I played Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor when I was in school. It was the Mozart concerto I played most often. I actually won a concerto competition at the Conservatoire in Montreal to play with orchestra and I made my soloist debut when I was maybe 18 or 19 years old with that Concerto. I’m obviously very attached to it because of that, but I was [attached to it] even before that because I have always felt that this was the most theatrical of all of Mozart’s piano concertos. I think perhaps his 27 concertos are, in some ways, the best things he composed instrumentally. He wrote them very much like opera scenes; there’s a lot of beautiful musical material for the woodwinds. It’s almost as if they are playing arias, like they are singers. The Concerto is in the key of D minor, like the Don Giovanni Overture. I feel there’s a similar theatrical element to the two pieces.
There are many genius moments in this Concerto and one, in particular, is right around the end. There’s an almost alternating major-minor thing happening: The coda is in major but it feels like it’s in minor. It doesn’t feel as if it’s completely resolved. And I don’t believe Mozart was necessarily thinking that joy won over adversity and tragedy here. It’s one of the most tragic concertos ever, and I’m sure that Hélène Grimaud with me and The Philadelphia Orchestra will convey all the dramatic essence of this Concerto.
Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 20 will be performed December 7 and 10, 2023.