Piano Concerto No. K. by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Piano Concerto No. 21, K. 467 by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was his twenty-first concerto of the twenty-three he composed for piano and orchestra in his lifetime. Mozart, a highly influential composer of the classical era, was born in Salzburg on January 27th, 1756 and passed away on December 5th, 1791 at just thirty-five years of age. He was viewed as a prodigy and was already skilled in piano and violin when he began composing at only five years old. He composed more than six-hundred works in his lifetime, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, operatic, and choral music. Joseph Haydn, an Austrian composer also from the classical era, wrote: “posterity will not see such a talent again in 100 years” in reference to Mozart. Another, Karl Barth, author of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, said, “I even have to confess that if I ever get to heaven, I would first of all seek out Mozart, and only then inquire after Augustine, St. Thomas, Luther, Calvin, and Schleiermacher” (16). He is among the composers who has remained popular, even years after his death, and his influence lived on and his works inspired many. Mozart wrote many concertos, giving the style more attention than other composers of his time, and his work “laid down the lines along which it was to develop for many years” (Girdlestone 15).
In this essay, his Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K. 467 will be the focus, specifically a performance by the Filarmonica della Scala in 2004. This concerto was completed on March 9th, 1785, just four weeks after the completion of another concerto, the Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. It is scored for a solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns in C, two trumpets in C, timpani, and strings, and the duration is roughly thirty-one minutes, or thirty-one minutes and twenty-two seconds for this specific performance. It is also three movements: Allegro maestoso, Andante, and finally Allegro vivace assai. The Filarmonica della Scala was conducted by Riccardo Mutti, with Maurizo Pollini as the pianist. This concerto is quite popular, “owing in no small part to the effective use of bits of its slow movement in the 1967 Swedish film Elvira Madigan” (Grayson 1). The “Elvira Madigan” name is what many know it by today.
The first movement, Allegro maestoso, begins softly with just the strings. It has a very subtle crescendo, but it remains soft. That is, until the trumpets join, and the volume suddenly jumps. The strings are the most prominent sound, and the tune is light hearted and flowing, almost airy. The orchestra becomes soft once again and abruptly jumps in volume, just like at the beginning of the piece. The tune briefly takes on an ominous, almost minor sound, but quickly returns to the original mood. There is a call and response from the oboe, bassoon, and then flute before the piano finally comes in. The piano part is fast but relatively simple, traveling up and down the piano in an almost scalar way, with repeated trills occasionally. The key briefly shifts to G minor, and the piano plays a tune that is extremely reminiscent of the theme from Mozart’s Symphony No. 40. The piano transitions the piece in G major, and there are several short, agile piano solos. The original theme is reintroduced and there is another sudden leap in dynamics, just like at the beginning. The piano returns once again with a minor sound but quickly returns to major and reintroduces the theme briefly. The orchestra joins in at full volume with big, staccato bursts as well as a fermata, foreshadowing the end of the movement. There is a short solo from the piano before the orchestra returns, full force. A decrescendo, a crescendo, followed by another decrescendo, which concludes the first movement.