Accompanied by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie (North West German Philharmonic), the English pianist Martin James Bartlett performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Conductor: Felix Mildenburger. This performance was recorded during the Sunday Morning Concert on November 19, 2023, at The Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, The Netherlands.

Accompanied by the Nordwestdeutsche Philharmonie, James Bartlett performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Conductor: Felix Mildenburger. Recorded on on November 19, 2023.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, composed in 1785, stands out as one of his most profoundly expressive works and marks a significant departure from the more light-hearted style commonly associated with his earlier concertos. This piece is particularly notable for its minor key – D minor, a key Mozart reserved for works of a serious and dramatic nature.

The concerto was composed during a highly productive period in Mozart’s life, a time when he was also working on some of his other major works like “The Marriage of Figaro.” The Piano Concerto No. 20 is distinguished by its innovative and dramatic qualities, which reflect a maturation in Mozart’s compositional style. It is one of only two piano concertos Mozart wrote in a minor key (the other being No. 24 in C minor, K. 491), and this choice of key lends the piece a particular emotional intensity and depth.

One of the most remarkable features of this concerto is its dramatic and moody first theme, which immediately sets the tone for the entire piece. The orchestral introduction before the piano enters is full of dark, brooding energy and establishes a sense of drama that is maintained throughout the concerto. When the piano does enter, it is with a response that both contrasts with and complements the orchestral statement, showcasing Mozart’s mastery of dialogue between the soloist and the orchestra.

The concerto also illustrates Mozart’s ability to blend the traditional concerto form with elements of operatic drama. This fusion is evident in the way the piano and orchestra interact, often engaging in a call-and-response that is reminiscent of operatic scenes. The emotional range of the concerto is vast, moving from moments of stormy intensity to passages of serene beauty, highlighting Mozart’s ability to convey a wide array of emotions within a single work.

Another interesting aspect of this concerto is its historical significance. The Piano Concerto No. 20 was one of Mozart’s most popular and frequently performed concertos during his lifetime, and it continued to be highly regarded by later composers. Beethoven, in particular, admired this concerto and even wrote his own cadenzas for it, as Mozart’s original cadenzas for this concerto have not survived.


With start times in the video:

  1. [00:00] Allegro
  2. [13:34] Romanze
  3. [22:36] Rondo, Allegro assai

1. Allegro

The first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, is marked as Allegro, and it is distinguished by its dramatic and tense character, setting the stage for the entire concerto. This movement is structured in the traditional sonata form, typical of classical concertos, but Mozart infuses it with a depth and drama that was quite innovative for its time.

The opening of the movement is memorable for its dark and stormy orchestral introduction. This section is characterized by its minor key and the use of syncopated rhythms, which create a sense of unrest and anticipation. The orchestra introduces the main themes, which are notable for their dramatic and almost operatic quality. This dramatic introduction sets the mood and establishes the key themes that will be explored throughout the movement.

When the piano enters, it does so with a sense of dialogue with the orchestra, responding to the themes introduced by the orchestra and developing them further. Mozart’s use of the piano in this movement is noteworthy for its expressive range. The piano part alternates between moments of lyrical beauty and passages of virtuosic intensity, showcasing the instrument’s capabilities as well as the performer’s skill.

Throughout the movement, Mozart plays with contrasts – between the solo piano and the orchestra, and between different musical ideas. There’s a constant interplay of light and shade, tension and release. This dynamic interaction contributes to the dramatic narrative of the movement.

One of the most significant aspects of this movement is its development section, where Mozart takes the opportunity to explore and transform the themes introduced in the exposition. This section is particularly inventive, featuring modulations to different keys and showcasing Mozart’s skill in thematic development and orchestration.

The movement concludes with a recapitulation where the main themes are revisited and developed further, leading to a dramatic and compelling closure. The overall effect of this first movement is one of drama and emotional depth, setting the tone for the concerto as a whole and demonstrating Mozart’s genius in fusing the dramatic elements of opera with the classical concerto form.

