In Praise of Mozart’s 4 Hand Music

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Last week, I got to see Jeannette face to face. It’s a rarity for us to actually see each other with me in New York and her in Virginia, but through some miracle, my travel schedule and her work schedule gave us a window to spend some time together.


We planned a lot of things to do for the podcast. I mean, we’ve found an efficient system of working through skype or text, but there is something special about us being in the same room. I think we communicate better, but mostly I think we have more fun. I hope you’ll hear that in the episodes we recorded, though maybe the alcohol contributed to the fun (Jeannette was drinking; never me.)


One thing we didn’t schedule, was reading through some Mozart 4 hand music. For whatever reason, reading through these Mozart works seems to be a good barometer of friendship with any of my keyboard playing friends. I can safely say that, other than being assigned a partner for these works, I’ve only played Mozart 4 hand sonatas with my closest friends.

What is it exactly about the Mozart 4 hand music that is so much fun? And why is it always more fun with a close friend? Perhaps it’s because they’re so charming. I find these pieces full of Mozart’s best ear worms. Play through any one of these things and it’s almost a guarantee that both players will walk away humming one of the tunes.


Maybe it’s because the parts are so equally challenging. I wouldn’t call any of the Mozart 4 hand music easy, even the easy ones. Not only do you have to share a space with your duet partner, which is already intimate enough, you have to know the other part well enough to get out of your partner’s way. There’s even one example I’m thinking of where you have to cross arms with your partner to play in the right register. Then there are always those quick scales that you have to play with your partner. You have to coordinate those scales so that every note comes out together.


Or maybe it’s because Mozart wrote most of these to play with his sister. It’s hard to prove, but I get a familial sense of fun from these 4 hand pieces. It feels more like an evening playing board games or engaging in silly conversations than playing a concert. The fun of them seems to come from discovering what the other player has and how it fits in with your part; figuring out how to play these things together; and appreciating the finished product after working out all the difficult parts involving technique and arm choreography. I think that’s why I love playing these pieces with close friends. They involve a kind of collaboration that I think is more satisfying the better you know the other person, much like playing charades is better with people you know.
In the end, the Mozart 4 hand pieces connects me to a different kind of music making. The kind of music making where the only goal is having a lot of fun with people you like, whether they be your friend or, in Mozart’s case, your sister. And let’s face it, Jeannette is basically like my little sister. I mean she can be just as annoying. Here’s to more impromptu Mozart reading!

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