Explained using the 5-4-3-2-1 Method

Duration: 02:30-04:00 Minutes (depending on tempo and number of repetitions)
Genre: Piano Sonata (Final Movement)
Time of Creation: 1783
World Premiere: Unknown (publication in print 1784)

Table of Contents

Mozart's Turkish March in 5 Sentences

The Turkish March by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart is actually not a stand-alone piece, but the final movement of Mozart’s Piano Sonata No. 11. This movement received its “nickname” because Mozart imitates the Turkish military music of the time (the “Janissary music”) by musical means. However, the authenticity of Mozart’s imitation may be doubted – it is more likely that Mozart imitated a style that was understood as “Turkish” in Vienna at the end of the 18th century. Janissary music was popular in Vienna at the time because of its special relationship with the Ottoman Empire (which had twice unsuccessfully besieged Vienna in 1529 and 1683). Other works by Mozart, for example the opera “The Abduction from the Seraglio”, also bear witness to this.

Note: This work belongs to the Classical Music Top 100.

4 Highlights from Mozart's Turkish March

Highlight 1: Beginning

The beginning of this piece might be one of the most famous melodies ever. It has been used umpteen times as a ringtone, for example. What is striking is that the melody strives mostly upwards, while…

Highlight 2: Contrasting section and varied repetition of the beginning

…the following section is mainly melodically descending. Mozart thus builds a contrasting effect here with the melodic direction. This is followed by a varied repetition of the (upwardly striving) beginning:

Highlight 3: Emphasis on motoric

This section is also famous. Here the melodic figures of before are abandoned in favor of a continuous motoric:

Highlight 4: the Janissary band

It is probably the last section in particular to which the piece owes its “nickname”. Through strong accents, Mozart imitates here the large drums and cymbals of Turkish military music:

3 Questions and Answers about Mozart's Turkish March

Question 1: Why is the Turkish March called like this?

Mozart imitates in the Turkish March (actually: “Rondo alla Turca”) the Turkish military music (“Janissary music”), which was very popular in Vienna at the end of the 18th century.

Question 2: When did Mozart write the Turkish March?

Mozart wrote the Turkish March in 1783 as the third movement of his Piano Sonata No. 11.

Question 3: How difficult is the Rondo alla Turca?

The Rondo alla Turca is usually given a medium difficulty level.

2 Recommended Recordings of Mozart's Turkish March

Recording 1: Ronald Brautigam (studio recording, 1997)

There are so many recordings of Mozart’s Turkish March that it is hard to keep track. The recordings differ not only in the number of repetitions played, but also extremely in the choice of tempo. It can be observed that the tempo has tended to become faster and faster in the course of the last decades.

I would like to illustrate this with the two recordings presented here. The studio recording of the Dutch pianist Ronald Brautigam from 1997 stands for the more classical approach:

Recording 2: Lang Lang (live, 2013)

Completely different from Brautigam’s recording is the interpretation of the Chinese pianist Lang Lang. His tempo is as much as 50% faster. Of course, it’s clear that there‘s also a certain show element to it. Personally, however, I think that this is quite good for such a well-known piece. Furthermore, it is remarkable how Lang Lang plays each repetition differently:

1 Quote about Mozart's Turkish March

All courts kept Janissary bands and competed with each other as to who had the best Turkish band. No sooner were the Turks defeated than coffee and Turkish music suddenly became popular.

Justus Frantz (in conversation with BR-Klassik)

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