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Exploring Mozart Sonata No. 5 in G, K. 283 (First movement, Allegro)

The learning exchange between student and teacher is heightened when a new piece is introduced. In the case of Mozart’s charming, early period Sonata no. 5 in G, it became a revisit for me that brought new revelations that I shared during the course of weekly lessons.


Mozart presents a challenge in capturing a singing tone that is emblematic of the opera. (From Wiki: “The work was written down during the visit Mozart paid to Munich for the production of his La finta giardiniera from late 1774 to the beginning of the following March.”)

At least when playing the opening allegro of K.283, even the Forte-pianos (f-ps), that might suggest more abrupt and decisive accents in Beethoven’s mid-period sonatas, are far more elegantly played in Mozart’s early sonata vocabulary so one should be able to sing them.

Bass notes in a parallel octave progression moving in an intensifying fashion seem to be yielding to those doubled in the treble, lest they sound too ponderous for the period. Therefore, one must respect a fine line of sensitivity in their execution.

Pianist, Murray Perahia speaks of the singing pulse in Mozart works, and I must agree. He states that a rubato lives within the composer’s music but not necessarily taken with such liberty as would apply to Chopin and the Romantics.

Finally, in my tutorial, I try to apply educated instincts and intuition to my exploration of the opening Allegro, K.283, with a focus on the singing tone, phrasing, harmonic rhythm and form.

The Exposition is naturally a springboard for my analysis of the whole movement that weaves in motivic and harmonic tie-ins.

Mozart Sonata K283 p. 1 Allegro 1

Mozart Sonata K283 p. 2 Allegro

Play Through:


From Wiki

“Piano Sonata No. 5 (Mozart)

“Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 5 in G major, K 283 (189h) (1774) is a piano sonata in three movements:


“This sonata is part of the earliest group of sonatas that Mozart published in the mid-1770s. The first movement is a sonata-allegro movement that is concise, with an economy of materials. The development section is a mere 18 measures long. The shorter length and moderate technical demands make it an ideal piece for early-advanced study and performance.

“A typical performance takes twelve to eighteen (Richter) minutes.”

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Mozart Rondo Alla Turca, K. 331 updated, with instruction

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Should a piano student be a carbon copy of the teacher?

The whole universe of music teaching and learning became crystallized when I found myself bouncing ideas back and forth with two parents of Suzuki-trained children on a blog COMMENTS forum.

First, I questioned the purist form of the Japanese imported “method” to the piano that delays note-reading to conform with the acquisition of language. Babies, for instance don’t learn to write until years after “speaking” the mother tongue.

But as they move right along to Kindergarten, letters and other symbols enter consciousness, and phonetics progresses to letter groupings, words, sentences, etc.

In the musical realm, there are differing opinions on what age is best to start a child on individualized piano study. The Suzuki followers often begin teaching a fledgling as young as 3 if not younger. Naturally, at that age, reading music is hardly expected.

According to parents who are pleased with the program, they regale the efforts of toddlers who listen to their teachers and copy what she plays.. they insist, without looking at their mentor’s fingers on the keys. (though fingering decisions are pivotal to good phrasing)

This is supposed to be ear training–or more specifically, “playing by ear.”

If this continues for years at a time, perhaps the child will have an ability to hear a tune, and play it back with a minimum of note errors. But what’s next?
And what’s the content of his playing from an interpretive dimension?

Let’s fast forward the clock to a 9-year old, “copying” the teacher week after week, month and after month, etc. and let’s say he’s playing a J.S. Bach Minuet. Whom does he sound like.. himself or an imported version of his teacher? Is he reading the music, looking at harmonic progressions and their influence on phrasing/nuance? Is he analyzing the form of his piece, etc. or still copying the authority figure without a second thought.

I believe a piano student grows over the years with a teacher who tries to imbue a sense of independence in the creative learning process. She takes baby steps with the pupil, but doesn’t leave him tied to her apron strings.

Here’s an exemplary lesson with a 9-year old student where she combines the tactile experience of playing, with singing, and analyzing the music under my guidance. (Gillock’s “Stars on a Summer Night.”)

