Welcome to the second installment to our new series on the Top 25 Greatest Pieces of Classical Music of All Time! Today we will be hearing Daniel Barenboim play Mozart’s piano sonata No. 11 in A Major. All three movements of this sonata are beautiful, but the third movement (starting at 18:50), called Rondo Alla Turca, is by far the most popular.
what you need to know:
The first movement is an Andante grazioso (which translates roughly to “walking gracefully”) based on a simple 8-measure theme that you will hear at the very opening of the movement. The rest of the movement is a series of variations on that theme. Listen to the various ways that Mozart uses running passages, chords, and rhythmic patterns to create variation!
The second movement is a two-for-one deal! Mozart includes a minuet and a trio in this movement. It begins just after minute 13. Listen for the switch between the two sub-movements.
The third movement – the famous Alla Turca movement – is one of Mozart’s best-known pieces. It translates roughly to “Turkish March” or “Turkish Rondo.” At the time he composed it, Mozart (along with most of northern Europe) was infatuated with Turkish music. Listen for the march-like section at around 19:30 that imitates the drums of the traveling Turkish Janissary bands that performed throughout Europe’s major cities during Mozart’s time.
Our music for today is the famous “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” variations for solo piano by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart wrote these variations somewhere around the year 1780 as an exercise for young pianists. The melody that we now know as “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” first appeared in 1761, when Mozart was in his late teens. There are twelve variations on the initial C Major theme. Here is a brief summary of each of them:
Variation 1: The right hand performs the melody while the left hand plays running sixteenth notes.
Variation 2: The two hands switch jobs.
Variation 3: The right hand performs the melody in a triplet figure.
Variation 4: They switch again.
Variation 5: The right hand presents the melody in an off-beat pattern.
Variation 6: The right hand plays a chord-heavy version of the melody while the left hand plays running sixteenth notes.
Variation 7: The melody is heard in running scale patterns in the right hand.
Variation 8: The melody is presented in C minor (parallel minor of C major) and there is imitation between the left and right hands.
Variation 9: The melody is performed staccato (short, sharp notes).
Variation 10: The left hand plays the melody with the right hand embellishing with sixteenth notes (just like variation #2).
Variation 11: The tempo slows and the right hand performs the melody in a singing style.
Variation 12: Both hands compete in a race to the finish.