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The Mozart Piano Concertos

SUNDAY, February 23, 2020

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart began his series of preserved piano concertos with four that he wrote at the age of 11, in Salzburg: K. 37 and 39–41. The autographs, all held by the Jagiellonian Library, Kraków, are dated by his father as having been completed in April (K. 37) and July (K. 39–41) of 1767. Although these works were long considered to be original, they are now known to be orchestrations of sonatas by various German virtuosi. The works on which the concertos are based were largely published in Paris, and presumably Mozart and his family became acquainted with them or their composers during their visit to Paris in 1763–64.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major, K. 175 (1773)…

The Piano Concerto No. 6 in B-flat major, K. 238 (1776)…

His Concerto No. 7 (K. 242) for three pianos and his Concerto No. 8 (K. 246) in C major would follow within three months. The three works share what Cuthbert Girdlestone refers to as a galant style.[1]

, was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1773, at the age of 17. It is Mozart’s first original piano concerto; his previous efforts were based on works by other composers.

Piano Concerto No. 7 in F major,  K. 242 (1776) – for three pianos and orchestra…

Piano Concerto No. 8 in C major – Lützow Concert – K. 246 (1776)…

in the same year as the Haffner Serenade (K. 250).[1] Countess Antonia Lützow, 25 or 26 years old, second wife of Johann Nepomuk Gottfried Graf Lützow, the Commander of the Hohensalzburg Fortress, was a fine pianist.[2] The solo work is not highly demanding, but it requires agility. Mozart played the concerto in Mannheim and Munich on October 4, 1777, and used it for teaching. Three different cadenzas have survived of varying difficulty, accommodating the abilities of performers from student level to professional: one for two pianos.[3][4][5]

Piano Concerto No. 9 – Jenamy – (often incorrectly nicknamed “Jeunehomme”) in E♭ major, K. 271, by Wolfgang 1777, when Mozart was 21 years old.

 

Concerto No. 10 for two pianos in E-flat major, K. 365/316a ( 1779)

, but research by Alan Tyson shows that cadenzas for the first and third movements are written in his and his father’s handwriting on a type of paper used between August 1775 and January 1777[citation needed]. However, most sources, including Alan Tyson’s book “Mozart: Studies of the Autograph Scores” (1987) or more recent Lindeman’s “The Concerto: A Research and Information Guide” (2006) indicate that it was composed in 1779. This date was retained on Wikipedia pages for K.365/316a in any other language. It is presumed that Mozart wrote it to play with his sister Maria Anna (“Nannerl”). Years later he performed it in a private concert with pupil Josepha Barbara von Auernhammer.

Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 11 in F major, K. 413 or K. 387a (1782)…

in the sixth edition of the Köchel catalogue), was the second of the group of three early concertos he wrote when in Vienna, in the autumn of 1782 (according to the latest edition of the Köchel catalogue, K. 414 was written first). It was the first full concerto he wrote for the subscription concerts he gave in the city. The autograph is held by the Jagiellońska Library, Kraków with an additional, now incomplete, copy that Mozart brought to Salzburg in 1783, in the library of the Archabbey of St Peter’s, Salzburg. The concerto is in the usual three movements:

Piano Concerto No. 12 in A major, K. 414 or 385p(1782)…

It is scored for solo piano (or harpsichord), two oboes, two bassoons (optional), two horns, and strings (consisting of violins, violas, cellos, and double basses). Like all three of the early Vienna concertos that Mozart wrote, it is a modest work that can be performed with only string quartet and keyboard (i.e., “a quattro”). As per 18th century performance practice a string orchestra could also have provided as a suitable option for the “quattro” accompaniment.

Piano Concerto No. 13 in C major, K. 415/387b (1782–83)…

Piano Concerto No. 14, K. 449, in E♭ major(1784)…

The Piano Concerto No. 15 in B♭ major, K. 450 (1784)…

The Piano Concerto No. 16 in D major, K. 451, (1784)…

Piano Concerto No. 17 in G major, K. 453, (1784)…

Piano Concerto No. 18, K. 456 (1784)…

The Piano Concerto No. 19 in F major, K. 459 (1784)…

Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor, K. 466 (1785)…

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C major, K. 467 (1785)

Piano Concerto No. 22 in E♭ major, K. 482, (1785)…

 

Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (1786)…

Piano Concerto No. 24 in C, K. 491 minor (1785-1786)…

Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503 (1786)…

Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 – “Coronation” – K. 537 (1788)…

Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, KV595 (1788-1791)…

 

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Mozart Concerto No. 23

SUNDAY, February 23, 2020

The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major, K. 488 (1786)…

It was finished, according to Mozart’s own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, two months prior to the premiere of his opera, Le nozze di Figaro (The Marriage of Figaro), and supposedly the next concerto was completed less than a month later. Obviously he worked on several things at the same time, but he finished things astonishingly fast, unlike Beethoven who struggled and revised things for years. Things were easy for Mozart. He was easily one of the most intelligent composers who ever lived, something that obviously did not make him any smarter managing his life, but that’s another matter for another time.

Premiere by Mozart?

