We now have the famous Strinasacchi from Mantua here—a very good violinist. She has much taste and feeling in her playing. I am just now writing a sonata which we will play together in the theatre on Thursday at her benefit concert.
Mozart wrote these words in a letter to his father dated April 24, 1784. He referred to Regina Strinasacchi, a young Italian violinist, guitarist, and singer who emerged from Venice’s Ospedale della Pietà—the school once led by Vivaldi.
On this date, 235 years ago, Mozart and Strinasacchi gave the first performance of the Violin Sonata No. 32 in B-Flat Major, K. 454 at Vienna’s Kärntnerthor Theater. While the complete Sonata was fully composed in Mozart’s mind, he had not had the time to write down the piano part. In an attempt to fool the audience, he performed with empty sheet music on the piano. Emperor Joseph II, looking through his opera glasses, discovered the ruse and later, perhaps teasingly, asked the composer to bring him the manuscript. In the final autograph manuscript, the violin and piano parts appear in different colors of ink and the piano notes occasionally run beyond the preset bar lines.
From the slow opening introduction of the first movement, this Sonata is filled with an operatic sense of drama and conversation. Alfred Einstein wrote, “one cannot conceive of any more perfect alternation between the two instruments than that of the first Allegro.” This Allegro sparkles with virtuosity and humor. In the final bars of the exposition, listen to the way the two voices enter into a game of imitation and joking one-upmanship. Or listen to the strange and shadowy moment at the end of the development section when both voices seem to be searching for a way forward, only to turn a corner and arrive, suddenly, back “home” with the recapitulation.
The second movement opens with a beautiful cantabile melody which seems like an aria without words. We’re pulled into a world of mystery and sudden, dreamy harmonic turns—even brief, pathos-filled dissonance. This is one of those sublime, late-Mozart dramas which suggest a quiet, underlying sadness.
The Rondo final movement brings the Sonata to a conclusion filled with joy and gratitude. The open fifths of distant hunting horns are echoed in the piano near the beginning. By its nature, a rondo involves adventure, constantly moving away from the main, recurring theme in unexpected directions. One of the most magical examples of this is the sudden arrival of this “cute” theme. There are operatic proclamations and an exuberant explosion of virtuosity in the coda.
Here is a 2012 recording featuring violinist Christian Tetzlaff and pianist Lars Vogt:
I. Largo – Allegro:
- Mozart: Violin Sonata No. 32 in B-Flat Major, K. 454, Christian Tetzlaff, Lars Vogt Amazon