25 Oct 2013

Mozart – Concerto No. 25 in C Major for Piano and Orchestra, K. 503

by Jeff Counts

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

Duration: 30 minutes in three movements.

THE COMPOSER – WOLFGANG AMADEUS MOZART (1756-1791) – It would be a challenge to find a composer who had a more important year than Mozart did in 1786. In addition to The Marriage of Figaro, the “Prague” Symphony, the “Hoffmeister” String Quartet and the B-flat Major Piano Trio, Mozart completed Piano Concerti nos. 23, 24 and 25. It was also the beginning of a transition for Mozart, from the performing pianist phase to the opera composer phase.

THE HISTORY – The concerto phase would not end casually, nor without leaving a legacy that no composer – not Beethoven, not Brahms, not Rachmaninoff – could ever reasonably challenge. Mozart wrote 12 of his 27 piano concertos between 1784-1786, the last of the dozen being No. 25. It was stretch of exceptional compositional fertility and it issued some of the most celebrated Classical exemplars of the form. Mozart completed No. 25 on December 4, 1786 and likely performed it later in the month during his successful Advent concert series in Vienna. Though now counted among the best of the Mozart’s concerti, the deeply grim No. 24 had left an uneasy impression on its Viennese audience that previous spring. With No. 25, the switch from C Minor to C Major heralded a return to expectations but the new work was itself an ambitious statement in terms of its emotions and dimensions. No. 25 was built less on charm than structural grandeur as if, even with his opera career on the rise, the composer was mindful of the important work still to be done as a symphonist. It was the last of Mozart’s four C Major concertos and both the key and the drama of No. 25 had a clear influence on Beethoven, who wrote a concerto in C of his own (No. 1) in 1795 that echoed elements of Mozart’s 1786 masterwork.    

THE WORLD – Mont Blanc was climbed for the first time in 1786. Also that year, Shays’ Rebellion broke out in Massachusetts and Great Britain came to an agreement with Spain (Convention of London) concerning settlements on the Mosquito Coast of Central America.

THE CONNECTION – Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 was last performed by the Utah Symphony in 2009. Stefan Solyom conducted and Gunilla Sussmann was soloist.