The Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor, K. 466, was composed by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in 1785. The first performance took place at the Mehlgrube Casino in Vienna on 11 February 1785, with the composer as the soloist.
A few days after the first performance, the composer’s father, Leopold, visiting in Vienna, wrote to his daughter Nannerl about her brother’s recent success: “[I heard] an excellent new piano concerto by Wolfgang, on which the copyist was still at work when we got here, and your brother didn’t even have time to play through the rondo because he had to oversee the copying operation.”
It is written in the key of D minor. Other works by the composer in that key include the Fantasia K. 397 for piano, the Requiem, a Kyrie, a mass, the aria “Der Hölle Rache kocht in meinem Herzen” from the opera The Magic Flute and parts of the opera Don Giovanni. It is the first of two piano concertos written in a minor key (No. 24 in C minor being the other).
The young Ludwig van Beethoven admired this concerto and kept it in his repertoire. Composers who wrote cadenzas for it include Beethoven (WoO 58), Charles-Valentin Alkan, Johannes Brahms (WoO 14), Johann Nepomuk Hummel, Ferruccio Busoni, and Clara Schumann.
Neuer Markt in Vienna with Capuchin Church and Haus zur Mehlgrube on the right, painting by Bernardo Bellotto, 1760
James Hewitt used the first movement in his Medeley Overture.
One of Mozart’s favorite pianos that he played while he was living in Vienna had a pedal-board that was operated with the feet, like that of an organ. This piano that Mozart owned is on display at Mozart House in Salzburg, but currently it has no pedal-board. The fact that Mozart had a piano with a pedal-board is reported in a letter written by his father, Leopold, who visited his son while he lived in Vienna. Among Mozart’s piano works, none are explicitly written with a part for a pedal-board. However, according to Leopold’s report, at the first performance of Piano Concerto No. 20 in D Minor (K. 466), Mozart, who was the soloist and conductor, used his own piano, equipped with a pedal-board. Presumably the pedal-board was used to reinforce the left-hand part, or add lower notes than the standard keyboard could play. Because Mozart was also an expert on the organ, operating a pedal-board with his feet was no harder than using only his hands.
Mozart – Piano Concerto No. 20 in D minor K 466 – Romance