Piano Concerto No. 23 (Mozart)
Overview
 
The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K.
Köchel-Verzeichnis
The Köchel-Verzeichnis is a complete, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K or KV. For example, Mozart's Requiem in D minor was, according to Köchel's counting, the 626th piece Mozart composed....

 488) is a musical composition for piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 and orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

. It was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these. The concerto is scored for piano solo and an orchestra consisting of one flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

, two clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s, two bassoon
Bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

s, two horn
Horn (instrument)
The horn is a brass instrument consisting of about of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player ....

s and string
String section
The string section is the largest body of the standard orchestra and consists of bowed string instruments of the violin family.It normally comprises five sections: the first violins, the second violins, the violas, the cellos, and the double basses...

s.
Encyclopedia
The Piano Concerto No. 23 in A major (K.
Köchel-Verzeichnis
The Köchel-Verzeichnis is a complete, chronological catalogue of compositions by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart which was originally created by Ludwig von Köchel. It is abbreviated K or KV. For example, Mozart's Requiem in D minor was, according to Köchel's counting, the 626th piece Mozart composed....

 488) is a musical composition for piano
Piano
The piano is a musical instrument played by means of a keyboard. It is one of the most popular instruments in the world. Widely used in classical and jazz music for solo performances, ensemble use, chamber music and accompaniment, the piano is also very popular as an aid to composing and rehearsal...

 and orchestra
Orchestra
An orchestra is a sizable instrumental ensemble that contains sections of string, brass, woodwind, and percussion instruments. The term orchestra derives from the Greek ορχήστρα, the name for the area in front of an ancient Greek stage reserved for the Greek chorus...

 written by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart , baptismal name Johannes Chrysostomus Wolfgangus Theophilus Mozart , was a prolific and influential composer of the Classical era. He composed over 600 works, many acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, piano, operatic, and choral music...

. It was finished, according to Mozart's own catalogue, on March 2, 1786, around the time of the premiere of his opera, The Marriage of Figaro
The Marriage of Figaro
Le nozze di Figaro, ossia la folle giornata , K. 492, is an opera buffa composed in 1786 in four acts by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, with Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte, based on a stage comedy by Pierre Beaumarchais, La folle journée, ou le Mariage de Figaro .Although the play by...

. It was one of three subscription concerts given that spring and was probably played by Mozart himself at one of these. The concerto is scored for piano solo and an orchestra consisting of one flute
Flute
The flute is a musical instrument of the woodwind family. Unlike woodwind instruments with reeds, a flute is an aerophone or reedless wind instrument that produces its sound from the flow of air across an opening...

, two clarinet
Clarinet
The clarinet is a musical instrument of woodwind type. The name derives from adding the suffix -et to the Italian word clarino , as the first clarinets had a strident tone similar to that of a trumpet. The instrument has an approximately cylindrical bore, and uses a single reed...

s, two bassoon
Bassoon
The bassoon is a woodwind instrument in the double reed family that typically plays music written in the bass and tenor registers, and occasionally higher. Appearing in its modern form in the 19th century, the bassoon figures prominently in orchestral, concert band and chamber music literature...

s, two horn
Horn (instrument)
The horn is a brass instrument consisting of about of tubing wrapped into a coil with a flared bell. A musician who plays the horn is called a horn player ....

s and string
String section
The string section is the largest body of the standard orchestra and consists of bowed string instruments of the violin family.It normally comprises five sections: the first violins, the second violins, the violas, the cellos, and the double basses...

s. In Mozart's later works the wind instruments are equal to the stringed instruments, and this is also the case in this concerto.

The movements

It has three movements
Movement (music)
A movement is a self-contained part of a musical composition or musical form. While individual or selected movements from a composition are sometimes performed separately, a performance of the complete work requires all the movements to be performed in succession...

:
  1. Allegro in A major
    A major
    A major is a major scale based on A, with the pitches A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Its key signature has three sharps.Its relative minor is F-sharp minor and its parallel minor is A minor...

     and common time
    Time signature
    The time signature is a notational convention used in Western musical notation to specify how many beats are in each measure and which note value constitutes one beat....

    .
  2. Adagio in F-sharp minor and 6/8 time (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Andante).
  3. Allegro assai in A and alla breve (in later editions, the tempo is listed as Presto). In Rondo form.


The first movement is mostly sunny and positive with the occasional melancholic touches typical of Mozart pieces in A major and is in sonata form. The piece begins with a double exposition, the first played by the orchestra, and the second when the piano joins in. The first exposition is static from a tonal point of view and is quite concise, the third theme is not yet revealed. The second exposition includes the soloist and is modulatory. It is also includes the third previously unheard third theme. The second exposition is ornamented as opposed to the first exposition which is not. The second theme has harmonic tension. This is expressed by dissonances that are played on the beat, and then solved by an interval of a second going downwards. This is also expressed in the use of chromatics in the melody and bass lines which is a cause for harmonic tension, as the listeners anticipate the arrival of the tonic.

The second, slow movement, in ternary form
Ternary form
Ternary form, sometimes called song form, is a three-part musical form, usually schematicized as A-B-A. The first and third parts are musically identical, or very nearly so, while the second part in some way provides a contrast with them...

, is melancholic and somewhat operatic in tone. The piano begins alone with a theme characterized by unusually wide leaps. This is the only movement by Mozart in F sharp minor. The dynamics are soft throughout most of the piece. The middle of the movement contains a brighter section in A major
A major
A major is a major scale based on A, with the pitches A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. Its key signature has three sharps.Its relative minor is F-sharp minor and its parallel minor is A minor...

 announced by flute and clarinet that Mozart would later use to introduce the trio "Ah! taci ingiusto core!" in his opera Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni
Don Giovanni is an opera in two acts with music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart and with an Italian libretto by Lorenzo Da Ponte. It was premiered by the Prague Italian opera at the Teatro di Praga on October 29, 1787...

.

The third movement is a vigorous and cheerful rondo
Rondo
Rondo, and its French equivalent rondeau, is a word that has been used in music in a number of ways, most often in reference to a musical form, but also to a character-type that is distinct from the form...

, shaded by moves into other keys as is the opening movement (to C major
C major
C major is a musical major scale based on C, with pitches C, D, E, F, G, A, and B. Its key signature has no flats/sharps.Its relative minor is A minor, and its parallel minor is C minor....

 from E minor
E minor
E minor is a minor scale based on the note E. The E natural minor scale consists of the pitches E, F, G, A, B, C, and D. The E harmonic minor scale contains the natural 7, D, rather than the flatted 7, D – to align with the major dominant chord, B7 .Its key signature has one sharp, F .Its...

 and back during the secondary theme in this case, for instance) and with a central section whose opening in F sharp minor is interrupted by a clarinet tune in D major
D major
D major is a major scale based on D, consisting of the pitches D, E, F, G, A, B, and C. Its key signature consists of two sharps. Its relative minor is B minor and its parallel minor is D minor....

, an intrusion that reminds us, notes Girdlestone, that instrumental music at the time was informed by opera buffa
Opera buffa
Opera buffa is a genre of opera. It was first used as an informal description of Italian comic operas variously classified by their authors as ‘commedia in musica’, ‘commedia per musica’, ‘dramma bernesco’, ‘dramma comico’, ‘divertimento giocoso' etc...

 and its sudden changes of point of view as well as of scene .

Listening

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