Accompanied by the Freiburger Mozart-Orchester (Freiburg Mozart Orchestra), Ukrainian-born classical pianist Valentina Lisitsa plays Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Conductor: Michael Erren. Filmed live May 20, 2012, Freiburg in Breisgau, Germany.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20
Mozart wrote this concerto in 1785. The first performance took place at the Mehlgrube Casino in Vienna on February 11, 1785, with Mozart himself as the soloist.
It is only one of two piano concertos written by Mozart in a minor key (with No. 24 in C minor being the other), and the most overtly dark, dramatic, and impassioned.
The concerto is scored for solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. As is typical with concertos, it is in three movements:
- Allegro: The orchestra begins the theme, and then the theme is taken up by the piano soloist and developed throughout the long movement. A slightly brighter mood exists in the second theme of F major (the relative major), but it never becomes jubilant. The timpani further heighten the tension in the coda before the cadenza. The movement ends on a quiet note.
- Romanze (a five-part rondo -ABACA- with a coda): The Romanze second movement, in D minor’s submediant key, B♭ major, is a five-part rondo (ABACA) with a coda. The trumpets and timpani are not used in this movement. The beginning features a solo piano playing the flamboyant and charming main B♭ major melody without accompaniment. This lyrical, passionate, tender and romantic melody paints a picture of peace and a sense of harmony between the piano and the orchestra and has also inspired its title ‘Romanze’. Halfway through, the piece moves on to the second episode (part C), where instead of the beautiful melody, a storm sets in. The new stormy material is turbulent, agitated and ominous theme, in the relative key of G minor, which greatly contrasts the peaceful mood at the starting of the movement. Though the storm section begins abruptly and without transition, after a transition back to the tonic key of B♭ major, finally, we are greeted once again with the aforeheard melody which returns as the movement is nearing the end. The piece ends with an ascending arpeggio that is light and delicate, gradually until it becomes a faint whisper.
- Allegro assai (a rondo): The final movement, a rondo, begins with the solo piano rippling upward in the home key before the full orchestra replies with a furious section. (This piano “rippling” is known as the Mannheim Rocket and is a string of eighth notes (D-F-A-D-F) followed by a quarter note (A). A second melody is touched upon by the piano where the mood is still dark but strangely restless. A contrasting cheerful melody in F major ushers in not soon after, introduced by the orchestra before the solo piano rounds off the lively theme. A series of sharp piano chords snaps the bright melody and then begin passages in D minor on solo piano again, taken up by full orchestra. Several modulations of the second theme (in A minor and G minor) follow. Thereafter follows the same format as above, with a momentary pause for introducing the customary cadenza. After the cadenza, the mood clears considerably and the piece is now fully sunny in character, as we are now in the parallel key of D major, and the bright happy melody is taken up, this time by the oboes and then winds. The solo piano repeats the theme before a full orchestral passage develops the passage, thereby rounding up the concerto with a jubilant finish.
Valentina Lisitsa independently launched the beginnings of her career via social media without initially signing to a tour promoter or record company. She is among the most frequently viewed pianists on YouTube. Currently (December 2014) she has over 161,000 subscribers to her channel on YouTube.
- Piano Concerto No. 20 (Mozart) on Wikipedia