1785: Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, age 29

Mitsuko Uchida, Piano & Conductor/Camerata Salzburg

This is just a fantastic performance and one of the most dynamic and red-blooded performances I’ve ever heard of this concerto. I’m also a huge fan of  pianists who conduct their own performances because it allows them to totally shape a conception. I just discovered this tonight, and it may be the best I’ve ever heard of this work. So in spite of all the things I don’t like to see, I recommend this video highly.

Total time: 31:25

Instruments:

  • solo piano
  • flute, two oboes, two bassoons
  • two horns, two trumpets
  • timpani
  • strings

History:

The first performance took place at the Mehlgrube Casino in Vienna on 11 February 1785, with the composer as the soloist.

Mozart’s father’s opinion:

A few days after the first performance, the composer’s father, Leopold, visiting in Vienna, wrote to his daughter Nannerl about her brother’s recent success:

“I heard an excellent new piano concerto by Wolfgang, on which the copyist was still at work when we got here, and your brother didn’t even have time to play through the rondo because he had to oversee the copying operation.”

Minor key concertos:

It is the first of two piano concertos written in a minor key (No. 24 in C minor being the other).

One of Beethoven’s favorites:

The young Ludwig van Beethoven admired this concerto. Many different composers wrote cadenzas for it.

Pedal board:

This excerpt from the Wiki article is important:

One of Mozart’s favorite pianos that he played while he was living in Vienna had a pedal-board that was operated with the feet, like that of an organ. The fact that Mozart had a piano with a pedal-board is reported in a letter written by his father, Leopold, who visited his son while he lived in Vienna. Among Mozart’s piano works, none are explicitly written with a part for a pedal-board. However, according to Leopold’s report, at the first performance of Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor (K. 466), Mozart, who was the soloist and conductor, used his own piano, equipped with a pedal-board. Presumably the pedal-board was used to reinforce the left-hand part, or add lower notes than the standard keyboard could play. Because Mozart was also an expert on the organ, operating a pedal-board with his feet was no harder than using only his hands.

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