Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20 Program Notes
While not technically Mozart’s twentieth (some early works were arrangements of CPE Bach), this was the first piano concerto he composed in a minor key. Its brooding and syncopated opening, building towards dramatic tutti chords, and contrasting tender lyricism, seem to foreshadow some of the emotionalism of the Romantic era several decades later. The concerto was first performed on February 11, 1785, the day after it was composed, in the first concert of Mozart’s self-produced series of Lenten subscription concerts. (For Lent, Court theaters were closed: more audiences, and musicians, were therefore available!) Mozart’s father Leopold arrived in Vienna the day of the concert, and writing to his daughter Nannerl, reported especially favorably on this concerto. Posterity has borne this out: while several of Mozart’s piano concertos are now performed widely, it is No. 20 that was played regularly through the 19th century. One of its greatest champions, Ludwig van Beethoven, went so far as to compose cadenzas for the piece - one of which you will hear today. (Mozart’s were not written down.) Mozart’s produced his concerts in an intriguing Viennese building called the Mehlgrube, which now exists as the luxury Ambassador Hotel. Its guests have included Mark Twain, the Emperor and Empress of Ethiopia, Theodore Roosevelt, Robert Schumann, and Charles Lindbergh (though not all at the same time).