Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309

Review Essay

Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309 was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. The piece is comprised of three movements, meaning that it contains three parts. The first movement is Allegro con spirito; the second one is Andante un poco adagio; and sonata’s finale is Rondo (allegretto grazioso). The piece dates back to the late eighteenth century. The critics believe that Mozart composed Piano Sonata No. 7 in the year 1777. Biographers believe that Mozart composed Piano Sonata No. 7 to commemorate his short trip to Mannheim and Paris. Particularly, it is assumed that the piece was finished by the month of November in 1777. The researchers are inclined to think that the second part of the piece was inspired by and dedicated to Rosina Cannabich, who was the daughter of Christian Cannabich, who served as a Kapellmeister in Mannheim at that time. Mimicry/imitation of Mannheim style of composing music and pure expression of Mozart’s talent are said to be the distinctive features of the Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309.

The Mannheim style of composing music manifests itself in the piece being analyzed through sharp dynamic contrasts. Mozart’s father and sister had noticed that particular qualities of the Mannheim style in his new composition. Each movement of the piece was composed by Mozart himself. Leopold Mozart, Amadeus’ father, took the liberty of editing the composition as they had to have it transcribed. Contemporaries assume that sharp dynamic contrasts represent romantic motives, passion, and emotions. Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309 testified that Mozart’s confidence, as a composer, grew as long as he realized that he was capable of expressing his feelings through music, its melody, tempo, tonal qualities, and rhythm. In his subsequent works, Mozart attempted to follow creative principles of Joseph Haydn. Mozart also observed the Mannheim musical style principles. Mozart’s piano compositions have influenced the contemporary composers’ ways of employing the keyboards’ expressive means.

Mozart’s innovation consisted in an attempt to achieve balance between asymmetrical musical phrases/some specific stings of notes. Observing the same principle is peculiar to modern music performers. One of the possible solutions was to make the asymmetrical strings of notes overlap. Thus, the effect of steady beat was achieved. Each phrase/string of notes starts with a strong beat. Each new string of notes is as if spliced with the preceding one. Transition and overlapping of musical phrases occur only when the periods within it are closed. In other words, a complete musical idea contains some shorter units, periods, characterized by harmoniousness and finitude. Introducing a theme and resolving it are a part of complete musical idea.

Allegro con spirit, the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309, does not end abruptly. Nor is it sentimental. The strength of sounding, the dynamics of the piece, fluctuates between piano and forte, providing a fresh breathe of excitement into the movement itself. C major key predominates, although variations are present. The variations of the main key emphasize the contradistinction between the introductory part and the main theme of the first movement. Each movement incorporates variations of the main theme. In this respect, ornamentation can be viewed as both the distinctive feature of the piece as a whole and one of creative principles the musician employs in his compositions.

Both the introductory part and the first movement of the sonata are in C major; the main theme, even though it is varied, is discernible in both parts of the piece. Building on what the critics know about the history of Mozart’s Sonata No. 7, it can be assumed that the variations of the main theme occur on purpose. Steady rhythmical, melodic, and dynamic patterns intersperse with ornamentations, re-harmonization, and alteration of meter. Incorporating the sonata allegro form apparently influences how the piece is performed. The lengthy modulations of dominant chords and rapid figurations in triplets accelerate the pace at which the melody is moving forward throughout the piece. The first part represents original form of the sonata, with the elements of the main theme closing the coda.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is reputed as one of the most talented and innovative composers in the history of European classical music. A lot of critics, biographers, musicians, and theorists of music classify Mozart’s Piano sonata No. 7 in C Major as a unique, harmonious, and, at the same time, dramatic piece of music. That particular piece of music stands out from composer’s other works created in the 1770s for the unprecedentedly different approach to combining the sounding of different music instruments. By composing his Piano Sonata No. 7, Mozart strived for creating a musical metaphor, as he attempted to portray his pupil, Rosina Cannabich. The piece has become an experiment in some ways, as the composer used expressive means of music to portray the qualities of a living being.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart himself, who was born in Austria, is one of the world’s most renowned classical composers. Mozart by right is considered a genius by many. Mozart began performing when he was only five. By the time when Mozart was ten years old, he played his music for the royal houses across Europe. He worked at the court of the Archbishop of Salzburg but left for Vienna seeking to find a better fortune, a better place to live and an opportunity to express himself. Vienna is considered a place where Mozart composed his most significant works, such as, for instance, The Magic Flute and The Marriage of Figaro. Mozart passed away at the age of 35 due to unknown causes1. The Requiem Mass in D minor has become Mozart’s last composition.

The time when Mozart composed Piano sonata No. 7, in the late 1770s, is typically referred to as the Classical period in Western music. The period itself was characterized by transition from Baroque to Romanticism in music. The music that was composed at that time was mainly homophonic, which is one of the distinctive features of Baroque music. What makes Mozart’s music special within the period of Romanticism is its versatility in terms of atmosphere, genre, and typological (specifically, structural and contextual) peculiarities.

Mozart composed Piano sonata No. 7 upon his decision to depart from Salzburg. Mozart composed the sonata during his trip to Paris. It took Mozart not too much time to compose the piece, which was common to his case. Mozart’s biographers presume it took him just a few days to finish the composition2. Mozart composed Piano Sonata No. 7 upon leaving Manheim: the composer was disillusioned because he did not manage to find a job in Manheim that could have earned him a proper living. Furthermore, it was a period when Mozart was already very famous but he was still in search of his own unique musical style.

Piano music was especially popular in the Baroque era. The periods in the history of music that preceded Baroque were characterized by a great complexity, that is to say, not a small amount of sophistication in terms of the plane of content and the plane of expression. Particularly, music at the time prior to Baroque age was heavily ornamented3. Classicism was a great leap forward in music in a sense that in this particular period composers contemplated the possibility of using piano as a major instrument in sonata form4. Mozart’s contribution to popularization of sonata form across the Europe was unparalleled, while thanks to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the meaning of harmony in music was re-conceptualized5.

