Showcase Sep-Nov 2014 - page 69

13, 14, 15
Program Notes
with an almost new melody over an already familiar
accompaniment. Now the witty and serious play of
conversation, the exchange of ideas and materials, can
begin, and the pianist has the opportunity to ravish with
the plangency of simulated song and to dazzle with
the mettlesome traversal of brilliant passagework. The
tempests eventually recede in a
seasoned with the distant thud of drums and the curiously
and hauntingly hollow low tones of the trumpets.
The second movement, after this, is by intention
mild. Mozart’s designation
does not denote a
specific form as much as it suggests a certain atmosphere
of serene songfulness. An interlude brings back the minor
mode of the first movement and something of its storms,
but this music is far more regular and less agitating;
Leopold Mozart wrote to Nannerl in 1786 that “the
tempo…[is] to be taken at the quickest speed at which
you can manage the noisy part with the fast triplets…”
With all its formality, Mozart’s gradual application of
the brakes as he approaches the return of his
melody is one of the most masterly strokes of rhythmic
rondo: allegro assai.
The piano launches the finale, a
feast of irregularities, ambiguities, surprises and subtle
allusions to the first movement. Its most enchanting
feature is the woodwind tune that is first heard
harmonically a bit off center, in F major; next in a
delicious variant whose attempt to be serious about being
in D minor is subverted by the coquettish intrusion of
F-sharps and B-naturals from the world of D major; and
again after the cadenza, now firmly in major and on
the home keynote of D, made more delightful by perky
remarks from the trumpet, and determined to lead the
ebullient rush to the final double bar.
solo piano with orchestra comprising
flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets,
timpani and strings
Excerpted from the late
Michael Steinberg
The Concerto:
A Listener’s Guide
(Oxford, 1998), used with permission.
Wolfgang Amadè Mozart
January 27, 1756, Salzburg
December 5, 1791, Vienna
Concerto No. 20 in D minor for Piano
and Orchestra, K. 466
ozart entered his Concerto No. 20 into his
catalogue on February 10, 1785, and was
the soloist at the first performance at the
Mehlgrube casino in Vienna the very next day. A letter
of Leopold Mozart’s suggests that Wolfgang wrote out
cadenzas for this concerto, but they do not survive.
Leopold Mozart, just arrived in Vienna from Munich by
way of Salzburg in February 1785, sent his daughter,
Nannerl, news of her famous younger brother in the
capital: “[I heard]
an excellent new piano concerto by
, on which the copyist was still at work when we
got here, and your brother didn’t even have time to play
through the rondo because he had to oversee the copying
K. 455 is the stormier of the two Mozart concertos in
minor. It is no surprise that the young Beethoven made a
stunning impression as an interpreter of this work, and
the pair of superbly intelligent and powerfully expressive
cadenzas that he wrote for it are still played more often
than any others. During the 19th century, when Mozart
was often dismissed as a gifted forerunner of Beethoven’s,
this work was one of the very few Mozart piano concertos
to hold a firm place in the repertory.
the music
It shows its temper instantly in an opening that
is all atmosphere and gesture—no theme. Violins and
violas throb in agitated syncopations. Their energy is
concentrated on the rhythm, and the pitches change little
at first; meanwhile, the low strings anticipate the beats
with upward scurries of quick notes. A general crescendo
of activity, and the full orchestra enters with flashes of
lightening to illuminate the scene.
Most of what follows in the next two minutes is informed
more by pathos than by rage, the most affecting moment
being reserved for the first entrance of the solo piano—
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