Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart wrote his Sonata for Two Pianos at the beginning of the Viennese period of life. In the Empire’s capital he hoped to gain reputation not only as skilful performer and composer but also as music teacher. Mozart considered Josepha Auernhammer one of his most talented pupils. The Sonata (Mozart’s only work for two pianos in this genre) was composed bearing her playing in mind and during the first performance she played first piano. However, both musicians are required great skill in this Sonata. Hermann Abert has noted rightly that it is “a piece whose technical demands are in no way inferior to those found in the composer’s keyboard concertos.ˮ
Mozart’s choise of D major, the light and joyful key favoured by the Viennese classics, specifies the spirit dominating in the music: there is almost no typical Mozartean “shadow.ˮ The Sonata follows the classical pattern: outer fast movements (the sonata-allegro and the finale recalling the famous Rondo alla turca) frame the slow middle one.
Written at the same time as the Second Piano Concerto (1900–1901), Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Suite No. 2 has much in common with Rachmaninoff’s other great work which was to be a true breakthrough in the composer’s lengthy psychological crisis and which led to a revived understanding of life’s values. The relationship between the many musical images in these two works even gave Vera Bryantseva the impetus to state that “Suite No. 2 for Two Pianos may be called a series of études for the Second Concerto.” Unlike the First Suite, in the Second Suite Rachmaninoff gave the sections only very generalised titles: 1 – Introduction, 2 – Waltz, 3 – Romance, 4 – Tarantella. The languid lyricism of the Romance and the middle section of the Waltz are reminiscent, even in the specific details, of the delightful music of one of Rachmaninoff’s greatest achievements – the slow section of the Concerto. The quick movements of the Suite (the Introduction, outer parts of the Waltz and the Tarantella) are as if woven from the same sound threads as the finale of the Concerto where Rachmaninoff, experiencing moods of efficacious excitement, became definitively convinced in his ideas of eternity and the enchanting beauty of the surrounding world.