About this work
During Mozart's first few years in Vienna, one of his primary sources of income was the subscription concert. For such concerts, he 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 for piano and orchestra, nearly all for his own use, which have come to represent the Classical ideal of the genre.
Mozart evidently composed his first Vienna concertos, K. 413-415, very quickly. In a letter of December 28, 1782 to his father, Mozart mentioned the three projected works and noted that only one was 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."
Scored for piano, strings, and two each of oboe, bassoon, horn, trumpet, and timpani, the Concerto in C major was begun very late in 1782 and completed early the next year. It was printed in 1785 by Artaria in Vienna as Op. 4, No. 3. (The Concertos, K. 414 and K. 413, were published as Op. 4, Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.) Although the material of the C major concerto is conventional, Mozart's formal treatment of it is often bold.
Military rhythms dominate the opening measures of the first movement, which begins with the traditional orchestral exposition. For the soloist, Mozart reserves new material, intermingling it with the opening theme, which remains the property of the orchestra. The central, developmental ritornello opens with the first theme, a procedure Mozart used in none of his other piano concertos. Throughout this large central span, the piano part maintains a high level of virtuosity against a background of orchestral interjections. Most of the cadenzas heard on recordings are those realized and written down by Mozart himself.
Mozart had planned an Adagio in C minor as the middle movement, but opted instead for the F major Andante. However, passages from the abandoned C minor movement survive in the Adagio sections of the Finale. The orchestra introduces the Andante, pausing on the dominant before the soloist enters, restating the opening material. Lacking trumpets, the movement takes on a warmer, more subtle sound than its neighbors.
The Finale is a sonata-rondo with a double exposition, the first of which remains in C major -- a typical trait of concerto first movements, but unusual in finales. Between the two expositions, there is the Adagio segment in C minor. This passage once again interrupts the progress of the movement during the recapitulation, just before the last presentation of the main theme in the piano part. The resulting pattern creates a ternary rondo format -- ABACABA -- while the modulations and development of material are characteristic sonata-form procedures. Mozart alters his rondo section (A) with each appearance, either developing one of its three themes or replacing one or more of them with a new idea.
Curated by Julian Sarmiento, Double bassist