Mozart: Piano Sonata No.3 in B-flat major, K.281 Analysis


First Movement (Allegro)

Form: Sonata Form. Bb Major. 

Mozart Piano Sonata No.3 in Bb major, K.281 Analysis 1


Bars 1-12: First Subject in Tonic. The first subject is an eight-bar sentence ending on a perfect cadence, after which it is prolonged by a further four bars on tonic pedal.

Bars 12-17: Bridge-passage or Transition. The transition consists of a series of scale passages, those in Bars 12-14 forming a free melodic sequence.

Bars 17-34: Second Subject in F major (Dominant). The second subject contains only one theme/section, which is much prolonged by sectional and cadential repetitions. Bars 22-26 form a short sequence in which the parts are inverted bar by bar.

Bars 34-40: Codetta. The Codetta incidentally touches the key of B flat major (the subdominant key) in Bars 34 and 36, and ends on a short tonic pedal in F major, Bars 38-40.

Double bar and repeat.


Bars 41-69: The development commences in F major with a reference to the slurred figures in the second subject, the accompaniment being a varied continuation of that heard in the last bars of the codetta. In Bars 45-48 the second phrase of the first subject is transposed into the same key and followed by a few bars worked on triplet figures, which, touching transiently the keys of G minor and C major, end (in Bar 54) with a definite modulation to G minor. In the following bars we find references to the demisemiquaver (thirty-second) figures from Bar 3, and to further fragments from the second subject. From Bar 55-63, where there is a modulation to E flat major, the music oscillates between the keys of G minor and C minor, returning to F major in Bars 67-68. The final chord of F major is here quitted as the dominant of B flat major.


Bars 70-81: First Subject in Tonic (unaltered).

Bars 81-86: Transition (unaltered).

Bars 86-103: Second Subject in Tonic. The second subject reappears in the key of the tonic. But for this change of key the whole of the recapitulation is practically a literal repetition of the exposition.

Bars 103-109: Codetta.

Second Movement (Andante Amoroso)

Form: Sonata Form. Eb Major. 

Mozart Piano Sonata No.3 in Bb major, K.281 Analysis 2


Bars 1-15: First Subject in Tonic. The first subject is a sentence of twelve bars, containing three phrases, prolonged to Bar 15 by cadential repetitions. It should be noted that the opening scale passage in thirds in the treble, is imitated, in the bass, by the passage in octaves which, overlapping, covers, together with the alto, the rhythmic break in the melody caused by the half-cadence on the prolonged B flat (Bars 4-5)

Bars 16-27: Bridge-passage or Transition. The transition starts with a new figure and modulates, Bar 20, to the key of the dominant, B flat major, on a half-cadence, in which key it ends (Bar 26). Bar 27 forms a link between it and the second subject.

Bars 28-46: Second Subject in B flat major (Dominant). The second subject consists of one sentence extended by cadential repetitions to nineteen bars. In the fore-phrase the bass imitates the melody at the tenth below. Bars 30-31 are a sequential repetition of Bars 28-29.

Double bar and repeat.


Bars 47-58: This section forms a passage – mostly on B flat, the dominant – leading to the return of the first subject. It modulates to the key of E flat major (Bar 48) and, with the exception of Bars 53-54, consists of alternate tonic and dominant harmonies; it is based on figures from the second subject.


Bars 59-73: First Subject in Tonic (varied in first half). As is usually the case in slow movements in this form, the first subject reappears ornamented. It ends, however, unusually – the repeated chord on the tonic with which it closes in the exposition, being replaced here by the repetition of the last inversion of the dominant seventh in A flat major. These two chord are thus converted into a “link” leading into the transition which commences in the above key.

Bars 74-87: Transition. The transition modulates from A flat, through F minor, to E flat major (the tonic); the keys of A flat to E flat bearing the same relation to each other as, in the original passage, E flat major bears to B flat major.

Bars 88-106: Second Subject (in Tonic).

Third Movement (Rondo)

Form: Rondo Form. Bb Major. 