With adult students, the goal is likewise to nurture them along so their practicing becomes the prototype for musical growth in the long term–and they can feel confident to have landmarks for learning independently.

How is this best done? Singing phrases with the student helps as he looks at the score while he plays– singing helps contour phrases. The greatest teachers like Boris Berman, for example, conspicuously sing and conduct during their public masterclasses with highly gifted pupils. (Fingering choices also need to be discussed)

Choreographing the music as a conductor does with physical gestures in front of an orchestra helps a student shape a musical line.

But why deny the student, his own ideas about how to craft phrases? Certainly over years, that should be a process that unfolds, not leaving a student in the dark, groveling always to copy the teacher.

Here’s an example of a very fine pianist, who tends to push the student off the piano bench to copy her. And while I love the mentor’s playing, I feel the pupil should explore a bit more on her own, with necessary teacher prompts.

Contrast this to my working with an adult student on Mozart’s Andante movement of Sonata k. 545. As a preliminary, we had discussed the composition’s harmonic flow and its influence on phrasing and eventually on pedaling when she was ready to add it.

So going back to the original theme of this writing, I don’t favor a so-called method or approach that makes a student a carbon copy of his/her teacher. (especially when note-reading is absent or not specifically required in a course of piano study–adhering to the “playing by ear model”)

A reminder that the score is a reference that should be the point of departure in the long-term growth of a student’s artistry and love for music. This allows a joyous interchange with the infused elements of learning previously discussed.


The Right Age to Start Piano Lessons?

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A sentimental journey taken with Mozart

urtext Mozart sonatas

A dear musician friend took off for the Catskills with Haydn. His music would fill her cabin space that came equipped with an old grand piano.

My journey ran parallel, only Mozart took the reins.

Wolfgang Amadeus filled my Berkeley apartment with strains of Sonata no. 9 in D, K. 311. It was a revisit after decades past my student days at the New York City High School of Performing Arts. Murray Perahia was a year ahead of me at the time, and a pace-setter. He was strides ahead of us, fledglings, as he read Brahms symphonies at the piano. It was phrase perfect.

I was 13, embarking upon my studies with Lillian Freundlich, who led me by the hand through the great Classical piano literature.

She taught me about the singing tone, how to produce it–and had me drop one note at a time with supple wrists and relaxed arms– Mozart was our vehicle and he could not speed off in a superficial spree of top layer, fingered passages. I had to get into the keys, and draw out the richness of the composer’s operatic musical metaphor. Wolfgang would resonate in all vocal ranges. (The piano, after all, was NOT a percussion instrument) It had an immense reservoir of cantabile.


Lillian played quite beautifully herself. In fact she sang over most of her own music-making, just as Glen Gould was known to do.

Seated at her 1940s Mason and Hamlin grand that upstaged the neighboring Steinway, I felt her looking over my shoulder, drowning out my phrases, shaping lines with her vocal nuances. She sometimes shook her head in a steady beat to prevent me from running off somewhere within my vacillating tempo. She was always there to ground me.

It’s been years! Time waits for no one..

And Mrs. Freundlich is long gone. Yet her presence remains. I felt it keenly when I scooped up an old Mozart Sonata Urtext edition and thumbed my way to Sonata K. 311–the very first one I learned with Lillian.


After 3 hours of careful review, as if I never really left the piece, but merely lifted it from my unconscious, I was uploading the masterwork to you tube.

My REVISIT–At first in slow tempo, (self-instruction)

A brisk play through:

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Piano Instruction: Suggested ways to practice Mozart Rondo: Allegretto, K. 545 in C Major

Rondo Allegretto Mozart 545

Having been through years of practicing and teaching this Mozart Alegretto, I have a few epiphanies that might benefit others. In the attached video, I assert that the opening Rondo motif with its lively thirds should not spill into an emphasized downbeat but rather a lifted one. This applies to the overlapping Left Hand as well, to create consistency. (Note that the Rondo A section includes measures 1-8)

(The Rondo Form: A, B, A, C, A followed by the Coda. The interspersed sections between the recurring RONDO A are called Episodes)

In the episodic portions of the movement, with streams of legato (connected) 16ths, as in Measures 9-13, I enlist a rolling wrist forward motion to counter a very articulated sound. Mozart’s music, evoking the light opera in this composition, should be singable.

