As far as I know, the Piano Sonata n. 2 in F K 280 (189e) was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in late 1774, early 1775, in Munich, while he overlooked the production of his opera La finta giardiniera. He was just turning 19 years old. It was his second sonata for keyboard, though he had already composed two dozen other keyboard pieces.
As far as I have researched, Mozart’s Piano Sonata n. 2 is almost canonically in sonata-form, which is quite remarkable, given that sonata-form was not a prescribed set of rules which composers followed, but an artificial instrument of musical analysis. The second movement of the sonata is an adagio in the parallel key of F minor, whose time signature is a compound meter of 6/8. The Adagio itself is heavily based on sonata-form.
As far as I have found out, Mitsuko Uchida interpreted Mozart’s Piano Sonata n. 2 for Philips Records in July 1987, at a time during which she was playing all his piano sonatas for Philips (from 1983 and 1987). Uchida was then 38 years old. The recording took place at the Henry Wood Hall, London, England. Therefore, though that sonata was one of Mozart’s first, it was one of Uchida’s last in the cycle.
As far as I could discover, Philips has issued those records several times, first around the time of their taping, and then in several reissues, among which one in 1991, as part of a Complete Mozart collection, and one in 2003, as part of a budget-price Complete Mozart Piano Sonatas collection.
As far as I remember, I have been a friend of M. P. since 1993. His parents have a quite impressive classical CD collection, which, as a teenager, I intensely coveted. I am not sure of the dates, but I remember clearly that he has lent me his parents’ Philips’ Uchida’s Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas album at least twice. First, he lent me the physical CDs — I was somewhat apprehensive, but M. was sure that his parents wouldn’t notice the CD’s were missing for a few days, and in the case they noticed he would just tell them (M.’s parents were really cool and carefree). I don’t remember well, but I think I hastily copied the CDs and returned them the next day (my own parents were very anal and uptight about anything with a hint of dishonesty — which, in my logic of the time, applied to sneaking the CDs, but not to copying them). There were 5 CDs in the album, and I remember I botched one of the copies, which I only discovered too late, but nevertheless I was happy. Then, maybe around 2005 (when M. had moved back, and I was in vacations in Brazil), but maybe as late as 2007 (when I had also moved back to Brazil), maybe as early as 2003 (when we both still hadn’t left for Europe), M. copied some of his parents’ classical music CDs for me. At that time, nobody in our generation used physical CDs anymore, and he just ripped the MP3 tracks using Apple’s iTunes. Among them, it was M.’s parents’ Philips’ Uchida’s Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas.
As far as I can faithfully recount, these are the circumstances which led me to burn a data CD with the Apple’s iTunes ripped MP3 tracks from M.’s parents’ Philips’ Uchida’s Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas: in late 2008, I was back to France when I met my future post-doc supervisor. In August 2009, I moved to Campinas, Brazil, to a small rented studio near the University. It was then that I met S. G., with whom I would find an intense intellectual affinity. I found out that, due to poor architectural choices and construction, my studio was barely tolerable to live in. In July 2010, when S. moved to the United Stated for his sabbatical year, I sublet his flat, which was much older and much farther from the University, but also much bigger and much better furnished. (One thing that we did, before we parted, was to exchange our MP3 collections, so S. has now my Apple’s iTunes ripped MP3 tracks from M.’s parents’ Philips’ Uchida’s Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas.) Because the flat was far from the University, it was no longer practical not having a car, so S. offered me to buy his old car. But by this time, my father was just about to buy a new car, and my parents decided that I should get his old one (my parents may be uptight, but they are also generous like that). My new car audio played MP3 tracks, but only from CDs, and only from certain CD formats (CD-Rs were ok, CD-RWs were not, for example). I’ve decided to use Gnome’s Brasero to burn a CD-R with some basic survival pieces: the Well-Tempered Clavier, my favorite Mozart Piano Concertos, some Schubert stuff, and, of course, Mozart’s Piano Sonatas.
