May 26, 2022
Imagine writing a concerto that prompted Beethoven to remark to a friend: “we’ll never be able to write anything like that. Or a piece that prompted Brahms to call it: “a masterpiece of art, full of inspiration and ideas.” Or had scholars and musicologists raving, saying things like: "not only the most sublime of the whole series but also one of the greatest pianoforte concertos ever composed" or "whatever value we put upon any single movement from the Mozart concertos, we shall find no work greater as a concerto than this K. 491, for Mozart never wrote a work whose parts were so surely those of 'one stupendous whole'." I could go on and on, but the simple end to this story is that Mozart’s C Minor Piano Concerto has been considered one of the great achievements of humanity ever since it was premiered on either April 3rd of April 7th of 1786, performed by Mozart himself. While we don’t know exactly how long it took Mozart to complete this concerto, it could not have taken more than a few months, and it came amidst him writing his 22nd and 23rd piano concerti, both masterpieces in their own right, and it was written just as Mozart was putting the finishing touches on his comic magnum opus, The Marriage of Figaro. It’s almost a cliche at this point, but its one of those rare cliche’s that really deserves to be repeated: If Mozart had written just one of those 4 pieces, his name would have been etched in history. Instead he was working on all 4 at the same time! Today, we’re going to be talking about the astonishing harmonic language of the piece, it’s skeletal manuscript, and how performers deal with the contradictions and quite frankly, missing pieces of this concerto. Join us!