Piano Sonata No.7

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Sonata No.7 in C major

K284b, K309

About this work

Mozart's Piano Sonata No. 7 in C major, K. 284b (K. 309), was composed in Mannheim in October and November of 1777, while he and his mother were on a lengthy trip that would take them to Paris the next spring. Tragically and unexpectedly, Mozart's mother would die there on July 3, 1778.

While Mozart was in Mannheim, he earned room, board, and cash by giving lessons to numerous students. One of these, Rosa Cannabich, was the daughter of Johann Christian Cannabich (1731-98), leader of the famous Mannheim court orchestra. For her, Mozart composed the Piano Sonata No. 7 in C major. Mozart later explained that he had "depicted" the girl in the Andante of the sonata -- the only known instance in which Mozart attempted to portray a real person in music.

Aspects of the Mannheim style are evident in the work, particularly in its sharp dynamic contrasts. Both Mozart's sister and father noticed these traits, his father writing, "It has something of the mannered Mannheim style about it, but so little that your own good style is not spoilt." Mozart composed another piano sonata while in Mannheim, No. 9 in D major, (K. 311) possibly for performances in Paris. In these sonatas we find Mozart's powers of expression growing, assimilating not only characteristics of works by Mannheim composers but many of the ideas of Haydn, apparent in his use of sonata form in both first and second movements. Also, some of Mozart's writing for the keyboard is in an orchestral style, removed from the typical keyboard technique of the day.

In the first twenty measures of the Allegro, Mozart elides asymmetrical phrases in such a way that the whole seems perfectly balanced. The beat on which the first phrase ends is also the beat on which the repeat of the phrase begins. A new seven-measure idea closes the first group of themes before the transition begins. The development focuses on individual measures from the first phrases, passing through numerous harmonies. Some development occurs in the recapitulation, which is otherwise predictable in its resolution of the secondary theme to the tonic.

The F major Andante resembles the description of Rosa Cannabich Mozart gave to his father: serious, predictable and somewhat boring. This, however, does not prevent the movement from being sentimental, and the numerous contrasts between forte and piano dynamic markings breathe excitement into a languid movement. A combination of rondo and variation procedures, the movement alternates the opening theme with a single episode, on the dominant (C major). The main theme is ornamentally varied at each appearance, as is the episode at its second and final sounding, which leads to the most embellished version of the main theme in the movement.

The C major Rondo opens with a two-part theme in which both halves are the same, except for an additional ornament in the second half and a slight reharmonization of a single measure. The movement as a whole incorporates aspects of sonata form. The primary episode is lengthy, modulates to the dominant, and features rapid triplet figurations that increase the forward motion. When the rondo theme returns, we hear the first half in the original form but the second half varied, after which material from the end of the episode appears, but on the tonic. In the ensuing measures, other ideas from the episode become resolved to the tonic before the final return of the rondo theme. Elements of the main theme make up the very closing moments of the coda.