The Concerto for piano and orchestra in E-flat Major KV 271, known as No. 9, and under the title “Jeunehomme“, was written by Mozart in January 1777, the month of his twenty-first birthday (January 27). For a long time there was a mystery surrounding the nickname of the piece, with scholars wondering whether behind the sobriquet (which, as some have maintained., was spelled incorrectly by Mozart in French) there was not hiding some unnamed French male or female pianist; whether this was not the name of the commissioner of the work or some unknown “muse” of the composer? In one of the letters between father and son, Amadeus describes the concerto as “das für die jenomy” (“the one for the Jenomy”). In another, which was sent to Paris, Leopold sends a greeting to Mademoiselle Jenomy, apparently familiar to both the father and son. The riddle was solved 2004 by Viennese musicologist Michael Lorenz – she was identified as Louise Victoire Jenamy, the daughter of the famous French dancer and choreographer Jean-Georges Noverre. Described as ‘the Shakespeare of the Dance’, he introduced drama and emotional nuance into the performance of ballet dancers and staged several ballet productions for the Austrian imperial court, with Victoire accompanying her father to Vienna and back in 1773, executing a performance of a piano concerto “with much artistry and ease,” as noted by the local press. Most probably it was there that Wolfgang and Leopold made the acquaintance of the pair. The composer created the concerto KV 271 for the charming pianist. He himself performed it in a private concert on October 4, 1777. Victoire Jenamy supposedly performed the premiere earlier during her visit in Salzburg on her way to Vienna and back in the winter of 1776-77. And the following year, while in Paris, young Mozart was invited with his mother to a dinner at Noverre’s, where the young pianist was present as well. Mozart wrote for the choreographer the music to his ballet Les petits riens (1778).
Alfred Brendel has described the concerto as “one of the greatest wonders of the world,” researcher Alfred Einstein dubbed it “Mozart’s Eroica,” and music critic Michael Steinberg aptly notes that this is the concerto in which Mozart becomes the true Mozart. The innovative ideas of Amadeus are rather surprising for the genre. The piano does not even wait for the orchestra to state the themes as required by the canon but enters immediately, complementing their exposition. The soloist and the ensemble engage in close and luxuriant interplay. The second movement has a darker aura – this is the first of Mozart’s piano concertos to have a slow movement cast in a minor key, and its expressiveness resembles a masterful lament from a baroque opera. The aria intoned by the piano seems to express some subdued, unbearable pain. The melancholic sighs end in effusive recitative passages. The finale is pervaded by swirling motions and jovial mood. The astoundingly virtuosic piano part suggests the scope of Mozart’s mastery at the keyboard, as well as that of young pianist Jeunhomme / Jenamy, for whom the piece was written. It is known for a fact that the composer always improvised the cadenzas in his concertos. For this one he composed several cadenzas and diligently wrote them into the score. Another surprise – the tempo of the Rondo is unexpectedly subdued with an elegant minuet unfolded in the solo piano. Just like in his later concertos, Amadeus adds a distinctly theatrical flavour to the dramaturgy of his music.
The composer retained his fondness for the concerto KV 271 for a long time. In the end of 1777, he played it in Munich and Augsburg, and later in Vienna, and it became his first published piano concerto.