Mozart - Presto: 3rd mv Sonata in F K280/189e


The piano was a relatively new instrument in Mozart's lifetime and the harpsichord was still in use. Here is a performance of this movement on harpsichord.

It is useful to compare this with the piano performances, noticing particularly the added ornamentation here and the harpsichord's inability to grade the dynamics.

The performance has textural clarity however, along with liveliness and lightheartedness.

Pupil Match & Suitability

A student who wishes to play this piece will relish playing fast, lighthearted music, as heard here in Gould's performance.

Accuracy and precision are essential, as well as an unfailing sense of good taste in interpreting the Classical genre.

This is not for the nervous performer who worries about making mistakes, nor for the student who cares little about meticulous precision and subtle musical nuance.

Style & Tempo

Appropriate style is in interpreting Mozart is demonstrated here in Horowitz's playing. No matter which of Mozart's sonatas is performed, the essential hallmarks of good taste and appropriate style remain constant. This is the C major Sonata K330, 1st movement.

Notice the lightness of character, the careful balancing of texture, the elegance of phrasing and the attention to rhythmic precision.

Dynamics are contrasted in Mozartian style - forte is strong and playful but never heavy and the pace is quick, yet completely settled and poised.

Phrasing & Articulation

Listen to the elegance of phrasing here in Daniel Barenboim's performance. You may like to ask your student what exactly is meant by elegant phrasing.

Notice that the quick, one-in-a-bar pace gives a feel, almost, of four-time and each four-bar unit has a sense of direction in terms of dynamic nuance. The tone is never static, but always unfolds with graded dynamics, particularly in slurred pairs such as at Bars 31 - 37, which have strong to weak tone even over a barline.

Tone & Texture

The dynamic contrasts need to be managed with restraint when playing Mozart. Notice in Schiff's playing that:

a) dynamics are carefully detailed but not extreme

b) in the opening phrases dynamics give a playful sense of phrase and character, elucidating the structure.

There should be great clarity in sections such as Bars 25 - 37, where the melody is at first in the LH, with RH semiquavers rippling over the top. There is an antiphonal effect where the RH and LH have a 'conversation'.


Fast playing, while not specifically a technique, is the crucial issue here.

The ability to play fast relies upon the elements of:
a) good fingering patterns already established for scales, broken chords and arpeggios, all of which are to be found in this movement
b) LH octave playing technique for Bars 82 - 97
c) confident memorisation, or semi-memorisation of the music.

We are fortunate to be able to see here in the playing of Barenboim and Lang Lang. It is clear that, although they are using the score, the music is known and that well established fingering patterns, with consummate technique, pave the way for effortless performance.


The fingering given in reputable teaching editions such as the ABRSM publication is workable for many students. You may, of course, need to adapt fingering to suit your individual students' hands and preferences.

Bars such as 17 - 19 are much easier for students with average sized, female hands if fingers 1 and 5 are used on chords such as the Bb-G. Similarly bars 31-32 are easier with 1 and 5 (not 2 and 5) followed by 1 and 4. This fingering keeps the hand in a healthy, natural shape.

If a student decides on an alternative fingering, do enquire on what basis this decision has been made, check that it works up to speed and insist that the alternative be pencilled into the score.

Fingering choices must be checked up to the anticipated performance tempo, since this is the only way we know whether they will work - it is all too easy to get away with sloppy fingering at a slow pace.

You may need to add additional fingering at bars such as 61, where RH needs 4,2 on the E and C; also Bar 63 - RH needs 1 on the F (fourth semiquaver).

Also at Bar 72 it is not obvious which finger to use on the RH F (1 works well) and on the fiinal RH G (Finger 4).


The grace notes at Bars 2, 3 and 4 should be played as acciaccaturas.

Listen to Uchida's neat, unobtrusive ornamentation here in the first section.


It would be a pity to spoil the clarity of texture and harmony by clumsy use of the sustaining pedal.

Although discreet pedalling is appropriate for the chords of the Adagio, 2nd movement of the sonata, there is little need for pedal in this movement.

Teaching Strategies

A structured approach to teaching will probably yield the best results with this piece.

Go through the first section up to Bar 37 with your student, asking your student to talk you through what is required in terms of articulation and dynamics.
This approach is more active and engages the student's attention more keenly than if you explained it to them.

It can be very useful for you then to explain this in terms of violin bowing or slurring of a wind instrument, especially if your student plays such an instrument. It would be easy to imagine a violin downbow on each of the chords at Bars 2, 3 and 4, with slurred semiquavers as in Bars 5, 6 and 7. Listening will be beneficial.

Practice Tips

Practice needs, as always, to reflect what has been covered in the lesson.

Be sure to give clear strategies for practice that take into account both the stage in the learning process and your student's individual needs and learning preferences.

Remember that many students learn best by listening, even if that is not your own preferred learning style.

A selection of recordings of the pieces to be learned should be recommended and available to the student, increasingly so at this advanced stage of musical development.

The more interpretations a student hears, the better equipped they will be to discern good quality in playing of others and also in their own playing.


The main problems associated with achieving success with a presto sonata movement are being able to play up to speed with accuracy and fluency.

Many students reach Grade 7 level without having any strategy for how to cope with small slips and so a little blemish in accuracy turns into a break in fluency. Several interruptions to fluency mean the difference between passing and failing an examination.

What is needed:
1) thorough memorisation of the music, so that the score acts just as an 'aide memoire'
2) practise starting from any point in the piece, including mid-bar
3) build up accuracy and fluency in sections, but do not neglect to allow time for stitching these together
4) practise performing, so that the unexpected becomes less disruptive
5) strive for perfection, but ultimately accept being less than perfect without the need for correcting mistakes
6) remember that an examiner does not wish to see in your facial expression that you know you made a mistake !

Final Performance

Mozart - Presto from Sonata in F Grade 7 Level -
For examination purposes no repeats should be made.
In a concert the first section may be repeated, or both sections could be repeated.

This performance by Glenn Gould demonstrates the one-in-a-bar feel needed to give a lighthearted interpretation of this Presto.

An excellent performance will show an impeccable sense of style, with a poised technique enabling fluency and accuracy at speed. Ornamentation will be unobtrusive, expressive detail will lend variety and the overall mood will be one of exuberance.

A good performance will be quick and lighthearted in character. Technical poise may be less assured than in an excellent performance, with perhaps a few laspes in even control of semiquavers, but there will be convincing use of detail.

A sound performance will show appropriate musical intentions, with sufficient accuracy to give reliable continuity. The pace may be on the cautious side, although there will still be a sense of liveliness in the articulation, or the pace may be faster than the pianist can handle safely, resulting in some lapses in technical control.

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