Mozart - Allegro 3rd mv Sonata in C K279/189d


The third movement of Sonata in C, K 279 is set for the ABRSM Grade 7 piano examination, 2013-2014 syllabus.

This sonata was composed when Mozart was aged 19, the first one of a set of six sonatas written while he was in Munich.

The piano in Mozart's day was a relatively new instrument and it is interesting to hear how the sonata might have sounded at that time by listening to a recording on a fortepiano. The pianist here is Malcolm Billson.

E-MusicMaesto recordings are streamed under PRS licence.

Pupil Match & Suitability

A student who wishes to play this piece will relish playing fast, lighthearted music.

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

The style is typical of Mozart's allegro sonata movements - light, playful and quick with an elegant, somewhat restrained character. It is full of conversation-like exchanges that could remind us of Mozart's operas and the textures might be compared with the instrumentation in his orchestral music.

Listening to snatches of Mozart's other works can be enlightening in terms of appreciation and awareness of style.
Students might like this recording of Mozart's Piano Concerto in C major, played by Pollini.

Phrasing & Articulation

The phrasing may be defined almost intuitively here according to the melody lines, without necessarily even thinking of the chord progressions. This is because each phrase seems to have its own character and is usually answered by another phrase, never more so than towards the end of the piece, heard here played by Katin.

Tone & Texture

In Classical music, shaping the phrasing using graded dynamics is an important aspect of defining the style.

Additionally in this piece, the phrases often contrast in dynamics. Mozart uses just f, p, pp in this movement but, of course, there are finer degrees of loud and quiet, such as the bold LH octaves at bar 32 compared with the forte at bar 40 and the delicacy of the second subject at bar 22/23 (played here by Katin) compared with the fuller-sounding 'piano' at the start of the piece.


When playing octaves and broken chords, the hand and arm need to remain flexible. A slight rocking action will occur as the forearm rotates, using the natural weight of the arm to create the sound. Letting the arm follow the hand is important so that the wrist does not bend at an unnatural angle.

Pushing with the fingers with the hand locked stiffly in position will create excess tension and result in a harsh tone without musical shaping.

Balancing the textures is an important aspect of technique here. When playing an Alberti Bass, the LH needs to feel free and not stiff. Keeping the fingers fairly close to the keys and keeping the rotary movement subtle can help to achieve a quiet tone. Sometimes students need to be shown by demonstration how quietly it is possible to play an Alberti Bass.


The trills need not be troublesome here, since they are just turns. Listen to a slowed down version here.

Choosing the 4-3-2-1 fingering suggested will help with fluency.


Discreet pedalling can help to provide a warmer tone and will be effective as long as it is not over-used. The clarity of the semiquaver passagework must be preserved but touches of pedal can enhance the tone in places such as the legato bars in the second subject eg bar 24.

More accomplished students can also use the sustaining pedal to slightly 'soften' the abruptness of leaps from notes such as the G to treble G in bar 46, RH. This requires sensitive judgement and technical dexterity however.


For a student, fluency is often the most challenging aspect of playing Mozart, particularly in allegro movements. The ability to achieve fluency relies upon the elements of:

a) good fingering patterns already established for scales and broken chords, both of which are abundant in this movement;
b) LH octave playing technique for Bars 32-33;
c) confident memorisation, or semi-memorisation of the music;
d) choosing a settled, optimum tempo that works for the performer as well as allowing the musical character to emerge.

Final Performance

A satisfying performance of this piece will reflect the Classical style and the lively character. There will be plenty of variety in tone, without the sound ever being forced in forte. Textural awareness will be evident and there will be a light-hearted feel for the interchange between phrases that is so typical of Mozart's music.

The pace will be well judged - lively but settled with no slowing under technical challenge. Fluency will be assured, with evenness of tone and rhythm achieved throughout. The listener needs to feel uplifted by a performance of this movement.

The complete performance here is by Katin.

E-MusicMaesto recordings are streamed under PRS licence.

Teaching & Learning the Piece

By the time a student is capable of playing a piece such as this it is hoped that learning strategies will be well developed. The piece needs to be approached from a perspective of enabling secure memorisation, even if it is to be played from the score.

Analysis of the structure of the music is needed, including the overall plan and also the use of keys and modulations as well as the development of melodic motifs.

As always, it is useful to hear a performance of the piece before beginning to learn it, so that the student is aware of the style and character of the music. Do provide the opportunity for your student to listen to the whole of the sonata, not just to this particular movement. If you listen with your student, you will be able to point out the elements of style that are essential for a good performance.

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