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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Sweet Home Arkansas

I have discovered an excellent recording of Mozart’s Piano Concerto in A Major, K. 488 (second movement, m.1-12). Found on Naxos’ Online Music Library and performed by Alain Lefèvre, it is a gripping and moving opening statement to the Adagio portion of this concerto.

The chord analysis is as follows:

m.1 – i

m.2 – ii*(half)4/2 V6/5

m.3 – i-6 ii6

m.4 – V6/4-5/3

m.5 – VI6 ii*(half)7

m.6 – iii i

m.7 – IV6/5 V6

m.8 – I4-3 VI

m.9 – N6

m.10 – N6

m.11 – V6/4-5/3

m.12 –i

The recording I’ve had the pleasure of listening to takes a slower tempo than some other recordings I’ve heard, but does a wonderful job of accentuating the accidentals. Especially at points of tension/release (m. 6) the emphasis brings new colors and emotions that flood the mind when listening to the work. I imagine Mozart writing this piece and thinking, “Hmmm…a C# in measure 6 is what they expect, but if I lower the note to a C [or B#] and then resolve…much better…”

Mozart takes the work to an undiscovered arena when, in measure 8, he tonicizes to a major I (F# major chord) and transitions into a major VI (reminiscent of the minor key) but then slaps a bII (Neapolitan!) into the texture for the following two measures. Again, Mozart creates this proud statement but then backs his intensity off and looks skyward to the heavens as he arpeggiates a G major chord. However, Mozart is no “head-in-the-clouds” type of guy as he reverts to his typical cadential 6/4 to finish the cadence and begin the orchestra’s initial entrance to the movement.

It’s careful attention to detail like those suspensions and preparation of the Neapolitan chord that make the composition (and Mozart, of course) special. The (seemingly) transparent texture in which the piano is written gives a very open, inviting and dreamy aura to the entire opening section. The wide spacing in the left hand and single melody line in right hand are so lax in complexity that the piece sounds simple – simple to compose and simple to play. Not much to something that has a lot of notes, right?

Mozart compositionally kicks guys like Rachmaninoff in the head – he doesn’t need a fistful of notes to make music.

1 comment:

Scott said...

Good thoughts, but make the transition from intensity to heavenward more clear by providing more details. The G major chord is still the Neapolitan, what makes it less intense in m. 10 than in m. 9 (I agree that it is)?