Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Koncert f. klaver org orkester, Es-dur
K. 271, (Nr. 9) "Jeunehomme", 1777
Det står fast, at man midt i 1780'erne i
franske aviser kan finde omtaler af en Mlle Villieaume, som har spillet en
ikke nærmere specificeret klaverkoncert af Mozart i
Paris. Når vi yderligere betænker, at Mozarts breve bugner af ordspil og
muntre forvanskninger af
alt mellem himmel og jord, ligger det nær at antage, at han har
kunnet finde på at kalde den franske spilledame for "frøken ung mand" i
stedet for "frøken gammel mand", mademoiselle vieil
homme, som hendes rigtige navn kunne lyde i en let forvansket udtale.
Composed in Salzburg in January of 1777, this concerto was likely performed in Salzburg soon thereafter by the young French virtuosa for whom it was written. About a half-hour in duration, this concerto accompanies the solo piano with a classic orchestra of two oboes, two horns and strings. This music was last performed on this series in October of 1978 with John Browning as soloist and Kenneth Schermerhorn conducting.
In the month of his twenty-first birthday, Mozart wrote this concerto for a French virtuosa, Mlle. Jeunehomme, on the occasion of her visit to Salzburg. A remarkable piece, this concerto has been regarded as Mozart's first mature piano concerto. Biographer Alfred Einstein praises it as "one of Mozart's monumental works, those works in which he is entirely himself, seeking not to ingratiate himself with his public but rather to win them through originality and boldness. He never surpassed it." Because of this concerto's impact, depth, innovations and perhaps because of its key of E-flat major, Einstein dubs it "Mozart's Eroica."
Little is known about Mme Jeunehomme (Mozart casually referred to her as "Jenomy"), but it is believed that she was a fine player who likely premiered the work on her trip to Salzburg. Better documented is the fact that Mozart performed this concerto as soloist at Munich on October 4, 1777, and later in Vienna at spring concerts in 1781 and 1783. Still existing are two sets of Mozart's cadenzas and three sets of lead-ins for the Finale.
1. Allegro; Eb major, 4/4. An extensive orchestral introduction was the standard way to launch a concerto in the classic era; but here Mozart surprises his listeners by having the piano soloist enter briefly in the work's opening measures. (It would be more than a quarter-century until Beethoven made similar gestures in his Fourth and Fifth Piano Concertos.) Unexpected interactions between soloist and orchestra continue throughout this sonata-form movement.
II. Andantino; C minor, 3/4. The first minor-mode
movement in a Mozart concerto, this Andantino employs
muted strings to evoke a sense of repressed quasi-operatic
passion. Throughout, there are youthfully mercurial shifts
Of Mozart’s 27 piano concertos, some of them stand out as masterpieces - especially the later ones. But others, the earliest ones, are little more than showpieces for the young virtuoso pianist on tour of Europe. Some of them are merely arrangements of music by other composers. Yet, in spite of their simplicity, especially in the orchestral scoring, ever the earliest concertos bear witness to Mozart’s genius.
The ninth concerto in E flat major, the "Jeunehomme" concerto, often considered Mozart’s "musical coming of age", was written for a French virtuoso keyboard player named Mademoiselle Jeunehomme. Written during her visit in Salzburg, when Mozart was 25, this concerto has some brilliant passages for piano in the second movement. This rapid Andantino shows a pianist searching to stand out by playing blistering runs all across the keyboard. But Mozart does not write mere virtuoso music here. The melodies are also brilliant, and, while the piano clearly outshines the orchestra, the accompanying instruments are not left behind.
Mit diesem sogenannten Jeunehomme"-Konzert gelang dem 21-jährigen Mozart dererste ganz große Wurf in Sachen Klavierkonzert. Seinen Beinamen verdankt dasKonzert einer damals sehr bekannten französischen Pianistin, über die wir heuteindes kaum mehr etwas wissen. Die Identität der Mademoiselle Jeunehomme"scheint jedenfalls bis heute so geheimnisvoll zu sein, wie die plötzliche Meisterschaft,die sich in dem Werk, das für sie komponiert wurde, enthüllt.
