Piano Concerto No.6

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.6 in Bb major

K238

About this work

The Piano Concerto No. 6 in B flat major, K. 238, was composed in Salzburg during the month of January 1776. It came on the heels of a year-long period during which Mozart had been intensely preoccupied with the creation of his five concertos for violin, all of which appeared in rapid succession. Curiously, however, this early Piano Concerto is at considerable stylistic variance from its immediate chronological siblings in the concerto genre. There is little here of the extrovert drama of the D major Piano Concerto, K. 175, of December 1773, and less still of the highly assured and brilliant manner of the violin concertos as a whole.

The relative timidity of K. 238 is striking, given that the unusually daring Fifth Violin Concerto in A major, K. 219, preceded this piano concerto by a matter of weeks at most. The most plausible explanation lies in the fact that the work was not composed for Mozart himself to play, but for another un-named performer -- clearly one with vastly inferior skill and technique; this person was most likely an amateur musician of the Salzburg aristocracy. Since the work's date links it with the period during which Mozart himself was striving to gain wider acceptance in the privileged high-society salons of the city of his birth, this theory seems all the more plausible.

Throughout its course, the concerto (which is cast in the conventional three movement fast-slow-fast format) features solo writing of modest difficulty, which would have been well within the scope of any accomplished amateur player. The central Andante in the key of E flat is notable for its liquidity and beauty of expression, while the finale is in typical rondo style -- albeit without the bravura diversions that Mozart would normally have employed in a concerto finale of this kind. Mozart scholars continue to debate a further interesting link, which comes at the very start of the work. The opening phrase of the Allegro aperto is strongly reminiscent of the beginning of a violin concerto in the same key by Michael Haydn; Mozart may well have been familiar with this piece, and might even have played it at court himself.

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