1784: Mozart: Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor

TUESDAY, February 25, 2020

The Piano Sonata No. 14 in C minor, K. 457, (1784) – age 28

This is one of only two sonatas written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart that is in a minor key. He was around age 28 when he wrote it, and since he only lived to be 35 years old this is rather late in his life. I almost always prefer sonatas, concertos and symphonies that are at least partially in minor, and really there is two ways to do this. One is to write a sonata in minor key but move to major for the slow movement. The other way is to start in minor, move to major for the slow movement, then go back to minor. A great variation is to do the same thing – minor, to major and back to minor, but to return to major at the end. This was very common for Beethoven and many composers who came later. This is one of my two favorite Mozart sonatas, and those two are the only ones I was every seriously interested in. They foreshadow Beethoven. I need to go through all the Mozart sonatas to be sure, but I’m pretty sure that all the rest – all written in major  – also stay major for all movements. That means that out of all 19 of them, they are predominantly major all the way through

This sonata was published in December 1785 together with the Fantasy in C minor, so there was something going at that time that made Mozart get into a more serious mood and express darker moods.

Micah McLaurin…

I’m featuring him since I want to promote young players, and I think it’s good for my students to see such young artists. His physical presence is great because he plays with no acting or annoying gestures.

Pires, for comparison…

Yet again here is the little lady with the huge heart and excellent chops. I should mention here that figuring out how to play Mozart is very difficult because in his youth he was a harpsichord player, not a pianist. In his youth the piano was still a very primitive instrument and by his death in 1791 it still didn’t sound much at all like the pianos you hear modern players use. So the question at all times is how much dynamic contrast to use, or how “edgy” to make the music. For me Mozart’s piano music is usually played too conservatively, as if Mozart were somehow a very delicate little man. It’s as if he was not a person of extremes, and yet he was. He felt and expressed very strong emotions.

This is very well played, but I would like the outer movements to sound a bit more like Beethoven, and I believe Mozart, if he were brought forward in a time machine and given a modern concert grand, would play with more passion and fire.

However, this is all conjecture, so just an opinion.


An alternate sound, Ivan Moravec…

I don’t like the sound, because there is an echo, and ear phones it does not stop for over a second, a huge recording flaw. But I like the playing best because it is more violent, more exaggerated, more larger than life, and this is very like the way we hear the Beethoven Pathetique Sonata performed, and I think the conception is superior.

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