Piano Concerto No. 9 in E-flat Major, K.271
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Born January 27, 1756, Salzburg
Died December 5, 1791, Vienna
In January 1777, a pianist from Paris visited Salzburg. Her name was Mademoiselle Jeunehomme, and Mozart must have been impressed by her playing: for her visit, he wrote a piano concerto far beyond anything imagined before. Earlier keyboard concertos, including Mozart's own, had descended from the baroque concerto, in which the solo instrument was essentially absorbed into the orchestral texture and allowed only brief moments when it broke free from that ensemble. With this concerto Mozart transforms that entire tradition: now soloist and orchestra are equals, they share the presentation and development of ideas, and the concerto suddenly evolves from a simple display piece into a form suited to the most serious musical expression. But what is equally remarkable is the new depth evident here. From a young man who had spent the previous year writing church music, serenades, and choral canons that–while technically accomplished–are unremarkable, suddenly comes music full of contrast, a sense of space and scope, and–in the slow movement–a new intensity of feeling. Alfred Einstein has called this concerto "Mozart's Eroica," suggesting that just as Beethoven suddenly expanded the whole conception of the symphony in the Eroica, Mozart here did the same for the piano concerto. Mozart shatters precedent in the first moments of the Allegro. The orchestra opens with a one-measure figure, and the piano leaps in to complete the phrase itself. The orchestra repeats its figure, and once again the piano takes over to complete the phrase. This opening exchange establishes the most unusual feature of the first movement–the equality of piano and orchestra and their mutual development of themes: when the piano later makes its main entrance, it declares its independence by introducing completely new material. Mozart's development, largely motivic, is focused and brief, and the recapitulation is enlivened by the new sonorities he generates as familiar themes return in new instrumental colors.
The Andantino, in C minor, is the first movement in any Mozart concerto in a minor key. Often compared to an aria because of its intense and expressive lyric lines, this movement opens with a pulsing, dark theme from muted violins in their lowest register, a theme that sets the mood for the entire movement (and it is a mark of the new sophistication of this concerto that the two violin sections are in canon). Though the Andantino later moves into radiant E-flat major, it remains deeply affecting throughout, prefiguring the great slow movements of Mozart's late piano concertos. The concluding movement is a propulsive rondo, though even here Mozart introduces an original touch. Midway through, he brings the music to a halt and inserts a lengthy minuet (marked Cantabile) and four variations. The elegance of these variations stands in pleasing contrast to the energy of the rondo theme, and Mozart makes the transition back to the rondo with great skill.
The Concerto in E-flat Major is in all ways an original piece of music, one of those rare works that in one stroke expand the possibilities of a form. Coming in the month of the composer's 21st birthday, it marks his coming of age in more ways than one. Mademoiselle Jeunehomme, meanwhile, has passed into the shadows of history–even her first name has not survived–and she is remembered today only as the inspiration for this impressive concerto.
Nr 8 ("Lützow") skrevs för grevinnan Antonia Lützow, och användes senare av Mozart i pianoundervisningen. Den mer avancerade nr 9 ("Jeunehomme") komponerades för den franska pianisten Mlle Jeunehomme som besökte Salzburg i januari 1777. Här verkar den unge Mozart ha tänt på alla cylindrarna, det är hans första mästerverk i genren. "En konsert Mozart aldrig överträffat", skrev musikologen Alfred Einstein.
Who is "mademoiselle Jeunehomme",
known as dedicatee of concerto K.271?
This paper shows that she is not real but imaginative figure, created by french scholors de Wyzewa & Saint-Foix and adopted by almost all the following Mozart literature.
"A Mozart Player Gives Himself Advice"
Unmistakably, Mozart takes singing as his starting-point, and from this issues the uninterrupted melodiousness which shimmers through his compositions like the lovely forms of a woman through the folds of a thin dress.
-- Ferruccio Busoni
Let this be the first warning to the Mozart performer: piano playing, be it ever so faultless, must not be considered sufficient. Mozart's piano works should be for the player a receptacle full of latent musical possibilities which often go far beyond the purely pianistic. It is not the limitations of Mozart's pianoforte (which I refuse to accept) that point the way, but rather Mozart's dynamism, colourfulness and expressiveness in operatic singing, in the orchestra, in ensembles of all kinds. For example, the first movement of Mozart's Sonata in A minor K 310 is to me a piece for symphony orchestra; the second movement resembles a vocal scene with a dramatic middle seciton, and the finale could be transcribed into a wind divertimento with no trouble at all.
