17 Apr 2013

Mozart – Concerto No. 24 in C Minor for Piano and Orchestra, K. 491

by Jeff Counts

Instrumentation: flute, 2 oboes, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, strings.

Duration: 28 minutes in three movements.

THE COMPOSER – WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) – Mozart’s return to Vienna late in 1783 marked the beginning of his busiest professional period since childhood. Over the next 3 years he gave frequent performances, both publicly and privately, of his growing catalogue of piano concertos and was actually able to afford a posh lifestyle for a time. This fruitful interlude waned in 1786 and the cessation of keyboard activity occasioned a return to opera composing for Mozart.

THE MUSIC – Mozart wrote 12 of his 27 piano concertos between 1784-1786. It was stretch of exceptional compositional fertility and it issued some of the most celebrated Classical exemplars of the form. The pace of creating and performing up to 4 new concertos per year meant that he was working quickly but for Mozart, fast processes rarely yielded underdeveloped results. To the contrary, Mozart had always been a rapid producer, as if nothing more was required of him than to simply transcribe the fully formed masterpieces that seemed to occupy his brain in infinite supply. The 24th concerto was completed three weeks after the 23rd and was the work he finished just prior to The Marriage of Figaro. The coming resumption of Mozart’s focus on opera is implicit in the drama of the C Minor concerto. While not as emotionally explicit as the other minor key concerto from the Vienna dozen (K. 466), No. 24 casts the soloist as a stage character with music often independent of the orchestral statements. The contrasts resolve themselves over the course of the whole, but the pathos of the opening is brought full circle when, despite a few hints at a possible happy (major key) ending, Mozart draws the curtain in grim adherence to the original mood. Beethoven was said to have admitted a touch of envy when he heard it. Indeed, many still view No. 24 as Mozart’s grandest essay into the field of concerto composition.

THE WORLD – The city of Reykjavik was founded in 1786, the same year St. George Island was discovered in the Bering Sea. Also in 1786, Mont Blanc was climbed for the first time and American frontiersman Davy Crockett was born.

THE CONNECTION – Concerto No. 24 has not been performed on a Utah Symphony Masterworks program since 2001. Andreas Delfs conducted and Andreas Haefliger was soloist.