TUESDAY, February 25, 2020
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310 / 300d (1778), – age 22…
Mozart seldom wrote large works with multiple movements in minor. This sonata is the first of only two Mozart piano sonatas in a minor key (the other being No. 14 in C minor, K. 457). It was composed in the summer of 1778 around the time of his mother’s death, one of the most tragic times of his life.
Mozart wrote a lot and generally talked about what he was doing in letters, but he did not talk about this piece, and it could be that it was too personal, coming at such a horrible time. His mother’s death came right in the middle of a horrible time for him, and quite possibly the poverty he suffered from cause the death of his mother.
First I’m going to start with a version, only sound unfortunately, with a man playing the fortepiano. I don’t completely what follows, because the guy talking makes a great case for the original instrument but does not fully convince me musically because to me what he plays does not sound wonderful. But it’s interesting, and he makes some great points.
Here is an article on the fortepiano, which is the older name of the piano. As the name got shortened, the piano got bigger and more powerful and gradually developed into the instrument we heard today.
I’m on the fence about these early instruments…
Usually I don’t much like them. I judge purely by sound. 10,000 people can tell me that this or that composer is great, or this or that instrument, but if I don’t like it, I don’t want to hear it again. Maybe that makes me close-minded, but it also means I am rather immune to trends and hype.
However, this recording below I like better than any other I’ve heard, on any instrument…
The reason is that Mozart wrote this sonata at a terrible time in his life, and he was grieving. It is the most angry, forceful and dramatic of all his piano sonatas, and all the performances I’ve heard by other people to me sound tame, safe, homogenized, polite, civilized and boring. The music should be edgy, highly dramatic and extremely expressive, at times angry and very challenging. The last movement is marked presto and that means very fast. I’ll try to add other performances later, but this is the only one I totally enjoy.
Supposedly he is primarily an organist, but he is fine player, and I’ll be listening more to him, because once something – anything – strands out for me, I’m always open to hearing more from the same player.