piano, piano blogger, piano lessons, piano technique

Weaving threads of melody through W.A. Mozart, K. 545-Allegro

I’ve come full circle back to a “signature” piece that has grown over decades as I’ve worked with students discovering its many challenges.

The so-called “facile” Sonata in C, K. 545, by W.A. Mozart that’s quickly retrievable from my memory-labeled archive, is not “easily” dismissed as a thinly composed romp through C Major.

With its up and down sprees through a sequence of scales early in the Exposition, the journey demands a thoughtful examination of phrase contouring and harmonic rhythm.

For many players, a cluster of scales, extracted from the opening Allegro movement can be mechanically rendered as a hasty clump of sixteenths that whiz by, without internal density, shape, or destination. Yet, given Mozart’s alliance to the opera, all these myriads of ascending and descending steps should be vocal-modeled. (Even trills and their resolutions deserve an internal swell and relaxation to cadence, in the “vocal” tradition.)

In this vein, I recall my beloved piano teacher, Lillian Freundlich, mentoring me as a 13 year old in New York City, discouraging my “top of keys” Mozartean passagework. She would draw me back to basics, imbuing her wisdom about “weight” transfer, delivered through relaxed arms and supple wrists, feeding bigger energy into groups of notes. Often she would work with rhythms, such as the dotted 8th/16th figure, to free up a forward arm roll attached to the longer eighth note value. And then she might reverse the rhythm, so the emphasis was on the sixteenth note. (We would then fill in the missing sixteenths with an embedded connection “into the keys.”)

But above and beyond such implied fragmentation, Mrs. Freundlich believed in building by groups of notes to a physical/musical feeling of LONGER breathed out phrases that emulated the human voice. (Note that Lillian constantly “sang” over my playing, a habit I quickly acquired and had to moderate at times.)

Naturally, her ideas, transmitted over time, became mine through osmosis, though there was always a margin of freedom to grow my individual creativity. (To this effect, I developed “blocking” techniques to flesh out harmonic movement, and to instill a broader perception of notes in transit.)

Lillian F. always told me from day one, that I will teach you how to become an independent learner– to acquire the necessary skills to “learn how to learn.” This was her greatest gift to me.

In the embedded tutorial, I integrate the vocal model (without a propensity to drown out my own playing with “singing”). In deference to a sequence of scales, (measures 5-10) I lay out a back tempo, and then an advanced tempo, keeping intact contouring decisions that are based on note direction, sequences, and harmonic leanings/ relaxations. Measure 11 is the spill-out destination with seamless broken chords in the bass, against dance-like pairs of treble eighths leading to a final cadence in measure 12.

The video below basically includes an examination of the whole Exposition, with an intrinsic singing model approach and harmonic exploration.

Naturally, ways to practice are underscored.

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