Piano Concerto No.9

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.9 in Eb major

K271 • “Jeunehomme”

About this work

When Mozart first started composing keyboard concertos in 1767, the form was still in its early stages of development. Sufficiently confident to embark on the composition of symphonies as a child, his earliest attempts at the concerto show him feeling his way, producing pastiche works that involved adding orchestral accompaniments to solo keyboard sonatas by other composers, most notably those of one of the principal influences on his early style, Johann Christian Bach (three Concertos, K. 107). Mozart's first wholly original concerto (No. 5 in D, K. 175) did not appear until December 1773, by which time he had already composed more than 30 symphonies. With the Concerto in E flat, K. 271, we arrive not only at the first of Mozart's mature piano concertos, but the maturity of the form itself -- one that the composer would dominate until the appearance of Beethoven.

Composed in Salzburg in January 1777, the month in which the composer celebrated his 21st birthday, the ninth concerto represents a considerable expansion both in scale and ambition over his earlier concertos. It was written for a young French keyboard player, Jeunehomme, who visited Salzburg during the winter of 1776-1777. Nothing is known about her or her abilities as a performer, but the concerto she inspired suggests they must have been considerable.

Cast in the usual three-movement form (Allegro, Andantino, Rondeau: Presto), the work has unusual qualities that are immediately apparent in the opening bars. Instead of the expected extended orchestral introduction, the piano immediately replies to the orchestra's opening motif -- a device Mozart never again employed. The entire concerto is planned on a grand scale, obviously remaining a favorite with its composer, who took it with him on his tour to Mannheim and Paris in 1777-1778 and scheduled it several times in his Viennese concerts during the 1780s. The orchestral scoring is for pairs of horns and oboes plus the usual complement of strings.