Mozart’s K331

It cannot be denied that K331 is a work in the galant style. Its music clearly revolves around the strong melodies in the Andante, it’s variations, the minuet and trio and the distinct alla turca. The galant style influence could indeed be the reason for K331’s fame 300 years later.

Out of the all his works, Mozart’s K331 is the sonata in which the style’s characteristics are most noticeable. The melodic right hand line is clearly the main part of each of the sections, whilst the bass line compliments and enforces it. This can be seen in the Andante, bars 1-3, where the rhythm is completely identical in both the left and right hand.

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The bass line is simple in that it forms straightforward chord breakdowns, such as the broken chords of the Andante, bars 9-10. Mozart has cleverly chosen interesting melodies that are pleasing to the ear, simple and that yet also do some unusual tricks that enhance the overall sound of the music, such as the augmented 6th chord in the minuet. The bass line never takes over from the melody, it is only there to emphasise it. This can be seen in the minuet, bars 1-2 where it doubles the melody an octave lower, and variation 6, bars 129-131 where it merely supplies rhythmic intermissions in the rests.

Another feature of the galant style is that of periodic phrasing. It is essential for the piece to be successful is that is should be recognisable, especially in it’s structure and repeats. Periodic phrasing is the method Mozart used to do it. This can be recognised in the Andante, bars 1-8 for the first section, bars 9-12 for the second. Bars 1-12 are then repeated but with a slight melodic difference that leads into the codetta that signifies the Andante’s end. These phrases are balanced – the first section having 8 bars – the first four ending with an imperfect cadence, the last four ending with a perfect cadence. This kind of question/answer idea it the kind of phrasing the galant style relates to. The variations’ structures do vary within their own style but when they do it still fits in with the style’s characteristics.

The galant style is also known for the thin textures it employs. This helps to stress the melody even more, by not drawing attention away from it. This is achieved by only using two parts, one in the right hand, and one in the left. As was said before, the left hand bass line is simple and basic, serving the melody – therefore 90% of the listener’s attention is concentrated on the melody in the right hand. Even the four-part octaves in the trio, bars 68-72, are in unison. An exception to this is in the coda of the alla turca when unusual thick chords are in use. This can be explained by the effect Mozart wanted to create in alla turca. The sound he wanted was to imitate the nature of the Turkish sound, the Turks were thought to be wild and animated – and this mad finale captures this.

Simple diatonic harmony is also part of the galant style. Instead of using the whole range of chords available in the key of A major and the modulations Mozart makes, the majority of the chords are tonic and dominant. This is the most effective chord sequence, producing the perfect cadence. It is therefore has the most definite sound to it, taking anyway anything unsure in the music and giving the overall sound a more simple yet stronger feel. For example, the start of the minuet involves the notes of the chord of A major (the tonic chord), followed by notes around the scale of A major.

The modulations that Mozart makes are within related keys, giving a clear tonal structure. The modulations are used to clarify the structure of each part of the music, showing a definite start, middle, and end – e.g. moving through E minor, C major and D minor, then to the tonic. The music feels it should move to D minor after visiting E minor and C major, and then the return to the tonic key is expected to finish off the trio. Similarly, in the alla turca, the movement between minor and major keys adds to the feel of the Turkish idea whilst being structured so that it ends with no uncertainty.

The galant style has many descriptions, such as elegant, ornate and sophisticated whilst also being playful, witty and chic. Mozart achieves the affect through his variations. The chromaticism of variation 1 has an almost humorous effect, with the adding notes adding that more playful feel. The slowness of the adagio brings forth the more serious and refined aspect to the music and Mozart’s choice to include the alla turca as an overall powerful end to K331 is down to the concentration on the light-hearted melody, which is so good that it is still being used as a mobile ring tone today.