In Mozart's piano concertos, the sound of the piano is set off more sharply against that of the orchestra. Here the human voice and the orchestra solo instrument will be the main setters of standards for the pianist. From the Mozart singer he will learn not only to sing but also to 'speak' clearly and with meaning, to characterize, to act and react; from the string player to think in terms of up-bow and down-bow; and from the flautist or oboist to shape fast passages in a variety of articulations, instead of delivering them up to an automatic non-legato or, worse still, to an undeviating legato such as the old complete edition prescribed time and again without a shred of authenticity.
A singing line and sensuous beauty, important as they may be in Mozart, are not, however, the sole sources of bliss. To tie Mozart to a few traits is to diminish him. That great composers have manifold things to say and can use contradictions to their advantage should be evident in performances of his music. There has been altogether too much readiness to reduce Mozart to Schumann's 'floating Greek gracefulness' or Wagner's 'genius of light and love'. Finding a balance between freshness and urbanity ('He did not remain simple and did not grow over-refined,' said Busoni), force and transparency, unaffectedness and irony, aloofness and intimacy, between freedom and set patterns, passion and grace, abandonment and style -- among the labours of the Mozart player, this is only rewarded by a stroke of good luck.
What is it that marks out Mozart's music? An attempt to draw a dividing-line between Haydn and Mozart could perhaps help to answer the question. Mozart sometimes comes astonishingly close to Haydn, and Haydn to Mozart, and they shared their musical accomplishments in brotherly fashion; but they were fundamentally different in nature. I see in Haydn and Mozart the antithesis between instrumental and vocal, motif and melody, C. P. E. and J. C. Bach, adagio and andante, caesuras (amusing and startling) and connections (seamless), daring and balance, the surprise of the unexpected and the surprise of the expected. From tranquillity, Haydn plunges deep into agitation, while Mozart does the reverse, aiming at tranquillity from nervousness.
Mozart's nervous energy -- his fingers were constantly drumming on the nearest chair-back -- can be recognized in the fidgety or spirited agitation of many final movements, as one heard them in performances by Edwin Fischer, Bruno Walter or Artur Schnabel. When Busoni denies Mozart any nervousness, I have to disagree. Like melodiousness shimmering through the folds of a dress, 'chaos' now and then, even in Mozart, can be 'shimmering through the veil of order' (Novalis).
The perfection of that order, the security of Mozart's sense of form, is, as Busoni puts it, 'almost inhuman'. Let us therefore never lose sight of the humanity of this music, even when it gives itself an official and general air. The unimpeachability of his form is always balanced by the palpability of his sound, the miracle of his sound mixtures, the resoluteness of his energy, the living spirit, the heartbeat, the unsentimental warmth of his feeling.
Between Haydn the explorer and adventurer, and Schubert the sleepwalker, I see both Mozart and Beethoven as architects. But how differently they built! From the beginning of a piece, Beethoven places stone upon stone, constructing and justifying his edifice as it were in accordance with the laws of statics. Mozart, on the other hand, prefers to join together the most wonderful melodic ideas as prefabricated components; observe how in the first movement of K. 271 he varies the succession of his building-blocks, to the extent of shaking them up as though in a kaleidoscope. Whereas Beethoven draws one element from another, in what might be called a procedural manner, Mozart arranges one element after another as though it could not be otherwise.
Mozart, more than most other composers, expresses himself differently in minor and in major keys. That he could also compose in a procedural manner is demonstrated by his two concertos in minor keys, K. 466 and 491, which so greatly impressed Beethoven. Original cadenzas for these two works unfortunately do not exist. Neither the dynamic spaciousness of the D minor concerto nor the contrapuntal density of the C minor concerto is compatible with the usual type of improvisational cadenza in Mozart's concertos in major keys. Rather more conceivable are cadenzas in the manner of Bach's Fifth Brandenburg Concerto which carry on the intensity of the movement, transporting it in a broad arc to the next entrance of the orchestra.
Mozart is made neither of porcelain, nor of marble, nor of sugar. The cute Mozart, the perfumed Mozart, the permanently ecstatic Mozart, the 'touch-me-not' Mozart, the sentimentally bloated Mozart must all be avoided. There should be some slight doubt, too, about a Mozart who is incessantly 'poetic'. 'Poetic' players may find themselves sitting in a hothouse in which no fresh air can enter; you want to come and open the windows. Let poetry be the spice, not the main course. It is significant that there are only 'poets of the keyboard'; a relatively prosaic instrument needs to be transformed, bewitched. Violinists, conductors, even lieder singers -- so usage would suggest -- seem to survive without 'poetry'.
