Mozart Piano sonata no. 2 in F, KV280

performed by Mitsuko Uchida

As with many of the pieces we have discussed in rapid succession, this piece was written soon after yesterday’s sonata.

Do remember the statement we made about the clump of the first four piano concertos: with such little space between them, and from such a young composer, I wouldn’t expect to see any large degree of development or advancement from one piece to another. What I do feel like I see, as mentioned with the juvenile orchestrations, is greater confidence. The young Mozart is, perhaps, getting his sea legs, as it were. 
What I find more in this piece is greater confidence in expression. It feels less like homework and more like communication of an idea, thoughts, feelings, whatever. 
The first movement, like the other two to come, is in triple meter, and feels kind of minuet-ish. This was apparently not common for Mozart’s time. The meter is the same throughout (or at least at the beginning of each movement). The contrasting themes in this sonata form are emphasized by the sixteenth notes in the first and the triplets in the second. This rhythmic contrast gives the piece something of a lively or fresh feel. It’s unique. There’s a brief development before our sixteenth and triplet subjects return to round out the short but rich movement, but not before a fancy little virtuosic coda of sorts. 
The second movement really blew me away. It’s such a far cry from the first movement, such a pained, desperate, hollow kind of despaired thing, funereal at the beginning, nothing like any of the pieces we’ve discussed thus far. The middle section moves into a (barely brighter) major key (A flat) for a spell, but ends the way it began. I’m told this movement is a siciliana, but that doesn’t mean much to me. This is the first movement of any piece we’ve discussed of Mozart’s so far that
feels like he is sharing something really personal with his audience, and this is a surprising and very welcome development. It’s also quite long, about half the material for this sonata.
The third movement is short and fast, in 3/8. It’s more along the lines of the opening movement, with lots of fast notes and contrasts. It is, after all, a presto, and very lively.
The way this sonata is laid out, it almost feels like one giant movement, a very unified piece with energy and flitter that bookends a central, very solemn and sad half of the sonata. Whether this kind of large-and-small scale layout is what the composer was intending or not, it’s interesting, and the outer movements sort of (perhaps unsurprisingly?) call Haydn to mind.
I find I tend to remember or differentiate pieces by the overall emotional impression they give me. Sometimes that emotion can be boiled down to a single word or thought, and sometimes that word fits (or can at least be associated) with the nickname given to the piece: Beethoven’s Eroica, Mahler’s Resurrection, but sometimes not. I think of Mahler’s first as more his pastoral, not his Titan. His third is the “big earthy one,” and the fourth is “the heavenly one.”
Anyway, I guess what I’m saying is that it’s much easier to remember or recall or process these pieces when they register with us on an emotional level. Much of the music we’ve discussed in the past few days has not made that kind of distinct, memorable impression on me, one of “I remember this or that because it makes me feel a certain way.” The second movement of this sonata is the first that has ‘clicked’ in that manner, that part of my brain.
Perhaps part of the reason is that I’m not really very good (yet?) at identifying and processing purely musical ideas. Some of the inventiveness or interesting stuff that goes on at this time in music are things like “Oh! He was supposed to modulate to the dominant, but it’s the subdominant!” or “that seventh chord there is special for some reason,” or whatever. I don’t really get that from listening casually, and to be honest, it would take some special attention to notice it in the score. Musical jokes or puns or little things like that are lost on me, so… in some ways, the music just has to register with me. And this one did. I really do quite like this sonata.
But there’s one more left for tomorrow, and it brings another kind of progress with it. See you then.

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