Uchida Mozart PC5

February 8 – Thursday at 7:30 p.m.
February 9 – Friday at 8:00 p.m.
February 10 – Saturday at 8:00 p.m.

Piano Concerto No. 5 in D major, K175

Wolfgang Amadè Mozart   (1756-1791)
composed 1773

At a Glance
Mozart composed this Piano Concerto in D major, later cataloged as K175 and designated as “No. 5” of his piano concertos, in 1773; it was most likely first performed that same year in Salzburg. Five years later, he wrote an alternate final movement, now known as Rondo K382; that movement was first performed, with the concerto, in Vienna in 1783. Most modern performances — including this week’s Cleveland Orchestra performances — use the original finale; the alternate Rondo is treated like a separate work, played on its own.

This concerto runs about 20 minutes in performance. Mozart scored it for 2 oboes, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani, and strings, plus solo pianoforte.

The Cleveland Orchestra has presented this concerto on only one previous occasion, when Mitsuko Uchida led performances from the keyboard for a weekend of concerts in May 2007.

About the Music
When all of Mozart’s piano concertos were cataloged and numbered in sequence in the 19th century (long after the composer’s death), this early Concerto in D major was designated as “No. 5.” Upon closer inspection, however, Nos. 1-4 turned out to be arrangements of works by a variety of minor contemporaries — probably put together by the child Mozart, perhaps as an exercise suggested by and with a lot of help from his father. So that “Piano Concerto No. 5” is, by most measures, the first concerto Mozart created fully in his own voice — and the start of what turned out to be a sequence of twenty-three unrivalled concertos for solo piano.

Concerto No. 5 was composed in December 1773 when Mozart was just seventeen years old. Although it was surpassed, inevitably, by the great later works of the Vienna years, this was actually the concerto most often played in Mozart’s lifetime — by himself and by others. He had a special fondness for it, and so did the public. He presumably played it in Salzburg when it was first composed; he then took it with him to play in Munich in 1774, then in Mannheim in 1778, in Vienna in 1782, and again in Vienna in 1783. It is often suggested that the Viennese public liked new concertos in preference to old ones, but this work was clearly an exception. It was published in his lifetime in both Paris and Mainz, with more publications in Germany and Austria after his death.

Mozart’s visit to Vienna in 1773 was not as fruitful as father and son hoped. No longterm professional position was offered to him, perhaps because it was observed that the child prodigy was no longer a child. He was nonetheless a prodigy, and a series of beautifully-crafted instrumental works flowed from his pen that year, including a serenade, six string quartets, a string quintet, three symphonies, half a dozen divertimenti, and this first attempt at a piano concerto.

The writing in Piano Concerto No. 5 is highly accomplished and polished, and the piano part confirms — if confirmation were needed — that Mozart’s keyboard gifts were above the ordinary. The structure of a three-movement concerto, to which Mozart remained attached throughout his life, is already clearly delineated in this work. Later concertos offer subtle and striking variations on the basic formula, but here, in all three movements of his first concerto, he moves decisively and clearly from section to section. The themes, keys, and orchestral interludes are precisely in place, and his own cadenzas, which allow some strong modulations avoided in the concerto itself, survive for the first two movements. The middle-movement Andante is in a gentle three-beat tempo and in the contrasting key of G major, and the third-movement Allegro shows a teasing preoccupation with fugue, although the severe style is never allowed to dominate.

 —Hugh Macdonald © 2018