8 Mar 2012

A minor

More about Sonata No 8.

The Sonata in A minor was the first of Mozart’s only two piano sonatas in minor key. It was written at a time of great emotional turmoil. The composer left his comfortable job in Mannheim for the first time and took up unstable freelance work. That was compounded by the recent death of his mother and his affair with Aloysia Weber.

When you want to understand a person, you’d better watch what he does at difficult times.

Mozart was an expert in expressing a wide range of emotions in a single piece. Though the Sonata was deeply melancholy, one could hardly ignore the interception by passages of playfulness. Similarly, the second movement was expressive and romantic, only interrupted by a tense and dissonant passage in the middle. The swinging emotions make you feel that the composer was trying hard to pull away from the sadness and bitterness, as if it did not matter; as if it had not occurred.

This contrasts sharply from Beethoven. When Beethoven became increasingly deaf, he wrote the Symphony No 5 in C minor. The four-note motif at the beginning of the Symphony was one of the most well-known phrases in music. As the composer later revealed, “Thus Fate knocks at the door!” The four-note motif would appear in many different forms throughout the entire Symphony.

So, what was the Symphony about? Was it about the cruelty of Fate and the hardship of Life? Yes and no. To Beethoven, C minor was his special key. He always portrayed himself as the Hero whenever he wrote in C minor. The Symphony, for instance, finished with the triumphant fourth movement. The greatness of Man conquered Fate.

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