performed by Dame Mitsuko Uchida and the English Chamber Orchestra under Sir Jeffrey Tate
(cover image by John McCann)
This work is the farthest along we’ve gotten in any of Mozart’s works in any form (with the exception of the very late clarinet quintet, which I will have to revisit at some point), written in 1782, and is “the second of the group of three early concertos he wrote when in Vienna, in the autumn of 1782,” per Wikipedia. The others are K 414 and 415.
Wiki also tells us that the work was “the first full concerto he wrote for the subscription concerts he gave in the city.” All three of these concertos were, according to a letter to Mozart’s father, apparently composed within just a few weeks’ time in December/January of 1882-3. John Palmer says that “Of the three concertos, the F major is generally considered the most conservative.”
As we would expect, this concerto is in three movements, as follows, with a performance time of around 23 minutes:
- Tempo di Menuetto
There are a few unconventional things about this work, though, despite it being ‘most conservative.’ For one, while the first movement allegro is in the typically-expected sonata form, it is one of only four of Mozart’s piano concertos (one of which, K. 41, was a homework assignment composed from other composers’s sonatas) where the first movement appears in 3/4 time.
This first movement, in contrast with the drippingly rich boldness of the tenth concerto, is stately and bright, but without some of the excess that tastefully graced the double piano concerto. It begins with three clear beats from the orchestra, as if carving out that triple-meter. It’s refreshing, like a crisp, sunny morning on which you can throw open the windows. The piano is bubbly and crystal clear. The ninth concerto felt like an approach to greatness, but the overwhelming feeling I get from this piece, even just in this first movement, is that we are now hearing from Mature Mozart, who was at this point already in his mid-twenties.
The movement is in F major, with a second subject in C major, as you’d expect. The development is where the movement really shines, though, Listen, again, for his use of the minor mode, and the definitive bold crunch of that three-note motif that began the work. There’s an increase in complexity, with layering of more voices and textures, but no loss of clarity; there also far more extravagant cadenzas.
The second movement larghetto, as Wiki tells us, “is in binary form, but has few particularly notable features.” That’s all we get. Palmer describes the theme of this B-flat movement as “blithe,” and describes the sense of relaxation that results from using this key in contrast with F major, but that starts to sound like the recondite adjectives used by an erudite sommelier to describe a wine that you enjoy but maybe don’t quite get the same impression of. In any case, there’s an almost operatic sense about it, in a subdued lyrical way, like a nap in the middle of this piece. There really isn’t too much notable about it, save the composer’s (still perhaps here rather tepid) combination of joy juxtaposed with melancholy.
The finale, however.. is it a rondo? Or a minuet? This is by a noticeable margin the shortest movement of the work, but with its minuet-ness, it feels like it should be a third rather than final movement. This is underlined by the relatively subdued spirit of the finale. Rather than fireworks or theatrics, it seems the composer is going for a quieter magic, with a pleasant, magical lyricism that leaves the audience in a relaxed mood, as if floating effortlessly down a river. It is an interesting form, this final movement, with its combination of minuet and rondo forms. Palmer describes it as being “an outdated form by the early 1780s,” but regardless, the effect is very pleasing.
Would you expect any less?
I’m very excited to be this far along in the composer’s piano output. We’ve reached the halfway point of his sonatas (finished nine out of eighteen), and are now up to his eleventh piano concerto (actually only his seventh original piano concerto, and only the fifth for a single piano), with 16 more to go!
The K. 413 number puts us all the way into the early 1780s, which means the other forms have a bit of catching up to do. I made some lists, and to catch up to this date with the other forms I’m interested in discussing, I need to address:
- 13 symphonies
- 4 string quartets
- 4 piano sonatas
- 5 (as in, all of) the violin concertos
- 2 string quintets
- 1 piano trio
- 15 violin sonatas (not even counting the first 16 childhood sonatas)
- and then a horn concerto, bassoon concerto, oboe concerto, flute concerto, four flute quartets, an oboe quartet, a dozen serenades, even more divertimenti…
Anyway, we’ve reached a mature point in Mozart’s career with the eleventh piano concerto, but we won’t be discussing any more of these for a while. It’s time to catch up on other fronts, so we may or may not be seeing like an entire month of Mozart works to catch up this backlog. That’s actually not the entire reason; I’ve deeply enjoyed coming to know these works we discussed over the past two weeks, and I anticipate it being both a bit of a housekeeping/homework exercise and an indulgence to have a plethora of Mozart articles to come out toward the end of the year, so stay tuned for that, and thank you so much for reading.