MOZART: Piano Concertos Nos. 23 and 24

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Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756 - 1791)

Piano Concerto No.23 in A Major, K. 488

Piano Concerto No.24 in C Minor, K. 491

The solo concerto had become, duringthe eighteenth century, an important vehicle for composer-performers, a form of music thathad developed from the work of Johann Sebastian Bach, through his much admired sons CarlPhilipp Emanuel and Johann Christian, to provide a happy synthesis of solo and orchestralperformance. Mozart w rote his first numbered piano concertos, arrangements derived fromother composers, in 1767, undertaking further arrangements from Johann Christian Bach afew years later. His first attempt at writing a concerto, however, had been at the age offour or five, described by a friend of the family as a smudge of notes, although, hisfather claimed, very correctly composed. In Salzburg as an adolescent Mozart w rote half adozen piano concertos, the last of these for two pianos after his return from Paris. 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of the eighteenthcentury also brought considerable changes in keyboard instruments, as the harpsichord wasgradually superseded by the fortepiano or pianoforte, with its hammer action, aninstrument capable of dynamic nuances impossible on the older instrument, while thehammer-action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 Mozart's own style of playing, by comparison with which the later virtuosity ofBeethoven seemed to some contemporaries rough and harsh.

Mozart completed his Piano Concerto in A major, K. 488, on 2nd March 1786.

Like its predecessor in E flat, K. 482, itwas designed for use in a series of three subscription concerts that Mozart had arrangedfor part of the winter season at a time when he was busy with the composition of his firstItalian opera for Vienna, Le nozze di Figaro

- the first if we discount the abortive La fintasemplice of 1768. The commission was a distinct honour for a German composer,since the re-established Italian opera was dominated by Italian composers, who might besupposed to have had more skill in the art. Mozart mentions the concerto, among others, ina letter to Sebastian Winter, a former servant in Leopold Mozart's employ, who had enteredthe service of Prince von Forstenberg in Donaueschingen as friseur some twenty yearsearlier, and now sought to acquire compositions by Mozart for his master. He adds, whileseeking a permanent stipend from the prince in return for whatever compositions herequires, that if clarinets are not. available in Donaueschingen the clarinet parts of theA major Concerto may be played on violin and viola.

The strings open the concerto, echoedby the wind, and all lead forward to the string announcement of a second subject that hasa hint, at least, of sadder things. This material is duly expanded by the soloist, butwith less freedom than has often been the case in earlier concertos of this kind. Thecentral development starts with a new theme, capped by the soloist and later varied andextended, before the recapitulation, with its cadenza by the composer.

The slow movement of the concerto, inF sharp minor, opens with the soloist and the principal theme, one imbued with melancholy.

The wind introduces a more cheerful theme, to which the second clarinet adds acharacteristic accompaniment, before the soloist takes up the same strain, before thereturn of the main theme of the movement. The final rondo is prodigal in its invention andenergy, largely dispelling the sorrows hinted in the first movement and openly expressedin the second.

The second of the two piano concertosthat Mozart wrote in a minor key, the Concerto in Cminor, K. 491, was completed on 24th March 1786. On 7th April Mozart gave hislast concert in the Burgtheater, the third of a series, including in the programme the newconcerto. At the beginning of May his new opera Lenozze di Figaro was performed for the first time, while the previous month hadbrought a new one-act Singspiel, Der Schauspieldirektor;performed at the palace of Schonbrunn on 7th February together with the successfulSalieri Italian comedy Prima la musica poi le parole.

The Cminor Concerto is scored for clarinets and oboes, as well as flute, pairs ofbassoons, horns, trumpets and drums, and strings. The work opens with the stringsannouncing an ominous theme, the inspiration for Beethoven's later C minor Piano Concerto,the chief substance of the orchestral exposition. The soloist introduces a new strain,before joining the orchestral statement of the principal theme, which is now developed.

The movement continues in a mood that is seldom broken, even by the tranquillity of asecond theme, later to be tragically transformed. The second movement, marked Larghetto onthe autograph in a hand other than the composer's, is in the key of E flat major andintervening episodes are framed by the principal melody, declared at the outset by thesoloist. The music moves soon into sadder key of C minor, led by the woodwind, brightenedby the serenity of a later episode, before the final return of the opening. The finalmovement is in the form of a set of variations, the first transformation entrusted to thesoloist, followed by the woodwind, to which the clarinets add their own special character.

The eighth and final variation, introduced by the soloist, leads to the final section ofthe work, the minor key maintained to the very end.

Jeno Jando

Jeno Jando was born at Pecs, insouth Hungary , in 1952. He started to learn the piano when he was seven and later studiedat the Ferenc Liszt Academy of Music under Katalin Nemes and Pal Kadosa, becomingassistant to the latter on his graduation in 1974. 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.

Item number 8550204
Barcode 4891030502048
Release date 12/01/2000
Category Piano
Label Naxos Classics
Media type CD
Number of units 1
Artists Jando, Jeno
Jando, Jeno
Composers Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Mozart, Wolfgang Amadeus
Conductors Antal, Matyas
Antal, Matyas
Orchestras Hungaricus, Concentus
Hungaricus, Concentus
Producers Toth, Ibolya
Toth, Ibolya
Disc: 1
Piano Concerto No. 24, C minor, K. 491
1 Allegro
2 II. Adagio
3 Allegro assai
4 Allegro
5 Larghetto
6 Allegretto
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