Piano Concerto No. 24 (Mozart)

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The Piano Concerto No. 24 in C minor, K. 491, is a concertante work for piano, or fortepiano, and orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Mozart composed the concerto in the winter of 1785–1786 and completed the work on 24 March 1786, just three weeks after No. 23. The premiere was on 7 April 1786 at the Burgtheater, Vienna.[1] It is one of only two minor-key piano concertos that Mozart composed (the other being No. 20 in D Minor).


The concerto has the following three movements:

  1. Allegro in C minor (3/4 time)
  2. Larghetto in E-flat major (cut time)
  3. Allegretto (Variations) in C minor (cut time)

It is scored for flute, 2 oboes, 2 clarinets, 2 bassoons, 2 horns, 2 trumpets, timpani and strings. Of the Mozart piano concertos, this one has the most extensive scoring.[2] It is the only one scored for both oboes and clarinets. The musicologist Robert L. Marshall writes: "The richness of wind sonority, due to the inclusion of oboes and clarinets, is the central timbral characteristic of [the concerto]: time and again in all three movements the winds push the strings completely to the side."[3]

Jonathan Stock has analysed in detail Mozart's use of woodwind timbre in the instrumentation of the concerto's slow movement.[4] Chris Goertzen has mapped the structure of the slow movement.[5]

The concerto was first published in orchestral parts in c.1800 by Johann André of Offenbach am Main. The manuscript of the concerto resides at the Royal College of Music.[6]

First movement[edit]

The first movement is longer and more complex than any that Mozart had hitherto composed in the concerto genre.[7] The movement is in 3/4 time, a signature shared by only two other opening movements of Mozart's concertos.

The first movement follows the standard outline of a sonata form concerto movement of the Classical period. It commences with an orchestral exposition, which is followed by a solo exposition, a development section, a recapitulation, a cadenza and a conclusion. However, within this conventional outline, Mozart engages in extensive structural innovation.[8]


The principal theme of the first movement, as stated at the beginning of the orchestral exposition.

The orchestral exposition, 99 measures long, presents two groups of thematic material, one primary and one secondary, both in the tonic of C minor.[8] The primary theme is tonally ambiguous, not asserting the home key of C minor until its final cadence in the thirteenth measure.[9]

The solo exposition follows its orchestral counterpart, and it is here that convention is discarded from the outset: the piano does not enter with the principal theme. Instead, it has an 18-measure solo passage. It is only after this passage that the principal theme appears, carried by the orchestra. The piano then picks up the theme from its seventh measure.[10] Another departure from convention is that the solo exposition does not re-state the secondary theme from the orchestral exposition. Instead, a succession of new secondary thematic material appears. The British musicologist Donald Tovey considered this introduction of new material to be “utterly subversive of the doctrine that the function of the opening tutti [the orchestral exposition] was to predict what the solo had to say.”[10]

One hundred measures into the solo exposition, which is now in the parallel major of E-flat, the piano plays a cadential trill, leading the orchestra from the dominant seventh to the tonic. This suggests to the listener that the solo exposition has reached an end. However, Mozart instead gives the woodwinds a new theme. The exposition continues for another 60 or so measures, before another cadential trill brings about the real conclusion, prompting a ritornello that connects the exposition with the development. The pianist and musicologist Charles Rosen argued that Mozart thus created a "double exposition". Rosen also suggests that this explains why Mozart made substantial elongations to the orchestral exposition during the composition process; he needed a longer orchestral exposition to balance its "double" solo counterpart.[11]


The development commences with the piano at first recalling its entry to the solo exposition. Tonal ambiguity in this passage is resolved by the orchestra's re-statement of its principal theme in F minor. That theme is then developed: the motif of the theme's fourth and fifth measures descends through the circle of fifths, accompanied by an elaborate piano figuration. The development then proceeds to a stormy exchange between the piano and the orchestra.[12]

Recapitulation, cadenza and conclusion[edit]

Uniquely among Mozart's late concertos, the soloist plays after the cadenza in the first movement, here adorning an orchestral argument based on the extremely chromatic opening theme of the work with arpeggios, all the way through to the quiet close.

