Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: Piano Concertos No. 12 & No. 14 Composer’s Version for Piano and String Quartet


  • Artist(s): Giulia Cerra, Piero Barbareschi, Trio Hegel
  • Composer(s): Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
  • EAN Code: 7.46160915937
  • Edition: Da Vinci Classics
  • Format: 1 Cd
  • Genre: Chamber
  • Instrumentation: Piano, String Quartet
  • Period: Classical
  • Publication year: 2023
SKU: C00755 Category:

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Mozart’s great musical love was opera. This rather peremptory statement is also unquestionable. He confessed to his father that he would “cry” out of envy when he listened to an opera written by somebody else. Yet, the problem was that – at his time just as today – operas were very expensive, and one had to have an established fame and a foothold in the world of music in order to be commissioned one.
Mozart was certainly famous, and many appreciated him and his operas. Still, commissions were by far not as frequent as he would have wished. For rather long stretches (or comparatively long stretches) of his compositional life he was deprived of the opportunity of writing an opera.
The second-best option, therefore, was to write Piano Concertos. These had some obvious advantages over other genres. Firstly, they could showcase Mozart’s talent as a composer and as a performer, since, in most cases, he would premiere and play them personally, particularly during his Viennese years when most of his output of concertos was written and performed. By conquering his audiences through his skills as a creator and as a virtuoso, operatic commissions could become more likely to arrive, and therefore his primary goal would become easier to reach.
Secondly, they featured a soloist in dialogue with an orchestra, thus reproducing, on the instrumental plane, those relationships and dynamics which opera sets in a verbal and acted form. Even though Mozart’s concertos rarely include the dimension of struggle or violent opposition which would characterize Romantic (piano) concertos, the dialectics and rhetoric he employs are extremely poignant and impressive. Concertos, just as operas, were conceived for large audiences; under this viewpoint, they deeply differed from other genres, such as the piano Sonata, which were created mainly for the enjoyment of the player, and perhaps of a few selected listeners. Whilst today we are used to listen to Mozart’s Sonatas in large halls, their original destination was entirely different, and, therefore, the compositional strategies employed by their creator were dramatically dissimilar.
Thirdly, and consequently, Concertos allowed Mozart to “practise”, in a manner of speaking, those musical approaches which he would later employ in his operatic works. And this could take a very concrete and at times surprising form. It has been demonstrated that most themes from Mozart’s Piano Concertos are structured following strictly the proportions and quantities of libretto poetry, at times in “German” and (more frequently) in “Italian”. Structures which are typical for German and Italian opera librettos are found everywhere in these instrumental themes. And this regards both the form of the “stanzas” (i.e. the articulation of longer musical phrases into shorter elements, similar to the lines of an operatic libretto) and that of the lines and verses themselves. We find plenty of Italian settenario verses, for instance, which frequently take the form of march rhythms; but also the shorter and more incisive quinario and senario, along with verses typical for German poetry.
Not only do stanzas and verses appear, though. Mozart also creates operatic forms in his concertos, such as arias, ariosos, even recitatives, and of course concertato forms, reminiscent of (or more precisely anticipating) those of his Italian and German operas. Not to be forgotten is also the presence of characters and situations typical for the world of opera: we have buffo figures in the fashion of Papageno (most typically in Concertos KV 453 and 459), dramatic characters as the Queen of Night or the heroines of the Italian opera seria (for instance in the Concertos in the minor mode), or the typically Mozartean character of the clever young lady, in the fashion of Susanna or Despina: the slow movement of Concerto KV 459 looks almost as a preparation for Susanna’s magnificent “garden scene” in The Marriage of Figaro. Or we can easily compare the Siciliana found as the second movement of Concerto KV 488 with Barbarina’s Air L’ho perduta.
We find the crazy chit-chat which frequently concludes the hectic imbroglios of Mozart’s Italian comic operas in the last pages of some brilliant third movements; we find the enchanted wonder of Mozart’s most lyrical arias in some of his best slow movements, such as the sublime pieces at the heart of KV 466 and 467, to name but two.
