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Analysis of Mozart's Piano Sonata K.282

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Mozart composed his Sonata in E-flat major, K. 282 during the period where the Harpsichord was being displayed by the Pianoforte. This sonata stands apart, due to the significant use of dynamics and its slow and lyrical ‘Adagio’ first movement, which creates a powerful statement reading the ‘vocal quality’ of the pianoforte.

The structure and syntax of the first movement has been under examination due to the fact that it doesn’t have a definite or rigid design. This has led to many academics debating whether is in Sonata form, as expected, or in Binary form. I would argue that the first movement is in binary form (||A||A||) as the double bar lines in measures 15 and 33 indicates that the composer conceived the movement to be in two clear and distinct parts. The total form of binary consists of two-part design, which is distinguished by an internal double barline, in which a close material relationship exists between the two sections as the second section is based on the first. Owing to the tonal deviation in measures 19-21 and the Coda, the second part of the binary form is six bars longer than the first half, with the bulge at the end classifying the AA’ as rounded. I would argue that this movement is in rounded continuous binary form as it contains a tonic reprise of the opening music roughly at the midpoint of the second section plus, the A section modulates to the dominant.

The tonal content of the piece describes the binary division precisely. The movement begins in E-flat major, the global tonic of the piece, and cadences on the dominant B-flat on the downbeat of measure 15, the half waypoint of the movement. The piece then modulates back to the tonic in measure 22, however it isn’t until measure 27 that this tonal return is stable. The movement concludes with a perfect authentic cadence in the global tonic, E-flat major.

Measures 1-15 represent Part A of the movement; measures 1-4 create a ‘functionally stable ’ principal theme in the global tonic, characterised by descending semiquavers. At the beginning of Part A, the first two measures of the movement establish the primary melodic material, which can be called the basic idea. This is a common feature and trait of the period, as Caplin argues that ‘most Classical themes begins with a two-measure basic idea.’ This is because a two-measure basic idea unit is small enough to be grouped together with other idea and form phrases and themes. However, it is still large enough to be broken down through fragmentation and liquidation in order to develop its ‘constituent motives.’ These bars also establish the tonality of the theme and movement; this is shown through the prolongation of the global tonic E-flat major chords through the first two bars of the piece. Throughout measures 1-4 there is a descending linear bass line that separates the lower octave into a tetrachord and an overlapping pentachord. These two segments pivot on the dominant chord in measure 2. Due to the prolongation of the global tonic chord as well as the statement of the basic idea, I would argue that the first two bars of the movement represent a presentation phrase of a sentence.

Following this, there is a continuation phrase, a phrase that acquires momentum and leads to the cadence that concludes the sentence. Measures 3-4 feature the breakdown of the primary melodic material; this is done mostly through fragmentation and sequential repetition. For example, between measures 23-34 there is a clear model sequence technique, based on the descending semiquaver motif from the basic idea in bar 2. Following a prolongation of B-flat, the dominant of the global tonic, in measures 1-3, the continuation phrase ends with parallel descending motion and the cadential phrase begins. It features a 5-4-3 cadential line to the global tonic, E-flat. In other words, measure 4 concludes with a perfect authentic cadence in the global tonic of E-flat major.

The next four measures can be analysed in two different ways. Firstly, it can be likened to a transition phrase, which sequentially modulates to the dominant of the dominant of the global tonic, also known as the secondary dominant. This is achieved through an ascending linear pattern in the bass (E-flat, F, G) through contrapuntal chords, concluding with a prolonged half cadence on F. The combination of the descending G-G-flat-F in the bass, the secondary dominant in bars 7-8 and the accompanying G-flats, E naturals and D-flats in the soprano it could be argued that a deviation to the minor mode has occurred.

The second way that this section can be analysed is to define it as an antecedent of a period. This is because there is a two measure basic idea, or theme, that begins in measure 4, which is followed by a two-measure contrasting idea. The basic idea is characterised by the descending ‘D’ Locrian scale, with embellishment through complete neighbour notes and rising appoggiaturas. This is answered with the contrasting idea, beginning in bar 63 and is characterised by a rising scale, which hints at Bb Mixolydian mode. It also contains descending semitones, for example the Bb to A natural in the first beat of measure 7. Finally the contrasting idea concludes with a half cadence in F major, the secondary dominant in measure 8. However, there is a fault with defining this section as an antecedent phrase due to the form of the next few bars. Consequent phrases, which follow the antecedent phrases, always begin with a restatement of the basic idea, but it is slightly varied in order to accommodate a stronger perfect authentic cadence. Measure 9, however doesn’t begin with a repetition of the basic idea, therefore meaning that it can’t be considered an ordinary consequent phrase.

Measures 9-112 provide a stable secondary theme still remaining in the key of the dominant of the global tonic, B-flat major. I would argue that measures 9-15 contain a Hybrid, which combines an antecedent phrase with a continuation phrase that contains a cadential section. Firstly, the simplistic structuring of measures 9 through 11 harmonically prolongs the local tonic chord, in this instance B-flat major. The basic idea is presented from measures 9 to 11; the basic idea is triadic and abolishes the serious mood of the movement, whilst thematically setting the secondary theme apart from what has preceded it. The second half of measure 11 is the contrasting idea of the antecedent, which is accompanied by contrapuntal chords outlining B-flat major. The contrasting idea is characterised with sequential repetition, in this instance the model sequence technique. The contrasting idea concludes with an interrupted cadence in bar 13, which is then followed by the two previous measures, which are repeated with variations, this is the beginning of the continuation phrase. The music begins to express continuation function, primarily through fragmentation and an increase in surface rhythm. A cadential phrase begins at the end of bar 14, which culminates in a perfect authentic cadence in the first half of measure 15, in the local tonic of B-flat major. The second half of measure 15 contains a half’s bar link, which includes a modulation back to the global tonic. This gives momentum and drives to the repetition of Part A and then to Part A1 the second time. This is another reason why this movement can be argued to be in binary form as it is a common characteristic of continuous binary form that the A section modulates and ends with a cadential articulation in a non-tonic key which is closely related to the global tonic. 

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Analysis Of Mozart’s Piano Sonata K.282. (2021, August 06). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 30, 2022, from
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