Perhaps it is within his Piano Concertos that we come closest to personally knowing Mozart the man. He wrote (most of) them to demonstrate his own abilities at the keyboard in public performance. And so if we do know him personally through his Piano Concertos, then we witness a man of diverse emotions and humor as each Concerto is different in mood and melody from the last.
From age 11 to just months before his death at 35, Mozart wrote a total of 27 Piano Concertos. The late eminent German-American musicologist Alfred Einstein [a distant cousin to Albert] called Mozart’s piano concertos “the peak of all his instrumental achievement” and couldn’t be improved upon because “perfection is imperfectible.”
The D-minor (#20) Piano Concerto - from the time it was written in 1785, through Beethoven, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms (who all composed cadenzas for it) and others up to today - has always been popular. But it’s a dark and dramatic work fitting of the “Sturm und Drang” (“Storm and Stress”) movement of the era. Composed just a month later, Mozart’s C-major Concerto (#21) lightens the mood for the most part. Save for the 2nd movement Andante with its dreamy nocturnal atmosphere, this C-major concerto brims with sunny uplifting fanfares and ebullient themes leading to a high-spirited finale. The Mozart Piano Concerto #21 is today’s Midday Masterpiece at 2:00 pm.
Trivia: this Concerto also became known as the “Elvira Madigan” Concerto after the 2nd movement was featured prominently in the 1967 Swedish film of that title. And Neil Diamond’s 1972 hit, “Song Sung Blue,” is based on a theme from that same 2nd movement.