One look at the solo parts of Mozart's piano concertos should be enough to show the Mozart player that his warrant leaves that of a museum curator far behind. Mozart's notation is not complete. Not only do the solo parts lack dynamic marking almost entirely; the very notes to be played -- at any rate in the later works that were not made ready for the engraver -- require piecing out at times: by filling (when Mozart's manuscript is limited to sketchy indications); by variants (when relatively simple themes return several times without Mozart varying them himself); by embellishments (when the player is entrusted with a melodic outline to decorate); by re-entry fermatas (which are on the dominant and must be connected to the subsequent tonic); and by cadenzas (which lead from the six-four chord in quasi-improvisational fashion to the concluding tutti).
Luckily, there are a good number of Mozart's own variants, embellishments, re-entries and cadenzas, and they give the player a clear idea of his freedom of movement. In re-entries and cadenzas the main key is never deviated from; in embellishments and variants the prevailing character is never disturbed. Mozart's variants sometimes show a subtle economy which, I assume, was not in keeping with contemporary convention. (In his C minor Concerto K. 491 the extremely delicate shifts of harmony, part-writing and rhythm at the returns of the initial theme should be savoured without further additions.) The view that empty spots must stay empty because the performer cannot possibly claim to possess Mozart's genius has been overcome today; it was an attitude produced by misguided reverence, which did not expect or trust the player to have the necessary empathy with Mozart's style. The case of the Rondo in A major K. 386 is instructive; thanks to the recent discovery of the last pages of Mozart's manuscript, we now realize that the final twenty-eight bars of the Rondo, as we used to know it, are not by Mozart but by Cipriani Potter, which no one would otherwise have noticed.
It is precisely in those passages where Mozart's text is sketchy that the player must know exactly what Mozart wrote and how he wrote it, but not put his faith in editors. Anyone who takes on Mozart's piano concertos will have to devote some time to studying the sources. A particular case in point is the so-called 'Coronation' Concerto K. 537. Most of the left hand is not worked out at all. In the middle movement, which is plagued by a complete lack of emotional contrast, the same four-bar phrase appears no fewer than ten times in virtually identical guise. Here the richest ornamentation will be needed if the effect is not to resemble the pallid charm of certain Raphael Madonnas, which the nineteenth century adored, just as it did this movement, unembellished. It is not at all easy to understand why a version of this lovely work fabricated after Mozart's death is still generally played today, as though nothing about it could stand to be improved.
Additions to Mozart's text are in some instances obviously required, in others at least possible. An appendix to the Bärenreiter complete edition prints a lavishly embellished version of the F sharp minor Adagio from the Concerto in A major K. 488; it is probably the work of a pupil, and apparently was part of Mozart's musical estate. What is elaborated in this manuscript is in no way satisfactory, but it does provide a clue that embellishment is permitted. As to how one is to go about it, Mozart's own models, and no others, are the ones to be guided by. The embellishments by Hummel or Philipp Karl Hoffmann do not even try to follow Mozart's example; they are foreign to his style and frequently overcrowded with notes to such a degree that, to get all of them in, the relatively flowing tempi or Mozart's middle movements must be pulled back to largo. The additions by Hummel and Hoffmann do make us aware that the 'gusto' of performance style could change quite quickly and drastically; this should give pause to those who try to get at Mozart by concentrating too single-mindedly on baroque practice.
The player's delight at filling in the white spots on Mozart's musical map in such a way that even the educated listener does not prick up his ears must stay within bounds. The player must not be seduced into overdoing it or into living too much for the moment. When improvising embellishments becomes a parlour game gleefully played to flummox the orchestra, when the player sets out in every performance to prove to himself and all present that he is indeed spontaneous he is in danger of losing control over quality. I think he will be more deserving if he makes a rigorous selection from a supply of versions he has improvised at home, rather than risking everything on the platform by trying to play Mozart as though he were Mozart.
One of the additions that is possible but rarely necessary, since in most cases it merely doubles the orchestra, is continuo playing. Once I relished accompanying the bass line of the orchestra, but today I usually limit myself to taking a hand occasionally in energetic passages and to giving almost imperceptible harmonic support to some piano cantilenas. At a time when there were neither conductors nor full scores, the basso continuo, apart from giving the soloist his harmonic bearings, served mainly to co-ordinate the players' rhythm. Nowadays one can reasonably expect the soloist to be familiar with the score (lately even lieder singers are expected to have taken a glance at the piano accompaniment); and naturally we expect the conductor to keep the orchestra together. Basso continuo playing therefore seems to have a point only in special cases, such as when the four Mozart chamber concertos (K. 413-415 and 449) are performed without winds. But the difference between solo and tutti must not be lost.
