Mozart - Sonata in C K545 3rd Movement Rondo


Mozart, being one of the most famous composers of all time, hardly needs any introduction to the teacher, but students may be interested to know that he was actually baptised Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart, born in Saltzburg in Austria. Tutored by his father, who was a musician and teacher, Mozart was hailed as a child prodigy and he composed over 600 works during his short lifetime from 1756 – 1791.

Students are often amazed to discover that Mozart was younger than their present age when he wrote some of his pieces for keyboard. This particular sonata, however, was composed in 1788, obviously as a teaching piece, and Mozart described it as a ‘little sonata for beginners ’.

Pupil Match & Suitability

This sonata is one of the easiest that Mozart composed, both technically and musically, so it is very well known and often played by students, particularly the first movement.

This rondo, the third and final movement, is a good introduction to playing Mozart sonatas, although it has to be said that even the simplest Mozart is never easy to interpret well.

Indeed, Artur Schnabel once remarked that ‘children are given Mozart because of the quantity of the notes; grown-ups avoid him because of the quality of the notes, which to be sure, is elusive’.

A student who already shows the ability to play with accuracy, fluency and elegance would be suited to this piece and it would be ideal if that student already had some experience of playing Mozart’s easier little pieces, such as the Sonatinas.

Style & Tempo

Mozart’s keyboard pieces would have been composed for a piano that was very different from the modern instrument and, although there is little virtue in trying to emulate the limitations of the early fortepiano in performance of his music, it is necessary to avoid extremes of dynamic contrast and it is desirable to keep clarity in the textures.

A settled tempo is needed for Mozart’s music and accurate timing should be strictly adhered to, yet without mechanical rigidity - a little natural give and take is always a prerequisite for sensitive, elegant phrasing.

Mozart does not appear to have left any pedalling indications in his original manuscripts but subtle, tasteful use of the sustaining pedal is appropriate.

The suggested recordings, by Pires, Eschenbach and Richter, illustrate these possibilities perfectly and they are ideal for deciding on an interpretation that will show the student’s strengths as a pianist.

Phrasing & Articulation

As a general rule in this piece, the quavers are to be detached to some degree, unless shown slurred as in Bar 7 of the LH. The semiquavers are to be slurred, unless shown staccato as in Bar 9 of the RH.

Bear in mind however that slurring was often added by composers of this era to tell us rather more about the need for musical nuance, in the manner of articulation on stringed instruments, so we need not be absolutely literal in detaching each and every slur.

The important thing is to create stylish playing, with a musical line.

Tone & Texture

Mozart wrote no dynamics markings into this sonata, but this certainly does not mean that none are needed!

Dynamic contrasts and grading will bring the piece to life as long as they are sufficiently subtle and tasteful to characterise the style of Mozart.

It cannot be stressed enough that forcing the tone in forte is wholly inappropriate to a performance of Mozart.


Balancing the hands sensitively is probably the most challenging aspect of technique.

This is not the piece to use if the student has not yet shown developing control of balance between hands.

If there is awareness of what is needed, yet the LH semiquavers are still too loud, first check that a helpful technique is being used.


Most editions show very helpful fingering although it is worth comparing them and choosing articulation that suits your individual student.


Pedalling is barely necessary in this piece. Too much pedal would certainly ruin any performance because the textures would not remain clear, so it is much better left out unless an exceptional student is versed in the subtleties of half pedalling.

A musically sensitive student might give the mere touches of pedal at the start of Bar 7 and similar; direct pedal that does not produce legato can also be applied to enhance the tone of the final chords.

Teaching Strategies

A clear idea of how the piece is to sound should be established before this piece is begun, so it would be good for the student to listen to some recordings first and then you can decide together which aspects of each interpretation you prefer.

The initial learning strategy should be to pay meticulous attention to detail.

Well chosen fingering is essential for successful fluency and you must insist on consistent use of the same fingering and the same, appropriate articulation every time.

Check that the student always observes the rests, particularly at Bars 20 and 52.

Practice Tips

The student should begin by learning the eight bar rondo theme at the start. Separate hands practice will help to reveal the important textures where the LH has little melodic fragments, such as right at the beginning, where it imitates the RH.

It is important to know the LH just as well as the RH, especially if the piece is to be performed from memory.


There are many technical and musical challenges within this seemingly simple piece. The music of Mozart demands complete fluency and accuracy for a truly outstanding performance, as well as the right balance between playfulness and elegance – a tall order indeed for the performer.

However it is possible, with dedication and focused practice, to achieve continuity even if the pace is on the cautious side, as we witness here in this 6 year old girl's performance!

Final Performance

For structural reasons, it recommended that the repeat of Bars 1 – 8 be observed in performance.

An excellent performance will show a sense of appropriate style in pace, in tone and in use of musical detail. Fluency will be assured and technical control will enable rhythmic evenness, with well-balanced hands showing textural clarity. A sense of the light-hearted character of the music will be communicated convincingly.

A good performance will be secure in continuity, with accuracy mostly reliable and a sense of appropriate style will be demonstrated in use of dynamics and phrasing. The pace will probably be moderate, but detailed articulation will give some sense of the lively character. The hands might need a little more poise in balancing the textures.

A sound performance will show continuity at a sustained pace, despite the odd slip or stumble and there will be some attention to articulation detail, although perhaps little dynamic variety. A developing sense of phrasing will be apparent.

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