Piano Concerto No.21

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.21 in C major

K467 • “Elvira Madigan”

Recommended recording

Curated by Maryna Boiko, Primephonic Curator

About this work

In keeping with the Piano Concerto in D Minor, K. 466, the C Major Concerto was composed for the series of Lenten subscription concerts given by Mozart in 1765. This was an extraordinarily busy and successful period of Mozart's life, as we can gauge from a series of letters sent by his father Leopold to Mozart's sister Nannerl, now married and living with her husband in St. Gilgen. "Every day there are concerts; and the whole time is given up to teaching, music, composing and so forth...It is impossible for me to describe the rush and the bustle." Leopold had arrived on February 11, the day of the first of the concerts and the occasion of the premiere of the D Minor Concerto. Mozart first played the newly completed K. 467 not at one of his subscription concerts (although he must surely have included it in one of the last of those as well), but at his benefit concert at the National Court Theater on March 10, the day after it was entered into his thematic catalog. A handbill for the concert announced that it would include "a new, just finished Forte piano Concerto," in addition to Mozart playing improvisations (for which he was particularly famed) employing "an especially large Forte piano pedal."

The C Major Concerto gives absolutely no sign of being composed in an atmosphere of "rush and bustle"; neither could the contrast with the stormy drama of its immediate predecessor be greater. The first movement, an expansive Allegro of Olympian grandeur and design is followed by an Andante of sublime beauty made famous in more recent times by its use in the film Elvira Madigan. This movement, with its few notes and bare outline, is incidentally a classic example of the manner in which Mozart frequently left himself room to improvise within the context of his own concertos, a technique lately reintroduced by performers such as Malcolm Bilson and Robert Levin. The final movement is an Allegro vivace assai, its evocation of the world of opera buffo typical of many of Mozart's finales, both in concerto and symphony. Like the D Minor Concerto, K. 467 is scored for a large orchestra: flute, pairs of oboes, bassoons, horns and trumpets, timpani and strings.