Piano Concerto No.11

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.11 in F major

K387a, K413

About this work

For his subscription concerts in Vienna, a primary source of income, Mozart generally composed piano concertos, enabling him to showcase his exceptional facility at the keyboard. Between 1782 and 1786, the years in which he gave the most concerts, Mozart wrote 15 concertos, nearly all for his own use.

Scored for an orchestra of paired oboes, bassoons, and horns, with strings, the Piano Concerto in F major, K. 413, was composed sometime in 1782-1783 and printed in 1785 by Artaria Vienna as Op. 4, No. 2. The F major concerto forms part of a set of three, the other two being in A major, K. 414, and C major, K. 415. Just how quickly Mozart could compose is made evident by the history of these concertos. In a letter of December 28, 1782, to his father, Mozart describes the three projected works and notes that only one is finished. On January 15, 1783, the Wiener Zeitung advertised the concertos, with optional wind parts, available in manuscript.

To his father, Mozart described these three concertos as "a happy medium between what is too easy and too difficult; they are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being vapid." Of the three concertos, the F major is generally considered the most conservative. Like Mozart's other works in the genre, there are three movements in a fast-slow-fast format, the first of which is cast in the typical form for concerto first movements, a combination of ritornello and sonata form. After the Allegro opens with firm, repeated chords, the orchestra goes on to state the principal themes of the movement, without modulating. When the soloist enters, it is not immediately with the first theme, but with a new idea, after which we hear the principal themes, developed and extended, including the modulation that is usually reserved for the soloist. Throughout the large central section both the orchestra and soloist develop the themes from the exposition and occasionally spin out new ideas. Mozart did realize a cadenza for the movement, and this is what is usually heard on recordings.

Mozart set the middle movement, marked Larghetto, in B flat major, a key that, when following a movement in F major, creates a sense of relaxation. The blithe theme is harmonized in such a way that its joy is infused with a hint of melancholy.

The Finale is a minuet-rondo, an outdated form by the early 1780s. As in the first movement, the rondo theme is announced first by the orchestra. The theme takes on the shape of a minuet in that it is in two repeated parts, the second of which begins with new material before being rounded off by a return of the first part. This memorable movement was clearly meant to entertain concertgoers and give them something to hum on the way home.