Piano Concerto No.15

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.15 in Bb major


About this work

The leap in artistic growth between Mozart's piano concertos of 1782 (K. 413-5) and the series composed in 1784 (K. 449-451, 453, 456, 459) was one of the greatest in the composer's brief career. Thus the Piano Concerto No. 14 in E flat major, K. 449, is sometimes regarded as Mozart's first mature work in the genre. Five weeks after the composition of K. 449 Mozart completed a strikingly different work in the Concerto in B flat major, K. 450. Mozart's entry for the piece in his "List of All My Works" is dated March 15, 1784. The Piano Concerto in D major, K. 451, would follow only seven days later. Mozart composed both these works for his own use in public concerts, describing them to his father as "concertos to make you sweat." Not surprisingly, then, the part for the soloist is far more virtuosic than in K. 449, which was composed for one of Mozart's students. Furthermore, the writing for the wind instruments, in K. 450 in particular, is more involved and advanced than in any of Mozart's earlier piano concertos. Scored for piano, strings, paired oboes, bassoons, and horns, with a single flute in the finale, K. 450 features a woodwind section more deeply integrated into the total texture than in K. 449.

Opening with a tune reminiscent of Mozart's Salzburg-era serenades, the Allegro throughout is marked by unusual orchestration. Once the piano part begins, the soloist dominates the movement, with the orchestra occasionally reduced to providing only punctuation. Indeed, the soloist's initial lengthy passage contains no references to the opening ritornello. It would be wrong to call the central solo span a development section, for absolutely no development occurs in this continuous wash of flashy, bravura piano figurations. There is, however, a "recapitulation" containing themes omitted by the piano during its first episode and the central section.

In 3/8 time, the E flat major Andante consists of a theme with two variations and a coda. The two-part theme modulates to the dominant (B flat major) at the midpoint. Mozart's variations are decorative; no fundamental changes occur in the melodies.

B flat major is generally considered one of Mozart's "happy" keys, and the Allegro finale does nothing to alter this conception. A rondo in 6/8 time, the movement is filled with flashy piano passages and hand crossings. Mozart varies the returns of the rondo section, altering the order of the melodies and extending them, and thus making it seem as though we are hearing a chain of variations. As in the first movement, the piano part is technically difficult, designed to highlight the performer: Mozart.