The score to Mozart’s 26th piano concerto is missing most of the left-hand piano part. Metropolis Ensemble commissioned composer/pianist Timothy Andres to re-imagine the entire left-hand part in his own 21st Century style. The premiere was described by music critic Alex Ross as “startling… mesmerizing… a fine display of creative bravado.”
As can be seen in an online score, large stretches of the solo part simply have nothing at all for the left hand, including the opening solo (movement 1, measures 81–99) and the whole of the second movement. There is in fact no other Mozart piano concerto of which so much of the solo part was left unfinished by the composer.
Andrew Cyr gave me the idea to compose a new completion of the Coronation concerto. Mozart notated only a few sections of the left-hand part (intending to improvise it in performance) which I decided to replace entirely, in addition to writing new cadenzas. I approached the piece not from a scholarly or editorial perspective, but more as a sprawling playground for pianistic invention and virtuosity, taking cues from the composer-pianist tradition Mozart helped to crystallize.
A few months earlier, I had discovered a curiosity while culling through my piano teacher Eleanor Hancock’s music library: two cadenzas for Mozart concerti written by Béla Bartók. The gestural language was generally Mozart-style, but some Bartókian harmonies and piano techniques crept in at the edges. The effect is almost vertiginous — the classical ornaments remain, but the structure is replaced with something bold and modern. The challenge for me was to achieve this effect over the course of an entire concerto.
The house style of “my” Mozart concerto results from a several combined strategies. The left hand gets an extended catalogue of gestures (no more tasteful, 18th-century Alberti bass). It uses imitation, counter-melodies, and canonic interplay to participate in the musical drama of the right hand (sometimes even leaping above it in register). Harmonically, new chords both thicken and undermine the existing progressions, adding allusions to music after Mozart’s time (Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms, Prokofiev, Ives, Rachmaninoff, Stravinsky, and Bartók all make appearances). The result is an almost entirely new-sounding piece, which I hope will be an antidote to the studied blandness of most existing completions. — Timothy Andres