Robert Greenberg

Historian, Composer, Pianist, Speaker, Author

Patreon Patron Forum: Mozart Piano Concerto No. 25

Wolfgang Mozart, detail of a painting by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange
Wolfgang Mozart, detail of a painting by his brother-in-law Joseph Lange

I have received an extremely thoughtful question from Patreon patron Leigh Harper. On the surface it might appear to be a technical question concerning the function of various sections of music relative to one another, the sort of question that appeals to music nerds like Harper and myself but might seem to be absurdly arcane for the rest of us. 

However, Mr. Harper’s question is much more than that: it is one that cuts to the heart of how we use verbal/written language to describe musical events; events that, in fact, are not easily described using words. We will ruminate on this issue in a moment. But first, Leigh Harper’s question, ever-so-slightly edited.

“Dear Dr. Bob – Relistening to your wonderful 1995 lectures Concert Masterworks


A thousand pardons for interrupting Mr. Harper, but I must point out that he just got “A” in my class for having used a magic word: “relistening”. I have no doubt that Mr. Harper was indeed “relistening” (“rehear-sing”) to Concert Masterworks. Nevertheless, I am honor-bound to observe that survival among snobbish company requires a certain degree of intellectual bravado, and one of the easiest ways of affecting that bravado is to never say “I was listening” or “I was reading” but rather, “I was relistening,” “I was rereading.” Given such usage, would be interlocutors/interrogators/snot-heads will give pause before pontificating or asking you stupid questions, convinced that you actually do indeed know more about a topic than do they. I know I have recommended this technique in at least one of my Great Courses surveys, but repetition is the soul of learning.

Back, please, to Leigh Harper:

“Dear Dr. Bob – Relistening to your wonderful 1995 lectures Concert Masterworks I was reminded of an issue which I first considered upon initial study of your analysis of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 25 in C major, K. 503, namely, whether or not what you refer to as the first movement “introduction” (measures 1 – 50) could be perceived as part of the exposition proper. Admittedly, this section of the movement begins in a rather “fanfarish” manner, but it also contains certain thematic elements lending further cohesiveness to an already extremely cohesive piece in almost all particulars. Moreover, this music returns at the beginning of the recapitulation, which would not be customary for an introduction to a movement in a classical era piece. This is not to say that Mozart was reluctant to break the “rules”, which he ingeniously did on many occasions when it suited his purpose. Nevertheless, in this instance I think an argument can be made that one might hear this section of the movement as part of the exposition proper, and while we might then be in a position requiring re-identification of themes, they are all so closely related (as you point out very well), such re-identification does little to alter the essence of the analysis. Interestingly, the entrance of the piano (measures 92 – 111), while quite theatrical as you note, does seem to consist of music that is indeed “introductory” in character and then is immediately followed by the opening “fanfare” soon embellished by the piano. Realizing Mozart’s genius is not a slave to convention, here it seems musically logical to perceive the music which opens the concerto as part of the exposition proper in both the orchestral and solo versions of the double exposition form. The question may very well be considered academic, and I believe either analysis has validity, but to my ear the movement is perceived slightly more cohesive without hearing an orchestral “introduction”. These are simply my thoughts. What are those of anyone else?”

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