Mozart Piano Sonata No.3 in Bb major, K.281 Analysis 3


Bars 1-17: Principle Subject (first entry) in Tonic. The principle subject consists of two sentences, of which the second seems to form a series of cadence extensions to the first: the extensions lying outside, or beyond, the perfect cadence. The opening motive is repeated a degree lower, the first two bars thus being in sequence. The second phrase (Bars 4-8), is a modified repetition of the first, altered at the second so as to close with a perfect, instead of with a half, cadence.

Bars 18-27: Bridge-passage or Transition. Bars 18-27 form a passage of transition which is founded on figures from the latter part of the principle subject. This passage modulates, Bar 22, to F major (the dominant), in which key it ends on a half-cadence (Bar 27). A half-bar’s link leads to a new melody – the second subject (or first episode) in the above key.

Bars 28-43: Second Subject or Episode I in F major (Dominant). The eight bars, Bars 32-39, although consisting of what is virtually a four-bar phrase and its re-statement, divides actually into a phrase of three bars – the shortened being caused by the first bar of the re-statement overlapping the original phrase, followed by one of five bars, the latter being prolonged by the interpolation of a bar, viz., Bar 37. Another interesting point to notice in this subject is that the cadence bars, Bars 38-39, are a repetition in the key of the dominant of those in the first subject, Bars 7-8. Such repetition had its origins in the old binary form.

Bar 43: Link. The passage, in Bar 43, is marked “ad libitum,” extending from the fermata to the two crotchets (quarter notes) at the end, forming a link connecting the above melody with the second entry of the principle subject.

Bars 43-51: Principle Subject (second entry) in Tonic, Partial appearance only. At its first re-entry, a portion only of the principle subject – the first eight bars – is heard. The three notes, C, C sharp and D (Bar 51) form a link leading into the following episode.

Double bar.


Bars 52-67: Episode II in G minor (relative minor). Binary form, in two sections:

  • Bars 52-59: Part I. Double bar and repeat. Part I ends on a half cadence, approached through the chord of the German sixth (Bar 58).
  • Bars 60-67: Part II. Double bar and repeat. Note that the second phrase in Part II is a reproduction in modified form of the second phrase in Part I, altered so as to close on a full, instead of on a half, cadence. Note also the inversion of parts in Bar 61.

Bars 68-70: Link. Bars 68-70 form a link modulating from G minor to B flat major, and leading to the second re-entry of the principle subject.


Bars 71-89: Principle Subject (third entry) in Tonic. Complete as at first, to which is added a half-bar’s link modulating to the key of E flat major.

Bars 90-109: Episode III. New melody in E flat major (key of Subdominant), followed by a passage modulating back to original key. This episode starts with a new melody in E flat major, in which key there is a perfect cadence, Bar 101. It modulates afterwards through C minor (Bars 102-103), B flat major (Bars 104-105), and E flat major (Bars 106-106), back to B flat major, in which there is a half-close, Bar 109. Note that Bars 101-105 form a real sequence.

Bars 109-114: Link. A link follows leading to the fourth entry of the principle subject.

Bars 114-123: Principle Subject (fourth entry) in Tonic, Partial appearance, ending with momentary modulation to F major. As at the second entry, this is only a partial appearance of the principle subject, the first phrase of which, slightly modified, is given out twice. The first time (Bars 114-118), the melody is taken in an inner part under an inverted dominant pedal; in the repetition, which immediately follows (Bars 119-123), with the previous parts inverted. There is a momentary modulation to F major at the cadence. A link of descending triplets, instead of the original “transition,” leads directly into the repetition of the melody in Episode I, now transposed into the key of the tonic.

Bars 124-140: Second Subject (or Episode I) transposed into the key of the Tonic.

Bars 140-142: Link.

Bars 142-162: Principle Subject (fifth entry) in Tonic. Exact repetition of the original appearance with three bars added to emphasize the final cadence. As above stated, the fifth entry of the principle subject – present in this movement owing to the extra episode – is unusual in sonata-rondo form, the fourth entry being, as a rule, the final one. Even this is more often incomplete, sometimes only a phrase – or still less – appears and then merges into the coda. And where the coda is founded on the principle subject the fourth entry, as such, is sometimes omitted.