The modulations to different keys also should be identified in the overall mapping of this movement. For instance Measures 28 through 52 are in A minor.
In measures 28-32, the lighthearted harmonic thirds motif returns, and they are then inverted to 6ths. (This is a Development section)

The Coda is a stream of legato 16ths (use the rolling wrist motion) that spills into a final two-measure zig zag arpeggio. (a fingering challenge for some)

Rondo Allegretto 545 coda

Think singable Mozart whether the notes are in short spurts, or longer spills. (But know there is a dualism permeating this Rondo–short, detached notes and contrasting legato phrases)

By the way, I use no pedal in this movement, because I believe clarity is best realized without it.

The video amplifies: I apologize for moments where the Mac motions of my hands and the music did not synch. Seems Imovie has not solved all its internal problems.


Play Through:

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In the Piano Universe: Two You Tube Treasures not to miss!

Every so often, I stumble upon an uploaded You Yube performance that grabs my ears. In this instance, it was a Mozart encore offered by pianist, Mitsuko Uchida, that led straight to a compelling videotaped interview with her. With my antennae up and ready for more sparkle to light up my day, I was amply rewarded.

I must admit that when I surveyed first movement readings of K. 545, the “Drawing Room” sonata, I was less intrigued by Uchida’s interpretation (employing a clipped staccato) than by what I found as an afterthought to a concert she had given at an unspecified location. (her short notes, were refined in a portato-like rendering through a soulful Andante)

First, to celebrate an artist, who does not feel obligated to reel off a show-stopping transcription as a tour de force ending to a concert, but instead chooses a slow movement to cap the evening….

I remember how satisfying it was to hear Horowitz bless his audience with Schumann’s “Reverie” as the ultimate conclusion to his recital. (He would precede this offering with virtuoso displays, but not leave the stage without making a peace with himself and his listeners)

And so, Uchida, in this spirit played the second movement of Mozart’s well-known Sonata in C, which by serendipitous opportunity, led to a prized interview that provided an intimate glimpse of her inner thoughts, ideas and philosophy.

Be inspired:

Interview (It’s in English)


Compare readings of Mozart K. 545, Allegro

BIO from Uchida’s Official Website:”>”>

“…whatever she plays, you always sense that Uchida has thought through the reasons for everything she does, but always in the best interests of communicating what she feels is the emotional essence of the music. It’s a rare, and very precious gift.”
The Guardian

“Mitsuko Uchida is a performer who brings a deep insight into the music she plays through her own search for truth and beauty. She is renowned for her interpretations of Mozart, Schubert, and Beethoven, both in the concert hall and on CD, but she has also illuminated the music of Berg, Schoenberg, Webern and Boulez for a new generation of listeners. Her recording of the Schoenberg Piano Concerto with Pierre Boulez and the Cleveland Orchestra won four awards, including The Gramophone Award for Best Concerto. Amongst many current projects, Uchida has recently been recording a selection of Mozart’s Piano Concerti with the Cleveland Orchestra, directing from the piano. The Cleveland Plain Dealer wrote of their performances of K.466 and K.595 in April 2010, ‘Uchida turns in readings of such eloquence, one has no trouble understanding why they’re also being recorded for posterity’ and The Times wrote of the disc issued in October 2009, (K.491 and K.488), which won a Grammy award, ‘Did even the great Clara Haskil play Mozart’s piano music as wonderfully, as completely – with intelligence and instinct perfectly fused – as Mitsuko Uchida?’

“Highlights this season include performances with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and Haitink, Vienna Philharmonic and Boulez, Cleveland Orchestra, Chicago Symphony, Philharmonia Orchestra and Salonen, and the continuation of the Beethoven concerti cycle with the London Symphony Orchestra and Sir Colin Davis. Uchida will perform chamber music at the Mozartwoche festival in Salzburg, with the Hagen Quartet in a tour of Japan, and with Magdalena Kožená in Europe. She will give solo recitals in Tokyo, Salzburg, Berlin, Paris, London, Chicago and New York.

