The Austrian composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (27.01.1756 – 05.12.1791) was, during his short lifetime, one of the most prolific composers of the classical era. He showed prodigious ability from an early age. Already competent as a pianist and violinist, he composed from the age of five and performed before European royalty. Mozart went on to compose more than 600 works, many of which are acknowledged as pinnacles of symphonic, concertante, chamber, operatic, and choral music.
In 1781, Mozart moved away from Salzburg to the musically more sophisticated Vienna, where he was a freelance composer, pianist and teacher. From the outset, in Vienna, he enjoyed considerable success, particularly as a pianist performing his own concertos and with his early comic opera Die Entführung aus dem Serail (1782). During his final years in Vienna, he composed many of his best-known symphonies, concertos, and operas, and began the Requiem, which was largely unfinished at the time of his early death.
Mozart wrote his Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K 467 in 1785, This has come to be one of his best known piano concertos in no small part due to the Swedish film Elvira Madigan (1967), in which its lyrical second movement was featured and from which it derives its byname.
The Elvira Madigan concerto is among the most technically demanding of all Mozart’s concertos. Indeed his own father, Leopold Mozart, described it as “astonishingly difficult.” The difficulty lies less in the intricacy of the notes on the page but more in terms of playing the large number of notes smoothly and elegantly. Contemporary news reports enable us to know that Mozart made the challenge look easy, as indeed does Alfred Brendel in our recommended recording. Alfred Brendel is known particularly for his performances of the works of Mozart, Schubert, Schoenberg, and Beethoven. On this recording he is accompanied by the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and conducted by the late Sir Neville Marriner, who was also a great Mozartian.¹
¹ Neville Marriner’s recordings of Mozart were honoured with two Gemeinde Awards from the Austrian Music Academy.