It has also been demonstrated that Mozart generally wrote concertos when no operatic commission was at hand. And this shows the truth of what has been said above: by composing and playing his Concertos, Mozart hoped to attract (and frequently succeeded to do so) the attention of potential “investors”; and, at the same time, while keeping “fit”, in a manner of speaking, for the demands of the operatic market, he also managed to still that pungent desire for opera which never left him alone.
If, however, much of the delight and meaning of his Piano Concertos consists in their public dimension, and in how they represented him on the concert stage, found to be so similar to the operatic scene, how are we to understand two works such as those recorded here?
Rather obviously, and even though Mozart’s orchestras were numerically much smaller than those of today’s symphonic concerts, the performance of two Concertos with an accompaniment of a few strings instead of a full orchestra may seem a contradiction of the Concerto’s very aesthetics. What are we to make of Concertos where the piano’s antagonist is a string quartet, instead than a numerous and diverse ensemble? Did Mozart ever play these Concertos in a public performance with just four strings?
The last question cannot be answered with any certainty, but in terms of probability the chances are high that he never did so. Indeed, even though – as said above – most of his Concertos were conceived “for personal use”, in this case the composer’s explicit intention was to sell the published scores to a public of subscribers.
Concerto KV 414 belongs in a series of three Concertos written in the Fall of 1782. It was premiered by Mozart himself, in the presence of Emperor Joseph II of Habsburg-Lorraine. It was issued by Artaria in 1785, as the “first” Concerto of what was labelled as Mozart’s “Opera IV”, and it is rather likely that it was composed before his companions, KV 413 and 415.
Mozart’s attempt to have them published, however, dated back to the time of their composition, when he took an initiative which was rather unusual for him: i.e. to advertise a “subscription” allowing the public to purchase the scores of these works. In the promotional materials, he appeared as “Herr Mozart, Kapellmeister”, even though he was no chapel master at all. He tried to sell the three concertos together, “recently completed”, as the ad recited; and he explicitly mentioned that these concertos “may be performed not only with an accompaniment of large orchestra and winds, but also a quattro, namely, with two violins, viola and violoncello”. They would be issued “only to those who have subscribed to them beforehand”, paying four ducats to the composer at his place.
He was particularly fond of these pieces, which he described to his father as follows, shortly after their composition: “These concertos are a happy medium between too heavy and too light. They are very brilliant, pleasing to the ear, and natural, without being insipid. There are parts here and there from which connoisseurs alone can derive satisfaction, but these passages are written in such a way that the less learned cannot fail to be pleased, albeit without knowing why”.
In spite of their undeniable beauty, however, Mozart failed to convince the Viennese about the musical quality of these Concertos, at least in terms of published scores. The version for piano and strings was meant to encourage performance (and purchase) by the plethora of capable amateurs who populated Vienna and Austria in general. The pianistic virtuosity requested to the soloist is lower than that of most other Concertos; and, in fact, even when played with their full instrumentation, these Concertos (and in particular KV 414 recorded here) are closer to chamber music than to what we today call “symphonic music”.
Two years later, in 1784, Mozart wrote a series of six more Concertos; among them, KV 449 is rather atypical, since Mozart himself observed that it was “a particular concerto, better suited for a small than for a large orchestra”. While here too wind parts are present (two oboes and two horns), they are not “obbligato” (i.e. indispensable) but can optionally be renounced in favour of a strings-only orchestra. In spite of its comparatively late publication, this Concerto was drafted already in 1782, and possibly even before KV 414. And while here again it was Mozart who premiered it at the keyboard, on March 17th, 1784, a few days later the piece was performed again by Barbara von Ployer, one of his most gifted students and the dedicatee of KV 453.
These two beautiful Concertos, therefore, manage to create an otherwise impossible or at least improbable bridge. They connect the showy world of opera, of theatre, of virtuosity and of bright orchestral and vocal colours, with the more contained and restrained world of chamber music, played for the players’ delight first and foremost. They do not lack the splendour of the traditional dialogue between a highly gifted soloist and an orchestra, but they also admit the possibility of a more intimated talk among friends. And, in the performance with strings only, they reveal the extreme refinement of their scoring, the transparency of their lines, and the exquisite purity of their construction.
Chiara Bertoglio © 2023


