performed by The Philharmonia Orchestra under Vladimir Ashkenazy, (or the below with Murray Perahia and the English Chamber Orchestra)
As mentioned yesterday, we’re starting a very long stretch of almost-daily posts, with lots of piano works by some very important composers. For future reference, all Mozart concertos will be taken from the above-mentioned Ashkenazy/Philharmonia set.
We begin today with the first of five Mozart piano concertos. This one was written when the young composer/pianist was eleven years old. It turns out these works were long considered to be original, but later found to be orchestrations of other German works. A cursory search for the work upon which the first movement of this concerto is based returned only YouTube videos for this concerto. It seems Mozart’s recycling of the pieces overshadowed the piece themselves.
The piece is in F, with the inner Andante in C.
The first movement is based on the initial allegro of the sonata for keyboard with violin accompaniment (Op. 1, No. 5) by Hermann Friedrich Raupach, from a set of six published in Paris in 1756. The provenance of the second movement is unknown, although Eric Blom, the editor of the 5th edition of Grove’s Dictionary (1954), suggested that it was in fact by Mozart. The final movement is based on the first movement of the sonata, Op. 2, No. 3, by the Strasbourg based Leontzi Honauer.
YouTube searches produced literally nothing but this concerto or other pieces with matching opus numbers, so at least for this concerto, we won’t be talking about how effectively or interestingly the young composer used his source material. I haven’t heard it. If I can find recordings of
the other works for comparison, I’ll listen to them, but we’ll have to do without for this piece.
I’m not sure whether to attribute the light, extremely positive and sunny disposition of the first movement to Raupach or Mozart, as the original sonata theme could have been just that magical, but it is a very pleasant, happy thing. The themes in the first movement are quite transparent and ever-present. It’s a compact, typical little sonata-form movement.
The slow movement, in C major, is slow (yup!) and quiet and soft without being sad or minor-key or any of that, but there is a small bit of a minor key before returning to C major. It’s the shortest of the three movements, and the orchestra plays a very background role. The piece feels very ‘small’ relative to the bright boldness of the first movement, with piano only tinkering out a melody with orchestral accompaniment.
The final movement feels much like the first in its bright, playful more lively disposition. It’s also the longest of the three movements in this piece and the longest of these first four ‘student concertos.’ It seems like the most creative of the three. It covers more ground than the first two movements, and there’s more contrast.
But again, seriously, who am I to criticize a piece scored from another sonata by an eleven-year-old? Seriously.
The previous Haydn series was different, because by that time, Haydn was already old enough to vote (had that been a thing), and he didn’t have the same musical pedigree that Mozart had. Haydn’s works were also original. We’re really not going to be spending much time on these pieces.
Wikipedia describes them as ‘slight’ works, and says that there’s not a ton of complexity or exploration of themes or introduction of new material.
It seems, though, that this was not the focus of these exercises, if they were, in fact assigned by Daddy Mozart. The purpose was apparently to begin to deal with the structure and style of the concerto. While it isn’t a piece I love or get stuck in my head or want to come back and listen to, that first movement really is catchy. Catchy isn’t necessarily such a compliment in the classical music world, I feel, as it almost suggests a lack of… permanentness or depth to a theme or idea. If that is the case here, though, the fault is with Raupach, not Mozart. He transformed a keyboard work into an orchestrated version that has since apparently overshadowed the original, or at least the name of the latter has overshadowed the former.
That’s about all for this concerto. Three movement F major practice concerto of around 16-17 minutes written 250 years ago by an eleven year old. Most of that description will apply to all of these works, so bear with me. Things get interesting in a few days.