Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concerto No. 22
Composed in Vienna in December 1785, Mozart’s 22nd piano concerto is part of his more sophisticated collection of works. Mozart had received great success from a series of piano concertos in Vienna since his arrival there in 1781. In early 1785, Mozart’s father visited him and wrote home to his daughter of his time there:
“We never get to bed before 1 o’clock! Everyday there are concerts; and the whole time is given up to teaching, music, composing, and so forth. It is impossible for me to describe the rush and the bustle. Since my arrival your brother’s fortepiano has been taken at least a dozen times to the theatre or to some other house.”
This is the first piano concerto that Mozart composed that featured clarinets in the score, which has made it a somewhat landmark work. The use of clarinets also shows Mozart’s musical development whilst in Vienna, which soon bled into his other compositions showing a deep understanding of quality woodwind writing.
The concerto is celebrated for its rich harmonic colour and clever orchestral textures. Within the three movements Mozart develops small kernels of themes that create sumptuous dialogues between the soloist and the orchestra.
The exciting grand opening lays the foundations for an expansive movement full to the brim of themes and clever orchestral writing. The mellow clarinets change the texture of the piece, as they have replaced the pair of oboes. The trickling of scalic runs from the piano add to the intricate dialogue between the soloist and orchestra. The chromatic movement is also a particular highlight of this movement as it adds excitement of the music.
The second movement features the woodwind section in abundance, with a flute and bassoon duet and a serenade with the winds and horns leading some of the most intricate sections of this movement. Set in the relative minor key of C, the intense theme is pronounced three times during the movement in various combinations with the soloist. The dark atmosphere directly opposes the two outer movements, creating a truly mesmerising interlude.
The jaunty finale movement puts the soloist centre stage as it performs the main theme in a bright and spritely manner. Bold string writing and vivacious flute solos decorate the playful piano theme. A large proportion of the final movement is conventional to classical concerto traditions, however Mozart does quite unconventionally add in an extended section in the middle of the movement, which is set as a slow minuet. After a dynamic cadenza from the soloist the concerto comes to a rousing finish.
An often performed and recorded concerto, Mozart’s melodically lavish 22nd piano concerto is a musically fruitful work. With Mozart’s intricate orchestral writing and virtuoso piano writing, this concerto is full of exciting twists and turns!
Ⓒ Alex Burns
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