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  Founder: Len Mullenger
Classical Editor: Rob Barnett


Mozart's Piano Concertos


John Irving

Ashgate Press, 2003

296pp 12 music exx 4pp index 18p bibliography

07546 0707 0



Mozart's piano concertos are amongst his most enduringly popular works. The later pieces in particular have an eternally romantic (or romanticisable) aspect that kept them in the affection of the public when other more classically formed works fell away. Concertos 17, 20, 21, 23-25 and 27 are likely to be among the list of favourites of anyone who has any feeling for Mozart's music.

Rather like Wagner and Elgar much has been written about Mozart and books on musical exegesis are not in short supply. This one stands out because of its exclusive focus on the piano conceertos although as is noted in the preface it is by no means the first book to do so.

There is a touching reference in the Preface to the reason why John Irving researched the concertos. His late father Alan Irving had Mozart's music as a particular favourite and held these concertos in special affection.

The book is decidedly for the technical expert, the researcher and the performer/conductor. The origins of the concertos are examined in a chapter that delves into the early works, making links with the aria and vocal traditon. Over three chapters the movement forms are examined: first, middle and finale.

Mozart distinguished between the the connoisseur and general listener. He recognised how his music appealed to both and presumably structured it to do so. In a chapter dedicated to performance considerations Irving sides with the fortepiano as the instrument of concert choice. This treatment concludes the 170 pages of the first part.

The second part comprises a 'Register' consisting of a chapter each for KK 175, 238, 242, 246, 271, 365, 413-415, 449-451, 453, 456, 459, 466, 467, 482, 488, 491, 503, 537 and 595. The approach is analytical and alternative editions are considered. Attention is also given to orchestral parts. The academically slanted detail of the book is reflected in extensive footnoting.

This strikes me as a most through and recommendably detailed study by an author already deeply and authoritatively and lovingly immersed in his subject. I note that Mr Irving has previously written books and articles on the Mozart piano sonatas and Mozart's 'Haydn' quartets.

Recommended for academics, and as a handbook for practising musicians. Others with a more general interest in the concertos may find this too tehnically detailed though I daresay they will learn much from it.

Rob Barnett


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