Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 14

After composing three piano concertos in rather quick succession during the summer of 1782, Mozart did not return to the medium until he wrote K. 449 in early 1784, completing it on February 9. A number of factors probably caused this hiatus, not the least of them being his marriage to Constanze van Weber in August 1782. Also, in July 1782 Mozart had his first great operatic success with the premiere of Die Entfuhrung aus der Serail, and the recognition its composer received was a tremendous stimulus to compose more for the stage. He would soon begin to work an anew one of his greatest masterpieces, Le Nozze di Figaro.

Although Mozart wrote no strictly orchestral works during 1783 with the exception of the Symphony No. 36 "Linz", he did strive to keep his promise of writing a new mass to be performed in Salzburg if he succeeded in leading Constanze to the altar. Albeit an incomplete work, the extant movements of the C minor Mass are an exquisite display of his genius. Other works written during this period include a series of string quartets and the four concertos for horn. The horn works are quite important for they show Mozart perfecting his concerto technique, perhaps in preparation for a new run at the piano concerto. And run Mozart did, for between February 1784 and December 1786, a time when he was becoming increasingly successful as a composer-pianist, he wrote twelve of them.

K. 449 and two other piano concertos, K. 453 (1784) and K. 482 (1785), were dedicated to one of his pupils in piano and composition, Barbara (Babette) Ployer, daughter of Gottfried Ignaz von Player, the Agent of the Salzburg Court in Vienna. Mozart claimed that he was paid handsomely for these works.

The E-flat Concerto, K. 449 is an affectionate and beautiful example of Mozart's flair for melodic writing. It is scored for solo piano with an orchestra of strings, two oboes and two horns; and it is the last concerto in which Mozart advises that the wind parts are optional. The most unique feature of the opening Allegro vivace is that it is written in triple meter; Mozart only wrote two other piano concertos that begin so. A mood of restless≠ness pervades the movement, but the piano intervenes a number of times to bring a fleeting sense of calm. Unity is achieved by a continual cross-breeding of motives between the soloist and orchestra in a way that signals the arrival of Mozartís mature style. The brief but charming solo cadenza was most likely written for Babette, since Mozart preferred to improvise his own in performance.

The Andantino movement is the epitome of Mozartean serenity and focuses upon two lovely strains that offer little contrast; but who would fault the composer when the music is of such delicacy? Mozart concludes the concerto with an Allegro ma non troppo movement designed as a rondo. The tempo is rapid but the music never seems to run out of breath. We feel that we are hearing an elegant moto perpetuo destined to flow on end≠lessly, but after the interruption of the cadenza, the closing music shifts gears into a gently galloping 6/8 rhythm that comes almost as a surprise gift from the composer.

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