MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 16 and 25 / Rondo, K. 386 (Concentus Hungaricus/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando/ Matyas Antal) (Naxos: 8.550207)
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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 hadbecome, during the eighteenth century, an important vehide for composer-performers, a formof music that had developed from the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his muchadmired sons Carl Philipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis ofsolo and orchestral performance. Mozart w rote his first numbered piano concertos,arrangements derived from other composers, in 1767, undertaking further arrangements fromJohann 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 ofnotes, although, his father claimed, very correctly composed. In Salzburg as an adolescentMozart wrote half a dozen piano concertos, the last of these for two pianos after hisreturn from Paris. The remaining seventeen piano concertos were written in Vienna,principally for his own use in the subscription concerts that he organised there duringthe last decade of his life.
The second half of the eighteenthcentury also brought considerable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord wasgradually superseded by the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, aninstrument capable of dynamic nuances impossible on the older instrument, while thehammer-action clavichord from which the piano developed had too little carrying power forpublic 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 thatmade greater delicacy of articulation possible, among other differences. They seem wellsuited to
Mozarts own style of playing, bycomparison with which the later virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to some contemporariesrough and harsh.
The PianoConcerto in C major, K. 503, is entered in Mozart's list of his compositionswith the date 4th December 1786 and was performed the following day at one of the fourAdvent concerts arranged at the Casino belonging to Mozart's earlier landlord, thepublisher Johann Thomas von Trattner, whose wife was one of his pupils. The Concerto wasplayed by Mozart in his Leipzig concert in 1789 and by his young pupil Hummel in Dresdenin the same year.
The concerto is scored for flute,pairs of oboes, bassoons. horns, trumpets and drums, with strings, and opens with a granddeclamatory statement from the whole orchestra, suiting well the key of C major. Thejubilation of the opening is belied by the immediate intrusion of the minor, an elementthat also adds a darker colour to a new theme, introduced by the strings. The soloistmakes an at first hesitant appearance, growing in confidence and elaboration, before theorchestra breaks in with the first subject, now extended by the soloist, who is later tointroduce a second solo subject in the key of E fiat, a natural move from C minor, butunexpected in a C major concerto. There are to be other surprises and elements ofcounterpoint that add weight to a musically substantial movement.
The F major Andante is again on alarge scale, its principal material announced by the orchestra and answered by the soloistin a movement that is broadly in sonata form, with the briefest of central developmentsections. The opening of the final rondo is deceptively cheerful, soon acquiring a tingeof melancholy with references to the minor key. Here, as in the earlier movements, thereis scope for considerable virtuosity from the soloist in music that encompasses a varietyof moods before its triumphant ending.
In February 1784 Mozart began to keepa list of his compositions, the first entry in his catalogue the E fiat major Piano Concerto, K. 449, the autographcarrying the same date, 9th February. The Concerto inB 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 andoboes, with wind parts that could certainly not be omitted, and K. 451 demands similarforces, with a single flute, and two trumpets and drums. These works Mozart described asgrand concertos. These concertos show a development in writing for the orchestra and inthe demands made on the soloist, as well as changes in the treatment of the form, nowhandled with increased boldness of invention.
The Concertoin D major, with its fuller scoring, opens in a style that suits itsinstrumentation, 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 onthe soloist, a tendency apparent in this group of concertos. The Andante, using the hornsand single flute, oboe and bassoon, with the strings, offers a sinuous theme, the gentlesadness of the solo part interwoven with the orchestra. These feelings are dispelled in amasterly rondo that makes due obeisance to B minor in passing, before the more optimisticD major reasserts itself.
The Rondoin A Major was probably originally intended as a finale to the Concerto in A Major, K. 414.
Jando has won a number of pianocompetitions in Hungary and abroad, including first prize in the 1973 Hungarian PianoConcours and a first prize in the chamber music category at the Sydney International PianoCompetition in 1977. He is currently engaged in a project to record all Mozart's pianoconcertos for Naxos. Other recordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Griegand Schumann as well as Rachmaninov's Second Concerto
and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven'scomplete piano sonatas.