The first part of the first movement of the Piano Sonata No. 7 starts with a striking, symphonic articulation, immediately followed by a light, melodious section. Beginning his piece like that gives the composer an opportunity to develop the piece itself in at least two possible ways6. Juxtaposing the variations of the main theme, use of contradistinction and countertheme are distinctive features of the first movement of the piece being analyzed. In addition to that, Allegro con spirito from Mozart’s Piano sonata No. 7 abounds with the evident musical inconsistencies. Specifically, a moderate trill between C sharp and D for the left hand are used to present a new theme. The bass note descends to C-regular and then to B that turns into the bass note and goes with the new theme in G major7. Mozart follows that same melodic pattern in another two sonatas that are also in C (K 330 and K 545). All things consided, Allegro con spirito was conceived as a particularly C-significant motion8.

About seventy-five percent of Mozart’s “rhythm signs” give insight into how to perform a piece by no means. It happened so mainly because rhythm meant much more than velocity in the late eighteenth century music. Various researchers point out that acceleration of pace in a piece of music suggests a change in such aspects as meter, most insignificant tonal qualities, beat word, a module portraying rate, articulation, agogics, technics, and finally, the character of the piece itself910. Apparently, some information was lost when original manuscripts were restored11. Thus, not a small amount of information concerning how to perform a piece should have been invented.

For instance, in the Rondeau from Eine Kleine Nachtsmusik, the initial Allegretto was changed to Allegro mom non-troppo. In the first amendment of Symphony in G minor, K 550 and the Coronation’s Credo Mass, Mozart decided to substitute the initial Allegro assai by Molto Allegro. Upon making corrections to the Symphony in C genuine, K 338, the composer replaced Più tosto allegretto with Andante di molto in the first violin part. Sarastro’s aria “In diesen heil’gen Hallen” was initially in Andantino sostenuto; in its final version, the composer used Larghetto. The fourth development of the String Quartet in D minor, K 421 has testified Mozart’s intention to give the exact instructions concerning the rhythmical patterns of the piece. The composer decided to use Andante instead of Allegretto.

A quick ¢ represents moderate half notes, a moderate ¢ represents the respective quarter notes. This generally relates to the “ordinary” established 4/4 meter (containing sixteenth notes), also known as the “model of advanced meter” (W. Seidel). Italian terms are perfectly customized to denote a meter of that kind. An Andante “strolls” in quarter notes (either brisk or moderate – a motive of solitude!), an Allegro makes the quarter notes “glad”, i.e. speedier, an Allegretto makes them a bit, and Allegro assai – much quicker12.

Conclusion

The process of analyzing Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309 helped me learn a great deal of interesting information about the piece itself. The history of composing Piano Sonata No. 7 was particularly though-provoking, let alone studying Mozart’s biography. Learning the history of creating the composition helped me deepen my knowledge of those aspects of Mozart’s life’s work I used to be formally familiar with. In addition to that, studying the history of the piece helped me learn a lot of new information about the age when the piece itself was composed. In other words, I have learned a lot about Baroque and Romanticism, as the historically significant moments on the timeline of the development of music.

Tempo is, perhaps, something that one notices first when listening to the Piano Sonata No. 7. The rhythmical pattern of the first movement of the piece is sophisticated, as, at some point, it contains not a small amount of abrupt accelerations. The tempo of the first movement is Allegro con spirit. The tempo plays an important role in setting the tone of the whole piece, introducing the main theme, and developing it. Apparently, upon studying various technical and contextual aspects of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 7, K 309, I have started to understand the piece better. Thus, what I have learned about the composition will affect the way I play it in future.

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  • 1 Paul Johnson, Mozart (New York, NY: Viking, 2013), 124.
  • 2 Robert W. Gutman, Mozart: A Cultural Biography (London, UK: Pimlico, 2001), 55.
  • 3 James A. Hepokoski and Warren Darcy, Elements of Sonata Theory: Norms, Types, and Deformations in the late-eighteenth Century Sonata (New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2011), 201.
  • 4 Danuta Mirka and V. Kofi Agawu, Communication in Eighteenth-Century Music (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2012), 78.
  • 5 Brien Masters, Mozart: His Musical Style and His Role in the Development of Human Consciousness (Forest Row: Temple Lodge, 2006), 58
  • 6 Musopen.org, “Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart – Piano Sonata No. 7, K. 309 – Free Sheet Music”, https://musopen.org/sheetmusic/14/wolfgang-amadeus-mozart/piano-sonata-no-7-k-309/
  • 8 Gr. Seiffert, “Piano Sonata C Major K. 309 (284B)”, G. Henle Verlag. http://www.henle.de/en/detail/index.html?Title=Piano+Sonata+C+major+K.+309+ (284b) _1065
  • 9 To, W. T. H., T. Bertolo, V. Dinh, D. Jichici, and C. M. Hamielec, 2013, “Mozart Piano Sonatas as a No Pharmacological Adjunct to Facilitate Sedation Vacation in Critically Ill Patients”, Music and Medicine 5(2): 119-127.
  • 10 Alan Tyson, “Mozart’s Piano Sonatas”, The Musical Times 107(1484): 888
  • 11 Neal Zaslaw and William Cowdery, The Complete Mozart: A Guide to the Musical Works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (New York, NY: Mozart Bicentennial at Lincoln Center, 1991).
  • 12 Gordon Stewart, A History of Keyboard Literature: Music for the Piano and Its Forerunners (New York, NY: Schemer Books, 1996).
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