09 June 2023

P.R. Jenkins

Spotlight Mozart: piano concertos

Even in Mozart’s oeuvre there aren’t many genres in which he created so many major masterworks for as the piano concerto.

Within 15 years between 1776 and his death in 1791, he wrote more than 20 works that are amongst the finest ever written for piano and orchestra. A particularly fruitful period was between 1782 and 1786 (15 concertos). Mozart wrote the concertos for public occasions at which he could distinguish himself as a brilliant virtuoso who improvised his own cadenzas.

Karajan conducted several concertos over his career but he was far from aiming at a complete recording, concentrating on Nos 20 – 24 and 27, plus the two works with more than one piano K 365 and K 242. The latter also motivated him to take a seat at one of the three pianos, even when he was over 60 years old.


Piano concerto No. 20 in D minor K 466: studio recording with Wilhelm Kempff and the Berlin Philharmonic, live recording with Clara Haskil and the Philharmonia Orchestra.

22 performances featuring Edwin Fischer, Geza Anda, Justus Frantz

Piano concerto No. 21 C major K 467: the concert film of Mozart’s piano concerto No. 21, recorded 1978 in Paris, really is something special. Karajan performs it with Alexis Weissenberg. For the second movement Weissenberg left the piano stool to Karajan and took a seat in the audience. Karajan played and conducted the Berlin Philharmonic. For the third movement they changed back again.

Live recordings with Dinu Lipatti and Geza Anda, 13 performances featuring Elly Ney, Jörg Demus, Lilian Kallir, Christoph Eschenbach.

Piano concerto No. 22 in E flat major K 482: two performances with Edwin Fischer

Piano concerto No. 23 in A major K 488: studio recording with Walter Gieseking, live recordings with Christoph Eschenbach and Jean Bernard Pommier, 14 performances featuring Hans Richter-Haaser and Clara Haskil

Piano concerto No. 24 in C minor K 491: studio recording with Walter Gieseking, live performance with Robert Casadesus.

Piano concerto No. 27 in B flat major K 595: 4 performances featuring Jörg Demus

The concerto for two pianos in E flat major K 365 was performed by Karajan once in 1937 and 5 times in 1984 with the renowned piano duo Christoph Eschenbach/Justus Frantz. In the early 1970s, Karajan joined them at the third piano on television and in the recording studio for Mozart’s concerto K 242.

He also played this part with Eschenbach and Jörg Demus at a rare occasion with the Cleveland Orchestra in Salzburg and Lucerne in 1967 and before that with Demus and Paul Badura-Skoda.


We’ve prepared playlists with Karajan playing and conducting Mozart piano concertos. Listen to them here.

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