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It has been argued that Mozart's Sonata k331 has a weak 1st movement as it has a series of short passages lacking in continuity, tonal variety and musical development - Discuss.

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Introduction

It has been argued that Mozart's Sonata k331 has a weak 1st movement as it has a series of short passages lacking in continuity, tonal variety and musical development. Discuss. To answer this question fully, we must look at each criticism in turn- lack of continuity, lack of tonal variety and lack of musical development- individually before concluding using all the evidence. The first movement of Sonata K331 is comprised of a theme, six variations and a coda. The theme comprises of 18 bars: four times four bar phrases with an 'extension' tacked onto the end. Mozart followed this strict binary theme but this does not mean that the music is at all predictable; he uses different techniques to bring the best out of this form, as detailed later. The extension is an example of Mozart surprising the listener and enhancing the journey to the end of the theme. Each of the groups of four bars ends with a cadence. This is periodic phrasing, one of many signatures of 'galant' musical style (also known as Viennese classical music) ...read more.

Middle

This could be countered by contrasting the first movement to the radically different form later in the piece and by pointing out that the use of the two bar extension was unusual and Mozart added this primarily to avoid becoming too predictable. A piece lacking in continuity may also have several ideas that may only appear for short periods in the piece or not work well together. However, Mozart uses the same simple melodic ideas throughout this movement that does provide continuity. He achieves this through using the melody within different textures and not using much counterpoint at all. Next is the question of tonal variety- Mozart's use of chords and shape in the piece. There is a good argument for the lack of tonal variety in the piece- in the whole Andante only one type of chromatic chord is used (in bar 12 of variations 1-4). Also, Mozart's reliance on the tonic and dominant chords is evident; in the theme, over 75% of the chords are in the tonic (A major) ...read more.

Conclusion

Mozart decorates this sonata with extreme precision. Acciaccatua's liven up the left hand beginning in bar 41 and trills on demisemiquavers in bars 45 and 46 provide provocative lead-ins to runs, enhanced by the semi-quaver triplets in the same bar. More decorative variation can be heard in bar 81 where the left hand plays chromatic appoggiaturas followed by a fast bridge in bar 83. Also in bar 83 we have the marking 'sforzando', the first time since the theme. This is followed in bars 83 to 90 with a repeat of bars 73-79. Is this repetition of bars a positive or negative attribute? Critics would argue that this shows a bland use of space and lack of tonal variation but others believe this is just another tool used by Mozart to make the listener appreciate the strong melody of the movement. Initially, the sonata could be criticised as in the title, and does indeed have short passages that do not lend themselves to continuity and vast tonal contrast. However, Mozart has managed to overcome this and, through the tools explained above, produced an interesting and enjoyable piece. Ben Sellers. 19/1/01 ...read more.

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