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Piano Concerti

Mozart piano concerto no. 21 in C, K 467 – The “Elvira Madigan”, Dinu Liptti, piano, Herbert v. Karajan, conductor

By October 21, 2018September 11th, 2021No Comments

Having just heard this piece in concert, I thought that I would post it.  I will put the music just below this line, for those who want to get right to it.  Otherwise, there is some commentary and history below.


1st Mov’t Allegro maestoso,

2nd Mov’t . Andante

3rd Mov’t Allegro vivace assai,


Elvira Madigan, byname of Piano Concerto No. 21 in C Major, K 467, three-movement concerto for piano and orchestra by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, the best known of his many piano concerti. It was completed on March 9, 1785. Its wide recognition is in large part due to the Swedish film Elvira Madigan (1967), in which its lyrical second movement was featured and from which it derives its byname.
Mozart wrote the first of his many piano concerti at age 11 and the last one mere months before his death at age 35. This circumstance makes the piano concerto perfectly suited to the study of the development of Mozart’s style and demonstrates how the Classical style as a whole came into being. His earliest piano concerti are close adaptations of Baroque sonatas, whereas his final few works in the genre hint at the passion and power that would become popular in the Romantic era.

Mozart completed his Concerto No. 21 only a month after his previous concerto. He would write four more in the next 21 months. Because Mozart wrote them for his own concert performances in Vienna, he did not write down the solo cadenzas that he improvised during performance, and, as a result, modern concert pianists have had to either create their own cadenzas or use those created by others.
Piano Concerto No. 21 is among the most technically demanding of all Mozart’s concerti. The composer’s own father, Leopold Mozart, described it as “astonishingly difficult.” The difficulty lies less in the intricacy of the notes on the page than in playing those many notes smoothly and elegantly. Mozart made the challenge look easy, as newspapers of his time attest, though his letters reveal the hard work behind those performances.

Influence of Johann Christian Bach on Mozart

While Mozart was in London on a European tour, Bach took responsibility for his family’s arrangements since he was the musical director to the Queen. He helped to structure their visit by establishing accommodations and scheduling musical concerts. Mozart, therefore, had ample opportunity to become acquainted with Bach and other London artists. Mozart and his father would have found London’s musical environment to be stimulating. England’s musical culture, at that time, was growing rapidly as a result of its prospering middle class. Members of this class had greater amounts of leisure time, creating more demand for public concerts, music for amateurs, keyboard instruments, and printed music. This demand caused growth in England’s publishing and keyboard manufacturing industries and popularized public concerts at a time before they became mainstream in other European countries. Thus, England provided composers with many unique opportunities, which attracted international composers such as J.C. Bach and Mozart. This prospering musical environment may explain why Mozart and his father spent so many months of their European tour in London. Although there were many forms, styles, and composers in London at the time of Mozart’s visit, Bach would remain one of his central influence during this period of time. Leopold had reason to be interested in exposing Mozart to Bach’s style since it represented the dominant trends of Italian galant music that were at the height of their popularity. There are a number of written accounts and musical links that provide evidence for the close relationship Mozart had with Christian while he was in London. Mozart was exposed to J.C. Bach during a crucial point of his formative years…J.C. Bach plays a crucial role in the pivotal transition from childhood to adulthood.  In London, Mozart’s first works for orchestra appeared in addition to his first vocal pieces. The melodies he wrote for these pieces clearly mimic Bach’s style, proving him a solid foundation in the galant style. These stylistic qualities would become staples of his musical language as his compositional abilities progressed. After staying fifteen months in London, Mozart and his family departed from England in order to complete their European tour. This marked an end to the most important and influential encounter Mozart had with Bach. The stay in London, however, had a lasting impact on Mozart, judging from his continued references to J.C. Bach in his letters and his music.

Dinu Lipatti

Dinu Lipatti was born March 19, 1917 in Bucharest. He began studying piano with his mother at the age of four, and later became a pupil of Mihail Jora and Florica Musicescu of the Bucharest Conservatory. When he was 16, Lipatti entered the 1933 Vienna International Music Competition and tied for second place. Jury member Alfred Cortot was infuriated, and a year later Lipatti went to study with him at the Ecole Normale de Musique in Paris, where his other teachers included Lefebure, Munch, Dukas, and Boulanger.

Returning to Rumania at the outbreak of World War II, Lipatti escaped to Switzerland with his fiancee Madeleine Cantacuzene in 1943, at which time the first signs of Hodgkin’s Disease appeared. He was the following year appointed professor at the Geneva Conservatory, a post he held for five years.

In 1946 he signed an exclusive contract with EMI, but made only a few hours’ worth of recordings before he died in 1950 at the age of 33. These recordings have remained in the catalogue ever since they were released and have been supplemented with a few live performances. More than 50 years after his death, Lipatti remains a best-selling artist, and the search for more recordings continues.

Dinu Lipatti is a unique figure in the pantheon of pianists. His international fame is due almost exclusively to the widespread distribution of recorded output.  When Lipatti died of Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the age of 33 in December 1950, he left behind little more than three and a half hours of recordings for EMI’s Columbia label. Since that time, those recordings have been published in the catalogue the world over and gradually supplemented by a handful of highly prized unpublished concert and broadcast performances. Six decades after Lipatti’s death, the search for more examples of his playing continues, and indeed more treasures are coming to light.