Piano Concerto No. 27 in B-flat, K. 595(1791)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791)
Mozart was born in Salzburg, and spent the early part of his career in the employ of the Prince Archbishop of Salzburg. In 1777 he resigned his post to travel and seek a better-paying position. After journeying to Augsburg, Mannheim, Paris, and Munich, in 1781 he settled in Vienna where he lived until he died. After a highly profitable period during which he was feted as a concert pianist and composed a dozen great piano concertos, Mozart fell on hard times. However, in what was to be the last year of his life, Mozart’s fortunes started to turn for the better.
His last piano concerto, No. 27 in B-flat major, was completed in January, three weeks before his 35th birthday and eleven months before his death. Two months later, Mozart gave the premiere at a benefit concert for his friend and clarinettist Joseph Bähr. The concerto’s style is unique amongst Mozart’s late piano concertos, perhaps reflecting Mozart’s changed fortunes. Rather than being declamatory and designed to show off Mozart’s virtuosity, it is instead more reflective without evident conflict. The absence of timpani, trumpets and clarinets assists in setting this more subdued lyrical mood. The tight integration of each movement’s themes foreshadows Beethoven.
The lyrical first movement opens with a long orchestral tutti and borrows from Mozart’s opera The Abduction from the Seragliso and the Jupiter symphony. The reflective larghetto with delicate interplay between orchestra and soloist leads to a sprightly finale, which quotes a children’s song Longing for Spring. Alfred Einstein remarked that “it was not in the Requiem that Mozart said his last word…but in this work, which belongs to the species in which he also said his greatest”.