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.

Andres writes

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

First move­ment

Second move­ment

Third move­ment