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Piano Sonata in F major, K. 533 and K. 494

October 4, 2015 – Richard Goode, piano

Mozart’s F major Piano Sonata, K. 533 and K. 494, was published by Franz Anton Hoffmeister in 1790, perhaps assuaging part of the composer’s financial debt to his friend. But the work was not newly composed, nor had it all been written at the same time. The Rondo, K. 494, had been completed on June 10, 1786, and the Allegro and Andante, K. 533, on January 3, 1788. When Mozart decided to join these movements to form a complete sonata, he added a twenty-seven-measure “cadenza” toward the end of the Rondo for dramatic weight.

Overzealous nineteenth-century editors began publishing the chronologically separated movements independently, fostering a certain reluctance to accept the Sonata as a whole and perhaps inhibiting more frequent performance. Yet the Sonata is regarded by many as a masterpiece and Mozart’s own authority that the components belong together should be trusted.

The Allegro’s unpretentious beginning expands into a sonata form on a grand scale. Mozart displays his “late-period” fondness for contrapuntal textures—as in the Jupiter Symphony and other piano sonatas—and takes particular delight in the shift of melodic material between right and left hands. Harmonic adventures such as those in the development become even more pronounced in the expressive Andante, with its chromatic dissonances and bold diminished chords.

The lighthearted Rondo refrain provides supreme contrast to the preceding introspection. The movement’s full proportions befit its origin as an independent piece, but it should also be borne in mind that Mozart lengthened rather than shortened the Rondo for inclusion in the Sonata. The music-box effect of the refrain is balanced by its final appearance at the end in the bass register. The “cadenza” that precedes the refrain’s deeper return serves to heighten the drama.

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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