Adagio with its labyrinth-like modulations, peaking in an enharmonic relation; and leading into hidden depths of the soul. The first movement is likewise endearing and yet forceful, both brief and well-formed.

In the last of these great sonatas, in A major (K. 526) – thus completed during the composition of “Don Giovanni” – Mozart perfected a balance of styles in the piano and violin sonata. The work is both bachian and mozartian, three-voice contrapuntal and galant; and in the slow movement the special balance of soul and art is achieved – as when God the Father, for a certain moment in the world, brings all motion to a halt; so as to allow all good people to enjoy the bitter sweetness of existence. [“…wie als wenn Gott-Vater für einen Weltaugenblick alle Bewegung zum Stillstand gebracht hätte, um alle guten Menschen die bittre Süßigkeit des Daseins genießen zu lassen.”] Some have described this work as a predecessor to Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Yet the work avoids the “dramatic”, the passionate – and so remains in the boundaries of the 18th century, being all the more perfect for these reasons. [ … ]

Translation by Edward Eggleston.


On recordings. In place of offering specific links for online versions, a couple of suggestions: The Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis recordings on youtube of Mozart’s sonatas are exceptional. This applies to the performances and the recording quality. Secondly, the Birmingham Public Library has (music CD) recordings of these works as well.