Even a composer like Mozart could make a mistake. Artur Schnabel's precept that the performer must accept the whims of great composers though he may be quite unable to fathom them must not be allowed to go so far that errors remain unrectified. Schnabel himself provided some examples of reverential blindness, as when, for example, in the middle movement of the Concerto in C minor K. 491, he played a bar, with wind accompaniment, precisely as Mozart inadvertently let it stand. Here, as in one bar of the finale of K. 503, Mozart apparently wrote the piano part first and then, when writing in the orchestral parts, changed his mind about the harmony. In doing so he forgot to adjust the piano part to the new harmonic situation. The result is cacophony and a divergence in the leading of the bass line that is unthinkable in Mozart. If the player, in rare instances, puts Mozart's text right, it does not mean that he presumes himself to be equal, or indeed superior, to Mozart.
With the alla breve of the middle movement of K. 491, Mozart seems to set us a riddle, but for once without giving us 'the solution with the riddle' (to quote another of Busoni's Mozart aphorisms). Paul and Eva Badura-Skoda have gone to some lengths to explain why Mozart must have made a mistake with this marking. In its note values, the movement is twice as slow as the alla breve movements in Concertos K. 466, 537 and 595. As confirmed by the textbooks of the period, and by Beethoven's metronome figures, the alla breve marking stands not only for counting half-bars but also for considerable increase in tempo. Yet there are exceptions, as Erich Leinsdorf has been kind enough to point out to me, and the second movement of K. 491 is one. Leinsdorf mentions, among others, some examples from The Magic Flute (Overture: Adagio; No. 8: Larghetto; Act II: March of the Priests; No. 18: Chorus of the Priests; No. 21: Andante) where the alla breve 'should be translated to a contemporary conductor meaning: in four, my boy, not in eight'. But there is also the Aria with gamba 'Es ist vollbracht' ('It is finished') from Bach's St John Passion where Bach indicated, above the 3/4 of the middle section, the words alla breve, suggesting the 'next faster unit': in three, not in six. The old complete edition, which altered several of Mozart's tempo markings arbitrarily, transformed the alla breve in the first movement of the Concerto in F major K. 459 into 4/4 time, thereby doing precisely what this piece cannot tolerate: it is meant to move along not alla marcia, as we are constantly told in commentaries and hear in performances, but dancingly and in whole bars.
Mozart was not a flower child. His rhythm is neither weak nor vague. Even the tiniest, softest tone has backbone. Mozart may dream now and then, but his rhythm stays awake. Let the tempo modifications in Mozart be signs of a rhythmic strength that counterbalances emotional strength; above all in variation movements, it will surely be permissible to graduate the tempo at times, to set off the variations from one another. Mozart may lament -- and that lamentation can reach a pitch of solitary grief -- but he does not moan and groan. Two-note patterns should be 'sighed' only when the music really demands sighing. Not only singers should be aware of the difference between a suspension, which has a purely musical role, and an appoggiatura, whose role is emotional and declamatory, stressing the pathos of two-syllable words.
Is Mozart's music simple? For his contemporaries it was frequently too complicated. The idea of simplicity has become downright embarrassing in this century. There is a 'kitsch' of plainness, especially noticeable in the literary glorification of the 'simple life' and in a longing for the 'popular vein'. What was all right for the Romantics is thought to be reasonable enough for their descendants. Simplicity in playing Mozart must not mean subjecting diversity to a levelling process or running away from problems. Simplicity is welcome as long as the point is to avoid superfluity. But to 'concentrate only on what counts' in Mozart is questionable. Everything in his music counts, if we leave out a few weaker works or movements, of which there are some even among Mozart's piano concertos, for example the early pieces preceding that wonder of the world, the 'Jeunehomme' Concerto K. 271.
The identity of Mlle Jeunehomme seems to remain just as mysterious as the sudden supreme mastery that unfolds in the work composed for her. Here it is revealed for the first time that Mozart is both 'as young as a youth' and 'as wise as an old man' (Busoni). And from this point on, the Mozart player must shoulder a burden of perfection that goes beyond his powers.
