Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)

Piano Concerto No 21 in C major, K467 (1785)

1. Allegro maestoso 2. Andante 3. Allegro vivace assai

Mozart completed his twenty-first piano concerto on the 9th March 1785, and gave the first performance on the following day. At the time he was at the height of his fame and popularity, and led a very busy life composing and teaching during the day, and performing or attending other social functions in the evenings. Despite all his activities he managed to produce one masterpiece after another, including the Marriage of Figaro and a set of three string quartets dedicated to Joseph Haydn. The concerto was completed less than a month after the famous D minor concerto. These two works, and indeed the three piano concertos that followed, are among his finest achievements, and marked a new departure in concerto writing, being for larger orchestras, and more symphonic in character with a stronger role for the orchestral players.

The opening movement is full of majesty and energy. It begins conventionally with an orchestral introduction. The solo piano doesn’t enter boldly, but quietly as if interrupting a conversation between the bassoon, and flute. The piano writing throughout is inventive and virtuosic, constantly in dialogue with the orchestra. The second movement is a complete contrast to the first. It is based on a beautiful lyrical theme, played at first on muted strings. Its long flowing line is dramatically broken by falling intervals of over two octaves, creating an ecstatic mood and a sense of great profundity. The movement develops with astonishing harmonic invention, eventually reaching the remote key of Ab major. The final movement is a rondo based on a lively witty tune, which gives plenty of scope for both the soloist and the orchestra to show their brilliance, and brings the work to a joyous conclusion.

In the 1960s the second movement was used in a film "Elvira Madigan", and consequently reached a very wide audience. It is still frequently heard on its own on the radio and has become one of Mozart's best known compositions. Few people now remember anything about the film!

Mozart's twenty first piano concerto was performed by the Portobello Orchestra on the 7th July 2018. The soloist was Artur Pereira and the orchestra was conducted by Sam Jones.