2. Romanze

The second movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, marked as “Romanze,” offers a striking contrast to the dramatic and intense first movement. This movement is in B-flat major, providing a soothing and lyrical interlude that showcases Mozart’s ability to compose music of great tenderness and emotional depth.

Characterized by its serene and song-like quality, the Romanze has a gentle, flowing melody that is both elegant and expressive. The opening of the movement is marked by a calm and reflective theme introduced by the strings, creating an atmosphere of tranquility and introspective beauty. When the piano enters, it picks up this theme and elaborates on it, weaving a delicate and intimate musical conversation with the orchestra.

The structure of this movement is somewhat akin to a rondo, with the main theme returning several times, interspersed with contrasting sections. These contrasting sections introduce new material and moods, adding richness and depth to the movement. However, the serene main theme always returns, acting as an anchor that maintains the overall peaceful and contemplative mood of the movement.

One of the most notable aspects of the Romanze is its middle section, which suddenly shifts to a minor key and a faster tempo. This section is more dramatic and somewhat agitated, providing a stark contrast to the otherwise calm and lyrical mood. This dramatic interlude adds an element of emotional complexity to the movement, enhancing its depth and expressiveness.

The return to the main theme after this dramatic middle section is marked by a sense of reassurance and calm. Mozart’s skillful orchestration ensures that the transition back to the serene atmosphere of the opening is smooth and natural, bringing the listener back to a state of peaceful reflection.

The Romanze concludes with a gentle and subdued ending, leaving the listener in a state of quiet contemplation. This movement, with its beautiful melodies and contrasting moods, showcases Mozart’s mastery of musical expression and his ability to convey a wide range of emotions within a single piece. It serves as a perfect emotional and musical balance to the outer movements of the concerto, highlighting the composer’s genius in creating a cohesive and profoundly moving musical experience.

3. Rondo, Allegro assai

The finale of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, marked as “Rondo: Allegro assai,” brings the concerto to a vigorous and spirited conclusion. This movement is characterized by its lively tempo and the return to the darker, more dramatic mood of the first movement, though with a distinct character of its own.

Structured as a rondo, the movement revolves around a recurring main theme that is energetic and somewhat stormy. This theme, introduced by the orchestra and then taken up by the piano, serves as a unifying thread throughout the movement. The rondo form, with its repetitive returns to the main theme, allows for a sense of cohesiveness, while also providing opportunities for contrast and development.

The main theme of the rondo is memorable for its rhythmic drive and urgency. It has a propulsive quality that imparts a sense of forward momentum to the movement. The piano’s role is particularly dynamic, with virtuosic passages that demand technical prowess and a deep understanding of the piece’s dramatic underpinnings.

Between the returns of the main theme, Mozart inserts contrasting episodes that explore different moods and keys. These episodes provide a respite from the intensity of the main theme and showcase Mozart’s skill in thematic development and variation. They also contribute to the overall dramatic arc of the movement, creating a sense of narrative and emotional complexity.

One of the most remarkable aspects of this movement is its integration of the solo piano with the orchestra. The piano is not merely a soloist playing against the backdrop of the orchestra; rather, there is a deep and intricate dialogue between the two. This interaction highlights the concerto’s blend of dramatic intensity and intricate musical conversation, a hallmark of Mozart’s mature style.

The movement builds towards a compelling and energetic conclusion, with the main theme returning for a final statement. The ending of the movement, and hence the concerto, is dramatic and decisive, leaving the listener with a sense of resolution and fulfillment.

Martin James Bartlett

Martin James Bartlett is an English classical pianist who has twice reached the keyboard finals of the BBC Young Musician of the Year contest, winning the competition in 2014.

Bartlett was born on 20 July 1996. He began his musical studies at the age of six, first with the piano and then two years later with bassoon and recorder. He appeared in the BBC Young Musician of the Year competition in 2012, at the age of 15, as a finalist in the keyboard category. At that time, he was studying for the GCE Advanced Level in music and physics. In 2014, he was again selected as a finalist in that category.