From Music Sounded Out
[Date of original essay: 1985]
An Examination of the Extent to which Mozart's Piano Concerto K271 is a Landmark in the History of the Early Classical Solo Concerto
That there are so many musical innovations in this, Mozart's ninth piano concerto, becomes incredible when one realises that he was barely out of his teens when he wrote it in 1777, and that his first four numbered piano concertos were in fact only fairly straightforward arrangements of sonata movements by Raupach and Honauer. However, it is worth remembering that to be credited with more 'great' concertos than any other composer, as Mozart is, requires an early start; especially when granted only a short life. Here, Mozart's imagination was probably fired by the opportunity to write for the touring French virtuoso Mlle Jeunehomme, and the music seems to be imbued with a new vitality and freshness.
The first peculiarity of this work confronts us as early as the second bar of the opening movement. The opening orchestral fanfare-like unison is immediately answered by two bars of assertive piano solo. Although in Baroque violin concertos it was normal for the soloist to play along with the tutti first violins outwith its solo passages, it was unusual in this period to find a soloist enter until the end of the first exposition, for in the classical concerto, composers usually employed a double exposition whereby the orchestra first presented all the main ideas, whilst remaining in the tonic, before the soloist entered at the commencement of the second exposition, which was free to modulate. This sets the scene for the kind of integration which we find throughout the piece and would of course have given Mlle Jeunehomme an early chance to make her presence felt. She has another opportunity to shine just before the start of the exposition where, after rising through the orchestral texture with a trill, the piano has a short linking passage based on new material.
It was usual in the exposition to find two thematic groups, often containing only one idea each. Here Mozart gives at least seven discernible ideas altogether, showing something of the extent of his imaginative faculty. Again, he is unpredictable in his second exposition where he leaves out the second theme (b.7-13) and gives only the tail end of the third one (b.14-25). Then the second idea makes a surprise appearance just before the development. The third idea, however, has to wait until the thick of the development for its unexpected restatement. This is not one of Mozart's longer developments but significantly we find him making use of independent woodwind colour. In fact although the concerto only uses two oboes and two horns as its woodwind complement, Mozart is gradually beginning to give them a more prominent role, whereas in concertos and symphonies up until then, they were used mainly to double the violins in loud passages.
Also, the piano part is notable for its pianism. J.S.Bach's keyboard concertos were often arranged from violin concertos but here Mozart is really writing music which explores what the piano can do. For example in bars 173-179, during the development, we find a passage which, by means of a crossing right hand, creates a dialogue of register which couldn't really have been taken from a string concerto or even a piece of vocal music, and a lot of concerto writing was very vocal as we find in this work's slow movement.
At the start of the recapitulation we find the roles of the opening 'question and answer' reversed with the piano now provides the fanfare-like arpeggios in precedence to the strings. then the return of the ideas is held up by some more development in the shape of some sequential treatment of the 'answer' part of the opening statement. We have again lost all but a suggestion of the second idea and the third, as in the second exposition, is missing altogether. A reorganisation of material sees the sixth idea, first seen at b.41-49, now coming after the second; Mozart is not glued to any rules!
After the usual second inversion tonic chord a written-out cadenza recalls the various themes, especially the third one, before the dominant seventh chord leads us into a coda which starts by presenting the seventh idea which was missing from the recapitulation.
The second movement finds Mozart reaching new depths of emotional maturity. This quality is somehow bound up with the movement's obvious operatic roots. The Neapolitan harmonies which occur throughout the movement are derived from Naples opera composers such as Scarlatti and the heavily punctuated cadences are one of the cornerstones of operatic recitative. The minor key, coupled with the exploitation of the dark, lower register of the violin, gives a sombre effect. The gradual pitch rise of the soaring melody at the beginning has great dramatic pathos.
Interestingly, this movement is also in sonata form but as we have come to expect, Mozart is constantly trying new approaches. The recapitulation is ushered in by a couple of bars preamble from the piano and the cadenza is here announced not by the wonted tonic second inversion but by a unison dominant note, as if only the bass of the expected chord was left. The second group, instead of remaining in the tonic for its return in the recapitulation, modulates to the relative major as in the exposition and has to twist back to the minor afterwards.
