SUNDAY, February 23, 2020
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491 (1785-1786)…
No. 27 is the last piano concerto by Mozart, and this is No. 24. Eventually I want to do a post about all the late piano concertos.
Many people have asked for videos they can see, so here is one by a very fine pianist, Murray Perahia. Always remember that in live performances things are less perfect, but there are more surprises that happen in “the heat of the moment”.
This is the 4th from the last because No. 27 is the last piano concerto by Mozart. I have never heard of this recording, and I was searching for a particular cadenza. The cadenza is the part that players can make up. It’s an improvisation. So for this one Hummel composed the cadenza, and it’s more adventurous and more modern because he lived roughly at the same time as Beethoven. In his cadenza he was utilizing all the advances in the piano, making it stronger and more sustained.
If I go by the list in Wiki, I see no. 5 through no. 27. So if you subtract, assuming for the moment that no. 1 through no. 4 are not counted as piano concertos for piano and orchestra. No. 1 – No. 4 are orchestrated keyboard arrangements of music by other composers. Then two are written for more than one piano. So that’s how we go down from 27 to 21. Six are not counted. It is too late to renumber them, I suppose.
Mozart only wrote two concertos in minor keys…
Very often composers reserved minor keys for compositions that were especially important to them. No. 24 in C Minor is one of these two, and I’m starting with this today because Mozart’s music evolved so much during his short life. But I’m going map out these concertos later starting with No. 26 and then moving backwards.
Why so many?
Beethoven wrote five. Brahms, Liszt and Chopin only wrote two. Schumann, Grieg and others only wrote one. Mozart wrote so many because in his day and earlier there was more of a form or recipe for writing this kind of composition. In general the ideas were not as personal and it was easier to churn out so many. This is how Haydn churned out over 100 symphonies. No one writes so many symphonies without using a lot of formulas, borrowing from himself and sometimes writing some cliches. This includes Mozart.
Mozart was becoming a Romantic composer while still in the Classical Period…
In the Romantic Period, which traditionally starts with Beethoven, composing became far more personal. This was the age of individual expression, when composers no longer looked at themselves as paid craftsman with the job of pleasing an aristocracy. In the Classical period, from around 1750-1800 but with a good deal of wiggle room, composers were still horribly tethered to the upper class. But Mozart was pushing against that all his life, and by the end of his life he appears to have slowed down.
More serious, more profound and not as quickly composed…
He wrote 15 of these concertos between 1782 and 1786, But for the last three there is a five year spread, from 1786 to 1791. In other words, towards the very end things got more personal, more private, and he spent more time with the writing. Even between No. 24 and No. 25, written in the same year, there is a gap of around nine months. And this is no different.
Had Mozart lived much longer, it is likely that what followed would have been increasingly amazing. He died at the age of 35, just shortly before his 36th birthday.
For the great ones, the best is usually close to last, towards the end of their lives.