MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 12, 14 and 21

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467

Piano Concerto No.12 in A Major, K. 414

Piano Concerto No.14 in E Flat Major, K. 449

The solo concerto had become, during the eighteenth century, animportant vehicle for composer-performers, a form of music that had developedfrom the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his much admired sons CarlPhilipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis of solo andorchestral performance. Mozart wrote his first numbered piano concertos,arrangements derived from other composers, in 1767, undertaking furtherarrangements from Johann Christian Bach a few years later. His first attempt atwriting a concerto, however, had been at the age of four or five, described bya friend of the family as a smudge of notes, although, his father claimed, verycorrectly composed. In Salzburg as an adolescent Mozart wrote half a dozenpiano concertos, the last of these for two pianos after his return from Paris.

The remaining seventeen piano concertos were written in Vienna, principally forhis own use in the subscription concerts that he organised there during thelast decade of his life.

The second half of the eighteenth century also brought considerablechanges in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord was gradually superseded bythe fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, an instrument capable ofdynamic nuances impossible on the older instrument, while the hammer-actionclavichord from which the piano developed had too little carrying power forpublic performance. The instruments Mozart had in Vienna, by the bestcontemporary makers, had a lighter touch than the modern piano, with action andleather-padded hammers that made greater delicacy of articulation possible, amongother differences. They seem weIl suited to Mozart's own style of playing, bycomparison with which the later virtuosity of Beethoven seemed to somecontemporaries rough and harsh.

Mozart's Piano Concerto in C Major,K. 467, was entered in his catalogue of compositions with the date9th March, 1785, a month after his D MinorConcerto. Like its immediate predecessor it is scored for trumpetsand drums, as well as flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons and horns, and strings,with divided violas. It was first performed by the composer at the fifth of hisLenten Mehlgrube concerts on 11th March, the day after a concert in theBurgtheater for which he had used his new fortepiano with an added pedal-board,an instrument that his father remarks is constantly being taken out of thehouse for concerts at the Mehlgrube or in the houses of the aristocracy.

The opening bars of the exposition, played by the strings, areanswered, in military style, by the wind, and there is a second theme of lesssignificance than a true second subject, which is reserved for the soloist'sexposition. The soloist enters at first with an introduction and brief cadenza,leading to a trill, while the strings again play the first part of theprincipal theme, answered by the piano, which then proceeds to material of itsown. An unexpected foretaste of the great GMinor Symphony from the soloist leads to the happier mood of thetrue second subject, echoed by the woodwind and followed by darker moments inthe central development. The F Major slow movement has won recent fame, by itsuse in the film Elvira Madigan,but is, nevertheless, one of the most beautiful of Mozart's slow movements,moving in its apparent simplicity and lack of bravura but complex, in fact, inits harmonic pattern. Trumpets and drums return for the final rondo, its principal theme announced bythe orchestra and repeated by the soloist. The movement provides a relaxationof mood, a carefully balanced and lighter conclusion to a concerto of muchsubstance.

Writing to his father in Salzburg three years earlier, on 28th December1782, Mozart, full of hope and enthusiasm, describes the set of three pianoconcertos that he was to announce in January for his proposed subscriptionconcerts, works that were to be a happy medium between the easy and thedifficult, brilliant and pleasing, without being empty, with elements thatwould afford satisfaction not only to the knowledgeable, but provide pleasureto the less perceptive, although they would not know why. He was busy at thesame time as a teacher and performer, while completing a piano arrangement ofhis German opera Die Entf??hrung aus demSerail, which had proved very successful when it had been staged atthe Burgtheater in July. At the same time he had started work setting an ode onGibraltar, written by a Jesuit, commissioned by a Hungarian lady, and nevercompleted. On 15th January subscriptions were solicited in the Wiener Zeitung for the three concertos,with optional wind parts, allowing performance also with the accompaniment ofonly a string quartet. Money was slow in coming in, and in April Mozart waswriting to the publisher Sieber

in Paris offering the three concertos, which he claimed could be performed withfull orchestra, the French preference, with oboes and horns, or simply withfour-part string accompaniment. The concertos,K.413 - 415, were published in 1785 by Artaria in Vienna.

The A Major Concerto, K. 414,was completed in the autumn of 1782. The date of its first performance isunknown, although it may have formed part of a concert given by Mozart and hispupil Josephine von Auernhammer on 3rd November. Two sets of cadenzas survive,the later versions probably from 1785. The first movement, characteristic ofMozart at the height of his powers, opens with the principal theme, which thesoloist is later to repeat and develop. The slow movement opens with a themeborrowed, no doubt in tribute, from Johann Christian Bach, who had died inLondon earlier in the year. The D Major theme appears, during the movement, in unusuallyfull harmony in the solo part, giving it an air of solemnity. The concerto endswith a rondo, its lively principal theme introduced by the first violins, butdeferred in the solo part until other points have been made.

In February 1784 Mozart began to keep a list of his compositions, thefirst entry in his catalogue the E FlatMajor Piano Concerto, K. 449, and the autograph carries the samedate, 9th February. The concerto,like the first group of three written in Vienna, K. 413 - 415, allows an optional use of wind instruments,the usual two oboes and two horns and can be played with single strings, or, atleast, only one viola. As Mozart remarked in a letter to his father, such awork would be possible at home in Salzburg, since wind-players did not oftentake part in meetings in Leopold Mozart's house.

The E Flat Concerto, K. 449,was probably performed for the first time at a concert Mozart gave atTrattner's rooms in Vienna on 17th March 1784, the first of a series of threesuch concerts for the last three Wednesdays of Lent. Both the E Flat Concerto and the G Major, K. 453, were intended forMozart's pupil Barbara von Ployer, the daughter of the Salzburg agent inVienna.

The three concertos written at this time, K. 449, K. 450 and K. 451, show a development in writing forthe orchestra and in the demands made on the soloist, as well as changes in thetreatment of the form, now handled with increased boldness of invention. The E Flat Concerto touches at once on the keyof C Minor in its opening bars and has its orchestral second subject in theunusual key of the dominant, B Flat, instead of in the tonic E Flat, aprocedure usually left for the soloist's exposition that follows. The
Catalogue number 8550202
Barcode 4891030502024
Release date 12/01/1999
Label Naxos
Format CD
Number of discs 1
Artists Jando, Jeno
Jando, Jeno
Composers Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Conductors Ligeti, Andras
Ligeti, Andras
Orchestras Hungaricus, Concentus
Hungaricus, Concentus
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
Piano Concerto No. 14, E flat major, K. 449
1 Allegro maestoso
2 II. Andante
3 Allegro vivace assai
4 Allegro
5 Andante
6 Allegretto
7 Allegro vivace
8 Andantino - Andante
9 Allegro ma non troppo
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