Kuhlau - Allegro con affetto 1st movement Sonatina in A min Opus 88 No. 3


Friedrich Kuhlau was born in 1786, in Germany, to a musical family. Having studied piano in Hamburg, he relocated to Copenhagen in 1810 becoming a Danish citizen in 1813.

Kuhlau’s music is rooted firmly in the Classical style, showing some affinity with the work of Beethoven, whom Kuhlau knew personally and whose music he admired. Certainly there is a suggestion of the style and character of Beethoven’s Fur Elise in this sonatina movement.

Kuhlau is remembered principally for his music for flute, for his delightful piano music and for his famous opera, Elverhoj. Kuhlau remained in Denmark until his death in 1832.

Pupil Match & Suitability

This sonatina will appeal to all ages and can serve as a useful step towards to Classical sonata playing.

Some octave playing is needed in the LH, so hand span must not be too small. The ability to play scales evenly and musically is needed, or might be developed, when studying of this piece.

Style & Tempo

A tempo of around 126 is suitable, although there will be some degree of suppleness in order to characterise the 'con affetto', which means literally 'with affection'.

Listen here to Jando, who chooses an ideal pace, with an expressive ritardando at Bar 8, to end the opening section, before contrasting with a breezy return to a tempo for the descending, semiquaver scale motif at Bar 9.

Jando demonstrates appropriate Classical style whilst still
achieving a lovely sense of the warm character in use of expressive detail.

The extract is from the recording:
Jeno Jando - Kuhlau Piano Sonatinas. Naxos 8.570710.

Phrasing & Articulation

Phrasing needs to be musically shaped throughout the piece, never more so than in the scale passages, which could otherwise sound like technical exercises.

Listen to Nouwens play Bars 19 - 24. As well as hearing the gradual, overall crescendo, notice the natural rise and fall of the tone as the pitch alters; this effect is what gives the phrasing its shape.

The extract is from:
Marko Nouwens - Clementi, Dussek, Kuhlau Sonatinas for Piano. Creative Commons (2009)

Tone & Texture

Dynamic gradation will lend expressiveness to the music in the most melodic sections, such as after the double bar line, Bars 24 - 33.

Listen to this extract from Nouwens, noticing how the dynamic builds then ebbs gradually here, before the tone fades away at the smorzando, Bars 33 - 35.


Technical challenges to be addressed are:

Neat, even, RH scale playing that is musically shaped in passages such as Bars 9 – 10.

Achieving sensitive balance between the hands, particularly in passages such as Bars 19 – 20.


Fingering given in any standard edition of this piece, such as Dover Publication or ABRSM, is very reliable.


The mordents should be played as triplets in this piece.

Listen to how cleanly and neatly these are articulated in the recording by Fessel.


Pedalling needs to unobtrusive and subtle to best express the style of this music. Carefully applied touches of pedal can give warmth to the tone without destroying the textural clarity needed in this style of music.

Listen to the of Jando's playing here - the tone sings yet the textures are clear.

Teaching Strategies

Like much of Kuhlau’s music, clear use of scales is evident and knowledge of the ones used in this particular piece will make learning it much easier. Insist on consistent use of the chosen fingering for a really secure flow.

Drawing attention to the chords and arpeggios written in the LH is also a good teaching strategy and naming these whilst playing the LH will help to fix them in the memory.

Practice Tips

Whereas many pieces lend themselves to separate hands practice, the integrated nature of the lines plus the fact that the RH and LH are often not actually playing notes at the same time make it more useful to work with both hands together at the start of each main section.

Practice of separate hands is useful, however, in the passages at Bars 19 – 24 and 51 – 55 in order to acquire the right technique, as described in the Technique section, for controlling the tone.


In a piece such as this, where certain sections are repeated in a new key, it often happens that the first section remains more secure than the passage in the new key.

Care should be taken to give equal attention to both passages in practice. The student should give the latter one perhaps even more practice than the former to ensure a secure ending to the piece.

Final Performance

An excellent performance is one in which the Classical style is evident in phrasing and in choice of dynamics. The pace will be well judged, fluency will be assured and the tone will be poised with sensitively balanced hands. There will be a sense of the 'con affetto' character, within the context of appropriate style.

A good performance will have a sufficient sense of movement for phrasing to be shaped and continuity will be reliable despite, perhaps, a few blemishes in control of evenness. Dynamics will show contrast and rhythms will be secure although the tone may not yet be sensitively balanced between the hands.

Continuity will be reliable overall in a secure performance, with prompt recovery from any small mistakes. The pace may be on the cautious side with further elegance needed in the phrasing, but some of the musical detail might be given.

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