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Program Note: Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 16

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

(Born in Salzburg, Austria in 1756; died in Vienna, Austria in 1791)

Piano Concerto No. 16 in D major, K. 451

  1. Allegro assai
  2. Andante
  3. Allegro di molto

In 1781, when Mozart arrived in Vienna from Salzburg, his performing and compositions were all the rage. Everyone, including the Austrian Emperor Joseph II, wanted to hear Mozart perform his new works. In March of 1784, Mozart premiered his exceptional Piano Concerto No. 16  to much anticipation, and by all accounts, it was a great success. And it’s remained extremely popular ever since for its inventiveness and lyricism.

The first movement, Allegro assai (very fast), is bright and joyful, made especially so with the addition of trumpets and timpani, which was unusual for a Mozart Concerto. Mozart also paid particular attention to his writing for winds, and the evidence is everywhere throughout the entire work. But the greatest instrumental writing occurs for the piano solo. Entering at about four-and-half minutes, the soloist wastes no time with virtuosity – the first bars immediately requiring fleet fingers. After a dazzling cadenza, with some surprisingly delicate moments, the movement closes with good cheer.

The second movement, Andante (leisurely), is a lyrical and lovely interlude. Mozart pours his craft at opera into this movement, with the themes particularly song-like. Especially lovely is the interplay between the pianist and the winds that begins just after two minutes.

The finale, Allegro di molto (fast and very lively), begins with a vivacious and merry main theme in the orchestra. When the solo piano enters soon after, the virtuosity begins. After a relatively brief cadenza, Mozart brings the main theme back but cleverly changes the meter –– from its original two-beats to three-beats-per measure. The Concerto then skips to its very jubilant conclusion.

Program note by © Max Derrickson