Work: Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (I shall Tell You, Mother) K. 265 


Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (I shall Tell You, Mother) K. 265 is an anonymous pastoral song written in 1740 and was set to different lyrics in different languages, and the most famous English version is twinkle twinkle litte stars. Born in Salzburg in 1756, Mozart is considered as the representative of Classism. His creation involves almost all fields of music, including opera, concertos, symphonies, sonatas, chamber music, etc. Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (I shall Tell You, Mother) K. 265 is one of his most successful variations written in 1778. Mozart set twelve different variations for the original song.

The song begins with the basic theme with quarter notes. Ornaments are used to make a more colorful melody. Then, after repeated the basic theme twice, the variations appeared. The rhythm, harmony and texture changes in different variations, and my favorite variations are VAR. VII, VAR. VIII. and VAR. XI.

VAR.V. is a section returns to tranquility, with few notes, and rests appear in the theme melody. The melody is played alternately with the left and right hands, briskly mixed with some semitones in the notes. Canon is used in VAR. V., and we may find that the repeated melodies of right and left hands fill in the blank of the rests, and reinforce the audience’s memory for the melody. VAR. V. is the most difficult part for me when practicing piano. Although it seems very easy to play, it needs a lot of effort to deal with the key-touching and rhythm. The notes should not be played to be too sticky or speedy, they need to connect to each other naturally but sounds very clean. VAR. V. is a beautiful and light variation, and I can almost feel like flying in the sky when listening to this piece of music.

Fig 1 VAR. V.

In VAR. VIII., C major key is changed to C minor key. Compared to major keys, minor keys always provide an upset or gloomy feeling. Canon is used in composing – apart from two bars, there is sequence in righthand-side melody. By creating a continuous effect, it sounds like an endless starring sky in a rainy day. However, there are still stars shining, and the Staccato and Stagato notations make the notes brief but heavy. It sounds like a glimmer of hope in hard situation, which impresses me a lot.

Fig 2 VAR. VIII.

As shown in the music score, it’s an Adagio, which indicates that music should be played slowly, or a composition intended to be played in this manner. Therefore, the piece is really soft and soothing. The melody makes me feel a noble tranquility and peace. The righthand-side melody should be reinforced, but still quiet because of the “p” notation.

Fig 3 VAR. XI.

The beginning of VAR. XI. may sound like the song “红旗飘飘” in China. Mozart uses lots of major third chords and seventh chords, therefore, this piece of music sounds a little bit more dignified and rigorous. Compared to the variations before, VAR. XI. is more lyric and gentler. Besides, VAR. XI. is the second last variations. After hearing lots of fast paced variations, people may need to slow down and enjoy some slower piece of music. When listening to VAR. XI., I always feel like that after storms, lightnings and thunders, the sun shines again, and clouds float on the sky leisurely. It’s an excellent arrangement because VAR. XII., which is the last variation, is again an Allergo, which means the music should be played fast, quickly and bright.

As I mentioned before, Mozart is one of the most important masters in Classism, however, born in 1756, there are still some influences of Baroque style in his work. There are lots of composition skills which are used a lot in Baroque but not commonly used in Classism. Although with the existence of Baroque features, compared to Baroque music, Ah Vous Dirai-je Maman (I shall Tell You, Mother) K. 265 is obviously symmetry with rigorous structures, which shows a clear Classism style. Recomposed from a pastoral song, it is euphonic and easy to remember.

The link provided in the lecture is the music played by a young Czech pianist, Natalie Schwamova. Compared to several versions, included music played by Lang Lang and Fazil Say, I think her performance is very technical. Schwamova is absolutely a very talented pianist, and she plays really great in faster pieces, but I think the slower pieces are not so good. I think this is because her control of fingers is inferior to other pianists, so her key-touching is not as exquisite as other pianists. The quiet notes she played was quiet but not light, and she always plays the notes so clean that correlations between notes are weakened. I love Lang Lang’s version best. His timbre is well controlled, and his music is most fluent and beautiful, it feels like he plays with ease, not with fantastic skills or techniques.

Kathleen Li


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