We think so, since no one his age played as well, and his concertos were mostly – and perhaps entirely – written as performance vehicles for himself. So usually he premiered his own piano music, but always remember that the piano he played on was a very different instrument from what we hear today, and I personally do not enjoy the sound of that old sound and avoid it.

Instrumentation:

Piano solo, one flute, two clarinets, two bassoons, two horns and strings. It’s a smaller ensemble. No trumpets, no oboes, only one flute, no timpani. The music is quite intimate. The slow movement is one of the most beautiful ever written, Mozart at his absolute best.

Vladimir Horowitz…

This video is famous, but also infamous. He was either well over 80 years old here.

There are those who hate his playing in Mozart, saying that it is not polished and understated enough, and too harsh. The idea is that Mozart somehow was “spiritual”, or his music was. For me this absolute contradicts both reason and intuition, because Mozart was a free spirit and in all ways an outrageous rule breaker.

I don’t like listening to people who don’t take chances…

One of the things I hate most is the way people play his music in a way that is conservative, limited in dynamics and somehow “safe”. I think he had more in common with Beethoven than most people realize. Certainly these two composers were radically different, but I like players who emphasize dynamic contrasts and play some parts with a harder edge so that the softer and more subtle places take on greater interest because of bringing out opposite qualities. This is by far my favorite performance, by a mile, and my opinion is not unique, but there are also others who see the whole matter in a totally opposite way.

Even if you don’t like the interpretation, watch how he does it…

But what I will point out for my students is the absolute relaxation in his body and hands, the lack of faces and stupid gestures. Also, he is using music, and why more pianists do not use scores not only surprises me but also infuriates me. The idea that we play better without music is totally false and is an idea meant to impress other people who know nothing about music.

A totally different conception…

I completely stand up for his interpretation, because the playing is very very good, although totally different from Horowitz’s. This young player is well worth listening to, but he is another guy I can’t watch. Just remember – even if you like what he is doing, and I also like it – that all those faces don’t do anything. Someone trained him to play that way, and now it’s too late to stop the nonsense. Worse is the fact that he’s headed for back and shoulder problems. If he does not cure some of his bad habits, he won’t have a long career. And yet the music is great.

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Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25

SUNDAY, February 23, 2020

Mozart Piano concerto no 25 in C major, K. 503 (1786)…

It was composed about the same time as the as Symphony No. 38 (the Prague Symphony), K. 504. There were 12 twelve great piano concertos written in Vienna between 1784 and 1786, and this is the last of them. There are two more concertos, but I don’t like either of them nearly as well.

Instruments:

Solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns in C, two trumpets in C, timpani and strings.

A familiar tune…

One of the secondary themes of the concerto’s first movement is a march that resembles “La Marseillaise”, the French national anthem. It sounds as though Mozart stole it, but in fact he wrote his theme earlier.

Mitsuko Uchida

She is another lady who continues to play at a marvelously high level in her 70s. I very much like some of her playing but find her extremely annoying to watch. But you may enjoy watching her play. As is true with Glenn Gould and Lang Lang and some others, I have to just listen. Her facial expressions and her exaggerated movements distract from the music for me.

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Mozart Piano Concerto No. 26

SUNDAY, February 23, 2020

Mozart Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major,

K. 537 – “Coronation” – K. 537 (1788)…

This is Mozart’s second to last piano concerto. It was completed on 24 February 1788.

I don’t like things that are incomplete, so I’m going to find and present every concerto, but this one to me is rather boring and not at all original. Unlike Beethoven, Mozart would write incredibly profound music one moment, then toss off something in almost no time that was far below his best. I would say that for Mozart this was a rather weak effort.

Instruments:

Solo piano, one flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpano (in D, A), and strings.

Origin of the nickname…

The nickname “Coronation” was because he played this concerto at the time of the coronation of Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor in October 1790 in Frankfurt am Main.

Part of it would today be called a “fake sheet”.

There is a very unusual feature to this concerto. In addition to omitting the tempi for two of the movements, Mozart did not write any notes for the piano’s left hand in a great many measures throughout the work. There is no other Mozart piano concerto with parts of solo partleft unfinished by the composer. The missing parts are quite obvious and easily filled in, but this was still very unusual.

Maria João Alexandre Barbosa Pires (23 July 1944 – present)…

This is the same great pianist as in the last concerto, but here she is much young. This goes back to 1975.

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Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27

SUNDAY, February 23, 2020

Mozart Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat major, K. 595 (1788-1791)…

This is Mozart’s last piano concerto; it was first performed early in 1791, the year of his death.

There is a huge discussion of exactly when it was written, so there is about a three year window.

Instruments:

flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, solo piano and strings, so fewer instruments than Mozart’s other late concertos.

Connecting movements…

The principal theme of the slow movement appears as the second theme of the final movement, and this is of special interest to me because this unification of movements seems logical and musical to me. When composers use ideas from one movement of a sonata, concerto or symphony in another movement, it means that these movements truly belong together.

Maria João Alexandre Barbosa Pires (23 July 1944 – present)…

This is another lady who just keeps getting better and better.

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