Mozart Piano Concerto no. 4 in G, K41

performed by Philharmonia/Ashkenazy, or below by Perahia/English Chamber Orchestra

Maybe I’ve figured out what it is. I would say confident! This piece feels even more confident than the third. I feel better about thinking of that word. Why?
Well, think of a composer who changed throughout his career. That shouldn’t be hard. Sibelius comes to mind, for no particular reason. His first two symphonies (taking them as an example) are quite traditional in their Romantic-ness, but then with the third, things change. It’s pared down and almost neo-classical. And then he becomes even more unique, all the way up to his very individual seventh symphony.
Call it ‘finding yourself,’ call it ‘life experience’ or whatever, he changed and grew.
Mozart did not do that as an eleven-year-old writing these first four piano concertos in the span of only a few months. That might seem like a long time to an eleven-year-old, but nah. You can’t rush the aging process. He had to grow as a composer and a human, BUT
what could have changed during that time was the composer’s confidence in his style or skill or whatever, his inventiveness and individuality, more as a process of study and practice
than the life experiences that change and mold every one of us, whether we compose or not.
So I think that’s what’s happening here.
Wikipedia tells us that “the first and third movements are based on ones by Honauer (Op. 1, No. 1), and the middle one on Raupach (Op. 1, No. 1).” Also, no more trumpets.
This piece is also the shortest of the four ‘student concertos’ by a minute or so.
The first movement is lively and feels more varied than some of the previous writing. There are contrasts and personality and what sounds like a much better use of the individual instruments of the ensemble, even before the piano confidently enters. It’s a little more jumpy and outgoing, it seems.
The second movement is quiet, with rich strings, a beautiful piano line, and it feels nostalgic and longing. It doesn’t last long (like all the movements of these first four concertos), but it feels like it has real depth and is saying something. It’s really beautiful.
The third movement feels… quite virtuosic. I again think of eleven-year-old hands, or their size less than their skill, and how they could cover the kind of ground that sounds like is covered in this piece, especially in what seems like a very confidently-composed cadenza just before the end of the piece.
This is, surprisingly, likely my favorite of this quartet of concertos. But again, we haven’t done anything to compare how these pieces used their borrowed source material. It seems these pieces have overshadowed their original works, which is perhaps a statement in itself. Of the composer Mozart stole from, only C.P.E Bach was immediately recognizable, and even his work wasn’t familiar. All of the others were new to me.
It doesn’t matter, really, whether he made extremely good use of the themes he used or just picked themes that already had some kind of magic. Either way, they were good decisions and show some degree of good judgment.
However, that the pieces Mozart himself wrote after these, his original works, are even more enduring. One would hope, right? Imagine being at the top of your career at eleven years old. He (barely) had a few more decades left in him. Tomorrow, we finally get to his first original piano concerto! See you then.

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