In October 2014 Bartlett was one of the musicians to record the “God Only Knows” charity single for BBC Children in Need, in collaboration with Nicola Benedetti, Stevie Wonder, Sam Smith, One Direction, Elton John, Emile Sandé, and others. The recording was broadcast on all BBC TV channels, received over 11 million hits on YouTube, and also launched BBC Music.

Martin James Bartlett performs Mozart Piano Concerto No. 20
Martin James Bartlett performing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466

In 2015 Bartlett was one of the youngest-ever soloists to debut at the BBC Proms, performing Gershwin’s Rhapsody in Blue, with reviews in The Daily Telegraph and The Times praising his musical insight and maturity.

More recently Bartlett attended the ‘Progress 1000’ party hosted by the London Evening Standard celebrating London’s most influential people. He was nominated as one of London’s most influential musicians.

In 2018 Bartlett won the second prize and the audience prize in the piano competition Kissinger Klavierolymp (Kissingen Piano Olympics) in Germany.

Bartlett signed a recording contract with Warner Classics in 2019. The release of his debut album “Love and Death” with works of Prokofiev, Bach, Liszt, Schumann, Wagner, and Granados was announced for May 2019.

On Wednesday the 6th of March 2019, Martin James Bartlett was awarded the Queen Elizabeth The Queen Mother Rosebowl by Prince Charles.

In August 2020, Bartlett was announced as the winner of the Virtu(al)oso Global Piano Competition by Piano Cleveland. In 2018 he was awarded 2nd prize and the Audience Award at the Kissingen Piano Olympiad.

In 2021 he was awarded the Queen Mother Rosebowl by HRH Prince Charles and graduated with a first-class Bachelor’s degree, Master’s degree, and an Artist’s Diploma from the Royal College of Music, having studied under Professor Vanessa Latarche. Bartlett is the RCM Benjamin Britten Piano Fellow from 2020 until 2022. As part of this fellowship, Bartlett made his play-direct and conducting debut with the London Mozart Players at the Cheltenham and Ryedale festivals in 2022 leading the orchestra in music by Pärt, Mozart, and Britten.

In July 2022, Bartlett was announced as the recipient of the inaugural Prix Serdang, a prize awarded to him by Rudolf Buchbinder that included a recital in the Villa Serdang, Switzerland. The new prize recognises the achievements and career of a young pianist and was chosen by Buchbinder and Thomas Pfiffner in collaboration with promoters and artists worldwide.

In the 2021/22 season, Bartlett gave a European tour with the LGT Young Soloists, performing Philip Glass’s ‘Tirol’ piano concerto at the Berlin Konzerthaus, Vienna Musikverein, and Hamburg Elbphilharmonie culminating in a gala performance for the Prince and Princess of Liechtenstein in London. Bartlett also debuted with the London Philharmonic Orchestra in March 2022 and The Times wrote: “The performance that matters is Bartlett’s splendidly dashing and tender account of Rachmaninov’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini”.

Recital highlights of the past seasons involve concerts at the International Chopin Piano Festival at Duszniki Zdrój, Wigmore Hall, The Concertgebouw, Alte Oper Frankfurt, Salle Cortot Paris, Dresden Music Festival, Stadtcasino Basel and at the Ludwig Van Beethoven Easter Festival. Furthermore, Bartlett embarked upon his debut US tour in the Young Concert Artists Series in February 2022, which included debut performances in New York and The Kennedy Center, Washington DC.


M. Özgür Nevres

Published by M. Özgür Nevres

I am Özgür Nevres, a software engineer, a former road racing cyclist, and also an amateur musician. I opened to share my favorite music. I also take care of stray cats & dogs. This website's all income goes directly to our furry friends. Please consider supporting me on Patreon, so I can help more animals!

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