About this Recording
8.550207 - MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 16 and 25 / Rondo, K. 386
English 

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Piano Concerto in D Major, K. 451
Piano Concerto in C Major, K. 503
Rondo in A Major, K. 386

The solo concerto had become, during the eighteenth century, an important vehide 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of the eighteenth century also brought considerable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord was gradually superseded by the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, an instrument capable of dynamic nuances impossible on the older instrument, while the hammer-action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.

The Piano Concerto in C major, K. 503, is entered in Mozart's list of his compositions with the date 4th December 1786 and was performed the following day at one of the four Advent concerts arranged at the Casino belonging to Mozart's earlier landlord, the publisher Johann Thomas von Trattner, whose wife was one of his pupils. The Concerto was played by Mozart in his Leipzig concert in 1789 and by his young pupil Hummel in Dresden in the same year.

The concerto is scored for flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons. horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, and opens with a grand declamatory statement from the whole orchestra, suiting well the key of C major. The jubilation of the opening is belied by the immediate intrusion of the minor, an element that also adds a darker colour to a new theme, introduced by the strings. The soloist makes an at first hesitant appearance, growing in confidence and elaboration, before the orchestra breaks in with the first subject, now extended by the soloist, who is later to introduce a second solo subject in the key of E fiat, a natural move from C minor, but unexpected in a C major concerto. There are to be other surprises and elements of counterpoint that add weight to a musically substantial movement.

The F major Andante is again on a large scale, its principal material announced by the orchestra and answered by the soloist in a movement that is broadly in sonata form, with the briefest of central development sections. The opening of the final rondo is deceptively cheerful, soon acquiring a tinge of melancholy with references to the minor key. Here, as in the earlier movements, there is scope for considerable virtuosity from the soloist in music that encompasses a variety of moods before its triumphant ending.

In February 1784 Mozart began to keep a list of his compositions, the first entry in his catalogue the E fiat major Piano Concerto, K. 449, the autograph carrying the same date, 9th February. The Concerto in B fiat, K. 450, is entered as completed on 15th March and the Concerto in D major, K. 451, under 22nd March. K. 450, much admired at the time, calls for two bassoons, in addition to pairs of horns and oboes, with wind parts that could certainly not be omitted, and K. 451 demands similar forces, with a single flute, and two trumpets and drums. These works Mozart described as grand concertos. These concertos show a development in writing for the orchestra and in the demands made on the soloist, as well as changes in the treatment of the form, now handled with increased boldness of invention.

The Concerto in D major, with its fuller scoring, opens in a style that suits its instrumentation, proceeding to introduce the soloist in the grand manner. The work, symphonic in conception, is on a large scale and makes still further technical demands on the soloist, a tendency apparent in this group of concertos. The Andante, using the horns and single flute, oboe and bassoon, with the strings, offers a sinuous theme, the gentle sadness of the solo part interwoven with the orchestra. These feelings are dispelled in a masterly rondo that makes due obeisance to B minor in passing, before the more optimistic D major reasserts itself.

The Rondo in A Major was probably originally intended as a finale to the Concerto in A Major, K. 414.

Jeno Jandó
Jandó has won a number of piano competitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian Piano Concours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International Piano Competition in 1977. He is currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart's piano concertos for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete piano sonatas.


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