Mozart Piano sonata no. 3 in Bb, K281

performed by Mitsuko Uchida

or also this very interesting performance of the first movement by Robert Levin on an actual fortepiano, similar to what Mozart would have played on

This third of Mozart’s piano sonatas is in B flat major, also (still) written in 1774, for or during the same trip he took to Munich for his opera La Finta Giardiniera. Busy guy.
Still in three movements, still no wild key signatures, all of that. B flat major is apparently a key Mozart used often in his piano music, with a handful of sonatas, concertos and other works written in the key; we can assume he liked it.
The contrast between sixteenth triplets and 32nd notes is apparent in this first movement of what is apparently one of Mozart’s most virtuosic piano compositions. I can’t really comment on that, but it does sound…. ornate. There’s lots of trill and sixteenth note triplets contrasted with thirty-second notes figures. The bass echoes the opening line, and we’re off on a light kind of delicate ride. The second subject has a more stationary repeated note for a passing moment, but there’s still tons of intricate, ornate stuff going on. Exposition repeat and some minor key in the development.
The second movement is marked ‘andante amoroso,’ and this website gives the admonition that it “should be played with introspective devotion, not as a declaration of passion.” It sounds almost lullaby-like, but I do hear the ‘introspection,’ and it feels rather related to the first movement, like the same emotion somehow in slow motion has taken on a different personality, and there sounds like there’s a maturity of expression here that’s beyond that of an eighteen-year-old.
The third movement is a gavotte. That’s a kind of dance, but it doesn’t matter if you know what it is. This movement, as discussed by the same website above, has a more complicated structure, as a rondo with separate sections that repeat and are developed, sometimes in different keys. There are some more interesting chords, and you might not know what a diminished seventh chord is, but it should jump out at you when you hear it a few times in this movement. There are trills and other repeated elements that make this movement quite interesting. The same website above makes mention of a cadenza, which is odd to have in a solo piece, but you do notice it when it shows up. It’s kind of an outburst virtuosity based on the themes we’ve heard in the movement, and then there’s a coda and it ends.
I would say this is a nice way to end our triplet of Mozart sonatas, but this is only the end in the sense that it’s as many as we’re going to cover for now (scheduling conflicts; sorry). Mozart wrote three more sonatas in rapid succession during the same Munich trip, his no.s 4-6, K282-284, so while this piece is kind of the height of what we’ve talked about so far, it’s not the actual end of any cycle. There is another half of these youthful Munich sonatas (which seems not to be what anyone else calls them, although that’s where all of them were written). Spoiler alert: number six is a big hefty piece that Mozart wrote for a bassoonist who apparently couldn’t pay him for the commission. I heard it performed in its rather large entirety at my piano teacher’s graduation recital, and it was impressive. That was a big program to begin with, but we’ll have to get around to those other three
sonatas at another time. For now, something a little different.
I hope you’ve enjoyed our little stretch of Mozart pieces. They were somewhat challenging for me to write about, to tell the truth, and maybe that’s because they’re just above me? Again, I’m not one to pick up on musical jokes, inventive modulations or ingenious chord progressions without a little bit of research (i.e. being told to look for them), so any of those kinds of things are a bit lost on me.
But I do feel better about finally hitting on some of Mozart’s piano works, and he is now by far the most-written about composer (by number of articles) on the site, even if each article is rather small and perhaps lacking in insight. I will be more excited once we get to some of his later works. See you then!
As for tomorrow, we’re on to someone new, and we’ll follow the same system: early works leading up to something bigger, even though this sonata wasn’t necessarily bigger. It’s big enough, and in any case, we must move on.
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