As far as I believe, my passion for that Adagio happened suddenly. Just because you hear a piece it doesn’t mean you listen to it. I’ve heard the Well-Tempered Clavier hundreds of times, but I only really listened to the two first preludes and the two first fugues of the first book. Then, one day, something unexplainable happened and I started to listen to the other pieces: at first it was the 7th prelude and fugue, then it was the 10th pair, then it was the 4th, then the entire first book was mine (I am eagerly awaiting for the same magic to happen to the second book). With Mozart’s Piano Sonatas (which I’ve also heard hundreds of times) something similar happened. I would only listen to the later pieces, the ones K 330 (300h) or later. Then one day I’ve listened to the Adagio of the K 280 (189e) and I fell in love with it. I would listen to it in loops for entire hours, days. Nowadays, my passion is more reasonable, but still, whenever that track comes up, I repeat it three, four times, before letting it go.
As far as I am honest with you, that night, late at night, I was driving from the University and arrived at the garage of the flat I sublet from S. in Campinas, and I thought of all things but of making a conceptual piece. The audio of the car my parents gave me was playing the Adagio of Mozart’s Piano Sonata n. 2 in F K 280 (189e), from a CD-R I have burnt with Gnome’s Brasero with the Apple’s iTunes ripped MP3 tracks from M.’s parents’ Philips’ Uchida’s Mozart’s Complete Piano Sonatas. As it often happens, I’ve decided to stay in the car and wait the piece to finish. My father has died two months ago, without ever listening to that Adagio, neither to the Well-tempered Clavier (though he has heard them, I think), but then, my father heard a lot of music, listening to very little, as far as I dare to guess. As the song played I noticed (not for the first time) how the car audio distorted the sound, aggressively emboldening some harmonics, and merciless dampening others. How could I listen to a piece, if hearing it was so difficult? I remembered G. F., my friend and erastes, who once told me, about another Mozart’s work “il y a des pièces qui sont indestructibles”. G., as far as I dare to guess, hears to not that much music, but listens to most of what he hears. Indestructible. Indestructible is not a word I would dare to apply to anything human, but as far as it could apply, it may apply to the Adagio of Mozart’s Piano Sonata n. 2.
As far as I have compared, Uchida has chosen not exactly to play Mozart’s score: in the reprise of the exposition, for example, she adds considerably to the ornamentation; she also entirely forgoes a reprise for the second part. Then there was the choice of Philips’ engineers — the recording, mixing and mastering — but to me that barely exists: I was not beside Uchida at the playing, Philips’ promise sounds good to my ears, I take it as truthful enough. Then there was Apple’s iTunes parameters, and the choices that M. has made to rip the CD’s. Then there was MP3 compression, which is lossy, but quite human-ear friendly. Then there was my car audio, and how it has chosen (or was able) to render that file. Then there was my car passenger compartment, its peculiar resonances. Only a few steps in that chain, the ones where numbers were faithfully copied, didn’t add to the final result. I was thinking of this (and looping the piece, more hearing it than listening to it), when I decided to make an experiment: I would record the piece in my Nokia E63 cell phone, with video and audio. Could someone hearing it (and possibly seeing it) still listen to it? Suppose someone hears my Computer rendered Web browser interpreted WordPress’ laid out Dailymotion embedded Apple’s iMovie retouched MP4 encoded Nokia’s E63 cell-phone recorded Fiat’s Palio car audio rendered Gnome’s Brasero burnt MP3 encoded Apple’s iTunes ripped Philips Records’ recording of Uchida’s interpretation of Mozart’s Piano Sonata n. 2 in F K 280 (189e)’s Adagio. Can they still listen to Mozart? Is the piece indestructible? Does Mozart’s creation survive Uchida’s? Does it get tainted by our questionable copying (which at the time, was clearly legal in France, clearly illegal in the States, and “its complicated” in Brazil)? Warmed up by my friendship with M. and S.? Does it learn from going round the world so many times? Is there any of my father’s death in it (the fact he was just turning 58, the fact he has barely enjoyed his new car, the fact his death has thrown me in a bottomless existential pit?) Does any of its path survive in the end? There are some who believe in the aura of history, that things are indelibly imprinted by those who touch them, that the hand of the artist makes things magical. I am skeptical: I believe in statistics, thermodynamics and information theory. I believe in signals, but also I believe in noise. I think that it is not enough to show, it is not enough to tell, that it is the alliance of both that gives the world sense.
As far as my knowledge is possible, that is the chain of events which led me to write this piece. I am 32 years old. In heart I am much older, but not in wisdom, I’m afraid. As far as I feel.