Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Sonata No. 1 in C major, K. 279 (K. 189d)

    Description by John Palmer

    While in Munich in early 1775, Mozart composed five piano sonatas, K. 189d-h (K. 279-283); the Sonata in D major, K. 205b (K. 284), appeared shortly afterward. Mozart and his father had traveled to Munich in early December 1774 to oversee the premiere of Mozart's new opera buffa, La finta giardiniera (The Imitation Gardener), commissioned by the Munich court. The opera received its first performance on January 13, 1775, two weeks before Mozart's nineteenth birthday.

    It is remarkable that Mozart, who had made his reputation as a keyboard virtuoso, had even waited this long to compose sonatas. He had written sets of variations, but nothing in the sonata style. This may be because his Salzburg patrons were not interested in solo keyboard compositions. The six sonatas of K. 279-84 were apparently written as a set for which Mozart deliberately chose "easy" keys, although he referred to the works as his "difficult" sonatas. Mozart worked his way around the circle of fifths, first toward the flat side, composing the sonatas in the order, C, F, B flat, E flat, then moving to the sharp side and writing those in G and D. He may have used one of his new sonatas in a keyboard contest between himself and Ignaz van Beecke (1733-1803), a contest in which the latter was judged superior.

    Each sonata is in three movements, and each differs from the others in several ways. The grace and charm we find in some of the first movements, especially that of the C major sonata, are reminiscent of J. C. Bach's keyboard style. Mozart chose various contrasting keys for his middle movements and a wide range of expressive devices and moods throughout the set. Only the D major sonata was published during Mozart's lifetime.

    The K. 279 sonata, in C major, begins with an Allegro sonata-form movement featuring a four-measure theme that is more a group of single-measure gestures than a melody. A more tuneful secondary theme, on G major, dissolves into the scales and leaping motives of the closing group. The development section begins in G minor, after which Mozart moves the opening material of the piece through several keys and breaks it down into its constituent parts in a manner that looks forward to Beethoven. In a brilliant gesture, Mozart alters the transition in the recapitulation by building a passage based on the bass line from the main theme. Through variation technique, Mozart extends the secondary theme to such a degree it sounds as if we have entered a coda, but this impression fades as soon as the closing material, transposed to the tonic, appears and concludes the movement.

    In sonata form with a brief development, the central Andante is set in F major. The occasional juxtaposition of duple-metered melodic lines with nearly constant triplets produces a sense of rhythmic freedom. The development section is unusually periodic, using several measures of the main theme. Great dynamic contrasts mark the movement, in which changes from piano to forte sometimes occur from beat to beat.

    The finale, marked Allegro, is a rapid, straightforward sonata-form movement in C major. The second theme could not be more different from the first: its repeated notes, played staccato, contrast with leaping and falling pattern of the first theme. The development section focuses on the main theme and is relatively brief, maintaining the light atmosphere expected of finales. Three false starts precede the actual recapitulation, after the first few measures of which Mozart inverts the material, placing the melodic line in the bass. Sudden dynamic contrast again rears its head in the developmental coda.

    Parts/Movements

    1. Allegro
    2. Andante
    3. Allegro

    Appears On

    Year Title Label Catalog #
    2016 Harmonia Mundi HMU 90753233
    2016 Oehms Classics OC 1830
    2015 Sony Classical 88875032222
    2015 Sony Classical 88875051802
    2015 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4822418
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2014 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4793622
    2014 Erato 2564624223
    2013 Accent ACC 24254
    2013 Wigmore Hall Live WHLCD 0061
    2012 Sony Classical 88725413592
    2012 MDG / Zebralution
    2012 Anima Records 9040001
    2011 Centaur Records 3157
    2011 Fazer / Finlandia
    2011 Brilliant Classics 94198
    2011 Avie 2209
    2010 Brilliant Classics 94034
    2009 E1 Distribution 7761
    2008 EMI Classics 229232
    2008 Erato 4696943
    2008 Eroica Classical Recordings 3403
    2008 EMI Classics 367524
    2008 Brilliant Classics 92733
    2008 Altara Music 1026
    2008 Philips 4646602
    2008 Farao Classics 108017
    2007 Musical Concepts 141
    2007 Doremi Records 7901
    2007 Sony Classical 88697148042
    2006 Doremi Records 71147
    2006 Warner Classics
    2006 Fazer / Finlandia
    2006 Brilliant 93025
    2006 BIS 1633
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 002894775200
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2006 Philips
    2006 DHM Deutsche Harmonia Mundi 84236
    2006 Music & Arts CD-1001
    2006 Sony Music Distribution 88808
    2006 Universal Classics & Jazz
    2006 Avie 2105
    2006 Philips
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon 4776130
    2006 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    2005 Warner Classics 4623362
    2005 Brilliant 92268
    2005 ATMA Classique 22248
    2005 Naïve 8905
    2005 Brilliant 92540
    2004 Visom 139
    2003 Gramola GRAM 98701/5
    2003 Sony Music Distribution 8799
    2003 RCA 55705
    2002 Glossa 503
    2002 Astree Naive 8865
    2002 dB Productions 75
    2001 Eroica Distribution 3061
    2001 Tudor Records 7011
    2001 Virgin 545407
    2000 Insync Music (INSP Media Group) 4234
    2000 Philips 000575602
    2000 Musicians Showcase 1026
    2000 BIS 835/37
    2000 EMI Music Distribution / Warner Classics 7243573915
    1999 Decca / DG Deutsche Grammophon
    1999 DG Deutsche Grammophon 463137
    1999 Hungaroton 31804/6
    1997 Nimbus 1775
    1997 Philips 456132
    1997 DG Deutsche Grammophon
    1997 BIS 835
    1996 Glossa 920503
    1996 Arbiter ARBITER101
    1995 Sony Classical 52627
    1995 London 443717
    1994 Naxos 505012
    1994 Naxos 550447
    1993 Denon Records 8071
    1993 Olympia (Classical/Jazz) 232
    1992 DG Deutsche Grammophon 435882
    1992 Vox 5026
    1992 RCA 60453
    1991 EMI Music Distribution 63688
    1991 DG Deutsche Grammophon 431 760-2GH6
    1991 DG Deutsche Grammophon / Universal Music Classics and Jazz
    1991 Philips 422719
    1991 EMI Music Distribution 67294
    1991 Astree 8681
    1991 Philips 000121802
    1991 CBS Records 45612
    1989 Hungaroton 31009/14
    1986 Philips 412617
    MDG 3411310
    Kontrapunkt 32092
    Brilliant 92630
    Discover 920200
    Brilliant 92268/1
    Brilliant 92630/1
    Denon Records 76689
    Erato 45615
    Musical Heritage Society 566052
    Sony Music Distribution 47222
    Teldec 242741
    Teldec 9031724832
    Edition HERA 2200
    Beats Work Records
    Amado Classics 01035