The Kennedy Center

Sonata for violin and piano in A major, K. 526

About the Work

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Composer: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
© Peter Laki

Mozart's final sonata for violin, the Sonata in A major, K.526 (1787) is, like the "Strinasacchi" sonata, a work standing by itself, not part of any larger sets. By far the most technically demanding of the sonatas, it appears in the Köchel catalog immediately before Don Giovanni (K.527). The outer movements are characterized by a level of rhythmic energy rarely seen in Mozart. The opening theme of the first movement has only fast notes (eighths) in it, and it is not long before even faster sixteenth-notes appear in both the violin and the piano parts. Once they do, they remain a constant component in the lively musical texture, except in the development section, which maintains the momentum in a different way: the eighth-notes of the main theme are developed in imitation, which means that there is not a single moment when we don't hear that insistent pulse.

The second-movement Andante offers a brief respite. It is an exquisitely lyrical dialog between the two instruments, lavishly ornamented and full of emotionally charged harmonic changes. Dutch musicologist Marius Flothuis sensed "a strong foretaste of the world of Franz Schubert" in this music.

In the Presto finale, the mad rush starts all over again. The piano part is virtually a perpetual motion, but the violin doesn't stay idle either. There is a wealth of gorgeous melodies, but the violin theme of the central episode stands out by its noble passion and intense character. Then the virtuoso runs return and dominate the music to the end.

According to Neal Zaslaw, one of the leading Mozart authorities of our time, this finale was based on a sonata by Carl Friedrich Abel, a composer and gamba player famous in his own day, whom Mozart had met as a child in London. Zaslaw thinks it could be a tribute to the older man, who died on June 20, 1787, two months before this sonata was written.