Second movement[edit]

Mozart's first sketch of the Larghetto involved a significantly more complex principal theme than that which appeared in the final composition. He likely simplified the theme in order to provide greater contrast with the intensity of the first movement.[13] That theme, in E-flat major, is stated on five occasions throughout the movement. Two other themes, one in C minor and the other in A-flat major, also appear.[14]

Third movement[edit]

The third movement features eight variations on a C-minor theme.[15] There is a cadenza for the soloist, after which the movement switches from cut common time to compound duple metre for the final variation.[16]

Critical reception[edit]

The concerto has long been considered one of Mozart's greatest works. Arthur Hutchings wrote: "Whatever value we put upon any single movement from the Mozart concertos, we shall find no work greater as a concerto than this K. 491, for Mozart never wrote a work whose parts were so surely those of 'one stupendous whole'."[17] Girdlestone has also effectively claimed it as the greatest. Ludwig van Beethoven took particular inspiration for his own music from this concerto.[18] In a conversation with Johann Baptist Cramer, Beethoven reportedly remarked that "[w]e shall never be able to do anything like that."[19]


  1. ^ Maunder, Richard (February 1989). "Correspondence: Performing Mozart and Beethoven Concertos". Early Music 17 (1): 139–140. ISSN 0306-1078. JSTOR 3127279. 
  2. ^ Hutchings, A. (1948). A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos. London: Oxford University Press. 
  3. ^ Marshall, Robert L. (2003). Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Music. New York: Routledge. p. 380. ISBN 0415966426. 
  4. ^ Stock, Jonathan P.J. (May 1997). "Orchestration as Structural Determinant: Mozart's Deployment of Woodwind Timbre in the Slow Movement of the C Minor Piano Concerto K. 491". Music & Letters 78 (3): 210–219. doi:10.1093/ml/78.2.210. ISSN 0027-4224. JSTOR 732277. 
  5. ^ Goertzen, Chris (1991). "Compromises in Orchestration in Mozart's Coronation Concerto". The Musical Quarterly 75 (2): 158–159. doi:10.1093/mq/75.2.148. Retrieved 2008-03-15. 
  6. ^ F.W.S. (July 1965). "Reviews of Music: Concerto, K. 491". Music & Letters 46 (3): 285–286. ISSN 0027-4224. JSTOR 732277. 
  7. ^ Keeffe, Simon P. (2003). The concertos in aesthetic and stylistic context, in "The Cambridge Companion to Mozart". Cambridge University Press. p. 87. ISBN 0521001927. 
  8. ^ a b Lindeman, Stephan D. (1999). Structural Novelty and Tradition in the Early Romantic Piano Concerto. Pendragon Press. p. 298. ISBN 1576470008. 
  9. ^ Marshall, Robert L. (2003). Eighteenth-Century Keyboard Music. New York: Routledge. pp. 380–381. ISBN 0415966426. 
  10. ^ a b Tovey, Donald (1936). Essays in Musical Analysis, volume 3. Oxford University Press. 
  11. ^ Rosen, Charles (1976). The Classical Style: Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven (Revised ed.). London: Faber & Faber. pp. 245–246. ISBN 0571049052. 
  12. ^ Kinderman, William. Dramatic Development and Narrative Design in the First Movement of Mozart's Concerto in C Minor, K. 491. In Neal Zaslaw (Ed.), Mozart's Piano Concertos: Text, Context, Interpretation (pp. 285-301). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. p. 291.
  13. ^ Einstein, Alfred (1962). Mozart, His Character, His Work. New York: Oxford University Press. p. 138. 
  14. ^ Hutchings, Arthur (1948). A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 173. ISBN 0198167083. 
  15. ^ Hutchings, Arthur (1948). A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 174. ISBN 0198167083. 
  16. ^ King, A. Hyatt (1952). "The Concerto" (edited by Ralph Hill). Melbourne: Penguin Books. p. 99. ISBN 0198167083. 
  17. ^ Hutchings, Arthur (1948). A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos. Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 174. ISBN 0198167083. 
  18. ^ Kinderman, William (1996). "Reviews of Books: Beethoven Forum, ii (ed. by Christopher Reynolds, with Lewis Lockwood and James Webster)". Music & Letters 77 (1): 124–126. ISSN 0027-4224. JSTOR 732277. 
  19. ^ Kinderman, William. Dramatic Development and Narrative Design in the First Movement of Mozart's Concerto in C Minor, K. 491. In Neal Zaslaw (Ed.), Mozart's Piano Concertos: Text, Context, Interpretation (pp. 285-301). Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press. p. 297.


  • Girdlestone, C. M. Mozart's Piano Concertos. Cassell, London.
  • Hutchings, A. A Companion to Mozart's Piano Concertos, Oxford University Press.
  • Mozart, W. A. Piano Concertos Nos. 23-27 in full score. Dover Publications, New York.
  • Tovey, D. F. Essays in musical analysis, volume 3, Concertos. Oxford University Press.

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