This song will forever remain one of my favorite pieces to play and listen to. In this recording, Horowitz beautifully captures the lightness and wit that Mozart is known for.
In fact, this piece itself is a bit of a musical joke. A Rondo is a form that repeats a theme, in this piece, the very first melody that is played. The theme repeats in different keys throughout. The form is a test to the composer’s creativity in presenting the same material over and over again without boring the audience. This piece certainly fits the rondo form; the theme repeats in all sorts of keys, closely-related and exotic.
Yet, the form also matches that of a Sonata, where two themes, in two keys that have a specific relationship (tonic and dominant–sorry if that’s a lot of music jargon), interact throughout. They exemplify the “push and pull” balance that helps define music. Since it is still a rondo, there is just one theme, but Mozart treats it like two and plays with it in the same way he would in a sonata. Thus, it would be appropriate to call this a Sonata -Rondo.
The best part of this piece, however, is that it sounds similar to an opera overture with “characters” introduced. Meeting each of these musical characters, or ideas, is one of my favorite parts of playing it. There is a definite distinction between heroes and villains, and if you listen hard enough, you can meet them too!
It’s no coincidence Mozart worked on The Marriage of Figaro at the same time he wrote this Rondo. It obviously affected the spirit of it.