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8.550206 - MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 11 and 22
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto No.22 in E Flat Major, K. 482
The solo concerto had become, during the eighteenth century, an important vehicle for composer-performers, a form of music that had developed from the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his much admired sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis of solo and orchestral performance. Mozart w rote his first numbered piano concertos, arrangements derived from other composers, in 1767, undertaking further arrangements from Johann Christian Bach a few years later. His first attempt at writing a concerto, however, had been at the age of four or five, described by a friend of the family as a smudge of notes, although, his father claimed, very correctly composed. In Salzburg as an adolescent Mozart wrote half a dozen piano concertos, the last of these for two pianos after his return from Paris. The remaining seventeen piano concertos were written in Vienna, principally for his own use in the subscription concerts that he organised there during the last decade of his life.
The second half of the eighteenth century also brought considerable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord was gradually superseded by the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, an instrument capable of dynamic nuances impossible on the older instrument, while the hammer-action clavichord from which the piano developed had too little carrying power for public performance. The instruments Mozart had in Vienna, by the best contemporary makers, had a lighter touch than the modern piano, with action and leather-padded hammers that made greater delicacy of articulation possible, among other differences. They seem well suited to Mozart's own style of playing, by comparison with which the later virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to some contemporaries rough and harsh.
Mozart performed his Piano Concerto in E fiat major, K. 482, on 23rd December at the Burgtheater in Vienna as an entr'acte between the parts of Karl Ditters von Dittersdorf's oratorio Esther, directed by the court composer Antonio Salieri in the presence of the Emperor, Archduke Franz and Princess Elisabeth. The concerto was the second of two Advent concerts arranged by the Tonkünstler-Sozietät for its widows and orphans. This was presumably not the first performance, since the concerto seems to have been designed for a series of three subscription concerts Mozart had organised, and the preceding concertos at least had not been finished so early, a week before it was needed.
The E fiat Concerto is scored for clarinets instead of flute and pairs of bassoons, horns, trumpets and drums. The strings, as in the immediately preceding concertos, have divided violas. The full orchestra starts the work with a brief and emphatic figure, answered by a gently descending sequence played by bassoons and horns, to be echoed by clarinets and violins. The orchestral exposition is linked to the soloist's version of the principal theme by a seventeen bar solo introduction, after which the piano moves on to bravura scales and arpeggios that accompany and then develop the material, before the sinister much more placid second subject. The movement continues with much busy passage-work for the soloist and a subtly varied recapitulation.
Muted strings open the C minor Andante, a movement that had to be repeated at the concert on 23rd December. The soloist varies the extended principal theme, briefly accompanied by the strings, followed by an E fiat episode, scored for wind, and allowing due contrast between the upper register of the clarinet and the Alberti bass of its lower register. The soloist returns with a further variation of the principal theme, leading to a second episode in which flute and bassoon engage in a C major dialogue, after which a further variation of the main theme returns, leading to a coda. The darker mood of the Andante is dispelled by the final rondo, introduced by the soloist, accompanied by the strings, and varied by the introduction of an A flat Andantino, a minuet, played at first by clarinets and bassoons and echoed by the soloist, after which the rondo theme re-appears to lead the music to its conclusion.
Writing to his father in Salzburg on 28th December 1782, Mozart, full of hope and enthusiasm, describes the set of three piano concertos that he was to announce in January for his proposed subscription concerts, works that were to be a happy medium between the easy and the difficult, brilliant and pleasing, without being empty, with elements that would afford satisfaction only to the knowledgeable, but provide pleasure to the less perceptive, although they would not know why. He was busy at the same time as a teacher and performer, while completing a piano arrangement of his German opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail, which had proved very successful when it had been staged at the Burgtheater in July. At the same time he had started work setting an ode on Gibraltar, written by a Jesuit, commissioned by a Hungarian lady, and never completed. On 15th January subscriptions were solicited in the Wiener Zeitung for the three concertos, with optional wind parts, allowing performance also with the accompaniment of only a string quartet. Money was slow in coming in, and in April Mozart was writing to the publisher Sieber in Paris offering the three concertos, which he claimed could be performed with full orchestra, the French preference, with oboes and horns, or simply with four-part string accompaniment. The concertos, K. 413 - 415, were published in 1785 by Artaria in Vienna.
The Concerto in F major, K. 413, cannot be precisely dated. It appears to have been unwritten on 28th December, when Mozart told his father that only one of the three concertos had been finished, but was probably completed soon after that letter, and may have been played at concerts early in January, possibly on 11th January, when Aloysia Lange, Mozart's sister-in-law, who had won Mozart's attentions in Mannheim, sang an aria he had written for her. Original cadenzas survive for the first two movements. Again scored for an accompaniment of oboes, horns and strings, the first movement opens with repeated chords from the whole orchestra, followed at once by a principal theme that must have given satisfaction to all, the soloist entering with another fragment of a theme, before proceeding to the first subject, which is then developed. The movement continues with a wealth of thematic invention. The B flat Larghetto offers that mixture of joy and sorrow that Mozart knew so well how to convey and is followed by a rondo, derived from a minuet theme, announced first by the orchestra.
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