Waking up this morning, and feeling dislocated from reality (OK, more dislocated than usual), I went through my usual routine - a homemade latte, some toast, and their quiet, if brief, consumption.
When I returned from walking my dog, I realised just how little I was feeling anything today. So I took out the only piece of music that affects me, that wakes my out of my waking slumber - Mozart's Piano Sonata no. 8 in A minor.
As I'm sure many of you know, Mozart wrote this piece in an around the death of his mother, and so we, desperate to read life into abstract music, have surmised that the minor key and the pathos of the work are connected to his loss.
Without delving too deeply and finding myself committing myself to the intentional fallacy, I will say that, for me, feeling something is central to this work, and I would very much like to think that Mozart intended this, not necessarily for the listener, but for the player.
I would like to imagine that he, or anyone else, can open this up, and play through the dark march of the exposition, only to find themselves in the development in a nice, bright C major. One almost feels relieved at this point, that the gleeful Mozart that we're all raised on, you know, the one that makes babies smarter, will carry us through and make this a minor a jovial, ironic work.
We all know how this winds up.
He doesn't just use dissonance, he hammers us. He does this for a while, very elegantly and sequentially, simultaneously unnerving, jarring. When Mozart lets us loose, releasing us from these semitones, instead of giving us a moment to breathe, and I believe that this is the key to the whole first movement, he unleashes what I can only imagine is fury. Sixteenth notes in the right hand, painting the harmony while the left hand plays these remarkable leaps and defiantly trill their way to resolution (this is not the best the much-maligned left hand gets in this work).
And then he winds us up chromatically into the recap in A minor. But we are not home free, on our way to a nice, if dark, martial recap of the 2nd theme in A minor. No, in a move that moves this work from the pathetic (old sense) to the sublime is when he drops the opening theme into the left hand, this dissonant right hand accompaniment reminding us of the development we just thought we'd safely resolved.
There is no resolution in this first movement, or if there is, it's a Phyrric one, reluctantly playing out the formal constraints of the day before Beethoven would come along and really throw them all aside.
There is no other piece of music I play that wakes me up to the world the way this one does. If it didn't, I certainly wouldn't have written about it today.
I wouldn't have written about anything today.