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About this Piece

Though Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was born in 1756, nearly 25 years after Haydn’s birth, he would die in 1791, well before the elder composer’s death in 1809. Mozart’s entire life and career were encompassed by Haydn’s fruitful longevity. And while Haydn was credited with pioneering such musical forms as the keyboard sonata or the string quartet, it was Mozart who refined them, and to some minds, perfected them. The Sonata in B-flat, K. 570, written in 1789 and chronologically the earliest sonata on this program by some five years, adopts the familiar three-movement structure of two faster outer movements and a central slow movement. It is to this slow movement, a kind of musical time machine looking both backward and forward, that I draw your attention.

The stately, even gait of three musical voices, a duet with accompaniment, is reminiscent of Bach (a composer Mozart studied and venerated), but the emphatic and anguished declamations that soon follow reach into the romantic future. A hymn-like introduction that would have been at home in the 18th century is followed by an operatic episode we might comfortably place well into the 19th century, and as such this movement is emblematic of Mozart’s genius as student, master, communicator, and innovator. The scope of a career is captured in a single brief span.