W. A. Mozart Piano Concerto in C Major KV. 467
This concerto and the d Minor KV. 466, seem to be sister works, clearly sprung from the same source. Only to to be the opposite sides of the same coin, where we find angst, Sturm and Drang in the d Minor KV 466, and we have an exquisite example of an opera buffa for piano and orchestra in the KV 467. The work in C Major is exaggerated almost ad absurdum in every aspect, comical or tragic, starting with the non-sense Allegro maestoso marking.
The Maestoso which so famously dictates the fateful tempo ordinario of the a Minor Sonata KV. 310, is here completely satirical. Another passage worthy of mention is the g Minor section right after the first solo of the keyboard. This passage is so ridiculously exaggerated that it ceases to be tragic. I imagine an actor, declaiming with a broken voice, his hand on his chest: “Ah! How wretched is my life.”
Nevertheless, as ever with Mozart, the deeper underlying feeling of the work is not what the surface seems to point towards. This work is, at the core, heart wrenchingly lyrical and sincere. From 1750’s on, there seems to be a gradual movement towards quietness and tenderness in music. Just compare this work with the youthful Concerto in E flat Major KV. 271. The strong, ringing tone, still evidently the ideal in the earlier work, seems to have given way to the soft-spoken nature of the later one. A keyboard instrument that can play both softly and loudly was a novelty at the time. Musicians surely must have enjoyed a solo keyboard instrument that can whisper as well. In the outer movements, Mozart seems to open his heart to the listener for the most fleeting moment only to stifle it later with the most boisterous devices.
The third movement has not a single phrase where we could say, “Ah I know how this goes…” Each accent, each heavy point is so meticulously moved from their usual places in the classical phrase structure. While it amuses the unsuspecting listener, the compositional mastery is beyond comprehension. Surely, Mozart was not to miss any chance to prove once again, why he was at the time Vienna’s most beloved child. Even then, he fails not to remind neither the troubles of the heart that were so clearly felt in the d Minor Concerto nor the impassioned whispers of the first movement and the Andante of this work.
The magnificent development section of the first movement, with the entrance of the keyboard, draws the player and the listener to a world that feels fragile, almost sickly. Mozart here is not pulling any trick on us; it is music at its most genuine. He builds up the tension until it breaks out in ecstasy at the climax of the work. Burning hot tears spring from the affectionate heart. Even with the masterful return to the recapitulation, the entry of the strings with the first theme feels surprisingly odd. It is a joke cracked at the most inappropriate, yes, tender moment. In but an instant, the magical world disappears. This is Mozart at his absolute best. All that contradicts, form against fantasy, silent tears against boisterous laughter, sincerity against irony, come together to make up without doubt one of the most wonderful compositions for keyboard and orchestra.
program notes of concertos