Friday Performance Pick – 143

Mozart, Sonata in A Major, K. 331

This week I have found myself searching through Mozart’s compositions for some musical examples related to a music theory project. The Mozart Sonata in A Major (K331) kept coming to mind, and now I can’t get it out of my head.

I needed to find examples that were clear and straightforward, things that a student could see easily. Clarity and Mozart go hand in hand, right? Yes and no. With Mozart there always seems to be a twist—some complicating factor that needs extra explanation.

This sonata has too many twists that distracted from the points I wanted to make. It begins with a theme and variation on a Czech folk melody instead of a typical fast movement in sonata form. In fact, it is unusual in having none of its three movements in sonata form. And the last movement, the famous Rondo alla turca, makes an excellent example of the Viennese fascination with exoticism. Mozart, Haydn, and Beethoven (along with many others) wrote compositions featuring what the Viennese imagined as “Turkish” music. But that too was a distraction.

When I started looking for a recording of the sonata that would fit my criteria for this series, I came across many recordings that were, how shall we say, dull. A Mozart sonata needs to be performed with some restraint, owing to the general style and the sound of the fortepiano of Mozart’s day, but not at the expense of intensity and energy. This performance by Latvian pianist Olga Jegunova strikes the right balance, I think.