Mozart  K355 (K576b)  -  4 MIDI Versions



Was K.355 written for the piano, a string quartet, or some other instrument?



Click the links below to play or download the files.

Each file is small - only 8K.


     K355-ChurchOrgan.mid    (slower tempo)


     K355-Violin.mid    (slower tempo)




     K355-GrandPiano.mid   (this is the version normally heard)




In its published life, K.355 has always appeared as a piece for piano.

Scholars are uncertain when it was written, why it was written, and for what instrument it was written.

The piece might even be an experiment in harmony, not intended for public playing.


See the article in the Mozart Forum, "The Piano Menuet K355: An Interesting Study" by Dennis Pajot, at

http://www.mozartforum.com/VB_forum/showthread.php?t=1532  (November 2nd, 2005).


Here are 4 versions of Mozart's Menuetto K.355 (K.576b), using 4 different instruments.


The piano version was downloaded from www.classicalarchives.net .

(It does not include the Trio referred to in the Mozart Forum article which was added by Maximilian Stadler).


I have made numerous modifications to it after downloading:

   Wrong notes have been corrected, missing notes have been added, and jarring volume increases and

   decreases have been attenuated.

   3 new versions have been created - one for harpsichord, one for church organ, and one for violin.




MIDI music 

Keep in mind that the sounds of MIDI files vary from  excellent,  to not too bad,  to atrocious!!

I have heard, for example, MIDI music of Chopin piano works that sounded excellent - almost like real recordings

that anyone would be proud to own!

Some other MIDI music is just awful - the instruments don't sound right, the timing is mechanical, the volume

changes are assaulting, etc.

The quality of the sound depends on the sound card, playback software, instruments used, speakers, accuracy of

transcription, tempo, phrasing, sound card settings, and other factors.

The average quality of this MIDI music is about "medium" in my opinion. The string version (4 violins) has the worst

MIDI quality of them all, not sounding like an authentic string quartet. The organ version sounds reasonably realistic -

fairly close to a real organ and more legato than a piano sound - which is one of the reasons it sounds the best to me.




My opinion 


The music:

Overall, I like this advanced piece. The rich chromaticism and development are very satisfying and engaging.

But as a piano piece, it sounds somewhat experimental in its entirety, and not intended for performing.

Oddly, parts of it sound like they were composed for a beginning piano student (such as bars 12-16 which end

the first section). It sounds like an advanced study in harmony with easy portions for the beginning piano student.

This is an odd combination - beautiful, but odd.

A change in instruments from a piano to something else (such as a string quartet) might improve the subjective

impact of the "easy sounding" portions.


The instruments:

The piano version has always sounded somewhat percussive and "clunky" to me.

A change to more legato instruments makes a significant difference in how the piece sounds by accomplishing

the following:

   1. The percussive, clunky sound of the piano (for this piece) is eliminated.

   2. The "easy sounding" portions (such as bars 12-16) sound more appropriate.


The harpsichord, violin and organ versions ALL sound better to me than the piano version - even in

these inadequate MIDI formats. The percussiveness of the MIDI piano is eliminated, and more legato

is introduced.


Note that the violins in the 4-violin version do not sound very realistic.


The church organ version displays several advantages - especially the 2nd part of the piece which begins at

m. 17 (or m. 33 with repeats):

   1. The percussive sound of the piano is eliminated.

   2. Chords are sustained better than the piano version.

   3. The MIDI organ sounds quite realistic.


Perhaps with a better-sounding MIDI violin, and replacing a violin or two with a cello, the strings version

would sound better than the organ version. Then we could compare a normal string quartet (MIDI instruments)

to the organ version.


I would rank the MIDI versions in this order, in terms of their sound appropriate to this piece:

     1. Organ   2. Violins   3. Harpsichord   4. Piano


However, it was probably composed for a string quartet of 2 violins, a viola, and a cello.

Hearing such a version on real instruments with real players would probably clinch the theory.





This piece employs a certain 2-chord phrase,  6 times in this piece.

This is a phrase that Mozart used hundreds or possibly thousands of times in his music, far more frequently than

other composers (to my knowledge), and often deeply embedded in his works such that the music often hinged

on that phrase.  To a great extent, this entire piece centers on that repeated phrase.

I call it "Mozart's Musical Trademark".


See  www.mozartsmtm.org/$MTMEx.htm#A8  for examples of its use in this piece.




Dave Morton,  November 3rd, 2005



Updated November 15th, 2005