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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/17/17

Mozart's Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor Stands Far Above All of His More Cheerful Piano Concerti

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This particular recording by Lili Kraus starts with No. 20 and then takes you all the way through Mozart's remaining piano concerti to the end. It is considered a "Recordinng the Century." Lili lived from 1903 to 1986, and her husband was Jewish Austrian philosopher and patron Otto Mandl (b. 1889).

To see how Mozart would have conducted and also performed this piece, you can watch the incomparable Friedrich Gulda with the Munich Philharmonic and the music really comes alive as you watch it being performed!

My own personal favorite performance is Martha Argerich's 1998 performance with the Beethoven Cadenzas, but with no video:


Rather than write in brief about a favorite composer's work in a cross sectionalized format lightly alluding to a smattering of pieces, and in deference to the stature of the piece selected, and because of the staggering amount of literature on some of these vital pieces of music, it is far better to focus on one, in this case my favorite Mozart Piano Concerto, Number 20 in D minor, K466. Parts of the Requiem Mass and the Finale of Don Giovanni would also vie for inclusion in the Mozart to Take to Another Planet selection.

Herbert Glass, Music Critic for the Los Angeles Times had an interesting take on this particular music:

"The Romantics liked his life story, the precocious childhood, the financial crises, and the life's premature end. But his music was, in the general estimation, too courtly, too innocent, and hardly able to reflect the world as they saw it. They were unable to read between the lines, so to speak, and their store of biographical information was limited, to say the least. In the main Schumann, Berlioz, Chopin, etc. -- all of whom claimed to adore Mozart, but whose writings are full of condescending remarks on the pride of Salzburg -- 'missed the point.'

Nonetheless, 19th-century audiences and composers were mad about his Piano Concerto in D minor, K. 466. Why? Because it is not happy, nor serene, or nor smoothly sculpted, with the exception of the lighthearted final pages of K. 466. This concerto -- and no praise could be higher in the age of and after Beethoven -- were regarded as Beethoven-like.

K. 466 was a favorite of the "Titan" himself (Beethoven), figuring prominently in his repertoire as a concert pianist and for which he even wrote cadenzas, Mozart not having supplied any. Today, rather than standing in near-solitary splendor alongside Mozart's only other minor-key piano concerto, it is regarded as the first in the succession of the half-dozen sublime masterpieces for piano and orchestra dating from 1785-1786 -- the same brief span that also saw the creation of Le nozze di Figaro, the "Prague" Symphony, the Clarinet Trio, the last two string quartets dedicated to Haydn and the String Quartet in D, K. 499, the four-hand Sonata in F, K. 497, and the C-minor Concerto. And that is only a partial listing."


The composer-pianist was at the time still the rock star idolized by Viennese society, and his audiences were willing to accept anything that flowed from his pen, if Mozart were also the performer.

K. 466 was introduced to the world at one of his subscription concerts, and its success of the Concerto on February 11, 1785 was considerable (it was completed the day before), based on the composer's playing of the demanding solo, with the ink still wet on some of the orchestral parts until an hour before the performance!

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