Concerto for Piano and Orchestra No.24

The Piano Concerto No. 24 was the third in a series of concertos composed in quick succession over an extraordinarily short period; it was completed on 24 March 1786, just three weeks after Concerto No. 23. It was premiered in April 1786 at the Burgtheater, Mozart playing the solo part and leading the orchestra from the piano. In the original manuscript there are no tempo markings, the orchestral part is written very legibly, but the solo part is unfinished, in a number of places the composer only notated some passages or broken chords, and no cadenzas are written, indicating that he improvised a great deal in the performance.

Mozart ends the concert shortly before the premiere of his comic opera The Marriage of Figaro. But though composed simultaneously, the two works are deeply contrasting. The concerto in D minor (only one other of his piano concertos, No. 20, is in the same key) is probably a reflection of the darker moments in the composer’s life. This concerto differs from his previous concertos in many ways – the first movement is longer and more complex in form and development, with a highly chromaticised melody. None of his other concertos feature such an extended orchestra and it is the only one to include a clarinet, still unusual at the time for orchestral composition.

When Beethoven first heard the concerto, he remarked to a colleague – “we could never have composed anything like it” – and some influence can be detected in his own minor Third Piano Concerto. Brahms also greatly admired this Mozart concerto, writing his own cadenza to the first movement and calling the work “a masterpiece of art, full of inspiring ideas”. Twentieth-century scholars of Mozart’s legacy have judged the concerto to be “one of the most ingenious in every respect among Mozart’s genius works”, “the most perfect piano concerto ever composed”, “whatever the value possessed by each of Mozart’s concertos, we shall find no greater work than the concerto K. 491, for Mozart wrote no other work whose movements are so profoundly connected into an astonishing whole”.

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