“Mitsuko Uchida performs with the world’s finest orchestras and musicians. Some recent highlights have been her Artist-in-Residency at the Cleveland Orchestra, where she directed all the Mozart concerti from the keyboard over a number of seasons. She has also been the focus of a Carnegie Hall Perspectives series entitled ‘Mitsuko Uchida: Vienna Revisited’. She has featured in the Concertgebouw’s Carte Blanche series where she collaborated with Ian Bostridge, the Hagen Quartet, Chamber Orchestra of Europe and Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra as well as directing from the piano a performance of Schönberg’s Pierrot Lunaire. Uchida has also been Artist-in-Residence at the Vienna Konzerthaus, and with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, where she performed a series of chamber music concerts and a Beethoven Piano Concerti cycle with Sir Simon Rattle.

“Mitsuko Uchida records exclusively for Decca and her recordings include the complete Mozart piano sonatas and piano concerti; the complete Schubert piano sonatas; Debussy’s Etudes; the five Beethoven piano concerti with Kurt Sanderling; a CD of Mozart Sonatas for Violin and Piano with Mark Steinberg; Die Schöne Müllerin with Ian Bostridge for EMI; the final five Beethoven piano sonatas; and the 2008 recording of Berg’s Chamber Concerto with the Ensemble Intercontemporain, Pierre Boulez and Christian Tetzlaff. Uchida’s most recent releases are CD’s of Mozart’s concerti K.488 and K.491, and a second disc of K.466 and K.595, both with Uchida directing the Cleveland Orchestra from the piano; and an acclaimed disc of Schumann’s solo piano music, featuring the Davidsbündlertänze and the Fantasie.

“Mitsuko Uchida has demonstrated a long-standing commitment to aiding the development of young musicians and is a trustee of the Borletti-Buitoni Trust. She is also Co-director, with Richard Goode, of the Marlboro Music Festival. In June 2009 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.”

December 2011

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What “authentic” edition should a piano student use when learning repertoire of the Masters?

I’m thinking back to my ancient days studying with Lillian Freundlich in New York City. During this period, like any fledgling I relied on my teacher as an “authority” figure to recommend what Mozart Sonata edition, for example, I should buy down at Patelson’s. (This was decades before the quaint hub for musicians seeking authenticity and desired discounts, went out of business.)

Schirmers, by comparison was considered the more pricey location with its yellow churned out publications that became home sweet home hand-me-downs from one generation to another. You might find these in your piano bench collecting dust with a culture of their own. Sometimes albums would crop up in odd places, sandwiched among soft-covered recipe brochures, or old Life Magazines.

I had one particular hard cover, antique edition of the Chopin Waltzes (not Schirmer) bestowed by Ethel Elfenbein, pianist, that literally disintegrated when I opened it. The flakes, spread far and wide over my carpet, were gathered up and moduled on a shelf overlooking my fireplace. So much for the living, breathing presence of Chopin in my musical sanctuary.


Over the years, I realized that Mrs. Freundlich and later teachers at the Oberlin Conservatory would redundantly select the Henle Urtext edition for Mozart and Beethoven Sonatas, as well as for the works of composers from Bach through Brahms, and on into the Impressionistic era. No questions asked, it was BLUE forever! meaning that I might also acquire Beethoven’s death mask or a colorful glossy rendering of a Master in attractive period attire wearing a frilly wig. If nothing else, I could extract a portrait to frame and decorate the walls of my piano studio.

But in a column of negatives, many of the Blues had a sea of emptiness on the page. The open space would befuddle me during my post umbilical cord years, as I journeyed to independence as a private teacher in Fresno, California, of all places. We not only lacked a Patelson’s equivalent, but Miller Sheet Music, our popular mainstay, disappeared one day, when the Internet grabbed the lion’s share of industry commerce.

With some Urtexts lacking simple phrasing and fingering suggestions, I would inevitably hunt around for an edition with more direction. In a word, that’s how Palmer landed on my piano rack.

