MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 5 and 26 / Rondo, K. 382 (Andras Ligeti/ Concentus Hungaricus/ Ibolya Toth/ Jeno Jando) (Naxos: 8.550209)
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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)
Piano Concerto in D Major, K. 537 (Coronation)
Piano Concerto in D Major, K. 175
Rondo in D Major, K. 382
The solo concerto had become, during the eighteenth century, animportant vehicle for composer-performers, a form of music that had developed from thework of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his much admired sons Carl Philipp Emanuel andJohann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis of solo and orchestral performance. Mozartw rote his first numbered piano concertos, arrangements derived from other composers, in1767, undertaking further arrangements from Johann Christian Bach a few years later. Hisfirst 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 pianoconcertos, the last of these for two pianos after his return from Paris in 1779. Theremaining seventeen piano concertos were written in Vienna, principally for his own use inthe subscription concerts that he organised there during the last decade of his life.
The second half of the eighteenth century also broughtconsiderable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord was gradually supersededby the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, an instrument capable of dynamicnuances impossible on the older instrument, while the hammer-action clavichord from whichthe piano developed had too little carrying power for public performance. The instrumentsMozart had in Vienna, by the best contemporary makers, had a lighter touch than the modernpiano, with action and leather-padded hammers that made greater delicacy of articulationpossible, among other differences. They seem well suited to Mozart's own style of playing, by comparison with which thelater virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to some contemporaries rough and harsh.
By 1788 Mozart's popularity as a performer had begun to wane inVienna. The year before, the new opera Don Giovanni had been commissioned by the theatrein Prague, and was staged in Vienna in May 1788, but there was to be no new commission forVienna until the 1790 season, when performances of Cosifan tutte were curtailed by the death of the Emperor. The D major PianoConcerto, K. 537, was completed on 24th February, 1788, presumably with a view to a seriesof Lenten concerts, and we may suppose formed part of the programme for the Casinoconcerts in June which Mozart mentions in a letter to his fellow free-mason MichaelPuchberg, from whom he was obliged to borrow money during the summer. On his journey toBerlin with Prince Lichnowsky in 1789 he played the concerto before the Elector of Saxonyin Dresden, but the name by which the concerto has become known derives from itsperformance by Mozart on 15th October, 1790, in Frankfurt for the coronation in that cityof the new Emperor Leopold II. The event aroused relatively little interest and earned himlittle money.
The D major Concerto isscored for an orchestra that includes trumpets and drums, as well as the customary flute,pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, and strings. The orchestral exposition is opened bythe strings with a theme that forms the substance of the soloist's own entry, leadingthrough bravura scale passages to a second theme, further extended until the appearance ofthe second subject. The central development is based principally on a relativelyinsignificant figure, before the soloist leads to the return of the orchestra with therecapitulation.
The soloist introduces the A major slow movement, followed bythe orchestra, without trumpets or drums, and proceeding to a central section in materialof the greatest simplicity. This is followed by the final rondo, into which the soloistleads with another of those melodies that seem to have all the ingenuousness of Papageno.
The movement is not without moments of seriousness, but in general lacks the substance ofthe concertos that immediately precede it in order of composition.
The Piano Concerto in Dmajor, K. 175, is the first such concerto by Mozart to be based on originalmaterial, after the arrangements he had made in 1767 and 1772. He wrote the work out inSalzburg in December 1773. He had spent ten weeks until late September in Vienna,accompanied by his father, who had taken advantage of the Archbishop's absence fromSalzburg to travel with his son. The visit did not produce its desired purpose, presumablya position at court, but had a clear influence on Mozart's developing style ofcomposition, particularly in a set of six string quartets he w rote in Vienna, two of themwith fugal finales, an occasional practice of Haydn. The new concerto, which remained afavourite, to be played in Mannheim in 1777 and in Vienna in 1782, with a new finale, therondo variations, K. 382, is a work ofcomplete maturity, scored for pairs of oboes and horns, with trumpets and drums, as wellas the necessary strings. The Rondo of 1782 adds a flute to the band.
The first movement of the concerto opens with a bold statementof the first theme from the orchestra, elegantly concluded and leading to the violinintroduction of the second theme, is offered music of consistent brilliance, whichincludes a written cadenza. The G major slow movement, gently lyrical, interweaves thepiano with the orchestra, and is followed, in the original version, by a remarkable enoughfinale, which opens as if about to embark on a fugue. The contrapuntal element continuesto be of importance as the movement continues, the cadenza - Mozart's own cadenza has notsurvived - introduced by a four part canon, as the string sections enter one after anotherin imitation. The D major Rondo later substituted for this very original finale is markedAllegretto grazioso and consists of a series of variations that make marginally greaterdemands on the soloist, if less on the audience. Scholars have suggested that Mozart had aparticular instrument in mind when he w rote the D major concerto, in view of therelatively limited range of notes in the solo part, which seems deliberately to avoid theslightly wider known range of instruments current at the time. It seems probable thatMozart played the concerto during his visit to Munich in 1774. He certainly had the musicwith him.
The Hungarian pianist Jeno 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 has recorded for Naxos all the piano concertos of Mozart. Otherrecordings for the Naxos label include the concertos of Grieg and Schumann as we" asRachmaninov's Second Concerto and Paganini Rhapsody and Beethoven's complete pianosonatas.