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How does one play this trill in this Mozart Sonata? Does it mean we play 3 notes (Eb, F, Eb) before the last two notes of the second bar? Or how many trills does one have to play?

Mozart Sonata

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    You could try listening to some recordings by different pianists and gaining inspiration from them? – Shawn Li Feb 6 '18 at 18:19
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Yes, you'll want to play E♭–F–E♭ before the final two sixteenth notes. My personal suggestion is more along the lines of:

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But some purists will insist on the rhythm of the D–E♭ being precisely as written, and therefore:

enter image description here

This is where your own interpretation comes into play. I recommend listening to as many recordings of this opening as you can find; you'll find several interpretations of how others have approached this trill, and they can help inform your own interpretation.


User 11684 very helpfully pointed out that the above interpretations are actually not consistent with performance practice of the Classical period. Their answer deserves your attention! Oddly, my four recordings of this sonata all include the top interpretation above.

It seems that the historically accurate interpretations would begin on the upper note, suggesting either:

enter image description here

or:

enter image description here

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    I’m sorry, but this is incorrect. The trill should start on the upper note. – 11684 Feb 6 '18 at 8:27
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    Also, the repeat of the Eb makes the trill sound awkward. – Neil Meyer Feb 6 '18 at 8:33
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    @11684 After looking at treatises from CPE bach and Mozart's father, you're correct! Thanks so much for pointing this out; I'm a bit embarrassed! – Richard Feb 6 '18 at 10:53
  • I like (personal taste here) treating the group including the first 16th-note, the "tr" note, and the following two 16ths as essentially a turn (gruppetto). "dah -dahh-dee-dee-dee-dee" , so Eb-Eb-F-Eb-D-Eb , with the second Eb slightly longer than the following 4 notes. YMMV – Carl Witthoft Feb 6 '18 at 13:56
  • @CarlWitthoft As do I, but perhaps that's due to the fact that most recordings I've heard do it that way. – Richard Feb 6 '18 at 14:30
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Both other answers overlook a crucial point.

In Mozart (and contemporaries and earlier composers) trills should generally start on the upper note, which is the case here. However, many professional pianists do not know this and start on the lower note anyway. This is, historically, simply wrong. There are plenty of sources on this, for example CPE Bach’s Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen talks about this, I believe.

Yes, it’s fast, but it should be “F Eb F Eb D Eb” (with extra “F Eb” added if you have time, but I guess not). The good news is that the sixteenth notes probably are just there to indicate a nachschlag, so you can play them later and shorter than written.

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Well, if you can fit two trills there, it's certainly better. At least it's what some performers do, despite the fast tempo. In that case, you certainly do not care about the timing inside the beat and play it basically as one long ornamentation of the quarter Eb note.

I hope my ears don't betray me and here it's really played as Eb--Eb-F-Eb-F-Eb-D-Eb:

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    I fear your ears may betray you - If you click on the gear at the bottom-right of the youtube frame you can select playback speed. At 0.5x I think it clearly sounds like Eb--Eb-F-Eb-D-E. See what you think - perhaps my ears are deceiving me... – Digital Trauma Feb 6 '18 at 0:32
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    But it sounds like the recording by Lili Kraus has what yo' mentions. – Richard Feb 6 '18 at 0:45
  • @Richard Agreed. – Digital Trauma Feb 6 '18 at 0:52
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    The trill should start on the upper note. Many performers don’t do this and although I think it isn’t an improvement they can do whatever they want, but it is not what the notation means, which is I think what is being asked. – 11684 Feb 6 '18 at 8:31
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The ABRSM edition (pub 1982) - an Urtext edition, as much as is possible with Mozart - has these notes, from Stanley Sadie:

Editorial realizations of ornaments are shown in small notes above the text at the first occurrence of the ornament concerned in each movement. These realizations are based on the leading sources contemporary with Mozart, such as CPE Bach's Versuch über die wahre Art das Clavier zu spielen (1753-62), Leopold Mozart's Versuch einer gründlichen Violinschule (1756) and Daniel Gottlob Türk's Clavierschule (1789)

...

... in a trill a player should feel free to play more notes, or fewer, as seems right. No ornament that feels awkward to the player, or sounds clumsy, is being satisfactorily realized. A player who wants to vary the realization of ornaments more extensively ... should note that except in very rare circumstances a trill should begin on the upper note in music of this period

The editorial realization given has demisemiquaver (32nd note) F E♭ F E♭ then semiquaver (16th note) D E♭.

Every performance I can find on YouTube is in line with this. The awkwardness involved with a repeated E♭ at this tempo would (IMO) sound terrible.

  • Mozart studied under JC Bach and not CPE Bach. Although CPE Bach's treatise was influential, here's the original instructions given to WF Bach by the father of the above mentioned, JS Bach: pennuto.com/music/jsb_ornm.htm – noumenal May 17 at 8:14
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I must respectfully disagree with almost all the recent comments above. CPE Bach says the following: All embellishments... must not corrupt the purity of the voice leading (Eulenburg edition p 95 point 17 and his examples figure 81). In this case the melodic line is a very obvious ascent up the C minor arpeggio (C to Eb to G) and therefore the F would be a most illogical/ unwelcome note to accentuate or focus on. In music there are always competing rules and we must weigh up (through our ear) which rule offers the most musical solution.

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    I think a lot of people would agree that the trill with the F would still be okay, since it is an ornament: ornaments make things interesting, and they mainly do that by "deviating from the note of focus". But the real reason I commented here was to point out that the above posts are "answers", and the "comments" are below both the question and the answers. – user45266 May 17 at 3:24

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