Before long I had amassed his Introduction to Scarlatti, Mozart, Chopin, etc. with its needed ingredients for my students who were otherwise barely able to adhere to basic fingerings. And what a nice extra  to have an opening set of pages explaining ornamentation, phrasing, and any Period practice formerly plagued by enigma. (I knew my pupils wouldn’t wade through these, but at least I did, so I could pretend to be an “authority” on a particular composer and his era) Little did I know that I might be channeling misinformation.

As an example, I recently posted a You Tube performance of Chopin’s Nocturne in E Minor, Op. 72, No. 1 where I had used Willard A. Palmer’s edition, “from the original sources.”

Here’s what was notated on page 3, for trill execution. (the recommendation was to begin the extended ornament on the upper note)

After I had shared my reading with the distinguished pianist/teacher, Seymour Bernstein, my bubble burst! His comments seriously questioned the edition I used and its trill instruction:

“First, what kind of edition is that with wrong pedal indications and suggestions that those long and some short trills begin on the upper note? Please consult with the Wiener Urtext (Ekier).” (Had I heard “Urtext” a zillion times over in my archived music memory?)

He continued with dismay. “Some theorists hold to Chopin always beginning trills on the upper note, but that practice ceased with late Bach and Mozart. It comes down to personal choice. And choices are usually made on what the melody is doing.”

(At least my “nutty” fingering comment in measure 37, met with Bernstein’s approval. He endorsed my autographed adjustment.)

In stars perfect alignment, I received a timely comment from a reader informing me that Seymour Bernstein had published Chopin Interpreting his Notational Symbols:

Immediately, I raced back to the piano and revised the direction of my trill, to my personal satisfaction. The melody now lingered from the start, without a hint of the Baroque style intruding upon a pervasively Romantic musical landscape.

And speaking of Baroque manuscripts, I’d been startled by performances of Scarlatti’s works posted by fine harpsichordists and pianists that had measures of completely different music than I had practiced for years!

A case in point, where discrepancies abounded, were found in James Friskin’s edition of a dozen or so sonatas in each of two volumes that I was raised on.

From Sonata in A Major, L. 345, K. 113, with its daredevil, crossed-hand passages:

Notice the first page printed below as compared to what is rendered in Gilel’s reading. To my surprise, only one performance of many sampled, reflected what was printed in measures 13 of Friskin. For all intents and purposes a repetitive bar that would have been correct measure 14, was missing. The same played out in measure 18 in most recordings.

Emil Gilels (I wonder what edition he used?)

Here’s one of the few performances that finally matched up with Friskin: (A very sensitive interpretation from Irina Bogdanova)


To further blur the Baroque landscape, I found supposedly missing measures in other Sonatas published by James Friskin, including the celebrated K. 159 in C Major with its hunting horn opener.

Elaine Comparone,  a brilliant harpsichordist with a discography a mile long, prefers to work with manuscripts that are not cluttered with annotations and the rest. She has enough of an erudite, academic and musical background to insert her own phrase marks, fingering, etc. with a high degree of established authority. (

In summary, we may be back to start on what we can trust as the best realization of the masters’compositions.

For certain, there will be clashes of wills and preferences among the finest pianists and scholars, but perhaps it would be instructive to read some of the best treatises and books associated with the composers’ works. Domenico Scarlatti by Ralph Kirkpatrick comes to mind. And I recall having heard Murray Perahia mention Barenreiter in connection with Bach’s manuscripts.

JS Bach.
Catalogues and critical editions

The standard Bach catalogue, with thematic entries, is the Wolfgang Schmieder Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis (BWV), first published in 1950. A complete listing of Bach’s works (by Richard Jones), incorporating new dating, is at the end of the “J.S. Bach” article in New Grove. Bach’s collected works were first published by the Bach-Gesellschaft (Bach Society), 1851-1900. A new edition, the Neue Bach Ausgabe, or NBA (Bew Bach Edition), using the techniques of modern scholarship, began publication in 1954 (from Barenreiter), and is still in progress.

More J.S. Bach sources: