Mozart - Viennese Sonatina No. 1 4th movement


Mozart's (1756 - 1791) Viennese Sonatinas were originally music composed for wind instruments and appear as the Divertimenti K 439B. At a later stage they were transcribed for piano and re-assigned to different keys.

The texture, in this last movement Rondo here, gives itself away as more wind oriented than contemporary keyboard style with its rather chunky RH double 3rds in the theme itself and the longer sustained notes of some of the minor variants. However it transcribes beautifully, and sits much better, for piano, in its ney key of C major

Pupil Match & Suitability

This is an ideal character piece for a bright, musical student. It is full of charm and energy and would give them a chance to show their musical skills with lots of variety in mood.

It requires nimble finger work, particularly in the RH double 3rds of the recurring rondo theme, yet there are no substantial stretches to tax small hands. Even the brief moment of LH octaves in bars 22 and 23 are broken.

Without a sense of imagination this could sound very utilitarian and basic, but with sensitivity and detail in the touch it will sound fresh and alive.

Style & Tempo

The typical characteristics of what was known as style galant are the hallmarks of the music here. Associated with the rococo style this "arose in courtly, aristocratic circles; it was playful, easy, witty, polished, and ornate....galant was a catch word of the same period, applied to everything that was thought to be modern, smart, chic, smooth, easy, and sophisticated." (Grout: A History of Western Music, Dent, 1960)

The simple yet charming musical ideas are expressed through clear diatonic harmonies with some added chromaticism.

Phrasing & Articulation

The musical ideas are simple yet require some shape to them.

The rondo theme itself appears as an initial section of very brief question and answer phrases, followed by a longer pair of four bar phrases.

The characteristics of the writing is that of charm and gentle lyricism in the piano phrases, contrasted with straight forward and crisply articulated forte chords by way of response. Achieving that clear dynamic contrast is a very important aspect.

Tone & Texture

Contrasts of dynamics are very important, most of the markings being either forte or piano.

The forte tone should be clear but not heavy. Listen to the complete performance in the final section to get an idea of appropriate qualities.

Whilst there are few indications of how to shape and play the lines, attention to textural detail will really help to sharpen the focus of playing and allow the performer to play with poise and colour.


The 'correct' technique is one which allows easy detailed playing.

Hand size and age are important considerations. Often younger children need to use their whole arm much more than adults simply to apply the necessary leverage to achieve good tone.

However finger control is also important. The ideal is a combination of free arm movement coupled with firm finger control at the point of contact with the key itself.

Playing simply by pressing with the fingers is likely to produce uneven and stiff results.


There is no need for pedal, although used very sparingly where longer lyrical notes occur, such as bars 8 & 10 (RH dotted crotchet G), can help to briefly colour the tone.

Its use on minim to crotchet slurs can be very useful.

Teaching Strategies

Fun is the order of the day here !

That said, there is a lot to be done in order to create clean, rhythmically disciplined textures.

Always use the lesson time for two main aspects: to engage with your student in a meaningful and musical fashion; to demonstrate by way of example how to work.

Practice Tips

This looks fairly easy, but it is, like all Mozart, very transparent.

Switching mood from one to another character will prove challenging. The more vigorous passages should not be rushed. The quieter moments must have poise and charm in the tone and phrasing.

Therefore try out different practice methods as suggested here.


Unrhythmic playing may result from any number of causes, so correct identification is important.

For those with small hands or for quite young players, getting their fingers around the keys can be problematic.

Ensure that the stool is at the correct height - notice the correct alignment of forearm and wrist here:

....and an incorrect alignment (stool too low) where albows are below the level of the keyboard here:

Final Performance

An excellent performance will exude charm and musical poise. The contrasts will be well honed and the rhythmic detail alive and cleanly articulated.

A good performance will have rhythmic character and a strong sense of momentum. An understanding of style will come across despite perhaps some slips and a little untidiness in detail or co-ordination.

A sound performance will have contrasts in tone and overall security. It is unlikely to have that commitment to character or rhythmic bounce which is seen in good performances. There may be some inconsistencies in the pulse at times.

^ Top