Giulia Cerra performs as chamber musician, soloist and concertmaster/principal with multiple orchestras and chamber ensembles. She is regularly invited to play with Cameristi della Scala, Filarmonica del Teatro Comunale di Bologna, Filarmonica Rossini, Orchestra Cherubini of M. Riccardo Muti, and she is Concertmaster of Filarmonica del Festival Pianistico Internazionale di Brescia e Bergamo, playing in the most prestigious concert venues worldwide. She is founder of Eclettica Piano Trio, winning several National and International competitions, of the Cerra- Martelli Duo and the Kissar Ensemble in Bilbao. She made her solo debut in Tokyo in 2010. She holds a M.M. In violin performance and M.M. In Chamber Music from Conservatorio “A. Boito” in Parma, both with the highest degree , cum laude and a mention of honor.

Piero Barbareschi: born in La Spezia, he studied piano with Martha Del Vecchio and harpsichord with Anna Maria Pernafelli, having a diploma from the “Cherubini” conservatory in Firenze with the highest votes. Interested to different forms of expression and artistic collaboration, both with piano and harpsichord, he performs as a soloist but also in different chamber orchestras. He worked with prestigious soloists such as the violin players Felix Ayo, Cristiano Rossi, Franco Mezzena, Thomas Christian, Thomas Schrott, Mario Hossen, the flautists Mario Ancillotti and Mario Carbotta, the mezzo soprano Susanne Kelling, in the most important italian and foreign countries (France, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic and USA), as guest of important institutions and Festivals. His repertory goes from the '600 to the authors of the '900 and contemporaries, including first absolute performances. Founder member with Marcello Defant of the barocco ensemble “Officina de li Affetti”, he worked with a great number of orchestras such as Sammartini Orchestra of Milan, the Filarmonici of Torin, the chamber orchestra of Fiesole, the Virtuosi of Pargue. Salzburg Chamber Soloists, Orchester Konservatorium Bern, Jugendsinfonieorchester of Potsdam, the Filarmonici of Verona, Vox Aurae, International Orchestra of Italy, Interpreti Italiani, Wiener Kammer Orchester etc. with different directors: Rudolf Barshai, Giuseppe Garbarino, Lonnie Klein, Federico Maria Sardelli, Diego Fasolis. Member of the board for the ECYO selections, he also made recordings for the RAITV and for companies such as Brilliant Classics, Nuova Era, Dynamic and Musikstrasse, publishing, for this last company, a double CD with the full of the six Quintetti op. 56 of Luigi Boccherini, together with Quartetto Elisa ( first recording in Italy). He also made for the Tactus the first modern recording of two concerts for piano and strings orchestra of Simon Mayr. He recorded with Mario Hossen for the Da Vinci Classics label the integral of J.S.Bach's sonatas for violin and cembalo and Haendel sonatas for violin and cembalo. Registered to the list of journalists as a publicist, he works for the musical divulgation with guided audiences, conferences, articles and is a member of the editorial staff of www.gothicnetwork.org, italian artistic review portal.

Trio Hegel: Trio Hegel has performed on important occasions and in evocative places such: Sala Corelli of Dante Alighieri Theatre in Ravenna, Palazzo Albrizzi in Venice for the Dino Ciani Association, in Cremona in the Federico II Courtyard, at the Auditorium San Barnaba in Brescia for the GIA Association (Giovani Interpreti Associati), in Mantua for the Mantua Chamber Music Festival, at Concerts at the Shrine of St. Teresa of Riva (ME) for the Association of Friends of Music, in Padua for the Galilean Academy of Sciences, Arts and Literature and for the International Music Meeting 2016, in Brescia for Foundation Teatro Grande, in Gorizia for Association Chamber Music in Trieste and in Milan at the Pirelli Skyscraper Auditorium Gaber for the Concert Society and at “Casa Verdi” for Società del Quartetto.
Trio Hegel obtain in a short time, numerous awards such as: Overall 1st Prize at the 20th "G. Rospigliosi ", 1st Prize at the 26th European Music Competition "Città di Moncalieri", 2nd Prize at the 13th National Competition "Riviera Etrusca", 2nd Prize at the 10th International Competition "L. Zanuccoli ", 3rd Prize at the 12th National Music Competition "Città di Magliano Sabina", 3rd Prize at the 14th International Competition "Città di Padova", Honorary Diploma at the International Music Tournament (TIM - XVII Edition), Honorary Diploma at the 21st International Award "G. Zinetti", Honorary Diploma at the 20th International Chamber Music Competition "L. Nono". The collaboration with composer Mauro Montalbetti led them to the exclusive first performance of the piece "Six Bagatelles for String Trio" published by RAICOM, as well as the composition "E voi empi sospiri – Madrigal for String Trio" which was written for them, and they also performed live on Bergamo TV receiving acclaim from both public and critics. The artistic growth of Trio Hegel is strongly connected to the Quartetto di Cremona and Antonello Farulli; also fundamental were the meetings with Luca Simoncini (Nuovo Quartetto Italiano), Jürgen Kussmaul (L'Archibudelli), Andrea Repetto (Quartetto di Torino), Christophe Giovaninetti (Quartetto Ysaÿe), Danilo Rossi (Trio d’archi della Scala), and orchestra conductors Umberto Benedetti Michelangeli and Riccardo Muti. Trio Hegel has had numerous collaborations with important artists such as Alessadnro and Luca Simoncini (First Violin and Cello of Nuovo Quartetto Italiano), pianist Piero Barbareschi, flautist Tommaso Benciolini, actors Ivana Monti and Marco Baliani. At the request of the composer Carlo Boccadoro the Trio had the honour of performing his recent string trio several times. Trio Hegel has been selected for the project “Le Dimore del Quartetto” and has performed on tour in Italy, Switzerland and Finald. Trio Hegel has made a CD for the Tactus label of music by Tuscan composers Luigi Cherubini and Giuseppe Cambini (World Primiere Recording), an album exclusively dedicated to the compositions of Mauro Montalbetti for A Simple Lunch label and the complete string trios by Jean Sibelius and Max Reger for the Japanese label Da Vinci Classics. The review of Sibelius’s ‘Suite in A Major’ by Trio Hegel has been published for Da Vinci Publishing.


Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: (b Salzburg, 27 Jan 1756; d Vienna, 5 Dec 1791). Austrian composer, son of Leopold Mozart. His style essentially represents a synthesis of many different elements, which coalesced in his Viennese years, from 1781 on, into an idiom now regarded as a peak of Viennese Classicism. The mature music, distinguished by its melodic beauty, its formal elegance and its richness of harmony and texture, is deeply coloured by Italian opera though also rooted in Austrian and south German instrumental traditions. Unlike Haydn, his senior by 24 years, and Beethoven, his junior by 15, he excelled in every medium current in his time. He may thus be regarded as the most universal composer in the history of Western music.