About this work
Mozart's Piano Sonata in D major, K. 311, was composed in Mannheim in November 1777, while he and his mother were on a lengthy trip that would take them to Paris the next spring. Aspects of the mannered Mannheim style are evident in this sonata, particularly in its sharp dynamic contrasts. Mozart composed another piano sonata while in Mannheim, that in C major, K. 309, 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, especially in respect to his use of sonata form in both first and second movements of a multi-movement instrumental work. Also, some of Mozart's writing for the keyboard is in an orchestral style, removed from the typical keyboard technique of the day. The sonata was published in Paris by Heina in 1782 as Op. 4, No. 2.
The Piano Sonata in D major is in three movements: Allegro, Andante con espressione, and a Rondeau: Allegro. The Allegro opens with a theme that is orchestral in conception, with a flourish in the right hand over chords in the left. After a modulation to the dominant, A major, there is a secondary theme that sounds much more like a keyboard solo with its Alberti bass figures and scalar melody. Mozart slowly increases the rhythmic intensity of the development section until a sudden stop near the middle, where piano and forte dynamics alternate unpredictably. The order of events in the recapitulation is unusual. The second theme, now in the tonic, is followed by two ideas from the closing area, then the first theme, and finally a brief coda of entirely new material followed by the third closing idea. Such a "mirror image" recapitulation also occurs in Mozart's Violin Sonata in D major, K. 306, and his Symphony in C major, K. 338.
Mozart sets the G major Andante in what is often referred to as "rondo-slow-movement form," a variant of slow-movement sonata form (sonata form without a development section) in which the contrasting material (section B) is recapitulated on the tonic and followed by a return of section A. Sudden and wide dynamic contrasts are also a part of the Andante, which features an elegant opening theme fit for a vocal composition.
The closing Rondeau is filled with youthful energy and surprises. The first return of the rondo theme features a transposition of its second half to G major, which then introduces the second episode. The close of this episode is a cadenza passage with three different tempos that leads, concerto-like, into the return of the rondo theme and the close of the movement.
Curated by Vitaly Vatulya, Saxophonist