Top 5 Sonatas from the Classical Period: #4

#4: Mozart – Sonata in A minor, K. 310

Mozart wrote his first minor-key sonata following the death of his mother. His handling of dissonance is one of his greatest strengths as a composer, and the first movement of this sonata provides a great showcase for it, especially in the development. The outset of the development is an obligatory major variant of themes, but then Mozart takes advantage of the opportunity to deepen the already-dark minor mood, with chains of spicy dissonances over a pedal Alberti bass.

The slow movement is quite elegant, in classic time-suspending Mozartian fashion. Not a note feels out of place. In two spots he engineers a long trill in the right hand over a two-voiced left hand that gives the effect of three hands playing. The second half of this movement, marked con espress., turns up the emotional dial. Minor arpeggios give way to surprising dissonance in some forceful leaping triplets. After the outbreak, Mozart still finds solace by the end.

The third movement provides a breathless dark rondo with a persistent dotted-quarter-plus-eighth rhythm. Some of the gestures at climaxes are quite powerful and extroverted. The only respite from the darkness is a quiet, folk-like section in A Major that nevertheless retains some of the dotted-quarter-plus-eighth rhythm. The sonata ends somewhat abruptly with some final biting A-minor cadences.

Where to find it:

51480001 Mozart Sonatas Vol. I (Henle)

51480396 Piano Sonata in A minor K310 (Henle)

50601318 10 Essential Piano Sonatas (Schirmer)

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