The third and final movement is a strange marriage of sonata rondo and minuet. It seems almost as if Mozart is trying to slip in a fourth movement to bring the concerto on a par with the symphony. The piano literally kicks the movement off with some brilliant, energetic arpeggio passage work. The orchestra then come in at bar 35 with a reprise of the piano's opening but soon departs on a tangent at 43. The rondo modulates using an idea presented at bar 43 as a sort of pivot and because of this it is quite difficult to tell where the first episode starts but it is no later than bar 82, where the piano restarts the movement after a moment of silence. After the first episode there is an unexpected, early written-out piano cadenza which starts not with a second inversion tonic chord but with a unison dominant B flat. This leads back into a shortened version of the rondo with some new touches, e.g. the pair of oboes which accompany the solo piano at bars 181-183. Although the inserted minuet functions as a second episode in this movement, there is a substantial section preceding it (bars 192-232) which should probably be thought of as the second episode proper. It certainly modulates and uses new material.
The 'menuetto cantabile' is reached via a brief cadenza set up by an E flat7 chord. It follows naturally that the minuet is in A flat. The first 48 bars are structured like the minuet in a minuet and trio, though with written out repeats which are quite heavily ornamented. The two phrases before repeats are presented by solo piano (apart from an orchestral comment in bars 261-262). There is no conventional trio however and the minuet gradually works its way back to E flat, especially in the piano cadenza which rounds it off. It seems to modulate too far, though, and ends up in B flat and having to work quickly back to the tonic for the second return of the rondo. This time the rondo is greatly truncated, with much of the opening piano solo being taken out and only a brief orchestral answer to its statement remaining from the original presentation.
Curiously, after the rondo there is a return of material from the second episode, perhaps because the interrupting minuet has made this material less familiar than it normally would be. After passing through E flat minor we do have a return of the first episode.
In the rondo's final restatement there are some original features, such as the exposed wind over pizzicato strings at bars 424-432, which open the section, and the trill in the piano right hand underneath the same bars, recalling the first movement's piano trill in bars 56-58 which anticipated the second exposition. The movement is rounded of in a slightly comical fashion with a coda in which the soloist seems to get stuck on the opening bar of the rondo and embarrassedly fades out before the final forte cadence.
This concerto is possibly the peak of Mozart's early career and it was some time before he was to make such a profound statement again in this genre. In length and originality of form and instrumentation it surpasses practically everything which he, and possibly any other classical composer, had written up until that time. Therefore its well-respected status in the repertoire of concertos seems well-deserved. Luckily for us there were many more concertos to come from this short-lived genius and his work has been an inspiration to many great concerto composers since as well as being internationally respected as a body of work almost as close to perfection as any mortal can attain.
Mozart: Piano Concertos K271 & K503
Mozart more-or-less invented the piano concerto as we know it today, and not only that, he did it in under a decade - from 1777 to 1786 in Salzburg, a period of inspired creativity framed by these two concertos. The Jeunehomme is the one that's usually labelled the first great Mozart Piano Concerto, a real breakthrough for the twenty-one-year-old in terms of style and content, and with a startlingly dark and beautiful slow movement.
My favourite recording for a while has been Andreas Staiers, on fortepiano, with the period instruments of Concerto Köln...so there were always going to be issues assessing a performance with modern instruments and all the sonority, even tone and sustain of a big concert grand.
Well, it turns out there were fewer issues than I expected; Mackerras has such an intelligent attitude towards Mozart (with plenty of period instrument experience to call on), and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra responds with real understanding, the strings particularly seeming to lighten the bow strokes and tone down the vibrato to give a historically informed feel to the whole thing. That slow movement for example - superbly done, with none of the over-emphasis or bogus emotional input that mars some performances.
I haven't even mentioned Alfred Brendel yet ... and it's almost as though I dont have to; his earlier recording of K.503 with Neville Marriner and the Academy of St Martin in the Field has been a top recommendation for years, valued for Brendel's intelligence and insight.
In this new recording the last of the great Viennese concertos has even more lustre; the recording truthful but full of warmth, and it's one of those performances which makes every turn of phrase, every little application of rubato feel inevitable, as though there couldn't be another way of playing this - its so obvious. Yet it's never dull or matter-of-fact, and there's still room for some small-scale surprises, moments of subtle illumination that raise a smile of recognition and sheer pleasure at the sophistication of the entertainment that's so gently offered here.
I suspect that when we look back at this recent series of Mozart recordings from Brendel it'll be counted as one of the most valuable things he's recorded, and I wouldn't be surprised to find this cd singled out for special praise. Very, very beautiful playing.
Jules Willis - presenter of CD Review on Radio 3
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