Essay on The keyboard sonatas of Haydn and Mozart

Essay on The keyboard sonatas of Haydn and Mozart

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I. Haydn
          Haydn has a special preference for writing music in a bundle of six. Each of the six pieces has its individuality while sharing many common features at the same time. Haydn’s solo keyboard sonatas show striking diversity in type and style. They often could be categorized by their style periods and each of them reflects a corresponding social background.
Sonatas composed from 1773 to 1784 were intended as “public” works from the very beginning, with a clear conception of the taste, preferences, and instruments available to the musical public of Vienna. The Sonata in F Major, Hob. XVI: 23; L38 written in 1773 for solo harpsichord is the best known and most virtuosic of his set of six sonatas (Hob. XVI: 21-6). Haydn wrote the six sonatas for Prince Nicklaus Esterházy and they strictly follow the court-style. Sonata in F has three movements: Allegro moderato, Adagio (Larghetto) and Presto. The contrasting tempo and the fast motion between the fingers allow the player to give a virtuoso impression without acquiring over-demanding technique. In the opening movement, demanding 32nd-note passages create an improvisatory flavor. Haydn intentionally inserted a sequence of diminished 7th chords to make an unusual tonal appearance. The unique middle movement in F minor portrays a Baroque flavor. The finale is well-organized and filled with contrapuntal passages.
Nearly a decade later, Haydn wrote another six three-movement sonatas named the Auenbrugger sonatas. The composer himself had become acquainted with some talented Viennese amateur musicians. The Sonata in G Major, Hob. XVI: 29; L 52 was written in 1780 and with the rest of the set was dedicated to the Auenbrugger sisters. Although the sonata piece is in Haydn’s usual three movement style, he has secretly added in a number of new ingredients in each movement. The sonata begins with the Allegro con brio with lighthearted rondo variations. The most interesting aspect of this movements is that Haydn intentionally returned to the theme of the Sonata in C-sharp Minor, Hob. XVI: 36. However, the new movement includes two independent episodes, one in the tonic and the other in its relative minor. The Adagio movement is rich in ornamentation. A written-out cadenza is designed to for the trio. The finale Prestissimo returns to sonata form in a rocking ...


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...to one masterpiece. When listening to the piece, the music struck me as similar to story-telling. The Adagio opened the Fantasy with a dark, overcastting atmosphere. His use of key (C minor in this case) sets the mood unmistakably. The main theme is altered between both hands with variations. The progressive melodic embellishment serves as a useful model for the performer and they are compositional models for successive stages in the variation of a theme. The piece then moves on to a “march” like Allegro. This section includes a brief middle section in F Major which introduces the following Andantino. If the audience finds the peacefulness in the “Andantino movement” to be inconvincible, the finale unquestionably brings an even bigger surprise. It’s like a storm has just arrived after a quiet afternoon. The main theme reappears in the end in an even darker manner. From the drama, expressive language to the grand gesture, this particular Fantasy reminds me of Beethoven in various ways.
     As a major art form in the era, Mozart’s piano sonatas presented “models of fluency”. They revealed both the composer’s and the player’s musical virtuosity and clarity.

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