Mozarts Piano Sonata No. 8 in A Minor Program Note
The Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K. 310, composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, is an original piece which stands out even among all of his other works. To fully appreciate this sonata however, one must understand the events in Mozart’s life preceding the writing of this piece. Written in the summer of 1778 shortly after the death of his mother, for which his own father blamed him, the Piano Sonata No. 8 expresses Mozart’s pain and anguish following the loss of his mother.
(LaPhil) Offering stark contrasts throughout, whether they are between the different movements, or within the movements themselves, this piece constantly reflects the shock, confusion, and agony of losing a loved one. And it is for this reason that I believe this sonata is the manifestation of Victor Hugo’s quote. The eighth out of eighteen sonatas written my Mozart, it is the first of only two to be written in a minor key.
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This alone sets the sonata apart from the rest, giving it a darker undertone from the beginning.
The first movement, whose tempo marking is allegro meastoso, (fast, in a paced march-like manner) opens with a vehement melody as the first theme. The right hand is playing a very staccato rhythm, which is complimented by the left hand’s much smoother cadence. (LaPhil) This results in a dense flurry of notes, which reflects the frantic anger, and depression one could not help but feel after the loss of a mother. By giving the listener only brief pauses between these sections of dense melody, the chaos and angst of the theme is only fortified.
The second movement in and of it self proves to be a striking contrast to the first. With the tempo marking andante cantabile con espressione (steady, in a lyrical expressive manner) its 3/4 tempo offers a lighthearted ambiance when juxtaposed to the 4/4 (common time) tempo of the first movement. The layered, chaotic tone of the first movement is replaced with a graceful melody that almost tickles the ear, giving the movement an upbeat, joyful tone in comparison.
The use of the F major key leads to this section sounding more jovial to the listener as well, due to the fact that it is a diatonic scale. (A scale composed of seven pitches and a repeated octave) The third movement, with no hesitation, pulls the listener back into the chaotic maelstrom reflected in the first. Returning to the A minor key, with the tempo marking presto, (extremely fast) this section has a 2/4 tempo.
Reintroducing the somber undertone of the A minor key, this time it has a more dramatic affect due to its faster tempo, especially because it follows the steady 3/4 tempo of the third. Similar to the first movement, there are moments in which the dense, rapid melody of the third movement is juxtaposed. Unlike in the first movement where this is done with brief moments of silence, Mozart juxtaposes this rapid melody with melodies that are reminiscent to those of the second movement. Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 8 in A minor, K.
310 is one written as a response to the shock and mourning of the death of his mother. In this riveting piece filled with striking disparities such as the contrast between the second movement from the other two, and the imbalance caused by the breaks of silence in the first, Mozart truly simulates the emotional rollercoaster of someone who has just suffered the loss of a mother. I believe each divergence, in the way it takes the listener by surprise, encapsulates the trauma of losing a loved one, which he himself felt.