Piano Concerto No.26

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

Piano Concerto No.26 in D major

K537 • “Coronation”

About this work

The series of piano concertos Mozart composed between 1784 and 1786 -- 12 in all -- is directly linked to his success as a concert pianist during those years. Actively promoting concert series during the seasons of Advent and Lent, he needed a constant supply of new concertos to play to his public. With the waning of his popularity in Vienna, such works were no longer required. The last five years of his life witnessed the composition of only two further piano concertos, the present work and the Piano Concerto No. 27 in B flat, K. 595, completed in January, 1791.

Paper dating of the manuscript paper on which the D major Concerto was commenced suggests that it was started as early as the spring as 1787, shortly after Mozart had returned from Prague, where he had witnessed the triumphant success of his opera Le nozze di Figaro. At this time he might still have had plans for a new concerto for the Lenten season of that year, but significantly the work was not completed until February 1788, when Mozart entered it into his thematic catalog on the 24th of that month.

No opportunity for performance is known at that time, and although Mozart claimed in one of many letters begging money from his fellow Freemason Michael Puchburg (June, 1788) that he was mounting a new subscriptions series that month, no concerts appear to have taken place. It thus seems likely the D major Concerto waited for its first performance until April 14, 1789, when Mozart played it in Dresden during the course of a three-month tour of Germany. The following year Mozart was again back in Germany, visiting Frankfurt on the occasion of the coronation of Leopold II as Holy Roman Emperor. On October 15 he gave a concert as part of the festivities, a performance that earned the work the popular name by which it is known today.

Although the concerto is known today in a fully-scored version (flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani and strings) Mozart scholars believe the work was originally planned on a smaller scale, the wind and brass parts being added during the composition of the opening Allegro. Although this movement is brilliant and festive, the concerto lacks the density of thought of the great Viennese concertos; its Larghetto is amiable rather than profound, and the final Allegretto is playfully humorous.