Accompanied by the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Maria João Pires performs Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466. Conductor: Daniel Harding.
The concerto was written in 1785. The first performance took place at the Mehlgrube Casino in Vienna on February 11, 1785, with the composer as the soloist (Mozart was widely considered the greatest pianist of his time).
The concerto is scored for solo piano, flute, two oboes, two bassoons, two horns, two trumpets, timpani, and strings. The three movements are:
- Allegro (in D minor) The first movement starts off the concerto in the dark tonic key of D minor with the strings restlessly but quietly building up to a full forte. The theme is quickly taken up by the piano soloist and developed throughout the long movement. A slightly brighter mood exists in the second theme, but it never becomes jubilant. The timpani further heightens the tension in the coda before the cadenza. The movement ends on a quiet note.
- Romanza (in B-flat major) The second movement is a strophic romanza whose customary tranquility at first seems reinforced by its B-flat major key and the support that piano and orchestra provide each other by passing around and even completing each other’s phrases, but then is torn by a strong central agitated section in g-minor.
- Allegro assai (in D minor, ending in D major) 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 begins passages in D minor on solo piano again, taken up by the 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 bright happy melody is taken up this time by the winds. The solo piano repeats the theme before a full orchestral passage develops the passage, thereby rounding up the concerto with a jubilant D major finish.